Aesthetics Lesson 3: Aesthetics and Beauty

What is Beauty in Art?
04022012_EDU_DgR_01-1998.1.2398.8-electric-chair_main
Andy Warhol, Electric Chair, Published Edition, 137/250, 1971, ©AWF

In this lesson students analyze various artworks in relation to their aesthetic preferences but also in relation to a philosophical quote. Students begin to understand basic aesthetic theory about beauty.

Suggested Time Frame:

PowerPoint Presentation: 10 minutes
Writing Activity: 10 minutes
Pair Discussion: 10 minutes
Group Dialogue: 30 minutes
Assessment: 15 minutes

Total time: 1 to 1 ½ hours 

Objectives:

  • Students observe an artwork and answer writing prompts to document their personal aesthetic experience
  • In groups of two, students analyze a philosophical quote in relationship to an artwork
  • Students synthesize existing philosophies and develop their own theories about aesthetics and beauty through group dialogue
 
Procedure

Procedure:

  1. Review the objects students have brought in and explore why they consider these objects to be “not art.”
  2. Present the Aesthetics PowerPoint Part 2 
  3. Writing Activity: Use the Handout Aesthetics 3.1 while viewing Andy Warhol’s Electric Chair print. You may substitute Warhol’s Flowers prints or his camouflaged Self-Portrait. Students should fill in the first three writing prompts to foster their own personal aesthetic experience.
  4. Pair Share Reflection: In groups of two discuss the following quotes. Do you agree with these opinions? How does it relate to the Electric Chair print or other works?
 
 

What a strange illusion it is to suppose that beauty is goodness.

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) Russian writer, playwright, essayist 
 

Art always serves beauty, and beauty is the joy of possessing form, and form is the key to organic llife since no living thing can exist without it.

Boris Pasternak (1840-1921) English poet, critic, biographer  

Group Dialogue:

Use the following questions as prompts at the start of and during the dialogue:

  1. Are Andy Warhol’s Electric Chairs (or other work) beautiful? Why or why not?
  2. How do Warhol’s choices and treatment of the subject matter make the paintings beautiful or ugly?
  3. What do you think is Warhol’s intention with these works? Was he trying to make the death penalty (or another concept) seem beautiful or ugly?
  4. Do artworks always relay the meanings that the artist intended them to have?
  5. Do artworks have to be beautiful or pretty? Can something that is ugly be considered art?
  6. Who decides what is beautiful or ugly?
  7. If an artwork makes someone feel sad or bad, can it still be considered good? Why?
  8. Do these paintings have value? What kind of value, aesthetic value or monetary?
 

Compare and Contrast:

Use the questions above again while comparing works from The Andy Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Museum of Art below.

Armchair, 17th century, Gift of Baroness Cassel Van Doorn, The Carnegie Museum of Art. Andy Warhol, Electric Chair, 1971, The Andy Warhol Museum, ©AWF
Armchair, 17th century, Gift of Baroness Cassel Van Doorn, The Carnegie Museum of Art. Andy Warhol, Electric Chair, 1971, The Andy Warhol Museum, ©AWF
Rembrandt, Self-Portrait with Raised Sabre, 1634, etching with touches of burin, Bequest of Charles J. Rosenbloom, by exchange, The Carnegie Museum of Art. Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait, 1986, ©AWF
Rembrandt, Self-Portrait with Raised Sabre, 1634, etching with touches of burin, Bequest of Charles J. Rosenbloom, by exchange, The Carnegie Museum of Art. Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait, 1986, ©AWF
Bow Porcelain Factory, Bouquet of Flowers, c. 1755, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection, 32.1977, The Carnegie Museum of Art. Andy Warhol, Flowers, 1970, ©AWF 
Bow Porcelain Factory, Bouquet of Flowers, c. 1755, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection, 32.1977, The Carnegie Museum of Art. Andy Warhol, Flowers, 1970, ©AWF 

Secondary Extension:

Explain the Three Fields of Philosophy:

Metaphysics (n.): The philosophy of being; the branch of philosophy concerned with the study of the nature of being and beings, time and space, existence and causality.

Epistemology (n.): The theory of knowledge; the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, in particular, its foundations, scope and validity.

Ethics (n.): The study of morality’s effect on conduct.

Discussion Questions:

Questions to determine what is real and what exists (Metaphysics):

  • If this were a billboard instead of a work hung in a gallery would it be art?
  • Does Warhol’s use of photographic silkscreen make this work more realistic?
  • Is this painting objective or subjective in relation to its subject, an electric chair?
 

Questions to determine what we can know as truth (Epistemology):

  • What do we learn about capital punishment in this piece?
  • What do we learn about Warhol?
  • What would it mean if the original photograph for this painting was staged by Warhol instead of a documentary photo?
 

Questions to determine what we think is good in ethics and in art (Values/Ethics):

  • What value does this artwork have?
  • Is this painting beautiful?
  • What values would be reflected if this room was part of your school?
  • What would be the ethical implications if a majority of Americans agreed to hang this painting in their living rooms?
 
Assessment

Warhol Education Rubrics

Click the Warhol Rubric headers below to reveal associated rubrics to which this lesson applies.

Critical Thinking
Aesthetics
Communication
Creative Process
Media and Related Items
Presentation
Aesthetics Power Point Part 2
Aesthetics Power Point Part 2
Student Showcase
Aesthetics: Elizabeth Forward High SchoolAesthetics: Highlands High SchoolAesthetics: Ross Elementary