Classical philosophy and sculptures of men and women produced according to these[which?] philosophers’ tenets of ideal human beauty were rediscovered in Renaissance Europe, leading to a re-adoption of what became known as a “classical ideal”. In terms of female human beauty, a woman whose appearance conforms to these tenets is still called a “classical beauty” or said to possess a “classical beauty”, whilst the foundations laid by Greek and Roman artists have also supplied the standard for male beauty in western civilization. During the Gothic era, the classical aesthetical canon of beauty was rejected as sinful. Only God is beautiful and perfect, and man is flawed by the original sin and can achieve no beauty in his life if not through God. Later, the Renaissance and the Humanism rejected this view, and considered beauty as a product of rational order and harmony of proportions. Renaissance artists and architect (such as Giorgio Vasari in his “lives of artists”) criticised the Gothic period as irrational and barbarian. This point of view over Gothic art lasted until Romanticism, in the 19th century.
The Age of Reason saw a rise in an interest in beauty as a philosophical subject. For example, Scottish philosopher Francis Hutcheson argued that beauty is “unity in variety and variety in unity”. The Romantic poets, too, became highly concerned with the nature of beauty, with John Keats arguing in “Ode on a Grecian Urn” that
- Beauty is truth, truth beauty ,—that is all.
- Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
In the Romantic period, Edmund Burke pointed out the differences between beauty in its classical meaning and Sublime. The concept of the Sublime by Burke and Kant permitted us to understand that even if Gothic art and architecture are not always “symmetrical” or adherent to classical standard of beauty as the other style, Gothic art is by no mean “ugly” or irrational: it’s just another aesthetic category, the Sublime category.
The 20th century saw an increasing rejection of beauty by artists and philosophers alike, culminating in postmodernism‘s anti-aesthietics. This is despite beauty being a central concern of one of postmodernism’s main influences, Friedrich Nietzsche, who argued that the Will to Power was the Will to Beauty.
In the aftermath of postmodernism’s rejection of beauty, thinkers, such as Roger Scruton and Frederick Turner, have returned to beauty as an important value. Elaine Scarry also argues that beauty is related to justice.