Educational Trip of Mother and Son to the New York’s Museum of Modern Art: Perception of Beauty for Claude Monet's Artworks

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It is not easy to judge or have an opinion about the works of art. Whether people consider something as beautiful is often determined by their particular background, culture or life experiences. What is beautiful in one culture might not be beautiful in another (O’ Brien, W. 2019). How people judge and reason about things that are around them vary greatly by individual’s understanding of what can be consider beautiful, their taste or the purpose the particular artwork have.

For the purpose of this paper, I choose to analyze an educational trip of a mother and son to the New York’s Museum of Modern Art and her intense admiration and perception of beauty for Claude Monet’s giant Water Lilies landscapes (Gompertz, W., 2013, pg 11). The short story is interesting as it not only pictures mother’s passionate appreciation for the work of art but also relates to Kant’s necessity of the universal agreement (Kant, E,. 1951). Her admiration for Monet’s painting creates the need to share and inspire others so that more people could and ought to feel the same appreciation as she does.

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Claude Monet’s Water Lilies is an artwork, which I recollect from childhood. Whether it appeared on the notebooks in stores or on the Chinese porcelain, it tent to be a familiar image. The picture is old and generally known but never analyzed by me, like a neighbour who lives nearby for years, but is still undiscovered internally. The first moment of looking at Monet’s Water Lilies derives feelings of a pure pleasure and peace. It is not a “like” or “dislike” feeling, but disinterested enjoyment that does not elicit any sense of desire for it. According to Kant, a disinterested satisfaction is distinguished from judgments of the agreeable, where people simply claim that something is beautiful or it is beautiful because it serves a purpose (Critiques of Judgment, 1951). The compositions of blue, green and yellow paint on Monet’s Nympheas, perfectly coalescing, create an overwhelming calmness and comfort that needs no reason to admire it. My fascination of the painting may be compared to the boy’s mother, who simply acknowledges it’s universal validity, which is not based on any concepts (Critiques of Judgment, 1951,pg. 104). My belief that Water Lilies are beautiful is a judgment that stands alone and it is not based on a descriptive claim, but rather a normative one (O’ Brien, W., 2019). Therefore, I consider it beautiful and like mother encouraging her son to look at the painting and feel the same kind of satisfaction, I feel that every human being should experience it and be touched pleasantly by its own existence.

Looking at Claude Monet’s Water Lilies, floating on the richly coloured pond, with a careful attention perpetuating the effects of light, one can claim that it gives an impression of a real landscape. One can experience a feeling of gratification while looking at the scenery. For Kant, gratification stands for what is pleasant (Critiques of Judgment, 1951,pg. 102). That pleasantness is also interested and concerns “irrational animals” (Critiques of Judgment, 1951,pg. 102). ] It constitutes for a means to an end. Henceforth, if looking at the scenery results in gratification, it is not disinterested feeling but the opposite one. We enjoy it, because it gives us pleasure.

Secondly one may find Water Lilies agreeable as it can satisfy their desires. Some people visit museum’s as they have a thirst to look at the artwork. One may find a sense of tranquility in the Monet’s giant landscapes and reflections on the water. Finding it agreeable depends on our psychology and us (Encyclopedia of Philosophy, n.d.). What we find agreeable cannot be changed, just like one cannot stop a craving. It does not depend on us whether we find something agreeable or not. It is like an instinct (Critiques of Judgment, 1951,pg. 102). Therefore, agreeableness is an interested pleasure as it is bound by desire as well (Critiques of Judgment, 1951,pg. 102).

Lastly, when one sees Monet’s artwork and experiences admiration and satisfaction in itself, as there is no reason to feel different and no explanation for the feeling, one truly feels beauty. For Kant, the feeling of pleasure in itself is the only one that is disinterested (Critiques of Judgment, 1951,pg. 102). Anyone, who approaches the object with a contemplative attitude, truly admires it. Thus, beauty is where one is not interested if an object exists, since if one wants it to exist it becomes interested (Encyclopedia of Philosophy, n.d.).

Mother’s determined need to show her son the beauty of Monet’s Water Lilies, is a clear example of what Immanuel Kant calls as universality without concepts (Critiques of Judgment, 1951,pg. 105). Universal, is what thought is applied to everyone (Encyclopedia of Philosophy, n.d.). To make a judgment that Monet’s artwork is beautiful, one must be convinced that the satisfaction of looking and admiring it, is ascribed to everyone and it cannot be attached to any concept and object (Critiques of Judgment, 1951,pg. 104). It must have a subjective principle, that determines what pleases or not. Therefore, it must be generally acceptable in the way that it provides a “priori” character of taste (O’ Brien, W., 2019). Boy’s mother felt the need to share the beauty of Monet’s panting with him, as she knew that the feeling’s it elicits are unexplainable, aesthetical in itself and should apply to all. What is universal without concepts is also not logically explained because it does not extend to an object (Critiques of Judgment, 1951,pg. 105). The example of a short story confirms the claim that what is universal applies to everyone as the little boy derived the same pleasure looking at the painting as his mother and myself.

For Kant, the objects of our judgments that are universal, exhibit purposiveness without purpose, which means that we do not apply any function to it (Critiques of Judgment, 1951,pg. 105). Just as the pleasure derived from admiring Monet’s artwork serves no purpose for some, but to experience it and be in the moment; it seems to be made for purpose that we are not aware of. Claude Monet created his famous painting during his last years in a Giverny home, captivated by the effects of the ever- changing lights on his pond’s water surface (Gompertz, W., 2013, pg 12). The massive triptych was intended to envelop the viewer and create the illusion of the ideal whole, where one could find peaceful meditation escape (King., R., Mad Enchantment., 2016). For Kant purposiveness without a purpose is the idea that the thing or an object creates its own purpose without playing of being a means to an end (Encyclopedia of Philosophy, n.d.). Some can argue that the pleasure derived from looking at Monet’s Water Lilies and finding that peaceful meditation is the purpose and that purpose is the reason behind it being made. On the other hand those who experience pleasure admiring Monet’s painting, without expecting explanation and reasoning about function and purpose of it being made; that is what Kant claimed has purposiveness without a purpose (Critiques of Judgment, 1951,pg. 107).

Some may find Monet’s Water Lilies truly “beautiful” as it is a source of enjoyment and pleasure, while others because it is a special kind of pleasure that is disinterested. For Kant, to be able to judge whether something is beautiful one must understand that the aesthetic judgment, is the one that is pure of any interests, without determining any connections to the object (Encyclopedia of Philosophy, n.d.). Otherwise it becomes interested, thus unable to be beautiful of its own. Monet Nympheas is one of the paintings that elicit strong emotions of delight and admired just because “ it feels good” by many. It is the “feeling good” that makes it possible to think about and judge it as beautiful. Secondly, aesthetic judgment need to be universal, thus to involve the expectation or the agreement of others (Encyclopedia of Philosophy, n.d.).

The boy’s and myself? (or mine?) admiration of Monet’s triptych, perfectly pictures the universal application of the artwork as it captivated me along with many other people. In addition, to make a judgment that the artwork is beautiful, the purpose of it, needs to be considered. According to Kant, the beauty needs to be understood as purposive, without a specific purpose (Critiques of Judgment, 1951,pg. 107). If Monet’s painting is admired without any reason and because it does not serve any function that is when beauty is pleasurable. In other words, the purpose and the experienced feeling of pleasure cannot be understood. That is when the judgment of beauty is possible. Finally, for Kant, aesthetic judgments must be considered as “necessary” (Critiques of Judgment, 1951,pg. 107), where everyone assents to them. It cannot follow the specific concept of beauty, but must uncover what the judgment says about those who judge and their “priori principle of taste” .

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Educational Trip of Mother and Son to the New York’s Museum of Modern Art: Perception of Beauty for Claude Monet’s Artworks. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 16, 2024, from
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