We might be tempted to consider the practice of art criticism as part of the field of 'sthetics, that branch of philosophy concerned with the essence and perception of beauty and ugliness. But while art criticism is both more complex and simpler than the practice of 'sthetics. 'sthetics addresses questions of whether such qualities (of beauty or its lack) are objectively present in the things they appear to qualify, or whether they exist only in the mind of the individual, something that art criticism sometimes does.
But 'sthetics tends (as is only proper in a branch of philosophy) to be highly abstract, asking primarily whether objects are perceived by a particular mode, the 'sthetic mode, or whether instead the objects have, in themselves, special 'sthetic qualities. Another way to look at this is to say that 'sthetics asks whether beauty is imminent or whether it lies in the eye of the beholder.
Art criticism is not usually concerned with this specific question in general because the critic, unlike the philosopher, seems to be very much aware of the fact of their embodied perspective. Critics are aware of their active role in the process of interpretation in a way that philosophers tend not to be. Perhaps this is merely because of the media in which they write. Philosophers tend to write in solitude for academic publications that may be years in the production phase. Critics usually work for magazines or newspapers, an altogether more public and social activity and one that takes place in a much shorter period of time, thus (perhaps) reminding the critic of his or her own active role in the process. We shall see this when we examine two separate reviews of an exhibit of landscape paintings.
Criticism is thus in some essential ways allied to the psychology of art, a subgenre concerned with such elements of the arts as human responses to color, sound, line, form, and words and with the ways in which the emotions condition suc...