Why are visual artworks experienced as having intrinsic significance or normative depth?
Why are some works of art better able to manifest this significance than others?
In this 2002 book Paul Crowther argues that we can answer these questions only if we have a full analytic definition of visual art.
Crowther's approach focuses on the pictorial image, broadly construed to include abstract work and recent conceptually-based idioms.
The significance of art depends, however, essentially on the transhistorical nature of the pictorial image, the way in which its illuminative power is extended through historical transformation of the relevant artistic medium.
Crowther argues against fashionable forms of cultural relativism, while at the same time showing why it is important that an appreciation of the history of art is integral to aesthetic judgment.