Searching the internet I came across this article from Rosalind Krauss about the role of anachronism in Arts. Rosalind is one of the few Art historians that I find credible when speaking about photography. Her writings (more in some next post) have the gift to excite my neurons in several ways.
Not that the ideas in the article are so new. Thomas Samuel Kuhn in his "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" already showed what was wrong in thinking about cultural evolution as a linear accumulation process.
But getting to the point of the post. A couple of days ago Mark Hobson returned to one of his regular, useful, torments: beauty in photography and landscape.
In the meantime, searching for useful anachronisms, I was reading a pictorialist photography book by "Henry Peach Robinson" titled "Letters on Landscape Photography" written and published in 1888 in England. I have to say that he had a pretty clear idea about beauty in photography.
"This faculty of artistic sight, or, indeed, the faculty of seeing anything, only comes with training. The ordinary observer only takes a superficial view of things. He is sensible that the view is "pretty." He may even go so far as to feel the grandeur of a mountain, but he can have no feeling of the exquisite sense of beauty that appeals to the trained mind. The artist can get very real enjoyment out of objects and sights in which the ordinary eye would only see the common-place.
The average man only sees the most gaudy of the flowers and butterflies, the entomologist and botanist see realms of beauty that do not exist for the other, and so it is throughout all the arts and sciences. I will not further enforce this necessity for learning to see here, as I shall, I hope, have further opportunities of alluding to the subject.
I will content myself with saying that to see artistically you must learn art. To do this you must learn what has been considered as the backbone of art for all ages -- composition. Of late years it has been the fashion with a certain school of painters to decry composition as artificial, false, and quite too old-fashioned for modern use; but I notice that the more these painters emerge from their pupilage state, the more do their pictures show that they are glad to make use of the old, old rules. Rules were never intended to cramp th artist's intellect, and I have never advocated that the artist should be the slave of any system; ..."
You can get the full book here, in the Internet archives. Do not miss the "Calling the cows" in page 17/19 of the third chapter.