Schopenhauer's aesthetics is an attempt to break out of the pessimism that naturally comes from this world view. Schopenhauer believed that what distinguished aesthetic experiences from other experiences is that contemplation of the object of aesthetic appreciation temporarily allowed the subject a respite from the strife of desire, and allowed the subject to enter a realm of purely mental enjoyment, the world purely as representation or mental image. The more a person's mind is concerned with the world as representation, the less it feels the suffering of the world as will. Schopenhauer analysed art from its effects, both on the personality of the artist, and the personality of the viewer.
The aesthetic experience temporarily emancipates the subject from the Will's domination and raises them to a level of pure perception. "On the occurrence of an aesthetic appreciation, the will thereby vanishes entirely from consciousness. The personality of the artist was also supposed to be less subject to Will than most: such a person was a Schopenhauerian genius, a person whose exceptional predominance of intellect over Will made them relatively aloof from earthly cares and concerns. The poet living in a garret, the absent-minded professor, Vincent van Gogh in the madhouse, are all (at least in the popular mind) examples of Schopenhauer's geniuses: so fixed on their art that they neglect the "business of life" that in Schopenhauer's mind meant only the domination of the evil and painful Will. For Schopenhauer, the relative lack of competence of the artist and the thinker for practical pursuits was no mere stereotype: it was cause and effect.
Schopenhauer believed that what gives arts such as literature and sculpture their value was the extent to which they incorporated pure perceptions. But, being concerned with human forms (at least in Schopenhauer's day) and human emotions, these art forms were inferior to music, which being purely abstract, was to Schopenhauer's mind the highest and best form of human artistry. Schopenhauer's philosophy of music was influential in the works of Richard Wagner. Wagner was an enthusiastic reader of Schopenhauer, and recommended the reading of Schopenhauer to his friends. His published works on music theory changed over time, and became more aligned with Schopenhauer's thought, over the course of his life.
Schopenhauer's aesthetics remain influential today, and are perhaps the most lasting part of Schopenhauer's philosophy. Their appeal to later generations of Romantics, and to all schools of bohemianism, is apparent. Wagner sent Schopenhauer a note expressing deep gratitude for Schopenhauer's discussion of music. Schopenhauer's philosophy in general left a deep impression on a number of important writers, especially Thomas Hardy, Marcel Proust, Stephane Mallarmé, Thomas Mann, and Ivan Turgenev.
Schopenhauer's aesthetics were directly responsible for the rise of the Symbolists and their allied movements, and to the general development of the concept of art for art's sake. It deeply influenced the aesthetics of Friedrich Nietzsche, whose famous opposition of the Apollonian and the Dionysian is a translation of Schopenhauer's opposition of intellect against will in terms of Greek mythology. When the Marxist critique of capitalism was stirred into the aesthetic stew, Schopenhauer's essentially ascetic view of the purpose of art laid the foundation for the opposition of kitsch versus the avant-garde which is found in critics such as Clement Greenberg. Contemporary beliefs that artistic creation should not be swayed by financial gains or the demands of patrons or customers, and the belief that the greatest artists are those who create new and entirely unprecedented forms of expression, rather than those who develop already existing forms, all owe a great deal to the influence of Schopenhauer.
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