Living at a parish once, I would often run into visitors who would come in and say, “This is a beautiful building!” The first thought that would pop into my mind was, “Really?” It was not what I would consider a beautiful building but would thank the person and try to find out why they were drawn to it.
Like the word “love,” the word “beautiful” is also over used. It seems to have become a synonym for others words such as “pretty” or “attractive.” Something can be attractive without being beautiful (I realize that this is being said without beautiful yet being defined.) I think many people found the building mentioned above attractive but were moved to say beautiful. The building was spacious, comforting, clean, functional, colorful and comfortable. In this way it was also very attractive - it drew your attention. Even after a lot of time had been spent in the building, one could still feel very much “at home” in the building. But, I would argue, the building itself was not beautiful. It did not continue to inspire a person to observe it and where it was attempting to lead you. It did not, of itself, inspire a person to go out and see beauty in the world or to create something beautiful from its inspiration. In fact, it somewhat fell into the background. It was an attractive and functional building, it was not a work of art. Nobody would ever take a bus trip there to see the building. Ever.
“Pretty” works much the same way. The pretty object too is pleasing to (many/most) human beings, but something about it falls short of beautiful. The colors may be pleasing to the eye, it may bring a smile to your face, it may be clever, pull at the heartstrings but seldom (if ever) has any deep meaning. A typical little girl’s bedroom might be pretty. A painting that matches the couch might be pretty. A Christmas tree might be pretty, but is it necessarily beautiful or art?
Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with attractiveness or prettiness. In the right context they are exactly what we need. At other times they are distasteful. When a person wants that which is beautiful, to be confronted with the merely attractive or pretty (or interesting) is mightily disappointing. That is the inner urge in you to say (and you are polite enough not to blurt it out) “I could have done that!” This is confronting the lack of inspiration, the lack of being drawn in, the lack of being transformed, the lack of being moved to create beauty in the world for having been exposed to the beautiful.
Of course, this assumes art and beauty are connected which, you may have well guessed, I do, though I have not really defined much yet except via the negative. I also know my former art teachers are turning in their symbolic graves but there you go.