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This article compares and contrasts the place of aesthetic formalism in John Dewey’s and Albert Barnes’s thinking about the arts. While acknowledging Dewey’s substantial debt to Barnes, especially regarding the roles of perception and method in interpretation of the plastic arts and their long and deep affiliation, it also examines in detail significant areas of divergence between the two thinkers. These divergences exist largely in differential emphases and issues of contextualization; thus, they often pass unseen in their writings on the arts and aesthetics. Identifying and examining the divergences, however, highlight both the assets and liabilities of Barnes’s approach to art interpretation and education, while also shedding clarifying light on facets of Dewey’s aesthetics that have historically undergone substantial critique.