I think it is. One can tell apart cultural from biological preference by looking across cultures, as well as studying response from toddlers. There is evidence that people from all across the world have very similar preferences when it comes to composition, landscape types and faces. (F.eg Denis Dutton, Steven Pinker and Vilayanur Ramachandran)
In a nutshell, we prefer landscapes that either are beneficial for survival/hunting etc, or that causes awe and wonder, while we find deserts and visually chaotic landscapes less agreeable. Our sense of beauty helped us find good places to settle down. It is very hard to find a national romantic landscape that does not contain a body of water, even though most natural landscapes do not. Incidentally, water is necessary for survival.
We also have very similar preferences for faces/bodies, with healthy looking individuals with smooth skin and symmetry being typical examples. Angelina Jolie is basically considered beautiful across all cultures.
People also agree on compositions that are enjoyable for the eye, with f.eg agents looking/walking out of a frame being uncomfortable, and objects barely touching, not overlapping nor far apart (tangents) even more so. It is easy to see how a dislike of unclear compositions or dislike of some important visual focus being outside of the visual field would help us survive. If everyone is looking at a lion, you better turn your head. If tangent makes it hard to see whether the lion is in front of or behind the tree, you better move your head a bit. But if you look at a picture, both becomes impossible. We find it pleasing because it is clear.
I can think of many more examples on each category. The point is to get at a prescriptive level, rather than descriptive understanding of visual beauty.
The difficulty of discussing this is that some people disagree on different levels: The entire theory of evolution, or the application of evolution to human brains (as opposed to animals who are not entirely cultural), and some only accept the premise but not the specific examples, f.eg evolutionary preference for visual clarity but not facial symmetry. It is very hard to fit convincing arguments for all levels, categories and examples in one brief online post.
Do you have any thoughts on this? My motivation for posting is ultimately hoping that someone has come across some specific example of a visual preference that stems from our biology, and can be used to improve of understand artwork.
F.eg: "Apparently we like to have a good views from our houses because it enables us to look out for predators and watch out for enemies. We know this because the areas of the brains activated when looking at a beautiful landscapes from high up are the same as those activated in a cat's brain when watching over its territory from a high place" (made up example).