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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Clockwise from upper left: A self-portrait from Vincent van Gogh, an African Chokwe-statue, detail from the Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli and a Japanse Shisa lion.

Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way to affect the senses or emotions. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression, including music, literature, film, sculpture, and paintings. The meaning of art is explored in a branch of philosophy known as aesthetics.

The definition and evaluation of art has become especially problematic since the early 20th century. Richard Wollheim distinguishes three approaches: the Realist, whereby aesthetic quality is an absolute value independent of any human view; the Objectivist, whereby it is also an absolute value, but is dependent on general human experience; and the Relativist position, whereby it is not an absolute value, but depends on, and varies with, the human experience of different humans.[1] An object may be characterized by the intentions, or lack thereof, of its creator, regardless of its apparent purpose. A cup, which ostensibly can be used as a container, may be considered art if intended solely as an ornament, while a painting may be deemed craft if mass-produced.

Traditionally, the term art was used to refer to any skill or mastery. This conception changed during the Romantic period, when art came to be seen as "a special faculty of the human mind to be classified with religion and science".[2] Generally, art is made with the intention of stimulating thoughts and emotions.

The nature of art has been described by Richard Wollheim as "one of the most elusive of the traditional problems of human culture".[3] It has been defined as a vehicle for the expression or communication of emotions and ideas, a means for exploring and appreciating formal elements for their own sake, and as mimesis or representation.[4] Leo Tolstoy identified art as a use of indirect means to communicate from one person to another.[4] Benedetto Croce and R.G. Collingwood advanced the idealist view that art expresses emotions, and that the work of art therefore essentially exists in the mind of the creator.[5][6] The theory of art as form has its roots in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, and was developed in the early twentieth century by Roger Fry and Clive Bell.[4] Art as mimesis or representation has deep roots in the philosophy of Aristotle.[4] More recently, thinkers influenced by Martin Heidegger have interpreted art as the means by which a community develops for itself a medium for self-expression and interpretation.[7]

Mozarabic Beatus miniature; Spain, late 10th century.


Definition of the term

Works of art worldwide can tell stories or simply express an aesthetic truth or feeling. Panorama of Along the River During the Qingming Festival, an 18th century reproduction of the 12th century original by Zhang Zeduan

Britannica Online defines art as "the use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others." By this definition of the word, artistic works have existed for almost as long as humankind: from early pre-historic art to contemporary art; however, some theories restrict the concept to modern Western societies.[8] Adorno said in 1970, "It is now taken for granted that nothing which concerns art can be taken for granted any more: neither art itself, nor art in relationship to the whole, nor even the right of art to exist."[9] The first and broadest sense of art is the one that has remained closest to the older Latin meaning, which roughly translates to "skill" or "craft." A few examples where this meaning proves very broad include artifact, artificial, artifice, medical arts, and military arts. However, there are many other colloquial uses of the word, all with some relation to its etymology.

20th-century Rwandan bottle. Artistic works may serve practical functions, in addition to their decorative value.

The second and more recent sense of the word art is as an abbreviation for creative art or fine art. Fine art means that a skill is being used to express the artist's creativity, or to engage the audience's aesthetic sensibilities, or to draw the audience towards consideration of the finer things. Often, if the skill is being used in a common or practical way, people will consider it a craft instead of art. Likewise, if the skill is being used in a commercial or industrial way, it will be considered Commercial art instead of fine art. On the other hand, crafts and design are sometimes considered applied art. Some art followers have argued that the difference between fine art and applied art has more to do with value judgments made about the art than any clear definitional difference.[10] However, even fine art often has goals beyond pure creativity and self-expression. The purpose of works of art may be to communicate ideas, such as in politically-, spiritually-, or philosophically-motivated art; to create a sense of beauty (see aesthetics); to explore the nature of perception; for pleasure; or to generate strong emotions. The purpose may also be seemingly nonexistent.

Art can describe several things: a study of creative skill, a process of using the creative skill, a product of the creative skill, or the audience's experience with the creative skill. The creative arts (art as discipline) are a collection of disciplines (arts) that produce artworks (art as objects) that are compelled by a personal drive (art as activity) and echo or reflect a message, mood, or symbolism for the viewer to interpret (art as experience). Artworks can be defined by purposeful, creative interpretations of limitless concepts or ideas in order to communicate something to another person. Artworks can be explicitly made for this purpose or interpreted based on images or objects. Art is something that stimulates an individual's thoughts, emotions, beliefs, or ideas through the senses. It is also an expression of an idea and it can take many different forms and serve many different purposes. Although the application of scientific knowledge to derive a new scientific theory involves skill and results in the "creation" of something new, this represents science only and is not categorized as art.


Venus of Willendorf, circa 24,000–22,000 BP.

Sculptures, cave paintings, rock paintings, and petroglyphs from the Upper Paleolithic dating to roughly 40,000 years ago have been found, but the precise meaning of such art is often disputed because so little is known about the cultures that produced them. The oldest art objects in the world—a series of tiny, drilled snail shells about 75,000 years old—were discovered in a South African cave.[11]

Cave painting of a horse from the Lascaux caves, c. 16,000 BP.

Many great traditions in art have a foundation in the art of one of the great ancient civilizations: Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, India, China, Ancient Greece, Rome, as well as Inca, Maya, and Olmec. Each of these centers of early civilization developed a unique and characteristic style in their art. Because of the size and duration these civilizations, more of their art works have survived and more of their influence has been transmitted to other cultures and later times. Some also have provided the first records of how artists worked. For example, this period of Greek art saw a veneration of the human physical form and the development of equivalent skills to show musculature, poise, beauty, and anatomically correct proportions.

In Byzantine and Medieval art of the Western Middle Ages, much art focused on the expression of Biblical and not material truths, and used styles which showed the higher unseen glory of a heavenly world, such as the use of gold in the background of paintings, or glass in mosaics or windows, which also presented figures in idealized, patterned (flat) forms. Nevertheless a classical realist tradition persisted in small Byzantine works, and realism steadily grew in the art of Catholic Europe.

Renaissance art had a greatly increased emphasis on the realistic depiction of the material world, and the place of humans in it, reflected in the corporeality of the human body, and development of a systematic method of graphical perspective to depict recession in a three dimensional picture space.

The stylized signature of Sultan Mahmud II of the Ottoman Empire was written in Arabic calligraphy. It reads Mahmud Khan son of Abdulhamid is forever victorious.

In the east, Islamic art's rejection of iconography led to emphasis on geometric patterns, calligraphy, and architecture. Further east, religion dominated artistic styles and forms too. India and Tibet saw emphasis on painted sculptures and dance with religious painting borrowing many conventions from sculpture and tending to bright contrasting colors with emphasis on outlines. China saw many art forms flourish, jade carving, bronzework, pottery (including the stunning terracotta army of Emperor Qin), poetry, calligraphy, music, painting, drama, fiction, etc. Chinese styles vary greatly from era to era and are traditionally named after the ruling dynasty. So, for example, Tang Dynasty paintings are monochromatic and sparse, emphasizing idealized landscapes, but Ming Dynasty paintings are busy, colorful, and focus on telling stories via setting and composition. Japan names its styles after imperial dynasties too, and also saw much interplay between the styles of calligraphy and painting. Woodblock printing became important in Japan after the 17th century.

Painting by Song Dynasty artist Ma Lin, c. 1250. 24,8 × 25,2 cm.

The western Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century saw artistic depictions of physical and rational certainties of the clockwork universe, as well as politically revolutionary visions of a post-monarchist world, such as Blake's portrayal of Newton as a divine geometer, or David's propagandistic paintings. This led to Romantic rejections of this in favor of pictures of the emotional side and individuality of humans, exemplified in the novels of Goethe. The late 19th century then saw a host of artistic movements, such as academic art, Symbolism, impressionism and fauvism among others.

The history of twentieth century art is a narrative of endless possibilities and the search for new standards, each being torn down in succession by the next. Thus the parameters of Impressionism, Expressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism, etc cannot be maintained very much beyond the time of their invention. Increasing global interaction during this time saw an equivalent influence of other cultures into Western art, such as Pablo Picasso being influenced by African sculpture. Japanese woodblock prints (which had themselves been influenced by Western Renaissance draftsmanship) had an immense influence on Impressionism and subsequent development. Later, African sculptures were taken up by Picasso and to some extent by Matisse. Similarly, the west has had huge impacts on Eastern art in 19th and 20th century, with originally western ideas like Communism and Post-Modernism exerting powerful influence on artistic styles.

Modernism, the idealistic search for truth, gave way in the latter half of the 20th century to a realization of its unattainability. Relativism was accepted as an unavoidable truth, which led to the period of contemporary art and postmodern criticism, where cultures of the world and of history are seen as changing forms, which can be appreciated and drawn from only with irony. Furthermore the separation of cultures is increasingly blurred and some argue it is now more appropriate to think in terms of a global culture, rather than regional cultures.


Art tends to facilitate intuitive rather than rational understanding, and is usually consciously created with this intention.[citation needed] Fine art intentionally serves no other purpose. As a result of this impetus, works of art are elusive, refractive to attempts at classification, because they can be appreciated in more than one way, and are often susceptible to many different interpretations. In the case of Géricault's Raft of the Medusa, special knowledge concerning the shipwreck that the painting depicts is not a prerequisite to appreciating it, but allows the appreciation of Géricault's political intentions in the piece. Even art that superficially depicts a mundane event or object, may invite reflection upon elevated themes.

Traditionally, the highest achievements of art demonstrate a high level of ability or fluency within a medium. This characteristic might be considered a point of contention, since many modern artists (most notably, conceptual artists) do not themselves create the works they conceive, or do not even create the work in a conventional, demonstrative sense. Art has a transformative capacity: confers particularly appealing or aesthetically satisfying structures or forms upon an original set of unrelated, passive constituents.

Forms, genres, media, and styles

Detail of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, showing the painting technique of sfumato.

The creative arts are often divided into more specific categories that are related to their technique, or medium, such as decorative arts, plastic arts, performing arts, or literature. Unlike scientific fields, art is one of the few subjects that is academically organized according to technique [1]. An artistic medium is the substance or material the artistic work is made from, and may also refers to the technique used. For example, paint is the medium used in painting, paper is a medium used in drawing.

An art form is the specific shape, or quality an artistic expression takes. The media used often influences the form. For example, the form of a sculpture must exist in space in three-dimensions, and respond to gravity. The constraints and limitations of a particular medium are thus called its formal qualities. To give another example, the formal qualities of painting are the canvas texture, color, and brush texture. The formal qualities of video games are non-linearity, interactivity and virtual presence. The form of a particular work of art is determined by both the formal qualities of the media, and the intentions of the artist.

A genre is a set of conventions and styles within a particular media. For instance, well recognized genres in film are western, horror and romantic comedy. Genres in music include death metal and trip hop. Genres in painting include still life, and pastoral landscape. A particular work of art may bend or combine genres but each genre has a recognizable group of conventions, clichés and tropes. (One note: the word genre has a second older meaning within painting; genre painting was a phrase used in the 17th to 19th century to refer specifically to paintings of scenes of everyday life and can still be used in this way.)

The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai (Japanese, 1760–1849), colored woodcut print.

An artwork, artist's, or movement's style is the distinctive method and form that art takes. Any loose brushy, dripped or poured abstract painting is called expressionistic. Often these styles are linked with a particular historical period, set of ideas, and particular artistic movement. So Jackson Pollock is called an Abstract Expressionist.

Because a particular style may have a specific cultural meanings, it is important to be sensitive to differences in technique. Roy Lichtenstein's (1923–1997) paintings are not pointillist, despite his uses of dots, because they are not aligned with the original proponents of Pointillism. Lichtenstein used Ben-Day dots: they are evenly-spaced and create flat areas of color. These types of dots, used in halftone printing, were originally used in comic strips and newspapers to reproduce color. Lichtenstein thus uses the dots as a style to question the "high" art of painting with the "low" art of comics - to comment on class distinctions in culture. Lichtenstein is thus associated with the American Pop art movement (1960s). Pointillism is a technique in late Impressionism (1880s), developed especially by the artist Georges Seurat, that employs dots that are spaced in a way to create variation in color and depth in an attempt to paint images that were closer to the way people really see color. Both artists use dots, but the particular style and technique relates to the artistic movement these artists were a part of.

These are all ways of beginning to define a work of art, to narrow it down. "Imagine you are an art critic whose mission is to compare the meanings you find in a wide range of individual artworks. How would you proceed with your task? One way to begin is to examine the materials each artist selected in making an object, image video, or event. The decision to cast a sculpture in bronze, for instance, inevitably effects its meaning; the work becomes something different than if it had been cast in gold or plastic or chocolate, even if everything else about the artwork remained the same. Next, you might examine how the materials in each artwork have become an arrangement of shapes, colors, textures, and lines. These, in turn, are organized into various patterns and compositional structures. In your interpretation, you would comment on how salient features of the form contribute to the overall meaning of the finished artwork. [But in the end] the meaning of most artworks... is not exhausted by a discussion of materials, techniques, and form. Most interpretations also include a discussion of the ideas and feelings the artwork engenders."[12]

Skill and craft

Adam. Detail from Michelangelo's fresco in the Cappella Sistina (1511)

Art can connote a sense of trained ability or mastery of a medium. Art can also simply refer to the developed and efficient use of a language to convey meaning with immediacy and or depth. Art is an act of expressing feelings, thoughts, and observations. There is an understanding that is reached with the material as a result of handling it, which facilitates one's thought processes.

A common view is that the epithet "art", particular in its elevated sense, requires a certain level of creative expertise by the artist, whether this be a demonstration of technical ability or an originality in stylistic approach such as in the plays of Shakespeare, or a combination of these two. Traditionally skill of execution was viewed as a quality inseparable from art and thus necessary for its success; for Leonardo da Vinci, art, neither more nor less than his other endeavors, was a manifestation of skill. Rembrandt's work, now praised for its ephemeral virtues, was most admired by his contemporaries for its virtuosity. At the turn of the 20th century, the adroit performances of John Singer Sargent were alternately admired and viewed with skepticism for their manual fluency, yet at nearly the same time the artist who would become the era's most recognized and peripatetic iconoclast, Pablo Picasso, was completing a traditional academic training at which he excelled.

A common contemporary criticism of some modern art occurs along the lines of objecting to the apparent lack of skill or ability required in the production of the artistic object. In conceptual art, Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain" is among the first examples of pieces wherein the artist used found objects ("ready-made") and exercised no traditionally recognised set of skills. Tracey Emin's My Bed, or Damien Hirst's The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living follow this example and also manipulate the mass media. Emin slept (and engaged in other activities) in her bed before placing the result in a gallery as work of art. Hirst came up with the conceptual design for the artwork but has left most of the eventual creation of many works to employed artisans. Hirst's celebrity is founded entirely on his ability to produce shocking concepts. The actual production in many conceptual and contemporary works of art is a matter of assembly of found objects. However there are many modernist and contemporary artists who continue to excel in the skills of drawing and painting and in creating hands on works of art.

Value judgment

Aboriginal hollow log tombs. National Gallery, Canberra, Australia.

Somewhat in relation to the above, the word art is also used to apply judgments of value, as in such expressions like "that meal was a work of art" (the cook is an artist), or "the art of deception", (the highly attained level of skill of the deceiver is praised). It is this use of the word as a measure of high quality and high value that gives the term its flavor of subjectivity.

Making judgments of value requires a basis for criticism. At the simplest level, a way to determine whether the impact of the object on the senses meets the criteria to be considered art is whether it is perceived to be attractive or repulsive. Though perception is always colored by experience, and is necessarily subjective, it is commonly taken that - that which is not aesthetically satisfying in some fashion cannot be art. However, "good" art is not always or even regularly aesthetically appealing to a majority of viewers. In other words, an artist's prime motivation need not be the pursuit of the aesthetic. Also, art often depicts terrible images made for social, moral, or thought-provoking reasons. For example, Francisco Goya's painting depicting the Spanish shootings of 3rd of May 1808 is a graphic depiction of a firing squad executing several pleading civilians. Yet at the same time, the horrific imagery demonstrates Goya's keen artistic ability in composition and execution and produces fitting social and political outrage. Thus, the debate continues as to what mode of aesthetic satisfaction, if any, is required to define 'art'.

The assumption of new values or the rebellion against accepted notions of what is aesthetically superior need not occur concurrently with a complete abandonment of the pursuit of that which is aesthetically appealing. Indeed, the reverse is often true, that the revision of what is popularly conceived of as being aesthetically appealing allows for a re-invigoration of aesthetic sensibility, and a new appreciation for the standards of art itself. Countless schools have proposed their own ways to define quality, yet they all seem to agree in at least one point: once their aesthetic choices are accepted, the value of the work of art is determined by its capacity to transcend the limits of its chosen medium in order to strike some universal chord by the rarity of the skill of the artist or in its accurate reflection in what is termed the zeitgeist.


Art is often intended to appeal and connect with human emotion. It can arouse aesthetic or moral feelings, and can be understood as a way of communicating these feelings. Artists express something so that their audience is aroused to some extent, but they do not have to do so consciously. Art explores what is commonly termed as the human condition; that is, essentially what it is to be human. Effective art often brings about some new insight concerning the human condition either singly or en-mass, which is not necessarily always positive, or necessarily widens the boundaries of collective human ability. The degree of skill that the artist has, will affect their ability to trigger an emotional response and thereby provide new insights, the ability to manipulate them at will shows exemplary skill and determination.

Purpose of art

A Navajo rug made c. 1880.

Art has had a great number of different functions throughout its history, making its purpose difficult to abstract or quantify to any single concept. This does not imply that the purpose of Art is "vague", but that it has had many unique, different, reasons for being created. Some of these functions of Art are provided in the following outline. The different purposes of art may be grouped according to those which are non-motivated, and those which are motivated (Levi-Strauss).

Non-motivated functions of art

The non-motivated purposes of art are those which are integral to being human, transcend the individual, or do not fulfill a specific external purpose. Aristotle has said, "Imitation, then, is one instinct of our nature." [13] In this sense, Art, as creativity, is something which humans must do by their very nature (i.e. no other species creates art), and is therefore beyond utility.

  1. Basic human instinct for harmony, balance, rhythm. Art at this level is not an action or an object, but an internal appreciation of balance and harmony (beauty), and therefore an aspect of being human beyond utility.

    "Imitation, then, is one instinct of our nature. Next, there is the instinct for 'harmony' and rhythm, meters being manifestly sections of rhythm. Persons, therefore, starting with this natural gift developed by degrees their special aptitudes, till their rude improvisations gave birth to Poetry." -Aristotle [14]

  2. Experience of the mysterious. Art provides a way to experience one's self in relation to the universe. This experience may often come unmotivated, as one appreciates art, music or poetry.

    "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science." -Albert Einstein [15]

  3. Expression of the imagination. Art provide a means to express the imagination in non-grammatic ways that are not tied to the formality of spoken or written language. Unlike words, which come in sequences and each of which have a definite meaning, art provides a range of forms, symbols and ideas with meanings that are maleable.

    "Jupiter's eagle [as an example of art] is not, like logical (aesthetic) attributes of an object, the concept of the sublimity and majesty of creation, but rather something else - something that gives the imagination an incentive to spread its flight over a whole host of kindred representations that provoke more thought than admits of expression in a concept determined by words. They furnish an aesthetic idea, which serves the above rational idea as a substitute for logical presentation, but with the proper function, however, of animating the mind by opening out for it a prospect into a field of kindred representations stretching beyond its ken." -Immanuel Kant[16]

  4. Universal communication. Art allows the individual to express things toward the world as a whole. Earth artists often create art in remote locations that will never be experienced by another person. The practice of placing a cairn, or pile of stones at the top of a mountain, is an example. (Note: This need not suggest a particular view of God, or religion.) Art created in this way is a form of communication between the individual and the world as a whole.[citation needed]
  5. Ritualistic and symbolic functions. In many cultures, art is used in rituals, performances and dances as a decoration or symbol. While these often have no specific utilitarian (motivated) purpose, anthropologists know that they often serve a purpose at the level of meaning within a particular culture. This meaning is not furnished by any one individual, but is often the result of many generations of change, and of a cosmological relationship within the culture.

    "Most scholars who deal with rock paintings or objects recovered from prehistoric contexts that cannot be explained in utilitarian terms and are thus categorized as decorative, ritual or symbolic, are aware of the trap posed by the term 'art'." -Silva Tomaskova[17]

Motivated functions of art

The purposes of art which are motivated refer to intentional, conscious actions on the part of the artists or creator. These may be to bring about political change, to comment on an aspect of society, to convey a specific emotion or mood, to address personal psychology, to illustrate another discipline, to (with commercial arts) to sell a product, or simply as a form of communication.

  1. Communication. Art, at its simplest, is a form of communication. As most forms of communication have an intent or goal directed toward another individual, this is a motivated purpose. Illustrative arts, such as scientific illustration, are a form of art as communication. Maps are another example. However, the content need not be scientific. Emotions, moods and feelings are also communicated through art.

    "[Art is a set of] artefacts or images with symbolic meanings as a means of communication." -Steve Mithen[18]

  2. Art as entertainment. Art may seek to bring about a particular emotion or mood, for the purpose of relaxing or entertaining the viewer. This is often the function of the art industries of Motion Pictures and Video Games.
  3. The Avante-Garde. Art for political change. One of the defining functions of early twentieth century art has been to use visual images to bring about political change. The art movements which had this goal - Dadaism, Surrealism, Russian Constructivism, and Abstract Expressionism, among others - are collectively referred to as the avante-garde arts.

    "By contrast, the realistic attitude, inspired by positivism, from Saint Thomas Aquinas to Anatole France, clearly seems to me to be hostile to any intellectual or moral advancement. I loathe it, for it is made up of mediocrity, hate, and dull conceit. It is this attitude which today gives birth to these ridiculous books, these insulting plays. It constantly feeds on and derives strength from the newspapers and stultifies both science and art by assiduously flattering the lowest of tastes; clarity bordering on stupidity, a dog's life." -André Breton (Surrealism)[19]

  4. Art for psychological and healing purposes. Art is also used by art therapists, psychotherapists and clinical psychologists as art therapy. The Diagnostic Drawing Series, for example, is used to determine the personality and emotional functioning of a patient. The end product is not the principal goal in this case, but rather a process of healing, through creative acts, is sought. The resultant piece of artwork may also offer insight into the troubles experienced by the subject and may suggest suitable approaches to be used in more conventional forms of psychiatric therapy.
  5. Art for social inquiry, subversion and/or anarchy. While similar to art for political change, subversive or deconstructivist art may seek to question aspects of society without any specific political goal. In this case, the function of art may be simply to criticize some aspect of society.
    Spray-paint graffiti on a wall in Rome.
    Graffiti art and other types of street art are graphics and images that are spray-painted or stencilled on publicly viewable walls, buildings, buses, trains, and bridges, usually without permission. Certain art forms, such as graffiti, may also be illegal when they break laws (in this case vandalism).
  6. Art for propaganda, or commercialism. Art is often utilized as a form of propaganda, and thus can be used to subtly influence popular conceptions or mood. In a similar way, art which seeks to sell a product also influences mood and emotion. In both cases, the purpose of art here is to subtly manipulate the viewer into a particular emotional or psychological response toward a particular idea or object.[20]

The functions of art described above are not mutually exclusive, as many of them may overlap. For example, art for the purpose of entertainment may also seek to sell a product, i.e. the movie or video game.

Controversial art

Théodore Géricault's Raft of the Medusa' (c. 1820), was a social commentary on a current event, unprecedented at the time. Édouard Manet's "Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe" (1863), was considered scandalous not because of the nude woman, but because she is seated next to men fully dressed in the clothing of the time, rather than in robes of the antique world. John Singer Sargent's "Madame Pierre Gautreau (Madam X)" (1884), caused a huge uproar over the reddish pink used to color the woman's ear lobe, considered far too suggestive and supposedly ruining the high-society model's reputation.

In the twentieth century, Pablo Picasso's Guernica (1937) used arresting cubist techniques and stark monochromatic oils, to depict the harrowing consequences of a contemporary bombing of a small, ancient Basque town. Leon Golub's Interrogation III (1981), depicts a female nude, hooded detainee strapped to a chair, her legs open to reveal her sexual organs, surrounded by two tormentors dressed in everyday clothing. Andres Serrano's Piss Christ (1989) is a photograph of a crucifix, sacred to the Christian religion and representing Christ's sacrifice and final suffering, submerged in a glass of the artist's own urine. The resulting uproar led to comments in the United States Senate about public funding of the arts.

Art theories

In the nineteenth century, artists were primarily concerned with ideas of truth and beauty. The aesthetic theorist John Ruskin, who championed what he saw as the naturalism of J. M. W. Turner, saw art's role as the communication by artifice of an essential truth that could only be found in nature.[21]

The definition and evaluation of art has become especially problematic since the 20th century. Richard Wollheim distinguishes three approaches: the Realist, whereby aesthetic quality is an absolute value independent of any human view; the Objectivist, whereby it is also an absolute value, but is dependent on general human experience; and the Relativist position, whereby it is not an absolute value, but depends on, and varies with, the human experience of different humans.[22]

The arrival of Modernism in the late nineteenth century lead to a radical break in the conception of the function of art,[23] and then again in the late twentieth century with the advent of postmodernism. Clement Greenberg's 1960 article "Modernist Painting" defines modern art as "the use of characteristic methods of a discipline to criticize the discipline itself".[24] Greenberg originally applied this idea to the Abstract Expressionist movement and used it as a way to understand and justify flat (non-illusionistic) abstract painting:

Realistic, naturalistic art had dissembled the medium, using art to conceal art; modernism used art to call attention to art. The limitations that constitute the medium of

painting – the flat surface, the shape of the support, the properties of the pigment — were treated by the Old Masters as negative factors that could be acknowledged only implicitly or indirectly. Under Modernism these same limitations came to be regarded as positive factors, and were acknowledged openly.[24]

After Greenberg, several important art theorists emerged, such as Michael Fried, T. J. Clark, Rosalind Krauss, Linda Nochlin and Griselda Pollock among others. Though only originally intended as a way of understanding a specific set of artists, Greenberg's definition of modern art is important to many of the ideas of art within the various art movements of the 20th century and early 21st century.

Pop artists like Andy Warhol became both noteworthy and influential through work including and possibly critiquing popular culture, as well as the art world. Artists of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s expanded this technique of self-criticism beyond high art to all cultural image-making, including fashion images, comics, billboards and pornography.

Classification disputes

Disputes as to whether or not to classify something as a work of art are referred to as classificatory disputes about art.

Classificatory disputes in the 20th century have included cubist and impressionist paintings, Duchamp's Fountain, the movies, superlative imitations of banknotes, Conceptual art, and Video games.[25]

Philosopher David Novitz has argued that disagreement about the definition of art are rarely the heart of the problem. Rather, "the passionate concerns and interests that humans vest in their social life" are "so much a part of all classificatory disputes about art" (Novitz, 1996). According to Novitz, classificatory disputes are more often disputes about societal values and where society is trying to go than they are about theory proper. For example, when the Daily Mail criticized Hirst's and Emin's work by arguing "For 1,000 years art has been one of our great civilising forces. Today, pickled sheep and soiled beds threaten to make barbarians of us all" they are not advancing a definition or theory about art, but questioning the value of Hirst's and Emin's work.[26] In 1998, Arthur Danto, suggested a thought experiment showing that "the status of an artifact as work of art results from the ideas a culture applies to it, rather than its inherent physical or perceptible qualities. Cultural interpretation (an art theory of some kind) is therefore constitutive of an object's arthood."[27][28]

Anti-art is a label for art which intentionally challenges the established parameters and values of art;[29] it is term associated with Dadaism and attributed to Marcel Duchamp just before World War I,[29] when he was making art from found objects.[29] One of these, Fountain (1917), an ordinary urinal, has achieved considerable prominence and influence on art.[29] Anti-art is a feature of work by Situationist International,[30] the lo-fi Mail art movement, and the Young British Artists,[29] though it is a form still rejected by the Stuckists,[29] who describe themselves as anti-anti-art.[31][32]

Art, class, and value

Versailles: Louis Le Vau opened up the interior court to create the expansive entrance cour d'honneur, later copied all over Europe.

Art has been perceived by some as belonging to some social classes and often excluding others. In this context, art is seen as an upper-class activity associated with wealth, the ability to purchase art, and the leisure required to pursue or enjoy it. For example, the palaces of Versailles or the Hermitage in St. Petersburg with their vast collections of art, amassed by the fabulously wealthy royalty of Europe exemplify this view. Collecting such art is the preserve of the rich, or of governments and institutions.

Fine and expensive goods have been popular markers of status in many cultures, and they continue to be so today. There has been a cultural push in the other direction since at least 1793, when the Louvre, which had been a private palace of the Kings of France, was opened to the public as an art museum during the French Revolution. Most modern public museums and art education programs for children in schools can be traced back to this impulse to have art available to everyone. Museums in the United States tend to be gifts from the very rich to the masses (The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, for example, was created by John Taylor Johnston, a railroad executive whose personal art collection seeded the museum.) But despite all this, at least one of the important functions of art in the 21st century remains as a marker of wealth and social status.

Performance by Joseph Beuys, 1978 : Everyone an artist — On the way to the libertarian form of the social organism.

There have been attempts by artists to create art that can not be bought by the wealthy as a status object. One of the prime original motivators of much of the art of the late 1960s and 1970s was to create art that could not be bought and sold. It is "necessary to present something more than mere objects"[33] said the major post war German artist Joseph Beuys. This time period saw the rise of such things as performance art, video art, and conceptual art. The idea was that if the artwork was a performance that would leave nothing behind, or was simply an idea, it could not be bought and sold. "Democratic precepts revolving around the idea that a work of art is a commodity impelled the aesthetic innovation which germinated in the mid-1960s and was reaped throughout the 1970s. Artists broadly identified under the heading of Conceptual art... substituting performance and publishing activities for engagement with both the material and materialistic concerns of painted or sculptural form... [have] endeavored to undermine the art object qua object."[34]

In the decades since, these ideas have been somewhat lost as the art market has learned to sell limited edition DVDs of video works,[35] invitations to exclusive performance art pieces, and the objects left over from conceptual pieces. Many of these performances create works that are only understood by the elite who have been educated as to why an idea or video or piece of apparent garbage may be considered art. The marker of status becomes understanding the work instead of necessarily owning it, and the artwork remains an upper-class activity. "With the widespread use of DVD recording technology in the early 2000s, artists, and the gallery system that derives its profits from the sale of artworks, gained an important means of controlling the sale of video and computer artworks in limited editions to collectors."[36]

See also


  1. ^ Wollheim 1980, op. cit. Essay VI. pp. 231-39.
  2. ^ Gombrich, Ernst. (2005). "Press statement on The Story of Art". The Gombrich Archive. Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  3. ^ Richard Wollheim, Art and its objects, p.1, 2nd edn, 1980, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521297060
  4. ^ a b c d Jerrold Levinson, The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics, Oxford university Press, 2003, p5. ISBN 0-1992-7945-4
  5. ^ Jerrold Levinson, The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics, Oxford university Press, 2003, p16. ISBN 0-1992-7945-4
  6. ^ R.G. Collingwood's view, expressed in The Principles of Art, is considered in Wollheim, op. cit. 1980 pp 36-43
  7. ^ Martin Heidegger, "The Origin of the Work of Art", in Poetry, Language, Thought, (Harper Perenniel, 2001). See also Maurice Merleau-Ponty, "Cézanne's Doubt" in The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader, Galen Johnson and Michael Smith (eds), (Northwestern University Press, 1994) and John Russon, Bearing Witness to Epiphany, (State University of New York Press, 2009).
  8. ^ Elkins, James "Art History and Images That Are Not Art", The Art Bulletin, Vol. 47, No. 4 (Dec. 1995), with previous bibliography. "Non-Western images are not well described in terms of art, and neither are medieval paintings that were made in the absence of humanist ideas of artistic value". 553
  9. ^ Adorno, Theodor W., Aesthetic Theory, (1970 in German)
  10. ^ David Novitz, "The Boundaries of Art", 1992
  11. ^ Radford, Tim. "World's Oldest Jewellery Found in Cave". Guardian Unlimited, April 16, 2004. Retrieved on January 18, 2008.
  12. ^ Robertson, Jean and Craig McDaniel: Themes of Contemporary Art, Visual Art after 1980, page 4. Oxford University Press, 2005.
  13. ^ Aristotle. The Poetics, Republic
  14. ^ Aristotle. The Poetics, Republic. Note: Although speaking mostly of poetry here, the Ancient greeks often speak of the arts collectively.
  15. ^ Einstein, Albert. The World as I See It.
  16. ^ Immanuel Kant, Critique of Aesthetic Judgement (1790).
  17. ^ Silvia Tomaskova, "Places of Art: Art and Archaeology in Context": (1997)
  18. ^ Steve Mithen. The Prehistory of the Mind: The Cognitive Origins of Art, Religion and Science. 1999
  19. ^ André Breton, Surrealist Manifesto (1924)
  20. ^ Roland Barthes, Mythologies
  21. ^ "go to nature in all singleness of heart, rejecting nothing and selecting nothing, and scorning nothing, believing all things are right and good, and rejoicing always in the truth." Ruskin, John. Modern Painters, Volume I, 1843. London: Smith, Elder and Co.
  22. ^ Wollheim 1980, Essay VI. pp. 231-39.
  23. ^ Griselda Pollock, Differencing the Canon. Routledge, London & N.Y.,1999. ISBN 0-415-06700-6
  24. ^ a b Modern Art and Modernism: A Critical Anthology. ed. Francis Frascina and Charles Harrison, 1982.
  25. ^ Deborah Solomon, "2003: the 3rd Annual Year in Ideas: Video Game Art", New York Times, Magazine Section, December 14, 2003
  26. ^ Painter, Colin. "Contemporary Art and the Home". Berg Publishers, 2002. p. 12. ISBN 1-8597-3661-0
  27. ^ Dutton, Denis Tribal Art in Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, edited by Michael Kelly (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).
  28. ^ Danto, Arthur. "Artifact and Art." In Art/Artifact, edited by Susan Vogel. New York, 1988.
  29. ^ a b c d e f "Glossary: Anti-art", Tate. Retrieved 23 January 2010.
  30. ^ Schneider, Caroline. "Asger Jorn", Artforum, 1 September 2001. Retrieved from, 24 January 2010.
  31. ^ Ferguson, Euan. "In bed with Tracey, Sarah ... and Ron", The Observer, 20 April 2003. Retrieved on 2 May 2009.
  32. ^ "Stuck on the Turner Prize", artnet, 27 October 2000. Retrieved on 2 May 2009.
  33. ^ Sharp, Willoughby (December 1969). "An Interview with Joseph Beuys". ArtForum 8 (4): 45. 
  34. ^ Rorimer, Anne: New Art in the 60s and 70s Redefining Reality, page 35. Thames and Hudson, 2001.
  35. ^ Fineman, Mia (2007-03-21). "YouTube for ArtistsThe best places to find video art online.". Slate. Retrieved 2007-08-03. 
  36. ^ Robertson, Jean and Craig McDaniel: Themes of Contemporary Art, Visual Art after 1980, page 16. Oxford University Press, 2005.


  • Arthur Danto, The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art. 2003
  • Dana Arnold and Margaret Iverson (eds.) Art and Thought. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 2003.
  • Michael Ann Holly and Keith Moxey (eds.) Art History and Visual Studies. Yale University Press, 2002.
  • John Whitehead. Grasping for the Wind. 2001
  • Noel Carroll, Theories of Art Today. 2000
  • Evelyn Hatcher, ed. Art as Culture: An Introduction to the Anthropology of Art. 1999
  • Catherine de Zegher (ed.). Inside the Visible. MIT Press, 1996.
  • Nina, Felshin, ed. But is it Art? 1995
  • Stephen Davies, Definitions of Art. 1991
  • Oscar Wilde, "Intentions".
  • Jean Robertson and Craig McDaniel, "Themes of Contemporary Art, Visual Art after 1980." 2005

Further reading

  • Augros, Robert M., Stanciu, George N., The New Story of Science: mind and the universe, Lake Bluff, Ill.: Regnery Gateway, c1984. ISBN 0895268337 (this book has significant material on Art and Science)
  • Richard Wollheim, Art and its Objects
  • Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
  • Benedetto Croce, Aesthetic as Science of Expression and General Linguistic, 1902
  • Władysław Tatarkiewicz, A History of Six Ideas: an Essay in Aesthetics, translated from the Polish by Christopher Kasparek, The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 1980.
  • Leo Tolstoy, What Is Art?, 1897
  • Kleiner, Gardner, Mamiya and Tansey (2004). Art Through the Ages, Twelfth Edition (2 volumes). Wadsworth. ISBN 0-534-64095-8 (vol 1) and ISBN 0-534-64091-5 (vol 2). 
  • Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz, eds., Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Art is made by the alone for the alone. ~ Luis Barragán
All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art. ~ Jorge Luis Borges
Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse. ~ Winston Churchill
Art is not the possession of the few who are recognized writers, painters, musicians; it is the authentic expression of any and all individuality. ~ John Dewey
All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster's autobiography. ~ Federico Fellini
Beauty is at once the ultimate principle and the highest aim of art. ~ Goethe
I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream. ~ Vincent van Gogh
Most artists are surrealists. ... always dreaming something and then they paint it. ~ Dong Kingman
Instinct and study; love and hate;
Audacity — reverence. These must mate,
And fuse with Jacob’s mystic heart,
To wrestle with the angel — Art. ~ Herman Melville
Art has two constant, two unending concerns: It always meditates on death and thus always creates life. All great, genuine art resembles and continues the Revelation of St John. ~ Boris Pasternak
Things are not all so comprehensible and expressible as one would mostly have us believe; most events are inexpressible, taking place in a realm which no word has ever entered, and more inexpressible than all else are works of art, mysterious existences, the life of which, while ours passes away, endures. ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Can someone eat the fruit that comes from the tree of action that grows from the seeds of your mind?. ~ Eugene J. Martin
The role of art is to make a world which can be inhabited. ~ William Saroyan
We can forgive a man for making a useful thing, as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely. All art is quite useless. ~ Oscar Wilde

Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression, including music and literature. The meaning of art is explored in a branch of philosophy known as aesthetics.


  • Buy old masters. They fetch a better price than old mistresses.
  • Light is impressionism.
    • Gae Aulenti, On positioning galleries for impressionist and post impressionist paintings at the top of her design for Paris's Musée d'Orsay, Time (8 December 1986)
  • This museum is a torpedo moving through time, its head the ever-advancing present, its tail the ever-receding past of 50 to 100 years ago.
  • Art is made by the alone for the alone.
  • Pop art is the inedible raised to the unspeakable.
  • Any great work of art ... revives and readapts time and space, and the measure of its success is the extent to which it makes you an inhabitant of that world — the extent to which it invites you in and lets you breathe its strange, special air.
  • A writer — and, I believe, generally all persons — must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.
    • Jorge Luis Borges, in Twenty Conversations with Borges, Including a Selection of Poems : Interviews by Roberto Alifano, 1981–1983 (1984)
  • If the world were clear, art would not exist.
    • Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus (1942), "Absurd Creation" (Tr. Justin O'Brien, Vantage International, 1991, ISBN 0-679-73373-6, p. 98)
  • Art is the triumph over chaos.
  • Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.
  • I do a bale of sketches, one eye, a piece of hair. A pound of observation, then an ounce of painting.
    • Gardner Cox on his portraits, Washington Post (31 May 1975)
  • Drawing is the honesty of the art. There is no possibility of cheating. It is either good or bad.
  • Art is the complement of science. Science as I have said is concerned wholly with relations, not with individuals. Art, on the other hand, is not only the disclosure of the individuality of the artist but also a manifestation of individuality as creative of the future, in an unprecedented response to conditions as they were in the past. Some artists in their vision of what might be but is not, have been conscious rebels. But conscious protest and revolt is not the form which the labor of the artist in creation of the future must necessarily take. Discontent with things as they are is normally the expression of the vision of what may be and is not, art in being the manifestation of individuality is this prophetic vision.
  • Art is not the possession of the few who are recognized writers, painters, musicians; it is the authentic expression of any and all individuality. Those who have the gift of creative expression in unusually large measure disclose the meaning of the individuality of others to those others. In participating in the work of art, they become artists in their activity. They learn to know and honor individuality in whatever form it appears. The fountains of creative activity are discovered and released. The free individuality which is the source of art is also the final source of creative development in time.
  • ...the significant problems and issues of life and philosophy concern the rate and mode of the conjunction of the precarious and the assured, the incomplete and the finished, the repetitious and the varying, the safe and sane and the hazardous. ...these traits, and the modes and tempos of their interaction with each other, are fundamental features of natural existence. The experience of their various consequences, according as they are relatively isolated, unhappily or happily combined, is evidence that wisdom, and hence the love of wisdom which is philosophy, is concerned with choice and administration of their proportioned union. Structure and process, substance and accident, matter and energy, permanence and flux, one and many, continuity and discreetness, order and progress, law and liberty, uniformity and growth, tradition and innovation, rational will and impelling desires, proof and discovery, the actual and the possible, are names given to various phases of their conjunction, and the issue of living depends upon the art with which these things are adjusted to each other.
    • John Dewey, "Existence as Precarious and as Stable" in Experience and Nature (1925)
Also variously attributed to Philip Massinger, who is instead the subject, and to Lionel Trilling (Esquire, September 1962), who is quoting Eliot, and in the form
  • I've always thought that art is a lie, an interesting lie. And I'll sort of listen to the "lie" and try to imagine the world which makes that lie true... what that world must be like, and what would have to happen for us to get from this world to that one.
    • Brian Eno
  • All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster's autobiography.
  • if the subject of art
    will be a broken jug
    a small broken soul
    with a great self-pity
    what will remain of us
    will be like tears of lovers
    in a small dirty hotel
    when wallpapers dawn
  • One thing, however, did become clear to him [Goldmund] – why so many perfect works of art did not please him at all, why they were almost hateful and boring to him, in spite of a certain undeniable beauty. Workshops, churches, and palaces were full of these fatal works of art; he had even helped with a few himself. They were deeply disappointing because they aroused the desire for the highest and did not fulfill it. They lacked the most essential thing – mystery. That was what dreams and truly great works of art had in common: mystery.
  • While I know that the beautiful, the spiritual and the sublime are today suspect I have begun to stop resisting the constant urge to deny that beauty has a valid right to exist in contemporary art.
    • Ian Hornak, Cover Magazine (1994)
  • My idea of a perfect surrealist painting is one in which every detail is perfectly realistic, yet filled with a surrealistic, dreamlike mood. And the viewer himself can't understand why that mood exists, because there are no dripping watches or grotesque shapes as reference points. That is what I'm after: that mood which is apart from everyday life, the type of mood that one experiences at very special moments.
    • Ian Hornak, The 57th Street Review (January 1976)
  • Whores are the most honest girls. They present the bill right away.
  • The studio, a room to which the artist consigns himself for life, is naturally important, not only as workplace, but as a source of inspiration. And it usually manages, one way or another, to turn up in his product.
    • Grace Glueck, The New York Times (29 June 1984)
  • The name of Leonardo da Vinci will be invoked by artists to prove that only a great artist can be a great technician. The name of Leonardo da Vinci will be invoked by technicians to prove that only a great technician can be a great artist.
    • Alex Gross, East Village Other (1968)
  • [It] is that rare impressionist painting where people don't judge the light, but rather are judged by it.
    • Alexandra Johnson, On Terrace at Sainte-Adresse by Claude Monet, Christian Science Monitor (1 October 1980)
  • Three men riding on a bicycle which has only one wheel, I guess that's surrealist.
    • Dong Kingman in Twenty-two Famous Painters and Illustrators Tell How They Work (1964)
  • Most artists are surrealists. ... always dreaming something and then they paint it.
    • Dong Kingman in Twenty-two Famous Painters and Illustrators Tell How They Work (1964)
  • Creation always involves building upon something else. There is no art that doesn't reuse. And there will be less art if every reuse is taxed by the appropriator.
  • All art is solitary and the studio is a torture area.
    • Alexander Liberman, The New York Times (13 May 1979)
  • The Art Snob can be recognized in the home by the quick look he gives the pictures on your walls, quick but penetrating, as though he were undressing them. This is followed either by complete and pained silence or a comment such as 'That's really a very pleasant little water color you have there.'
    • Russell Lynes in Snobs (1950)
  • The Art Snob will stand back from a picture at some distance, his head cocked slightly to one side. ... After a long period of gazing (during which he may occasionally squint his eyes), he will approach to within a few inches of the picture and examine the brushwork; he will then return to his former distant position, give the picture another glance and walk away.
    • Russell Lynes in Snobs (1950)
  • Can someone eat the fruit that comes from the tree of action that grows from the seeds of your mind?.
  • The bird of truth would not be able to fly if it weren't for the air of lies we breathe.
  • Impressionism is the newspaper of the soul.
  • It is only after years of preparation that the young [artist] should touch color — not color used descriptively, that is, but as a means of personal expression.
  • Drawing is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence.
  • Art does not imitate, but interpret.
    • Giuseppe Mazzini
  • Instinct and study; love and hate;
    Audacity — reverence. These must mate,
    And fuse with Jacob’s mystic heart,
    To wrestle with the angel — Art.
  • My job is to make art expensive.
    • Tobias Meyer in The New Yorker, 20 March 2006, pp. 88-100.
  • [Discipline in art is] a fundamental struggle to understand oneself, as much as to understand what one is drawing.
  • Most painting in the European tradition was painting the mask. Modern art rejected all that. Our subject matter was the person behind the mask.
  • Many are willing to suffer for their art. Few are willing to learn to draw.
  •, spurred by its powerful illusion, speeds irresistibly towards its limits where its optimism, concealed in the essence of logic, suffers shipwreck. For the periphery of the circle of science has an infinite number of points...noble and gifted men...reach...inevitably, such boundary points on the periphery from which one gazes into what defies illumination. When they see to their horror how logic coils up at these boundaries and finally bites its own tail-suddenly the new form of insight breaks through, tragic insight which, merely to be endured, needs art as a protection and a remedy.
  • He searched disorder for its unifying principle.
    • Brian O'Doherty, On Stuart Davis, abstractionist whose work prefigured pop art, The New York Times (26 June 1964)
  • Art is marks on canvas trying to find a place to live.
    • Bill O'Leary From his Antique Shop.
  • Art has two constant, two unending concerns: It always meditates on death and thus always creates life. All great, genuine art resembles and continues the Revelation of St John.
    • Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago, translated by Max Hayward and Manya Harari (Pantheon 1958)
  • For a long time I limited myself to one color — as a form of discipline.
  • Abstract painting is abstract. It confronts you.
  • Things are not all so comprehensible and expressible as one would mostly have us believe; most events are inexpressible, taking place in a realm which no word has ever entered, and more inexpressible than all else are works of art, mysterious existences, the life of which, while ours passes away, endures.
  • Art means to dare — and to have been right.
  • Art is what is irresistible.
    • William Saroyan, as quoted by William Bolcolm in "The End of the Mannerist Century" (2004), The Pleasure of Modernist Music, Ashby, Arved, ed. ISBN 1580461433
  • The role of art is to make a world which can be inhabited.
    • William Saroyan Recalled at his Broadway memorial service, The New York Times (31 Oct 83)
  • It holds up in one object or one surface, in one bright, luminous and concentrated thing — whether a beer can or a flag — all the dispersed elements that go to make up our lives.
    • Robert C. Scull on his collection of pop and minimal art, Time (21 February 1964)
  • I'd rather use art to climb than anything else.
    • Robert C Scull when asked if his purchases were for investment or social climbing, recalled on his death (1 January 86)
  • After a few months in my parents' basement, I took an apartment near the state university, where I discovered both crystal methamphetamine and conceptual art. Either one of these things are dangerous, but in combination they have the potential to destroy entire civilizations.
  • Dead artists always bring out an older, richer crowd.
    • Elizabeth Shaw, on a fauvism exhibition that drew 2,000 people, The New York Times (26 March 1976)
  • Art is the signature of civilizations.
  • [It was] like the wild child who belongs in a delinquent home.
    • Lowery Sims, on status of modern art collection before $26-million, 110,000-ft² addition to the museum, Manhattan Inc. (August 1986)
  • There is no pulse so sure of the state of a nation as its characteristic art product which has nothing to do with its material life.
  • Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one consciously, by means of certain external symbols, conveys to others the feelings one has experienced, whereby people so infected by these feelings, also experience them.
  • In order to correctly define art, it is necessary, first of all, to cease to consider it as a means to pleasure and consider it as one of the conditions of human life. ...Reflecting on it in this way, we cannot fail to observe that art is one of the means of effective communication between people.
  • The very object of an art, the principle of its artifice, is precisely to impart the impression of an ideal state in which the man who reaches it will be capable of spontaneously producing, with no effort of hesitation, a magnificent and wonderfully ordered expression of his nature and our destinies.
    • Paul Valery - Remarks on Poetry in The Art of Poetry, Vintage, 1958, p. 215.
  • I don't really have studios. I wander around — around people's attics, out in fields, in cellars, anyplace I find that invites me.
    • Wyeth, Andrew, TIME magazine (18 August 1986)
  • In short, if newspapers were written by people whose sole object in writing was to tell the truth about politics and the truth about art we should not believe in war, and we should believe in art.


  • Architecture is the art of wasting space.
    • Anonymous
  • Art is what poetry can't describe; Poetry is what art can't picture.
    • Anonymous
  • As an artist, English is my second language.
    • Anonymous
  • Beauty destroys itself with pride,mediocrity raises itself with humility
    • Anonymous
  • Ineptitude has today, it seems, acquired full rights of citizenship in the realm of art.
  • I had recourse to a dictionary of synonyms, and there I found "deformed" in the company with such terms as "ugly, foul, loathsome, obscene," and read moreover that "to deform is to make something ugly in form."
  • The emotional states which a painter or other artist feels irresistibly forced to express are those most intimate states of mind and soul from which may be struck the spark or revelation, kindling a light that shows things in their deepest, most universal, and perhaps even eternal reality; this light we may call the light of poetry.
  • Abstraction is an exercise in a pre-assured failure. It is a futile attempt to communicate the non-communicable
  • If you want to know what true art is: Go outside on a clear night, wait until it gets very, very dark, then look up! You will see no rules of composition, no evidence of superior technique. Yet, you will be staring into the very face of pure, unadulterated beauty and wonder. That is the unattainable Ideal for which I must constantly strive.
  • It is not about which artist is more skilled than which other artist. It is about creating what is in you to create. A lack of confidence in oneself is like a thief, It steals from the world that which might be worthy.
  • No matter how much utter disdain I have for the work of a particular artist, I would still rather that he had created those works than hadn't.
  • No matter how substandard you feel your skill or talent may be, If you never produce your art, the world will always remain deprived of it.
  • The entire 'my art is better than your art' thing really gets under my skin. The fact of the matter is: Your art IS better than my art... at being what it is. So what? It just so happens that my art is better than your art, at being what it is.
  • When the established members of academia start becoming vocal as to how poor your art is, then you know you're on to something.
  • All colours are the friends of their neighbours and the lovers of their opposites.
  • Art produces ugly things which frequently become beautiful with time. Fashion, on the other hand, produces beautiful things which always becomes ugly with time.
  • There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.
  • The whole beauty and grandeur of Art consists ... in being able to get above all singular forms, particularities of every kind [by making out] an abstract idea ... more perfect than any one original.
  • The artist is the seismograph of his age.
    • Robert W. Corrigan
  • Great authors should be read, and not met.
  • Art washes away from our souls the dust which is everyday life.
    • John Steven Davies III
  • Art is the Queen of all sciences communicating knowledge to all the generations of the world.
  • Art has got nothing to do with taste.
  • Art is either a revolutionist or a plagiarist.
  • The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but rather the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity.
  • Whats the difference between art and pornography... a government grant!
    • Peter Griffin, Family Guy
  • artists' imagination is bound to simplicity and as a rule is in conflict with common sense.
    • Kaloust Guedel
  • Most Christians' view of evangelism are along the same lines of the pro da campaigns of Nazi Germany. They have this 'us against them' concept, and they destroy art. They want to make films and music that make their philosophical position look good, which is not the same as art.
    • Frank Hart, leader for Atomic Opera
  • Art must anchor in nature, or it is the sport of every breath of folly.
  • Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument. The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its purpose through him. As a human being he may have moods and a will and personal aims, but as an artist he is "man" in a higher sense — he is "collective man" — one who carries and shapes the unconscious, psychic forms of mankind.
  • I paint self portraits because I am the person I know best.
  • Art does not reproduce the visible; it makes things visible.
  • Art should be more then just brush stokes on canvas showing a precise and literal duplication of an event. Art is for more then that. True art captures emotions, feelings and the energy of the object or event that is being depicted. It goes far deeper then the cold, flat surface of duplication.
    • Joseph Minton
  • Creativity is the subtle theft of another's ideas.
    • Jim Oblak
  • Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.
  • Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
  • There is no abstract art. You must always start with something.
  • A community without artists is not a true community, only people living in the same vicinity.
    • Byrne Piven
  • The perfection of art is to conceal art.
  • The philosopher sought only to discover, the artist to perfect.
    • Winwood Reade
  • "Its an art"
    • Vincent van Gogh
  • The most beautiful art form imaginable is function.
    • Kevin Ruggeberg
  • An artist never really finishes his work; he merely abandons it.
  • We can forgive a man for making a useful thing, as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely. All art is quite useless.
  • [The object of art is] to make eternal the desperately fleeting moment.
  • The function of all art ... is an extension of the function of the visual brain, to acquire knowledge; ...artists are, in a sense, neurologists who study the capacities of the visual brain with techniques that are unique to them.
    • Semir Zeki

See also


Look up art in Wiktionary, the free dictionary

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ART, a word in its most extended and most popular sense meaning everything which we distinguish from Nature. Art and Nature are the two most comprehensive genera of which the human mind has formed the conception. Under the genus Nature, or the genus Art, we include all the phenomena of the universe. But as our conception of Nature is indeterminate and variable, so in some degree is our conception of Art. Nor does such ambiguity arise only because some modes of thought refer a greater number of the phenomena of the universe to the genus Nature, and others a greater number to the genus Art. It arises also because we do not strictly limit the one genus by the other. The range of the phenomena to which we point, when we say Art, is never very exactly determined by the range of the other phenomena which at the same time we tacitly refer to the order of Nature. Everybody understands the general meaning of a phrase like Chaucer's "Nature ne Art ne koude him not amende," or Pope's "Blest with each grace of nature and of art." In such phrases we intend to designate familiarly as Nature all which exists independently of our study, forethought and exertion - in other words, those phenomena in ourselves or the world which we do not originate but find; and we intend to designate familiarly as Art all which we do not find but originate - or, in other words, the phenomena, which we add by study, forethought and exertion to those existing independently of us. But we do not use these designations consistently. Sometimes we draw an arbitrary line in the action of individuals and societies, and say, Here Nature ends and Art begins - such a law, such a practice, such an industry even, is natural, and such another is artificial; calling those natural which happen spontaneously and without much reflection, and the others artificial. But this line different observers draw at different places. Sometimes we adopt views which waive the distinction altogether. One such view is that wherein all phenomena are regarded as equally natural, and the idea of Nature is extended so as to include "all the powers existing in either the outer or the inner world, and everything which exists by means of those powers." In this view Art becomes a part of Nature. It is illustrated in the familiar passage of Shakespeare, where Polixenes reminds Perdita that "Nature is made better by no mean, But nature makes that mean: so, over that art Which, you say, adds to nature, is an art That nature makes.".. .

"This is an art Which does mend nature, change it rather, but The art itself is nature." A posthumous essay of John Stuart Mill contains a full philosophical exposition and defence of this mode of regarding the relations of Nature and Art. Defining Nature as above, and again as a "collective name for all facts, actual and possible," that writer proceeds to say that such a definition "is evidently inapplicable to some of the modes in which the word is familiarly employed. For example, it entirely conflicts with the common form of speech by which Nature is opposed to Art, and natural to artificial. For in the sense of the word Nature which has thus been defined, and which is the true scientific sense, Art is as much Nature as anything else; and everything which is artificial is natural - Art has no independent powers of its own: Art is but the employment of the powers of Nature for an end. Phenomena produced by human agency, no less than those which, as far as we are concerned, are spontaneous, depend on the properties of the elementary forces, or of the elementary substances and their compounds. The united powers of the whole human race could not create a new property of matter in general, or of any one of its species. We can only take advantage for our purposes of the properties we find. A ship floats by the same laws of specific gravity and equilibrium as a tree uprooted by the wind and blown into the water. The corn which men raise for food grows and produces its grain by the same laws of vegetation by which the wild rose and the mountain strawberry bring forth their flowers and fruit. A house stands and holds together by the natural properties, the weight and cohesion of the materials which compose it. A steam engine works by the natural expansive force of steam, exerting a pressure upon one part of a system of arrangements, which pressure, by the mechanical properties of the lever, is transferred from that to another part, where it raises the weight or removes the obstacle brought into connexion with it. In these and all other artificial operations the office of man is, as has often been remarked, a very limited one; it consists of moving things into certain places. We move objects, and by doing this, bring some things into contact which were separate, or separate others which were in contact; and by this simple change of place, natural forces previously dormant are called into action, and produce the desired effect. Even the volition which designs, the intelligence which contrives, and the muscular force which executes these movements, are themselves powers of Nature." Another mode of thought, in some sort complementary to the last, is based on the analogy which the operations of forces external to a man bear to the operations of man himself. Study, forethought and exertion are assigned to Nature, and her operations are called operations of Art. This view was familiar to ancient systems of philosophy, and especially to that of the Stoics. According to the report of Cicero, Nature as conceived by Zeno was a fire, and at the same time a voluntary agent having the power or art of creating things with regularity and design ("naturam esse ignem artificiosum ad gignendum progredientem via"). To this fire not merely creative force and systematic action were ascribed, but actual personality. Nature was "non artificiosa solum, sed plane artifex." "That which in the works of human art is done by hands, is done with much greater art by Nature, that is, by a fire which exercises an art and is the teacher of other arts." This conception of Nature as an all-generating fire, and at the same time as a personal artist both teaching and including in her own activity all the human arts, on the one hand may be said, with Polixenes and J. S. Mill, to merge Art in Nature; but on the other hand it finds the essence of Nature in the resemblance of her operations to those of Art. "It is the proprium of art," according to the same system, "to create and beget," and the reasoning proceeds - Nature creates and begets, therefore Nature is an artist or Demiurgus. A kindred view is set forth by Sir Thomas Browne in the Religio Medici, when he declares that "all things are artificial; for Nature is the Art of God." But these modes of thought, according to which, on the one hand, the processes of Art are included among processes of Nature, or on the other the processes of Nature among the processes of Art, are exceptional. In ordinary use the two conceptions, each of them somewhat vague and inexact, are antithetical. Their antithesis was what Dr Johnson had chiefly in his mind when he defined Art as "the power of doing something which is not taught by Nature or by instinct." But this definition is insufficient, because the abstract word Art, whether used of all arts at once or of one at a time, is a name not only for the power of doing something, but for the exercise of the power; and not only for the exercise of the power, but for the rules according to which it is exercised; and not only for the rules, but for the result. Painting, for instance, is an art, and the word connotes not only the power to paint, but the act of painting; and not only the act, but the laws for performing the act rightly; and not only all these, but the material consequences of the act or the thing painted. So of agriculture, navigation and the rest. Exception might also be taken to Dr Johnson's definition on the ground that it excludes all actions of instinct from the genus Art, whereas usage has in more languages than one given the name of Art to several of those ingenuities in the lower animals which popular theory at the same time declares to be instinctive. Dante, for instance, speaks of boughs shaken by the wind, but not so violently as to make the birds forgo their Art "Non per 45 dal for esser dritto sparte Tanto, the gl' augelletti per le cime Lasciasser d'operar ogni for ante." And Fontenelle, speaking in the language not of poetry but of science: - "Most animals - as, for instance, bees, spiders and beavers - have a kind of art peculiar to themselves; but each race of animals has no more than one art, and this one has had no first inventor among the race. Man, on the other hand, has an infinity of different arts which were not born with his race, and of which the glory is his own." Dr Johnson might reply that those properties of variety and of originality or individual invention, which Fontenelle himself alleges in the ingenuities of man but not in those of the lower animals, are sufficient to make a generic difference, and to establish the impropriety of calling a honeycomb or a spider's web a work of Art. It is not our purpose to trespass on ground so debateable as that of the nature of consciousness in the lower animals. Enough that when we use the term Art of any action, it is because we are thinking of properties in the action from which we infer, whether justly or not, that the agent voluntarily and designedly puts forth skill for known ends and by regular and uniform methods. If, then, we were called upon to frame a general definition of Art, giving the word its widest and most comprehensive meaning, it would run thus : - Every regulated operation or dexterity by which organized beings pursue ends which they know beforehand, together with the rules and the result of every such operation or dexterity. Here it will be well to consider very briefly the natural history of the name which has been given to this very comprehensive conception by the principal branches of civilized mankind. Our own word Art the English language has taken, as all the Romance languages of modern Europe have taken theirs, directly from the Latin. The Latin ars, according to the prevailing opinion of philologists, proceeds from a root AR, of which the primitive signification was to put or fit things together, and which is to be found in a large family of Greek words. The Greek TE X V?1, the name both for arts in the particular and art in the abstract, is by its root related both to TEK-TWV and TEK-1101), and thus contains the allied ideas of making and begetting. The proprium of art in the logic of the Stoics, "to create and beget," was strictly in accordance with this etymology. The Teutonic Kunst is formed from konnen, and ktinnen is developed from a primitive Ich kann. In kann philology is inclined to recognize a preterite form of a lost verb, of which we find the traces in Kin-d, a child; and the form Ich kann thus meaning originally "I begot," contains the germ of the two several developments, - konnen, "to be master," "to be able," and kennen, " to know." We thus see that the chief IndoEuropean languages have with one consent extended a name for the most elementary exercise of a constructive or productive power, till that name has covered the whole range of the skilled and deliberate operations of sentient beings.

In proportion as men left out of sight the idea of creation, of constructing or producing, "artificiosum esse ad gignendum," which is the primitive half of this extended notion, and attended only to the idea of skill, of proceeding by regular and disciplined methods, "progredi via," which is the superadded half, the whole notion Art, and the name for it, might become subject to a process of thought which, if analysed, would be like this: - What is done by regular and disciplined methods is Art; facts are observed and classified, and a systematic view of the order of the universe obtained, by regular and disciplined methods; the observing and classifying of facts, and obtaining a systematic view of the order of the universe, is therefore Art. To a partial extent this did unconsciously take place. Science, of which the essence is only in knowledge and theory, came to be spoken of as Art, of which the essence is all in practice and production. Cicero, notwithstanding his citation of the Stoical dictum that practice and production were of the essence of Art, elsewhere divides Art into two kinds - one by which things are only contemplated in the mind, another by which something is produced and done. ("Quumque artium aliud eiusmodi sit, ut tantummodo rem cernat; aliud, ut moliatur aliquid et faciat." - Acad. ii. 7.) Of the former kind his instance is geometry; of the latter the art of playing on the lyre. Now geometry, understanding by geometry an acquisition of the mind, that is, a collected body of observations and deductions concerning the properties of space and magnitude, is a science and not an art; although there is an art of the geometer, which is the skill by which he solves any given problem in his science, and the rules of that skill, and his exertion in putting it forth. And so every science has its instrumental art or practical discipline.; and in as far as the word Art is used only of the practical discipline or dexterity of the geometer, the astronomer, the logician, the grammarian, or other person whose business it is to collect and classify facts for contemplation, in so far the usage is just. The same justification may be extended to another usage, whereby in Latin, and some of its derivative languages, the name Art came to be transferred in a concrete sense to the body of rules, the written code or manual, which lays down the discipline and regulates the dexterity; as ars grammatica, ars logica, ars rhetorica and the rest. But when the word is stretched so as to mean the sciences, as theoretical acquisitions of the mind, that meaning is illegitimate. Whether or not Cicero, in the passage above quoted, had in his mind the science of geometry as a collected body of observations and deductions, it is certain that the Ciceronian phrase of the liberal arts, the ingenuous arts, both in Latin and its derivatives or translations in modern speech, has been used currently to denote the sciences themselves, and not merely the disciplines instrumental to them. The trivium and the quadrivium (grammar, logic and rhetoric - geometry, astronomy, music and arithmetic) have been habitually called arts, when some of them have been named in that sense in which they mean not arts but sciences, "only contemplating things in the mind." Hence the nomenclature, history and practical organization, especially in Britain, of one great division of university studies: the division of "arts," with its "faculty," its examinations, and its degrees.

In the German language the words for Art and Science have in general been loosely interchanged. The etymology of the word for Art secured a long continuance for this ambiguity. Kunst was employed indiscriminately in both the senses of the primitive Ich kann, to signify what I know, or Science, and what I can do, or Art. It was not till the end of the 17th century that a separate word for Science, the modern Wissenschaft, came into use. On the other hand, the Greek word T X vri, with its distinct suggestion of the root signification to make or get, acted probably as a safeguard against this tendency. The distinction between TE X Art or practice, and 7rto r17,un, knowledge or Science, is observed, though not systematically, in Greek philosophy. But for our present purpose, that of making clear the true relation between the one conception and the other, further quotation is rendered superfluous by the discussion the subject has received at the hands of the modern writer already quoted. Between Art, of which we practise the rules, and Science, of which we entertain the doctrines, J. S. Mill establishes the difference in the simplest shape, by pointing out that one grammatical mood is proper for the conclusions of Science, and another for those of Art. Science enunciates her conclusions in the indicative mood, whereas "the imperative is the characteristic of Art, as distinguished from Science." And as Art utters her conclusions in her own form, so she supplies the substance of her own major premise.

"Every art has one first principle, or general major premise, not borrowed from science, that which enunciates the object aimed at, and affirms it to be a desirable object. The builder's art assumes that it is desirable to have buildings; architecture (as one of the fine arts) that it is desirable to have them beautiful and imposing. The hygienic and medical arts assume, the one that the preservation of health, the other that the cure of disease, are fitting and desirable ends. These are not propositions of science. Propositions of science assert a matter of fact - an existence, a co-existence, a succession, or a resemblance. The propositions now spoken of do not assert that anything is, but enjoin or recommend that something should be. They are a class by themselves. A proposition of which the predicate is expressed by the words ought or should be is generically different from one which is expressed by is or will be." And the logical relation of Art and Science, in other words, the manner of framing the intermediate member between the general major premise of Art and its imperative conclusion, is thus defined: "The Art [in any given case] proposes to itself an end to be attained, defines the end, and hands it over to the Science. The Science receives it, considers it as a phenomenon or effect to be studied, and having investigated its causes and conditions, sends it back to Art with a theorem of the causes and combinations by which it could be produced. Art then examines these combinations of circumstances, and according as any of them are or are not in human power, pronounces the end attainable or not. The only one of the premises, therefore, which Art supplies, is the original major premise, which asserts that the attainment of the given end is desirable. Science, then, lends to Art the proposition (obtained by a series of inductions or deductions) that the performance of certain actions will attain the end. From these premises Art concludes that the performance of these actions is desirable, and finding it also practicable, converts the theorem into a rule or precept.. The grounds, then, of every rule of Art are to be found in the theorems of Science. An Art, or a body of Art, consists of the rules, together with as much of the speculative propositions as comprises the justification of these rules. The complete Art of any matter includes a selection of such a portion from the Science as is necessary to show on what conditions the effects, which the Art aims at producing, depend. And Art in general consists of the truths of Science arranged in the most convenient order for practice, instead of the order which is most convenient for thought. Science groups and arranges its truths so as to enable us to take in at one view as much as possible of the general order of the universe. Art, though it must assume the same general laws, follows them only into such of their detailed consequences as have led to the formation of rules of conduct, and brings together from parts of the field of Science most remote from one another, the truths relating to the production of the different and heterogeneous causes necessary to each effect which the exigencies of practical life require to be produced." - (Mill's Logic, vol. ii. pp. 542-549) The whole discussion may be summed up thus. Science consists in knowing, Art consists in doing. What I must do in order to know, is Art subservient to Science: what I must know in order to do, is Science subservient to Art.

Art, then, is defined by two broad distinctions: first, its popular distinction from Nature; and next, its practical and theoretic distinction from Science. Both of these distinctions are observed in the terms of our definition given above. Within the proper limits of this definition, the conception of Art, and the use of the word for it, have undergone sundry variations. These variations correspond to certain vicissitudes or developments in the order of historical facts and in society. The requirements of society, stimulating the ingenuity of its individual members, have led to the invention of arts and groups of arts, constantly progressing, with the progress of civilization, in number, in complexity, and in resource. The religious imagination of early societies, who find themselves in possession of such an art or group of arts, forgets the history of the invention, and assigns it to the inspiration or special grace of some god or hero. So the Greeks assigned the arts of agriculture to Triptolemus, those of spinning and navigation to Athena, and of music to Apollo. At one stage of civilization one art or group of arts is held in higher esteem, another at another. In societies, like most of those of the ancient world, where slaves were employed in domestic service, and upon the handicrafts supplying the immediate utilities of life - food, shelter and clothing - these constituted a group of servile arts. The arts of husbandry or agriculture, on the other hand, have alternately been regarded as servile and as honourable according as their exercise has been in the hands of a subject class, as under feudal institutions, or, as under the Roman republic, of free cultivators. Under feudal institutions, or in a society in a state of permanent war, the allied arts of war and of government have been held the only honourable class. In commercial states, like the republics of Italy, the arts of gain, or of production (other than agricultural) and distribution, have made good their title to equal estimation and greater power beside the art of captains. But among peaceful arts, industries or trades, some have always been held to be of higher and others of lower rank; the higher rank being assigned to those that required larger operations, higher training, or more thoughtful conduct, and yielded ampler returns - the lower rank to those which called for simple manual exercise, especially if such exercise was of a disagreeable or degrading kind. In the cities of Italy, where both commerce and manufactures were for the first time organized on a considerable scale, the name ante, Art, was retained to designate the gilds or corporations by which the several industries were exercised; and, according to the nature of the industry, the art was classed as higher or lower (maggiore and minore). The arts of which we have hitherto spoken have arisen from positive requirements, and supply what are strictly utilities, in societies; not excluding the art of war, at least so far as concerns one-half of war, the defensive half. But war continued to be an honourable pursuit, because it was a pursuit associated with birth, power and wealth, as well as with the virtue of courage, in cases where it had no longer the plea of utility, but was purely aggressive or predatory; and the arts of the chase have stood in this respect in an analogous position to those of war.

There are other arts which have not had their origin in positive practical needs, but have been practised from the first for pleasure or amusement. The most primitive human beings of whom we have any knowledge, the cave-dwellers of the palaeolithic period, had not only the useful art of chipping stones into spear-heads, knife-heads and arrow-heads, and making shafts or handles of these implements out of bone; they had also the ornamental art of scratching upon the bone handle the outlines of the animals they saw - mammoth, rhinoceros or reindeer - or of carving such a handle into a rude resemblance of one of these animals. Here we have a skill exercised, in the first case, for pure fancy or pleasure, and in the second, for adding an element of fancy or pleasure to an element of utility. Here, therefore, is the germ of all those arts which produce imitations of natural objects for purposes of entertainment or delight, as painting, sculpture, and their subordinates; and of all those which fashion useful objects in one way rather than another because the one way gives pleasure and the other does not, as architecture and the subordinate decorative arts of furniture, pottery and the rest. Arts that work in a kindred way with different materials are those of dancing and music. Dancing works with the physical movements of human beings. Music works with sound. Between that imitative and plastic group, and the group of these which only produce motion or sound and pass away, there is the intermediate group of eloquence and the drama, which deal with the expression of human feeling in spoken words and acted gestures. There is also the comprehensive art of poetry, which works with the material of written words, and can ideally represent the whole material of human life and experience. Of all these arts the end is not use but pleasure, or pleasure before use, or at least pleasure and use conjointly. In modern language, there has grown up a usage which has put them into a class by themselves under the name of the Fine Arts, as distinguished from the Useful or Mechanical Arts. (See AESTHETICS and FINE ARTS.) Nay more, to them alone is often appropriated the use of the generic word Art, as if they and they only were the arts Kar'Soyr7v. And further yet, custom has reduced the number which the class-word is meant to include. When Art and the works of Art are now currently spoken of in this sense, not even music or poetry is frequently denoted, but only architecture, sculpture and painting by themselves, or with their subordinate and decorative branches. In correspondence with this usage, another usage has removed from the class of arts, and put into a contrasted class of manufactures, a large number of industries and their products, to which the generic term Art, according to our definition, properly applies. The definition covers the mechanical arts, which can be efficiently exercised by mere trained habit, rote or calculation, just as well as the fine arts, which have to be exercised by a higher order of powers. But the word Art, becoming appropriated to the fine arts, has been treated as if it necessarily carried along with it, and as if works to be called works of art must necessarily possess, the attributes of free individual skill and invention, expressing themselves in ever new combinations of pleasurable contrivance, and seeking perfection not as a means towards some ulterior practical end but as an ideal end in itself. (S. C.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also art



Proper noun




  1. A diminutive of the male given name Arthur.




From Proto-Germanic *ardi.



Art f. (genitive Art, plural Arten)

  1. kind, sort, type
  2. behaviour


Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Subject:Fine arts article)

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

< Humanities

Books in this subject area deal with the fine arts: art forms developed primarily for aesthetics and/or concept rather than utility.

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Simple English

File:Chemin montant dans les hautes
This painting by Renoir is a work of art.

The word art is used to describe some activities or creations of human beings that have importance to the human mind, regarding an attraction to the human senses. Therefore, art is made when a human expresses himself or herself. Some art is useful in a practical sense, such as a sculptured clay bowl that one can put things in. Many people disagree on how to define art. Many people say people are driven to make art due to their inner creativity. Art includes drawing, painting, sculpting, photography, performance art, dance, music, poetry, prose and theatre.


Types of art

What "Art" Means

Some people say that art is a product or item that is made with the intention of stimulating the human senses as well as the human mind or spirit.

An artwork is normally judged by how much impact it has on people, the amount of people who can relate to it, and how much people appreciate it.

The first and broadest sense of "art" means "arrangement" or "to arrange." In this sense, art is created when someone arranges things found in the world into a new or different design or form; or when someone arranges colors next to each other in a painting to make an image or just to make a pretty or interesting design.

Art can also be a form of expression of emotion. The artist may feel a certain emotion and feels there is no other way to express it than to create something that mean something to them. Most of the art created in this case is made for the artist rather than an audience. Though if an audience is able to connect with the emotion as well, then the art work will become publicly successful.

History of art

There are sculptures, cave paintings, rock paintings and petroglyphs dating from the Upper Paleolithic era, about thirty five thousand (35,000) years ago,

All of the great ancient civilizations, such as Ancient Egypt, India, China, Greece, Rome or Arabia had works and styles of art. In the Middle Ages, most of the art in Europe showed Biblical stories in paintings, stained glass windows, and mosaic tile floors and walls.

Islamic art includes geometric patterns, Islamic calligraphy, and architecture. In India and Tibet, painted sculptures, dance, and religious painting were done. In China, arts included jade carving, bronzework, pottery, poetry, calligraphy, music, painting, drama, and fiction. There are many Chinese artistic styles, which are usually named after the ruling dynasty.

In Europe, after the Middle Ages, (which some people call the Mediaeval Period or the "Dark Ages") there was a "Renaissance" which means "rebirth". People rediscovered science and artists were allowed to paint subjects other than religious subjects. People like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci still painted religious pictures, but they also now could paint mythological pictures too. These artists also invented linear perspective where things in the distance look smaller than things close up in the picture. This was new because in the Middle Ages people would paint all the figures close up and just overlapping each other.

In the late 1800s, artists in Europe, responding to Modernity created many new painting styles such as Classicism, Romanticism, Realism, and Impressionism. The history of twentieth century art includes Expressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Dadaism, and Surrealism, and Minimalism.

Roles of art

In some societies, people think that art belongs to the person who made it, such as Indigenous Aboriginal Australian Art. They think that the artist put his or her "talent" into the art. In this view, the art is the property of the artist.

In other societies, people think that art belongs to no one. They think that society has put its social capital into the artist and the artist's work. In this view, society is a collective that has made the art, through the artist.

Functions of art

The functions of art include[1]:

1) cognitive function

Works of art let us know about what the author knew, and about what the surrounding of the author were like.

2) aesthetic function

Works of art are more or less harmonic and bring pleasure, a sensation of beauty.

3) prognostic function

Some artists draw what they see the future like, and some of them are right...

4) recreation function

Art makes us think about it, not about reality; we have a rest.

5) value function

What did the artist value? What aims did he like/dislike in human activity? This usually is clearly seen in artists' works.

6) didactic function

What message, criticism or political change did the artist wish to achieve ?

Other pages


  1. Bagdasaryan, Nadejda (2000). "7. Art as a phenomenon of culture" (in Russian). Culturology. pp. 511. ISBN 5-06-003475-5. 
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