Art is a diverse range of human activities in creating visual,
auditory or performing artifacts (artworks), expressing the author's
imaginative or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their
beauty or emotional power. In their most general form these
activities include the production of works of art, the criticism of
art, the study of the history of art, and the aesthetic dissemination
The oldest documented forms of art are visual arts, which include
creation of images or objects in fields including today painting,
sculpture, printmaking, photography, and other visual media.
Architecture is often included as one of the visual arts; however,
like the decorative arts, or advertising, it involves the creation
of objects where the practical considerations of use are
essential—in a way that they usually are not in a painting, for
Music, theatre, film, dance, and other performing arts, as well as
literature and other media such as interactive media, are included in
a broader definition of art or the arts. Until the 17th century,
art referred to any skill or mastery and was not differentiated from
crafts or sciences.
In modern usage after the 17th century, where aesthetic considerations
are paramount, the fine arts are separated and distinguished from
acquired skills in general, such as the decorative or applied arts.
Art may be characterized in terms of mimesis (its representation of
reality), narrative (storytelling), expression, communication of
emotion, or other qualities. During the Romantic period, art came to
be seen as "a special faculty of the human mind to be classified with
religion and science".
Though the definition of what constitutes art is disputed and
has changed over time, general descriptions mention an idea of
imaginative or technical skill stemming from human agency and
The nature of art and related concepts, such as creativity and
interpretation, are explored in a branch of philosophy known as
1 Creative art and fine art
3 Forms, genres, media, and styles
3.1 Skill and craft
4.1 Non-motivated functions
4.2 Motivated functions
5 Public access
7.1 Arrival of Modernism
New Criticism and the "intentional fallacy"
7.3 "Linguistic turn" and its debate
8 Classification disputes
8.1 Value judgment
9 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
Creative art and fine art
Works of art can tell stories or simply express an aesthetic truth or
feeling. Panorama of a section of A Thousand Li of Mountains and
Rivers, a 12th-century painting by
Song dynasty artist Wang Ximeng.
In the perspective of the history of art, artistic works have
existed for almost as long as humankind: from early pre-historic art
to contemporary art; however, some theories restrict the concept of
"artistic works" to modern Western societies. One early sense of
the definition of art is closely related to the older Latin meaning,
which roughly translates to "skill" or "craft," as associated with
words such as "artisan." English words derived from this meaning
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.
Few modern scholars have been more divided than Plato and
the question concerning the importance of art, with
supporting art in general and Plato generally being opposed to its
relative importance.
Several dialogues in Plato tackle questions about art: Socrates says
that poetry is inspired by the muses, and is not rational. He speaks
approvingly of this, and other forms of divine madness (drunkenness,
eroticism, and dreaming) in the Phaedrus (265a–c), and yet in the
Republic wants to outlaw Homer's great poetic art, and laughter as
well. In Ion, Socrates gives no hint of the disapproval of
he expresses in the Republic. The dialogue Ion suggests that Homer's
Iliad functioned in the ancient Greek world as the Bible does today in
the modern Christian world: as divinely inspired literary art that can
provide moral guidance, if only it can be properly
With regards to the literary art and the musical arts, Aristotle
considered epic poetry, tragedy, comedy, dithyrambic poetry and music
to be mimetic or imitative art, each varying in imitation by medium,
object, and manner. For example, music imitates with the media of
rhythm and harmony, whereas dance imitates with rhythm alone, and
poetry with language. The forms also differ in their object of
imitation. Comedy, for instance, is a dramatic imitation of men worse
than average; whereas tragedy imitates men slightly better than
average. Lastly, the forms differ in their manner of
imitation—through narrative or character, through change or no
change, and through drama or no drama.
Aristotle believed that
imitation is natural to mankind and constitutes one of mankind's
advantages over animals.
The second, and more recent, sense of the word art as an abbreviation
for creative art or fine art emerged in the early 17th century.
Fine art refers to a skill used to express the artist's creativity, or
to engage the audience's aesthetic sensibilities, or to draw the
audience towards consideration of more refined or finer work of art.
Within this latter sense, the word art may refer to several things:
(i) a study of a creative skill, (ii) a process of using the creative
skill, (iii) a product of the creative skill, or (iv) the audience's
experience with the creative skill. The creative arts (art as
discipline) are a collection of disciplines which produce artworks
(art as objects) that are compelled by a personal drive (art as
activity) and convey a message, mood, or symbolism for the perceiver
to interpret (art as experience).
Art is something that stimulates an
individual's thoughts, emotions, beliefs, or ideas through the senses.
Works of art can be explicitly made for this purpose or interpreted on
the basis of images or objects. For some scholars, such as Kant, the
sciences and the arts could be distinguished by taking science as
representing the domain of knowledge and the arts as representing the
domain of the freedom of artistic expression.
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 may 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. 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
The nature of art has been described by philosopher Richard Wollheim
as "one of the most elusive of the traditional problems of human
Art 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
Art as mimesis has deep roots in the philosophy of
Leo Tolstoy identified art as a use of indirect means
to communicate from one person to another.
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. 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. More recently, thinkers
Martin Heidegger have interpreted art as the means by
which a community develops for itself a medium for self-expression and
interpretation. George Dickie has offered an institutional theory
of art that defines a work of art as any artifact upon which a
qualified person or persons acting on behalf of the social institution
commonly referred to as "the art world" has conferred "the status of
candidate for appreciation". Larry Shiner has described fine art
as "not an essence or a fate but something we have made.
Art as we
have generally understood it is a European invention barely two
hundred years old."
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Main article: History of 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. Containers that may have been used to hold paints have been
found dating as far back as 100,000 years. Etched shells by Homo
erectus from 430,000 and 540,000 years ago were discovered in
Cave painting of a horse from the
Lascaux caves, circa 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 its art. Because of the size and duration of
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
In Byzantine and
Medieval art of the Western Middle Ages, much art
focused on the expression of subjects about Biblical and religious
culture, and used styles that showed the higher 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.citation
The stylized signature of
Mahmud II of the
Ottoman Empire was
written in Islamic calligraphy. It reads Mahmud Khan son of Abdulhamid
is forever victorious.
The Great Mosque of Kairouan in Tunisia, also called the Mosque of
Uqba, is one of the finest, most significant and best preserved
artistic and architectural examples of early great mosques. Dated in
its present state from the 9th century, it is the ancestor and model
of all the mosques in the western Islamic lands.
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, while religious painting
borrowed many conventions from sculpture and tended to bright
contrasting colors with emphasis on outlines. China saw the
flourishing of many art forms: 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 each one is 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 and 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.
Song dynasty artist Ma Lin, circa 1250. 24.8 ×
Age of Enlightenment
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.[citation
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. Thus, Japanese woodblock prints
(themselves 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, in the 19th and 20th centuries the West has had
huge impacts on Eastern art with originally western ideas like
Post-Modernism exerting a powerful influence.[citation
Modernism, the idealistic search for truth, gave way in the latter
half of the 20th century to a realization of its unattainability.
Theodor W. Adorno
Theodor W. 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."
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 skepticism and
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 of regional ones.
Forms, genres, media, and styles
Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne
Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne by Ingres (French, 1806), oil on
Main article: The arts
The creative arts are often divided into more specific categories,
typically along perceptually distinguishable categories such as media,
genre, styles, and form.
Art form refers to the elements of art
that are independent of its interpretation or significance. It covers
the methods adopted by the artist and the physical composition of the
artwork, primarily non-semantic aspects of the work (i.e.,
figurae), such as color, contour, dimension, medium, melody,
space, texture, and value. Form may also include visual design
principles, such as arrangement, balance, contrast, emphasis, harmony,
proportion, proximity, and rhythm.
In general there are three schools of philosophy regarding art,
focusing respectively on form, content, and context. Extreme
Formalism is the view that all aesthetic properties of art are formal
(that is, part of the art form). Philosophers almost universally
reject this view and hold that the properties and aesthetics of art
extend beyond materials, techniques, and form. Unfortunately,
there is little consensus on terminology for these informal
properties. Some authors refer to subject matter and content – i.e.,
denotations and connotations – while others prefer terms like
meaning and significance.
Extreme Intentionalism holds that authorial intent plays a decisive
role in the meaning of a work of art, conveying the content or
essential main idea, while all other interpretations can be
discarded. It defines the subject as the persons or idea
represented, and the content as the artist's experience of that
subject. For example, the composition of
Napoleon I on his
Imperial Throne is partly borrowed from the Statue of Zeus at Olympia.
As evidenced by the title, the subject is Napoleon, and the content is
Ingres's representation of
Napoleon as "Emperor-God beyond time and
space". Similarly to extreme formalism, philosophers typically
reject extreme intentionalism, because art may have multiple ambiguous
meanings and authorial intent may be unknowable and thus irrelevant.
Its restrictive interpretation is "socially unhealthy, philosophically
unreal, and politically unwise".
Finally, the developing theory of post-structuralism studies art's
significance in a cultural context, such as the ideas, emotions, and
reactions prompted by a work. The cultural context often reduces
to the artist's techniques and intentions, in which case analysis
proceeds along lines similar to formalism and intentionalism. However,
in other cases historical and material conditions may predominate,
such as religious and philosophical convictions, sociopolitical and
economic structures, or even climate and geography.
continues to grow and develop alongside art.
Skill and craft
Adam. Detail from Michelangelo's fresco in the
Sistine Chapel (1511)
Detail of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, showing the painting
technique of sfumato
See also: Conceptual
Art and Artistic Skill
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 can be defined as
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, an originality
in stylistic approach, 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
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
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
Navajo rug made circa 1880
Mozarabic Beatus miniature. Spain, late 10th century
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
"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 that are non-motivated, and those that are motivated
The non-motivated purposes of art are those that are integral to being
human, transcend the individual, or do not fulfill a specific external
purpose. In this sense, Art, as creativity, is something humans must
do by their very nature (i.e., no other species creates art), and
is therefore beyond utility.
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
"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
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
Expression of the imagination.
Art provides 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 malleable.
"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
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
Motivated purposes of art 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) sell a
product, or simply as a form of communication.
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
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.
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.
Art movements that had this
goal—Dadaism, Surrealism, Russian constructivism, and Abstract
Expressionism, among others—are collectively referred to as the
"By contrast, the realistic attitude, inspired by positivism, from
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)
Art as a "free zone", removed from the action of the social censure.
Unlike the avant-garde movements, which wanted to erase cultural
differences in order to produce new universal values, contemporary art
has enhanced its tolerance towards cultural differences as well as its
critical and liberating functions (social inquiry, activism,
subversion, deconstruction ...), becoming a more open place for
research and experimentation.
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
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).
Art for social causes.
Art can be used to raise awareness for a large
variety of causes. A number of art activities were aimed at raising
awareness of autism, cancer, human
trafficking, and a variety of other topics, such as ocean
conservation, human rights in Darfur, murdered and missing
Aboriginal women, elder abuse, and pollution. Trashion,
using trash to make fashion, practiced by artists such as Marina
DeBris is one example of using art to raise awareness about pollution.
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.
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 that tries 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
Art as a fitness indicator. It has been argued that the ability of the
human brain by far exceeds what was needed for survival in the
ancestral environment. One evolutionary psychology explanation for
this is that the human brain and associated traits (such as artistic
ability and creativity) are the human equivalent of the peacock's
tail. The purpose of the male peacock's extravagant tail has been
argued to be to attract females (see also
Fisherian runaway and
handicap principle). According to this theory superior execution of
art was evolutionary important because it attracted mates.
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
Louis Le Vau
Louis Le Vau opened up the interior court to create the
expansive entrance cour d'honneur, later copied all over Europe.
Since ancient times, much of the finest art has represented a
deliberate display of wealth or power, often achieved by using massive
scale and expensive materials. Much art has been commissioned by
political rulers or religious establishments, with more modest
versions only available to the most wealthy in society.[citation
Nevertheless, there have been many periods where art of very high
quality was available, in terms of ownership, across large parts of
society, above all in cheap media such as pottery, which persists in
the ground, and perishable media such as textiles and wood. In many
different cultures, the ceramics of indigenous peoples of the Americas
are found in such a wide range of graves that they were clearly not
restricted to a social elite, though other forms of art may have been.
Reproductive methods such as moulds made mass-production easier, and
were used to bring high-quality
Ancient Roman pottery
Ancient Roman pottery and Greek
Tanagra figurines to a very wide market. Cylinder seals were both
artistic and practical, and very widely used by what can be loosely
called the middle class in the Ancient Near East. Once coins were
widely used these also became an art form that reached the widest
range of society.
Another important innovation came in the 15th century in Europe, when
printmaking began with small woodcuts, mostly religious, that were
often very small and hand-colored, and affordable even by peasants who
glued them to the walls of their homes. Printed books were initially
very expensive, but fell steadily in price until by the 19th century
even the poorest could afford some with printed illustrations. Popular
prints of many different sorts have decorated homes and other places
for centuries.
Public buildings and monuments, secular and religious, by their nature
normally address the whole of society, and visitors as viewers, and
display to the general public has long been an important factor in
their design. Egyptian temples are typical in that the most largest
and most lavish decoration was placed on the parts that could be seen
by the general public, rather than the areas seen only by the priests.
Many areas of royal palaces, castles and the houses of the social
elite were often generally accessible, and large parts of the art
collections of such people could often be seen, either by anybody, or
by those able to pay a small price, or those wearing the correct
clothes, regardless of who they were, as at the Palace of Versailles,
where the appropriate extra accessories (silver shoe buckles and a
sword) could be hired from shops outside.
Special arrangements were made to allow the public to see many royal
or private collections placed in galleries, as with the Orleans
Collection mostly housed in a wing of the
Palais Royal in Paris, which
could be visited for most of the 18th century. In Italy the art
tourism of the
Grand Tour became a major industry from the Renaissance
onwards, and governments and cities made efforts to make their key
works accessible. The British
Royal Collection remains distinct, but
large donations such as the
Old Royal Library
Old Royal Library were made from it to the
British Museum, established in 1753. The
entirely as a gallery in 1765, though this function had been gradually
taking the building over from the original civil servants' offices for
a long time before. The building now occupied by the
Prado in Madrid
was built before the
French Revolution for the public display of parts
of the royal art collection, and similar royal galleries open to the
public existed in Vienna, Munich and other capitals. The opening of
Musée du Louvre
Musée du Louvre during the
French Revolution (in 1793) as a
public museum for much of the former French royal collection certainly
marked an important stage in the development of public access to art,
transferring ownership to a republican state, but was a continuation
of trends already well established.
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
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.[citation
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" 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."
In the decades since, these ideas have been somewhat lost as the art
market has learned to sell limited edition DVDs of video works,
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
Théodore Géricault's Raft of the Medusa, circa 1820
Art has long been controversial, that is to say disliked by some
viewers, for a wide variety of reasons, though most pre-modern
controversies are dimly recorded, or completely lost to a modern view.
Iconoclasm is the destruction of art that is disliked for a variety of
reasons, including religious ones.
Aniconism is a general dislike of
either all figurative images, or often just religious ones, and has
been a thread in many major religions. It has been a crucial factor in
the history of Islamic art, where depictions of Muhammad remain
especially controversial. Much art has been disliked purely because it
depicted or otherwise stood for unpopular rulers, parties or other
groups. Artistic conventions have often been conservative and taken
very seriously by art critics, though often much less so by a wider
public. The iconographic content of art could cause controversy, as
with late medieval depictions of the new motif of the Swoon of the
Virgin in scenes of the Crucifixion of Jesus. The Last Judgment by
Michelangelo was controversial for various reasons, including breaches
of decorum through nudity and the Apollo-like pose of Christ.[citation
The content of much formal art through history was dictated by the
patron or commissioner rather than just the artist, but with the
advent of Romanticism, and economic changes in the production of art,
the artists' vision became the usual determinant of the content of his
art, increasing the incidence of controversies, though often reducing
their significance. Strong incentives for perceived originality and
publicity also encouraged artists to court controversy. Théodore
Géricault's Raft of the Medusa (c. 1820), was in part a political
commentary on a recent event. 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 controversy 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.
The gradual abandonment of naturalism and the depiction of realistic
representations of the visual appearance of subjects in the 19th and
20th centuries led to a rolling controversy lasting for over a
century. 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.[citation
Main article: Aesthetics
Before Modernism, aesthetics in Western art was greatly concerned with
achieving the appropriate balance between different aspects of realism
or truth to nature and the ideal; ideas as to what the appropriate
balance is have shifted to and fro over the centuries. This concern is
largely absent in other traditions of art. 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.
The definition and evaluation of art has become especially problematic
since the 20th century.
Richard Wollheim distinguishes three
approaches to assessing the aesthetic value of art: 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
whereby it is not an absolute value, but depends on, and varies with,
the human experience of different humans.
Arrival of Modernism
Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow (1930) by Piet Mondrian
The arrival of
Modernism in the late nineteenth century lead to a
radical break in the conception of the function of art, 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". 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.
After Greenberg, several important art theorists emerged, such as
Michael Fried, T. J. Clark, Rosalind Krauss, Linda Nochlin
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
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
Duchamp once proposed that art is any activity of any kind-
everything. However, the way that only certain activities are
classified today as art is a social construction. There is
evidence that there may be an element of truth to this. The Invention
of Art: A Cultural History is an art history book which examines the
construction of the modern system of the arts i.e. Fine Art. Shiner
finds evidence that the older system of the arts before our modern
system (fine art) held art to be any skilled human activity i.e.
Ancient Greek society did not possess the term art but techne. Techne
can be understood neither as art or craft, the reason being that the
distinctions of art and craft are historical products that came later
on in human history.
Techne included painting, sculpting and music but
also; cooking, medicine, horsemanship, geometry, carpentry, prophecy,
and farming etc.
New Criticism and the "intentional fallacy"
Duchamp during the first half of the twentieth century, a
significant shift to general aesthetic theory took place which
attempted to apply aesthetic theory between various forms of art,
including the literary arts and the visual arts, to each other. This
resulted in the rise of the
New Criticism school and debate concerning
the intentional fallacy. At issue was the question of whether the
aesthetic intentions of the artist in creating the work of art,
whatever its specific form, should be associated with the criticism
and evaluation of the final product of the work of art, or, if the
work of art should be evaluated on its own merits independent of the
intentions of the artist.
In 1946, William K. Wimsatt and
Monroe Beardsley published a classic
and controversial New Critical essay entitled "The Intentional
Fallacy", in which they argued strongly against the relevance of an
author's intention, or "intended meaning" in the analysis of a
literary work. For Wimsatt and Beardsley, the words on the page were
all that mattered; importation of meanings from outside the text was
considered irrelevant, and potentially distracting.
In another essay, "The Affective Fallacy," which served as a kind of
sister essay to "The Intentional Fallacy" Wimsatt and Beardsley also
discounted the reader's personal/emotional reaction to a literary work
as a valid means of analyzing a text. This fallacy would later be
repudiated by theorists from the reader-response school of literary
theory. Ironically, one of the leading theorists from this school,
Stanley Fish, was himself trained by New Critics. Fish criticizes
Wimsatt and Beardsley in his essay "Literature in the Reader"
As summarized by Gaut and Livingston in their essay "The Creation of
Art": "Structuralist and post-structuralists theorists and critics
were sharply critical of many aspects of New Criticism, beginning with
the emphasis on aesthetic appreciation and the so-called autonomy of
art, but they reiterated the attack on biographical criticisms's
assumption that the artist's activities and experience were a
privileged critical topic." These authors contend that:
"Anti-intentionalists, such as formalists, hold that the intentions
involved in the making of art are irrelevant or peripheral to
correctly interpreting art. So details of the act of creating a work,
though possibly of interest in themselves, have no bearing on the
correct interpretation of the work."
Gaut and Livingston define the intentionalists as distinct from
formalists stating that: "Intentionalists, unlike formalists, hold
that reference to intentions is essential in fixing the correct
interpretation of works." They quote
Richard Wollheim as stating that,
"The task of criticism is the reconstruction of the creative process,
where the creative process must in turn be thought of as something not
stopping short of, but terminating on, the work of art itself."
"Linguistic turn" and its debate
The end of the 20th century fostered an extensive debate known as the
linguistic turn controversy, or the "innocent eye debate", and
generally referred to as the structuralism-poststructuralism debate in
the philosophy of art. This debate discussed the encounter of the work
of art as being determined by the relative extent to which the
conceptual encounter with the work of art dominates over the
perceptual encounter with the work of art.
Decisive for the linguistic turn debate in art history and the
humanities were the works of yet another tradition, namely the
Ferdinand de Saussure
Ferdinand de Saussure and the ensuing movement of
poststructuralism. In 1981, the artist
Mark Tansey created a work of
art titled "The Innocent Eye" as a criticism of the prevailing climate
of disagreement in the philosophy of art during the closing decades of
the 20th century. Influential theorists include Judith Butler, Luce
Irigaray, Julia Kristeva,
Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. The
power of language, more specifically of certain rhetorical tropes, in
art history and historical discourse was explored by Hayden White. The
fact that language is not a transparent medium of thought had been
stressed by a very different form of philosophy of language which
originated in the works of
Johann Georg Hamann
Johann Georg Hamann and Wilhelm von
Ernst Gombrich and
Nelson Goodman in his book Languages
of Art: An Approach to a Theory of Symbols came to hold that the
conceptual encounter with the work of art predominated exclusively
over the perceptual and visual encounter with the work of art during
the 1960s and 1970s. He was challenged on the basis of research
done by the Nobel prize winning psychologist
Roger Sperry who
maintained that the human visual encounter was not limited to concepts
represented in language alone (the linguistic turn) and that other
forms of psychological representations of the work of art were equally
defensible and demonstrable. Sperry's view eventually prevailed by the
end of the 20th century with aesthetic philosophers such as Nick
Zangwill strongly defending a return to moderate aesthetic formalism
among other alternatives.
Main article: Classificatory disputes about art
The original Fountain by Marcel Duchamp, 1917, photographed by Alfred
Stieglitz at the 291 after the 1917 Society of Independent Artists
exhibit. Stieglitz used a backdrop of The Warriors by Marsden Hartley
to photograph the urinal. The exhibition entry tag can be clearly
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. 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. 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."
Anti-art is a label for art that intentionally challenges the
established parameters and values of art; it is term associated
Dadaism and attributed to
Marcel Duchamp just before World War
I, when he was making art from found objects. One of these,
Fountain (1917), an ordinary urinal, has achieved considerable
prominence and influence on art.
Anti-art is a feature of work by
Situationist International, the lo-fi Mail art movement, and the
Young British Artists, though it is a form still rejected by the
Stuckists, who describe themselves as anti-anti-art.
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 as "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 understood that what is not
somehow aesthetically satisfying 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 what 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 to strike some universal chord by the rarity of the
skill of the artist or in its accurate reflection in what is termed
Art is often intended to appeal to 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 may be considered an exploration
of the human condition; that is, what it is to be human.
Visual arts portal
Artist in residence
List of artistic media
Mathematics and art
Street art (or "independent public art")
Outline of the visual arts, a guide to the subject of art presented as
a tree structured list of its subtopics.
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^ Is advertising art?
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Pennsylvania State University Press.
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and philosophy: readings in aesthetics New York: St. Martin's Press,
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^ Elkins, James "
Art History and Images That Are Not Art", The Art
Bulletin, Vol. 47, No. 4 (December 1995), with previous bibliography.
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neither are medieval paintings that were made in the absence of
humanist ideas of artistic value". 553
^ Aristotle, Poetics I 1447a
^ Aristotle, Poetics III
^ Aristotle, Poetics IV
^ The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press,
Oxford 1993, p. 120
^ David Novitz, The Boundaries of Art, 1992
^ Richard Wollheim,
Art and its objects, p. 1, 2nd ed., 1980,
Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-29706-0
^ a b Jerrold Levinson, The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics, Oxford
University Press, 2003, p. 5. ISBN 0-19-927945-4
^ Jerrold Levinson, The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics, Oxford
University Press, 2003, p. 16. ISBN 0-19-927945-4
^ R.G. Collingwood's view, expressed in The Principles of Art, is
considered in Wollheim, op. cit. 1980 pp. 36–43
^ Martin Heidegger, "The Origin of the Work of Art", in Poetry,
Language, Thought, (Harper Perennial, 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).
^ Kennick, William ed, and W. E. Kennick,
Art and philosophy: readings
in aesthetics New York: St. Martin's Press, 1979, p. 89.
^ Shiner 2003. The Invention of Art: A Cultural HistoryChicago:
University of Chicago Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-226-75342-3
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New York Times. 13 October 2011.
^ "Shell 'Art' Made 300,000 Years Before Humans Evolved". New
Reed Business Information
Reed Business Information Ltd. 3 December 2014.
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civilization: source of Renaissance. Taylor & Francis. 1983. p.
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Aesthetic Theory, (1970 in German)
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Philosophical Review. 79 (3): 334–67. doi:10.2307/2183933.
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Extreme Formalism About Inorganic Nature" (PDF). Philosophia. 43 (1):
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Art, Religion and Science. 1999
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^ According to
Maurizio Bolognini this is not only associated with the
postmodern rejection of all canons but with a process of
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essential) convention, sustained and reproduced by the art system
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is, a more open place for experimentation, removed from the
constraints of the practical sphere.": see
Maurizio Bolognini (2008).
Postdigitale. Rome: Carocci. ISBN 978-88-430-4739-0. , chap.
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World Scientific: Singapore. ISBN 978-981-4324-93-9
Katharine Everett Gilbert and Helmut Kuhn, A History of Esthetics.
Edition 2, revised. Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1953.
Art and its Objects: An introduction to aesthetics.
New York: Harper & Row, 1968. OCLC 1077405
Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols. London: Pan Books, 1978.
Władysław Tatarkiewicz, A History of Six Ideas: an Essay in
Aesthetics, translated from the Polish by Christopher Kasparek, The
Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 1980
Augros, Robert M., Stanciu, George N. The New Story of Science: mind
and the universe, Lake Bluff, Ill.: Regnery Gateway, 1984.
ISBN 0-89526-833-7 (this book has significant material on art and
Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz, eds. Theories and Documents of
Contemporary Art. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986
E.H. Gombrich, The Story of Art. London: Phaidon Press, 1995.
Aesthetic as Science of Expression and General
Kleiner, Gardner, Mamiya and Tansey.
Art Through the Ages, Twelfth
Edition (2 volumes) Wadsworth, 2004. ISBN 0-534-64095-8 (vol 1)
and ISBN 0-534-64091-5 (vol 2)
Carol Armstrong and Catherine de Zegher, eds. Women Artists at the
Millennium. Massachusetts: October Books/The MIT Press, 2006.
Antony Briant and Griselda Pollock, eds. Digital and Other
Virtualities: Renegotiating the image. London and NY: I.B.Tauris,
2010. ISBN 978-1441676313
Florian Dombois, Ute Meta Bauer, Claudia Mareis and Michael Schwab,
eds. Intellectual Birdhouse. Artistic Practice as Research. London:
Koening Books, 2012. ISBN 978-3863351182
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