The visual arts are art forms such as ceramics, drawing, painting,
sculpture, printmaking, design, crafts, photography, video,
filmmaking, and architecture. Many artistic disciplines (performing
arts, conceptual art, textile arts) involve aspects of the visual arts
as well as arts of other types. Also included within the visual
arts are the applied arts such as industrial design, graphic
design, fashion design, interior design and decorative art.
Current usage of the term "visual arts" includes fine art as well as
the applied, decorative arts and crafts, but this was not always the
case. Before the
Arts and Crafts Movement
Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain and elsewhere at
the turn of the 20th century, the term 'artist' was often restricted
to a person working in the fine arts (such as painting, sculpture, or
printmaking) and not the handicraft, craft, or applied art media. The
distinction was emphasized by artists of the Arts and Crafts Movement,
who valued vernacular art forms as much as high forms.
made a distinction between the fine arts and the crafts, maintaining
that a craftsperson could not be considered a practitioner of the
The increasing tendency to privilege painting, and to a lesser degree
sculpture, above other arts has been a feature of
Western art as well
as East Asian art. In both regions painting has been seen as relying
to the highest degree on the imagination of the artist, and the
furthest removed from manual labour – in
Chinese painting the most
highly valued styles were those of "scholar-painting", at least in
theory practiced by gentleman amateurs. The Western hierarchy of
genres reflected similar attitudes.
1 Education and training
3.1 Origins and early history
3.2 The Renaissance
3.3 Dutch masters
3.7 Symbolism, expressionism and cubism
4.1 European history
4.2 Chinese origin and practice
4.3 Development In Japan 1603–1867
9 Copyright definition of visual art (US)
10 See also
13 External links
Education and training
Visual arts education
Training in the visual arts has generally been through variations of
the apprentice and workshop systems. In Europe the Renaissance
movement to increase the prestige of the artist led to the academy
system for training artists, and today most of the people who are
pursuing a career in arts train in art schools at tertiary levels.
Visual arts have now become an elective subject in most education
Main article: Drawing
Drawing is a means of making an image, using any of a wide variety of
tools and techniques. It generally involves making marks on a surface
by applying pressure from a tool, or moving a tool across a surface
using dry media such as graphite pencils, pen and ink, inked brushes,
wax color pencils, crayons, charcoals, pastels, and markers. Digital
tools that simulate the effects of these are also used. The main
techniques used in drawing are: line drawing, hatching, crosshatching,
random hatching, scribbling, stippling, and blending. An artist who
excels in drawing is referred to as a draftsman or draughtsman.
Drawing goes back at least 16,000 years to
representations of animals such as those at
Lascaux in France and
Altamira in Spain. In ancient Egypt, ink drawings on papyrus, often
depicting people, were used as models for painting or sculpture.
Drawings on Greek vases, initially geometric, later developed to the
human form with black-figure pottery during the 7th century BC.
With paper becoming common in Europe by the 15th century, drawing was
adopted by masters such as Sandro Botticelli, Raphael, Michelangelo,
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci who sometimes treated drawing as an art in its
own right rather than a preparatory stage for painting or
Mosaic of Battle of Issus
Main article: Painting
Nefertari with Isis
Painting taken literally is the practice of applying pigment suspended
in a carrier (or medium) and a binding agent (a glue) to a surface
(support) such as paper, canvas or a wall. However, when used in an
artistic sense it means the use of this activity in combination with
drawing, composition, or other aesthetic considerations in order to
manifest the expressive and conceptual intention of the practitioner.
Painting is also used to express spiritual motifs and ideas; sites of
this kind of painting range from artwork depicting mythological
figures on pottery to The
Sistine Chapel to the human body itself.
Origins and early history
History of painting
Like drawing, painting has its documented origins in caves and on rock
faces. The finest examples, believed by some to be 32,000 years old,
are in the Chauvet and
Lascaux caves in southern France. In shades of
red, brown, yellow and black, the paintings on the walls and ceilings
are of bison, cattle, horses and deer.
Raphael: Spasimo (1514–1516)
Paintings of human figures can be found in the tombs of ancient Egypt.
In the great temple of Ramses II, Nefertari, his queen, is depicted
being led by Isis. The Greeks contributed to painting but much of
their work has been lost. One of the best remaining representations
are the Hellenistic Fayum mummy portraits. Another example is mosaic
Battle of Issus
Battle of Issus at Pompeii, which was probably based on a Greek
painting. Greek and Roman art contributed to
Byzantine art in the 4th
century BC, which initiated a tradition in icon painting.
Main article: Italian
Apart from the illuminated manuscripts produced by monks during the
Middle Ages, the next significant contribution to European art was
from Italy's renaissance painters. From
Giotto in the 13th century to
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci and
Raphael at the beginning of the 16th century,
this was the richest period in Italian art as the chiaroscuro
techniques were used to create the illusion of 3-D space.
Rembrandt: The Night Watch
Painters in northern Europe too were influenced by the Italian school.
Jan van Eyck
Jan van Eyck from Belgium,
Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Pieter Bruegel the Elder from the
Hans Holbein the Younger
Hans Holbein the Younger from Germany are among the
most successful painters of the times. They used the glazing technique
with oils to achieve depth and luminosity.
Claude Monet: Déjeuner sur l'herbe (1866)
Main article: Dutch Golden Age painting
The 17th century witnessed the emergence of the great Dutch masters
such as the versatile
Rembrandt who was especially remembered for his
portraits and Bible scenes, and
Vermeer who specialized in interior
scenes of Dutch life.
Main article: Baroque
Baroque started after the Renaissance, from the late 16th century
to the late 17th century. Main artists of the
Caravaggio, who made heavy use of tenebrism.
Peter Paul Rubens
Peter Paul Rubens was a
flemish painter who studied in Italy, worked for local churches in
Antwerp and also painted a series for Marie de' Medici. Annibale
Carracci took influences from the
Sistine Chapel and created the genre
of illusionistic ceiling painting. Much of the development that
happened in the
Baroque was because of the
Protestant Reformation and
the resulting Counter Reformation. Much of what defines the
dramatic lighting and overall visuals.
Main article: Impressionism
Impressionism began in France in the 19th century with a loose
association of artists including Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Paul Cézanne who brought a new freely brushed style to painting,
often choosing to paint realistic scenes of modern life outside rather
than in the studio. This was achieved through a new expression of
aesthetic features demonstrated by brush strokes and the impression of
reality. They achieved intense colour vibration by using pure, unmixed
colours and short brush strokes. The movement influenced art as a
dynamic, moving through time and adjusting to new found techniques and
perception of art. Attention to detail became less of a priority in
achieving, whilst exploring a biased view of landscapes and nature to
the artists eye.
The Vision After the Sermon
The Vision After the Sermon (1888)
The Scream (1893)
Main article: Post-Impressionism
Towards the end of the 19th century, several young painters took
impressionism a stage further, using geometric forms and unnatural
colour to depict emotions while striving for deeper symbolism. Of
particular note are Paul Gauguin, who was strongly influenced by
Asian, African and Japanese art, Vincent van Gogh, a Dutchman who
moved to France where he drew on the strong sunlight of the south, and
Toulouse-Lautrec, remembered for his vivid paintings of night life in
the Paris district of Montmartre.
Symbolism, expressionism and cubism
Main article: Modern art
Edvard Munch, a Norwegian artist, developed his symbolistic approach
at the end of the 19th century, inspired by the French impressionist
The Scream (1893), his most famous work, is widely interpreted
as representing the universal anxiety of modern man. Partly as a
result of Munch's influence, the German expressionist movement
originated in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century as artists
such as Ernst Kirschner and
Erich Heckel began to distort reality for
an emotional effect. In parallel, the style known as cubism developed
in France as artists focused on the volume and space of sharp
structures within a composition.
Pablo Picasso and
Georges Braque were
the leading proponents of the movement. Objects are broken up,
analyzed, and re-assembled in an abstracted form. By the 1920s, the
style had developed into surrealism with Dali and Magritte.
Ancient Chinese engraving of female instrumentalists
Main article: Printmaking
Printmaking is creating, for artistic purposes, an image on a matrix
that is then transferred to a two-dimensional (flat) surface by means
of ink (or another form of pigmentation). Except in the case of a
monotype, the same matrix can be used to produce many examples of the
Melancholia I (1541)
Historically, the major techniques (also called media) involved are
woodcut, line engraving, etching, lithography, and screenprinting
(serigraphy, silkscreening) but there are many others, including
modern digital techniques. Normally, the print is printed on paper,
but other mediums range from cloth and vellum to more modern
materials. Major printmaking traditions include that of Japan
Main article: Old master print
Prints in the Western tradition produced before about 1830 are known
as old master prints. In Europe, from around 1400 AD woodcut, was used
for master prints on paper by using printing techniques developed in
the Byzantine and Islamic worlds.
Michael Wolgemut improved German
woodcut from about 1475, and Erhard Reuwich, a Dutchman, was the first
to use cross-hatching. At the end of the century Albrecht Dürer
brought the Western woodcut to a stage that has never been surpassed,
increasing the status of the single-leaf woodcut.
Chinese origin and practice
The Chinese Diamond Sutra, the world's oldest printed book (868 CE)
Main article: Woodblock printing
In China, the art of printmaking developed some 1,100 years ago as
illustrations alongside text cut in woodblocks for printing on paper.
Initially images were mainly religious but in the Song Dynasty,
artists began to cut landscapes. During the Ming (1368–1644) and
Qing (1616–1911) dynasties, the technique was perfected for both
religious and artistic engravings.
Development In Japan 1603–1867
Hokusai: Red Fuji southern wind clear morning from Thirty-six Views of
Woodblock printing in Japan
Woodblock printing in Japan (Japanese: 木版画, moku hanga) is a
technique best known for its use in the ukiyo-e artistic genre;
however, it was also used very widely for printing books in the same
Woodblock printing had been used in China for centuries to
print books, long before the advent of movable type, but was only
widely adopted in Japan surprisingly late, during the Edo period
(1603–1867). Although similar to woodcut in western printmaking in
some regards, moku hanga differs greatly in that water-based inks are
used (as opposed to western woodcut, which uses oil-based inks),
allowing for a wide range of vivid color, glazes and color
Main article: Photography
Photography is the process of making pictures by means of the action
of light. Light patterns reflected or emitted from objects are
recorded onto a sensitive medium or storage chip through a timed
exposure. The process is done through mechanical shutters or
electronically timed exposure of photons into chemical processing or
digitizing devices known as cameras.
The word comes from the Greek words φως phos ("light"), and
γραφις graphis ("stylus", "paintbrush") or γραφη graphê,
together meaning "drawing with light" or "representation by means of
lines" or "drawing." Traditionally, the product of photography has
been called a photograph. The term photo is an abbreviation; many
people also call them pictures. In digital photography, the term image
has begun to replace photograph. (The term image is traditional in
Main article: Filmmaking
Filmmaking is the process of making a motion-picture, from an initial
conception and research, through scriptwriting, shooting and
recording, animation or other special effects, editing, sound and
music work and finally distribution to an audience; it refers broadly
to the creation of all types of films, embracing documentary, strains
of theatre and literature in film, and poetic or experimental
practices, and is often used to refer to video-based processes as
Visual artists are no longer limited to traditional art media.
Computers have been used as an ever more common tool in the visual
arts since the 1960s. Uses include the capturing or creating of images
and forms, the editing of those images and forms (including exploring
multiple compositions) and the final rendering or printing (including
Computer art is any in which computers played a role in production or
display. Such art can be an image, sound, animation, video, CD-ROM,
DVD, video game, website, algorithm, performance or gallery
installation. Many traditional disciplines are now integrating digital
technologies and, as a result, the lines between traditional works of
art and new media works created using computers have been blurred. For
instance, an artist may combine traditional painting with algorithmic
art and other digital techniques. As a result, defining computer art
by its end product can be difficult. Nevertheless, this type of art is
beginning to appear in art museum exhibits, though it has yet to prove
its legitimacy as a form unto itself and this technology is widely
seen in contemporary art more as a tool rather than a form as with
Computer usage has blurred the distinctions between illustrators,
photographers, photo editors, 3-D modelers, and handicraft artists.
Sophisticated rendering and editing software has led to multi-skilled
image developers. Photographers may become digital artists.
Illustrators may become animators.
Handicraft may be computer-aided or
use computer-generated imagery as a template.
Computer clip art usage
has also made the clear distinction between visual arts and page
layout less obvious due to the easy access and editing of clip art in
the process of paginating a document, especially to the unskilled
Plastic arts is a term, now largely forgotten, encompassing art forms
that involve physical manipulation of a plastic medium by moulding or
modeling such as sculpture or ceramics. The term has also been applied
to all the visual (non-literary, non-musical) arts.
Materials that can be carved or shaped, such as stone or wood,
concrete or steel, have also been included in the narrower definition,
since, with appropriate tools, such materials are also capable of
modulation. This use of the term "plastic" in the
arts should not be confused with Piet Mondrian's use, nor with the
movement he termed, in French and English, "Neoplasticism."
Main article: Sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining
hard or plastic material, sound, or text and or light, commonly stone
(either rock or marble), clay, metal, glass, or wood. Some sculptures
are created directly by finding or carving; others are assembled,
built together and fired, welded, molded, or cast. Sculptures are
often painted. A person who creates sculptures is called a
Because sculpture involves the use of materials that can be moulded or
modulated, it is considered one of the plastic arts. The majority of
public art is sculpture. Many sculptures together in a garden setting
may be referred to as a sculpture garden.
Sculptors do not always make sculptures by hand. With increasing
technology in the 20th century and the popularity of conceptual art
over technical mastery, more sculptors turned to art fabricators to
produce their artworks. With fabrication, the artist creates a design
and pays a fabricator to produce it. This allows sculptors to create
larger and more complex sculptures out of material like cement, metal
and plastic, that they would not be able to create by hand. Sculptures
can also be made with
3-d printing technology.
Copyright definition of visual art (US)
In the United States, the law protecting the copyright over a piece of
visual art gives a more restrictive definition of "visual art".
A “work of visual art” is —
(1) a painting, drawing, print or sculpture, existing in a single
copy, in a limited edition of 200 copies or fewer that are signed and
consecutively numbered by the author, or, in the case of a sculpture,
in multiple cast, carved, or fabricated sculptures of 200 or fewer
that are consecutively numbered by the author and bear the signature
or other identifying mark of the author; or
(2) a still photographic image produced for exhibition purposes only,
existing in a single copy that is signed by the author, or in a
limited edition of 200 copies or fewer that are signed and
consecutively numbered by the author.
A work of visual art does not include —
(A)(i) any poster, map, globe, chart, technical drawing, diagram,
model, applied art, motion picture or other audiovisual work, book,
magazine, newspaper, periodical, data base, electronic information
service, electronic publication, or similar publication;
(ii) any merchandising item or advertising, promotional,
descriptive, covering, or packaging material or container;
(iii) any portion or part of any item described in clause
(i) or (ii);
(B) any work made for hire; or
(C) any work not subject to copyright protection under this title.
Main article: Outline of visual arts
Visual arts portal
Creative peacebuilding (visual arts)
Crowdsourcing creative work
History of art
History of graphic design
History of film
History of painting
History of sculpture
Indigenous Australian art
Kandyan Era Frescoes
Mathematics and art
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Visual arts.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Visual arts.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Works of art.
ArtLex – online dictionary of visual art terms.
Calendar for Artists – calendar listing of visual art festivals.
History Timeline by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
List of artistic media