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Is It Even Possible to Define What Art Is, Exactly?

https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-the-definition-of-art-182707

thoughtco.com

Is It Even Possible to Define What Art Is, Exactly?
There are many things that contribute to the definition of art. Explore the history, philosophy, value, and meaning of visual art.

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Defining Art

Defining Art
  • Art does not have a universal definition, though it is generally believed that it is an intentional and conscious creation of something that requires imagination and skill.
  • It can be thought of as a symbol of what it means to be human, manifested in physical form for others to see and interpret.
  • The word ‘art’ originates from the Latin word ‘ars’ that means skill or craft.
  • Art, like beauty, is subjective, and its valuation and definition changes as time goes by.
  • To understand art one has to see it’s essential nature and the social impact or importance it generates.

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Defining Art Through History

  • From the 11th century until the end of the 17th century, the definition of art was anything that was done with expertise, with the result of knowledge and practice.
  • The Romantic period of the 18th century, beauty became the main criteria for defining good art. Nature, spirituality and free expression were sought after and well received.
  • The 19th Century started the Avant-garde art movement, with art becoming real, modern, futuristic and surreal. Whatever the definitions, the originality of art stands out as a time-tested measure, with new genres and manifestations like performance art, digital art, and electronic art.

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Philosophy of Art

  • Art as Representation or Mimesis. Representation of art as an imitation or copying became the mainstream meaning of art in Greece. Plato first developed the idea of art as “mimesis,” which, in Greek, means copying or imitation. How immaculately it replicated the original subject became the measure of its value.
  • Art as Expression of Emotional content. Dramatic, sublime and heartfelt art becomes a way to express oneself during the Romantic movement , with audience response becoming key to the valuation of the content. The emotions that were felt when the art was witnessed became its barometer for success.
  • Art as Form. Formal qualities of art became influential in the 18th century, with the principles of art and design, like balance, rhythm, harmony and unity became as important as the content of the work of art.

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Thomas Merton

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Edgar Degas

"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."

Edgar Degas

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Jean Sibelius

"Art is the signature of civilizations."

Jean Sibelius

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