A Short Guide to the Definition of Art
Art is an ever-expanding field, which encompasses a gamut of human activities including artistic beauty, technical skill, aesthetic beauty, emotional force, or creative imagination. The word ‘art’ can refer to any of these things. It is used to categorize and emphasize the influence of artists on culture. The word art was first used in a nineteenth-century British essay, ‘Theoria coendi’, which is to the effect that ‘all things that appear beautiful are also the work of art’. In this essay, James Boswell claimed that all objects seen are the product of the artist’s imagination. Since then, art has been used to explain the aesthetic and visual qualities of objects.
Since the twentieth century, the meaning of the term art has been heavily influenced by the influence of both the avant-garde art movements of the late nineteenth century, and the art of the French avant-garde and the art of the English Cathedral. These two cultures gave rise to the contemporary definitions of art that we have today. In the words of Richard Lazarus, ‘art is anything that gives pleasure’. This definition is then extended to include theater, literature, music and film, as well as visual arts like paintings and sculptures.
However, even with these definitions in mind, the definition of art remains a source of controversy. Defining art is a difficult and sometimes heated, though interesting, process. Because art cannot be easily reduced to any one or two specific characteristics, it can be subjective and even controversial in its definition.
Because the definition of art has become so vague, many people think that it is not a distinct field of study, but merely an interchangeable term with other fields such as art, architecture and literature. Modern art differs from other art because it combines elements from several disciplines and combines them into a unique framework. Modern art seeks to communicate a particular message in a meaningful way. Some of the most famous and widely-recognized works of art include The Mona Lisa, The Scream, Botticelli’s The Birth of A Child and Post-Impressionism. All of these works express ideas about the human condition that are still being reshaped by the creators and artists of modern art.
The debate over what constitutes art continues to rage, with different schools of thought coming up with their own definitions of modern art. The debate centers on three central questions. Is modern art advancement of the ancient art, or is it simply a deviation from the past? What are the boundaries of art, and how can they be defined?
Modern art history is constantly developing new theories, concepts and pointing out the flaws in previous interpretations. Art critics spend much of their time dissecting and criticizing works of art, usually works that are in a museum or gallery and are in need of interpretation. Define art history and you may be surprised by how many different sub-fields and interpretations there are! There are art history seminars, conferences and master courses on art history. You can take many art history classes online and learn about the fascinating subject of art history. Art History degrees can lead to careers as art consultants, educators, curators, writers, film makers and more.