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Art, A Brief Overview Essay

856 words - 3 pages

Art, a Brief OverviewArt; a disciplined activity that may be limited to skill or expanded to include a distinctive way of looking at the world. The word art is derived from the Latin ars, meaning "skill." Art is skill at performing a set of specialized actions, as, for example, the art of gardening or of playing chess.Art in its broader meaning, however, involves both skill and creative imagination in a musical, literary, visual, or performance context. Art provides the person or people who produce it and the community that observes it with an experience that might be aesthetic, emotional, intellectual, or a combination of these qualities.Fine Arts and Decorative ArtsTraditionally, in most societies, art has combined practical and aesthetic functions. In the 18th century in the West, however, a more sophisticated public began to distinguish between art that was purely aesthetic and art that was also practical. The fine arts (French beaux arts)--including literature, music, dance, painting, sculpture, and architecture--are concerned primarily with aesthetics. The decorative or applied arts, such as pottery, metalwork, furniture, tapestry, and enamel, are often useful arts and for a time were demoted to the rank of crafts. Because the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris taught only the major visual arts, the term art was sometimes narrowed to mean only drawing, painting, architecture, and sculpture. Since the mid-20th century, however, greater appreciation of non-Western and folk traditions and of individual work in a mechanized society has tended to blur the old distinction. Both categories are becoming valued as art.Art and ScienceBoth art and science require technical skill. Both artist and scientist try to create order out of the seemingly random and diverse experiences of the world. Both try to understand and appreciate the world and to convey their experience to others. However, an essential difference exists: The scientist studies quantitative sense perceptions in order to discover laws or concepts that are universally true. The artist selects qualitative perceptions and arranges them to express personal and cultural understanding. Whereas further investigation may cause a scientific law to be invalidated, a work of art--despite changes in the artist's view or the public taste--has permanent validity as an aesthetic statement at a particular time and place.The Artist in the WorldAlthough artists may be unique geniuses impelled by their own creative energies, they are also very much products of their societies. A society must provide sufficient wealth and leisure to enable the public or an institution to pay a professional artist, as did Sumerian priests and Renaissance princes. An...

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