Art is a diverse range of human activities and the products of those activities; this article focuses primarily on the visual arts, which includes the creation of images or objects in fields including painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and other visual media. Architecture is often included as one of the visual arts; however, like the decorative arts, it involves the creation of objects where the practical considerations of use are essential—in a way that they are usually not for a painting, for example. 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, but in modern usage the fine arts, where aesthetic considerations are paramount, are distinguished from acquired skills in general, and the decorative or applied arts.
Art has been characterized in terms of mimesis, expression, communication of emotion, or other values. 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 human agency and creation through imaginative or technical skill.
The nature of art, and related concepts such as creativity and interpretation, are explored in a branch of philosophy known as aesthetics.
Creative art and fine art
By a broad definition 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 to modern Western societies. The first and broadest sense of art is the one that has remained closest to the older Latin meaning, which roughly translates to "skill" or "craft." A few examples where this meaning proves very broad 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.
In medieval philosophy, John Chrysostom held that "the name of art should be applied to those only which contribute towards and produce necessaries and mainstays of life." Thomas Aquinas, when treating the adornment of women, gives an ethical justification as to why: "In the case of an art directed to the production of goods which men cannot use without sin, it follows that the workmen sin in making such things, as directly affording others an occasion of sin; for instance, if a man were to make idols or anything pertaining to idolatrous worship. But in the case of an art the products of which may be employed by man either for a good or for an evil use, such as swords, arrows, and the like, the practice of such an art is not sinful. These alone should be called arts." Aquinas held that art is nothing else than "the right reason about certain works to be made," and that it is commendable, not for the will with which a craftman does a work, "but for the quality of the work. Art, therefore, properly speaking, is an operative habit." Aristotle and Aquinas distinguish it from the related habit of prudence.
The second and more recent sense of the word art is as an abbreviation for creative art or fine art and emerged in the early 17th century. Fine art means that a skill is being used to express the artist's creativity, or to engage the audience's aesthetic sensibilities, or to draw the audience towards consideration of the finer things.
The word art can refer to several things: a study of creative skill, a process of using the creative skill, a product of the creative skill, or the audience's experience with the creative skill. The creative arts (art as discipline) are a collection of disciplines that produce artworks (art as objects) that are compelled by a personal drive (art as activity) and convey a message, mood, or symbolism for the viewer to interpret (art as experience). Art is something that stimulates an individual's thoughts, emotions, beliefs, or ideas through the senses. Artworks can be explicitly made for this purpose or interpreted on the basis of images or objects. Although the application of scientific knowledge to derive a new scientific theory involves skill and results in the "creation" of something new, this represents science only and is not categorized as art.
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 nonexistent.
The nature of art has been described by philosopher Richard Wollheim as "one of the most elusive of the traditional problems of human culture". 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 representation. Art as mimesis has deep roots in the philosophy of Aristotle. Goethe defined art as an other resp. a second nature, according to his ideal of a style founded on the basic fundaments of insight and on the innermost character of things. 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 influenced by 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".