In European academic traditions, fine art is art developed primarily for aesthetics or beauty, distinguishing it from applied art that also has to serve some practical function, such as pottery or most metalwork.
- Cultural perspectives
- Painting and drawing
- Conceptual art
- South America
- United States
Historically, the five main fine arts were painting, sculpture, architecture, music and poetry, with performing arts including theatre and dance. Today, the fine arts commonly include additional forms, such as film, photography, video production/editing, design, sequential art, conceptual art, and printmaking. However, in some institutes of learning or in museums, fine art and frequently the term fine arts (pl.) as well, are associated exclusively with visual art forms.
One definition of fine art is "a visual art considered to have been created primarily for aesthetic and intellectual purposes and judged for its beauty and meaningfulness, specifically, painting, sculpture, drawing, watercolor, graphics, and architecture." In that sense, there are conceptual differences between the fine arts and the applied arts. As originally conceived, and as understood for much of the modern era, the perception of aesthetic qualities required a refined judgment usually referred to as having good taste, which differentiated fine art from popular art and entertainment.
The word "fine" does not so much denote the quality of the artwork in question, but the purity of the discipline according to traditional Western European canons. This definition originally excluded the applied or decorative arts, and the products of what were regarded as crafts. In contemporary practice these distinctions and restrictions have become essentially meaningless, as the concept or intention of the artist is given primacy, regardless of the means through which this is expressed.
According to some writers the concept of a distinct category of fine art is an invention of the early modern period in the West. Larry Shiner in his The Invention of Art: A Cultural History (2003) locates the invention in the 18th century: "There was a traditional “system of the arts” in the West before the eighteenth century. (Other traditional cultures still have a similar system.) In that system, an artist or artisan was a skilled maker or practitioner, a work of art was the useful product of skilled work, and the appreciation of the arts was integrally connected with their role in the rest of life. “Art,” in other words, meant approximately the same thing as the Greek word techne, or in English “skill”, a sense that has survived in phrases like “the art of war,” “the art of love,” and “the art of medicine.” Similar ideas have been expressed by Paul Oskar Kristeller, Pierre Bourdieu, and Terry Eagleton (e.g. The Ideology of the Aesthetic), though the point of invention is often placed earlier, in the Italian Renaissance.
The separation of arts and crafts that often exists in Europe and the US is not shared by all other cultures. In Japanese aesthetics the activities of everyday life are depicted by integrating not only art with craft but man-made with nature. Traditional Chinese art distinguished within Chinese painting between the mostly landscape literati painting of scholar gentlemen and the artisans of the schools of court painting and sculpture. A high status was also given to many things that would be seen as craft objects in the West, in particular ceramics, jade carving, weaving, and embroidery. Latin American art was dominated by European colonialism until the 20th-century, when indigenous art began to reassert itself inspired by the Constructivist Movement, which reunited arts with crafts based upon socialist principles.
Painting and drawing
Drawing is a form of visual expression and is one of the major forms of the visual arts. Common instruments include graphite pencils, pen and ink, inked brushes, wax color pencils, crayons, charcoals, chalk, pastels, markers, stylus, or various metals like silverpoint. There are a number of subcategories of drawing, including cartooning. Certain drawing methods or approaches, such as "doodling" and other informal kinds of drawing such as drawing in the fog a shower leaves on a bathroom mirror, or the surrealist method of "entopic graphomania", in which dots are made at the sites of impurities in a blank sheet of paper, and lines are then made between the dots, may or may not be considered to be part of "drawing" as a "fine art."
Mosaics are images formed with small pieces of stone or glass, called tesserae. They can be decorative or functional. An artist who designs and makes mosaics is called a mosaic artist or a mosaicist.
Printmaking is the process of making artworks by printing, normally on paper. Except in the case of monotyping, the process is capable of producing multiples of the same piece, which is called a print. Each print is considered an original, as opposed to a copy. The reasoning behind this is that the print is not a reproduction of another work of art in a different medium — for instance, a painting — but rather an image designed from inception as a print. An individual print is also referred to as an impression. Prints are created from a single original surface, known technically as a matrix. Common types of matrices include: plates of metal, usually copper or zinc for engraving or etching; stone, used for lithography; blocks of wood for woodcuts, linoleum for linocuts and fabric in the case of screen-printing. But there are many other kinds, discussed below. Multiple nearly identical prints can be called an edition. In modern times each print is often signed and numbered forming a "limited edition." Prints may also be published in book form, as artist's books. A single print could be the product of one or multiple techniques.
Calligraphy is a type of visual art. It is often called the art of fancy lettering A contemporary definition of calligraphic practice is "the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skillful manner". Modern calligraphy ranges from functional hand-lettered inscriptions and designs to fine-art pieces where the abstract expression of the handwritten mark may or may not compromise the legibility of the letters. Classical calligraphy differs from typography and non-classical hand-lettering, though a calligrapher may create all of these; characters are historically disciplined yet fluid and spontaneous, improvised at the moment of writing
Fine art photography refers to photographs that are created to fulfill the creative vision of the artist. Fine art photography stands in contrast to photojournalism and commercial photography. Photojournalism visually communicates stories and ideas, mainly in print and digital media. Fine art photography is created primarily as an expression of the artist’s vision, but has also been important in advancing certain causes. The work of Ansel Adams in Yosemite and Yellowstone provides an example. Adams is one of the most widely recognized fine art photographers of the 20th century and was an avid promoter of conservation. While his primary focus was on photography as art, his work raised public awareness of the beauty of the Sierra Nevada and helped to build political support for their protection.
Architecture is frequently considered a fine art, especially if its aesthetic components are spotlighted — in contrast to structural-engineering or construction-management components. Architectural works are perceived as cultural and political symbols and works of art. Historical civilizations often are known primarily through their architectural achievements. Such buildings as the pyramids of Egypt and the Roman Colosseum are cultural symbols, and are important links in public consciousness, even when scholars have discovered much about past civilizations through other means. Cities, regions and cultures continue to identify themselves with, and are known by, their architectural monuments.
One field where "fine" remains a valid technical term is pottery, especially in archaeology. "Fine wares" are high-quality pottery, often painted, moulded or otherwise decorated, and in many periods distinguished from "coarse" wares, which are basic utilitarian pots used by the mass of the population, or in the kitchen rather than for more formal purposes.
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping hard or plastic material, commonly stone (either rock or marble), metal, or wood. Some sculptures are created directly by carving; others are assembled, built up and fired, welded, molded, or cast. 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.
Conceptual art is art in which the concept(s) or idea(s) involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns. The inception of the term in the 1960s referred to a strict and focused practice of idea-based art that often defied traditional visual criteria associated with the visual arts in its presentation as text. However, through its association with the Young British Artists and the Turner Prize during the 1990s, its popular usage, particularly in the UK, developed as a synonym for all contemporary art that does not practice the traditional skills of painting and sculpture.
Dance is an art form that generally refers to movement of the body, usually rhythmic, and to music, used as a form of expression, social interaction or presented in a spiritual or performance setting. Dance is also used to describe methods of nonverbal communication (see body language) between humans or animals (bee dance, patterns of behaviour such as a mating dance), motion in inanimate objects (the leaves danced in the wind), and certain musical genres. In sports, gymnastics, figure skating and synchronized swimming are dance disciplines while the Katas of the martial arts are often compared to dances.
Modern Western theatre is dominated by realism, including drama and comedy. Another popular Western form is musical theatre. Classical forms of theatre, including Greek and Roman drama, classic English drama (Shakespeare and Marlowe comprised), and French theater (Molière included), are still performed today. In addition, performances of classic Eastern forms such as Noh and Kabuki can be found in the West, although with less frequency.
Fine arts film is a term that encompasses motion pictures and the field of film as a fine art form. A fine arts movie theater is a venue, usually a building, for viewing such movies. Films are produced by recording images from the world with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or special effects. Films are cultural artifacts created by specific cultures, which reflect those cultures, and, in turn, affect them. Film is considered to be an important art form, a source of popular entertainment and a powerful method for educating — or indoctrinating — citizens. The visual elements of cinema give motion pictures a universal power of communication. Some films have become popular worldwide attractions by using dubbing or subtitles that translate the dialogue.
Cinematography is the discipline of making lighting and camera choices when recording photographic images for the cinema. It is closely related to the art of still photography, though many additional issues arise when both the camera and elements of the scene may be in motion.
Independent filmmaking often takes place outside of Hollywood, or other major studio systems. An independent film (or indie film) is a film initially produced without financing or distribution from a major movie studio. Creative, business, and technological reasons have all contributed to the growth of the indie film scene in the late 20th and early 21st century.
In the United States an academic course of study in fine art may include the Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art, or a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and/or a Master of Fine Arts degree — traditionally the terminal degree in the field. Doctor of Fine Arts degrees —earned, as opposed to honorary degrees— have begun to emerge at some US academic institutions, however. Major schools of art in the US:
- Yale University, New Haven, CT - MFA in Painting, printmaking, sculpture, photography, and graphic design. An interdisciplinary degree in film is also offered. The BA in art includes the same areas of study, plus drawing.
- Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI - MFA in Ceramics, Glass, Jewelry + Metalsmithing, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture, Textiles; BFA in Film/Animation/Video, Illustration
- School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL - MFA in Studio, MFA in Writing
- University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA - MFA in Ceramics, Interdisciplinary Studio, New Genres, Painting and Drawing, Photography, and Sculpture
- California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA
- Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
- Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI
- Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD
- Fordham University, New York, NY - An innovative partnership between Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Fordham University, the Ailey/Fordham Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A) degree combines the finest in dance and liberal arts education in a 4-year program. Students complete a diverse curriculum while attending both institutions full-time.
- Columbia University, New York, NY - The School of the Arts at Columbia University offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre Arts, Visual Arts and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, and a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature and Theory.
- Juilliard School, New York, NY - is a performing arts conservatory established in 1905 it educates and trains undergraduate and graduate students in dance, drama, and music. It is widely regarded as one of the world's leading music schools, with some of the most prestigious arts programs.