Before checking my post out, you should check out Artsy's page on the artist Paul Gauguin here:
They have a lot of other pages just like that, so you should really give it a look!
Art is a diverse range of human activities and the products of those activities. In their most general form these activities include the production of works of art, the criticism of art, the study of the history of art, and the aesthetic dissemination of art. 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 usually are not in 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 other arts. Until the 17th century, art referred to any skill or mastery and was not differentiated from crafts or sciences. In modern usage after the 17th century, where aesthetic considerations are paramount, the fine arts are separated and distinguished from acquired skills in general, such as the decorative or applied arts.
Art may be characterized in terms of mimesis (its representation of reality), expression, communication of emotion, or other qualities. 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 imaginative or technical skill stemming from human agency and creation.
The nature of art, and related concepts such as creativity and interpretation, are explored in a branch of philosophy known as aesthetics.
In order correctly to define art, it is necessary, first of all, to cease to consider it as a means to pleasure and to consider it as one of the conditions of human life. Viewing it in this way we cannot fail to observe that art is one of the means of intercourse between man and man.
Every work of art causes the receiver to enter into a certain kind of relationship both with him who produced, or is producing, the art, and with all those who, simultaneously, previously, or subsequently, receive the same artistic impression.
Speech, transmitting the thoughts and experiences of men, serves as a means of union among them, and art acts in a similar manner. The peculiarity of this latter means of intercourse, distinguishing it from intercourse by means of words, consists in this, that whereas by words a man transmits his thoughts to another, by means of art he transmits his feelings.
The activity of art is based on the fact that a man, receiving through his sense of hearing or sight another man’s expression of feeling, is capable of experiencing the emotion which moved the man who expressed it. To take the simplest example; one man laughs, and another who hears becomes merry; or a man weeps, and another who hears feels sorrow. A man is excited or irritated, and another man seeing him comes to a similar state of mind. By his movements or by the sounds of his voice, a man expresses courage and determination or sadness and calmness, and this state of mind passes on to others. A man suffers, expressing his sufferings by groans and spasms, and this suffering transmits itself to other people; a man expresses his feeling of admiration, devotion, fear, respect, or love to certain objects, persons, or phenomena, and others are infected by the same feelings of admiration, devotion, fear, respect, or love to the same objects, persons, and phenomena.
And it is upon this capacity of man to receive another man’s expression of feeling and experience those feelings himself, that the activity of art is based.
If a man infects another or others directly, immediately, by his appearance or by the sounds he gives vent to at the very time he experiences the feeling; if he causes another man to yawn when he himself cannot help yawning, or to laugh or cry when he himself is obliged to laugh or cry, or to suffer when he himself is suffering — that does not amount to art.
Art begins when one person, with the object of joining another or others to himself in one and the same feeling, expresses that feeling by certain external indications. To take the simplest example: a boy, having experienced, let us say, fear on encountering a wolf, relates that encounter; and, in order to evoke in others the feeling he has experienced, describes himself, his condition before the encounter, the surroundings, the woods, his own lightheartedness, and then the wolf’s appearance, its movements, the distance between himself and the wolf, etc. All this, if only the boy, when telling the story, again experiences the feelings he had lived through and infects the hearers and compels them to feel what the narrator had experienced is art. If even the boy had not seen a wolf but had frequently been afraid of one, and if, wishing to evoke in others the fear he had felt, he invented an encounter with a wolf and recounted it so as to make his hearers share the feelings he experienced when he feared the world, that also would be art. And just in the same way it is art if a man, having experienced either the fear of suffering or the attraction of enjoyment (whether in reality or in imagination) expresses these feelings on canvas or in marble so that others are infected by them. And it is also art if a man feels or imagines to himself feelings of delight, gladness, sorrow, despair, courage, or despondency and the transition from one to another of these feelings, and expresses these feelings by sounds so that the hearers are infected by them and experience them as they were experienced by the composer.
The feelings with which the artist infects others may be most various — very strong or very weak, very important or very insignificant, very bad or very good: feelings of love for one’s own country, self-devotion and submission to fate or to God expressed in a drama, raptures of lovers described in a novel, feelings of voluptuousness expressed in a picture, courage expressed in a triumphal march, merriment evoked by a dance, humor evoked by a funny story, the feeling of quietness transmitted by an evening landscape or by a lullaby, or the feeling of admiration evoked by a beautiful arabesque — it is all art.
If only the spectators or auditors are infected by the feelings which the author has felt, it is art.
To evoke in oneself a feeling one has once experienced, and having evoked it in oneself, then, by means of movements, lines, colors, sounds, or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling that others may experience the same feeling — this is the activity of art.
Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings and also experience them.
Art is not, as the metaphysicians say, the manifestation of some mysterious idea of beauty or God; it is not, as the aesthetical physiologists say, a game in which man lets off his excess of stored-up energy; it is not the expression of man’s emotions by external signs; it is not the production of pleasing objects; and, above all, it is not pleasure; but it is a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.
As, thanks to man’s capacity to express thoughts by words, every man may know all that has been done for him in the realms of thought by all humanity before his day, and can in the present, thanks to this capacity to understand the thoughts of others, become a sharer in their activity and can himself hand on to his contemporaries and descendants the thoughts he has assimilated from others, as well as those which have arisen within himself; so, thanks to man’s capacity to be infected with the feelings of others by means of art, all that is being lived through by his contemporaries is accessible to him, as well as the feelings experienced by men thousands of years ago, and he has also the possibility of transmitting his own feelings to others.
If people lacked this capacity to receive the thoughts conceived by the men who preceded them and to pass on to others their own thoughts, men would be like wild beasts, or like Kaspar Hauser.
And if men lacked this other capacity of being infected by art, people might be almost more savage still, and, above all, more separated from, and more hostile to, one another.
And therefore the activity of art is a most important one, as important as the activity of speech itself and as generally diffused.
We are accustomed to understand art to be only what we hear and see in theaters, concerts, and exhibitions, together with buildings, statues, poems, novels. . . . But all this is but the smallest part of the art by which we communicate with each other in life. All human life is filled with works of art of every kind — from cradlesong, jest, mimicry, the ornamentation of houses, dress, and utensils, up to church services, buildings, monuments, and triumphal processions. It is all artistic activity. So that by art, in the limited sense of the word, we do not mean all human activity transmitting feelings, but only that part which we for some reason select from it and to which we attach special importance.
This special importance has always been given by all men to that part of this activity which transmits feelings flowing from their religious perception, and this small part of art they have specifically called art, attaching to it the full meaning of the word.
That was how man of old — Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle — looked on art. Thus did the Hebrew prophets and the ancient Christians regard art; thus it was, and still is, understood by the Mohammedans, and thus it still is understood by religious folk among our own peasantry.
Some teachers of mankind — as Plato in his Republic and people such as the primitive Christians, the strict Mohammedans, and the Buddhists — have gone so far as to repudiate all art.
People viewing art in this way (in contradiction to the prevalent view of today which regards any art as good if only it affords pleasure) considered, and consider, that art (as contrasted with speech, which need not be listened to) is so highly dangerous in its power to infect people against their wills that mankind will lose far less by banishing all art than by tolerating each and every art.
Evidently such people were wrong in repudiating all art, for they denied that which cannot be denied — one of the indispensable means of communication, without which mankind could not exist. But not less wrong are the people of civilized European society of our class and day in favoring any art if it but serves beauty, i.e., gives people pleasure.
Formerly people feared lest among the works of art there might chance to be some causing corruption, and they prohibited art altogether. Now they only fear lest they should be deprived of any enjoyment art can afford, and patronize any art. And I think the last error is much grosser than the first and that its consequences are far more harmful.
Art, in our society, has been so perverted that not only has bad art come to be considered good, but even the very perception of what art really is has been lost. In order to be able to speak about the art of our society, it is, therefore, first of all necessary to distinguish art from counterfeit art.
There is one indubitable indication distinguishing real art from its counterfeit, namely, the infectiousness of art. If a man, without exercising effort and without altering his standpoint on reading, hearing, or seeing another man’s work, experiences a mental condition which unites him with that man and with other people who also partake of that work of art, then the object evoking that condition is a work of art. And however poetical, realistic, effectful, or interesting a work may be, it is not a work of art if it does not evoke that feeling (quite distinct from all other feelings) of joy and of spiritual union with another (the author) and with others (those who are also infected by it).
It is true that this indication is an internal one, and that there are people who have forgotten what the action of real art is, who expect something else form art (in our society the great majority are in this state), and that therefore such people may mistake for this aesthetic feeling the feeling of diversion and a certain excitement which they receive from counterfeits of art. But though it is impossible to undeceive these people, just as it is impossible to convince a man suffering from Daltonism [a type of color blindness] that green is not red, yet, for all that, this indication remains perfectly definite to those whose feeling for art is neither perverted nor atrophied, and it clearly distinguishes the feeling produced by art from all other feelings.
The chief peculiarity of this feeling is that the receiver of a true artistic impression is so united to the artist that he feels as if the work were his own and not someone else’s — as if what it expresses were just what he had long been wishing to express. A real work of art destroys, in the consciousness of the receiver, the separation between himself and the artist — not that alone, but also between himself and all whose minds receive this work of art. In this freeing of our personality from its separation and isolation, in this uniting of it with others, lies the chief characteristic and the great attractive force of art.
If a man is infected by the author’s condition of soul, if he feels this emotion and this union with others, then the object which has affected this is art; but if there be no such infection, if there be not this union with the author and with others who are moved by the same work — then it is not art. And not only is infection a sure sign of art, but the degree of infectiousness is also the sole measure of excellence in art.
The stronger the infection, the better is the art as art, speaking now apart from its subject matter, i.e., not considering the quality of the feelings it transmits.
And the degree of the infectiousness of art depends on three conditions:
(1) On the greater or lesser individuality of the feeling transmitted;
(3) on the greater or lesser clearness with which the feeling is transmitted;
(3) on the sincerity of the artist, i.e., on the greater or lesser force with which the artist himself feels the emotion he transmits.
The more individual the feeling transmitted the more strongly does it act on the receiver; the more individual the state of soul into which he is transferred, the more pleasure does the receiver obtain, and therefore the more readily and strongly does he join in it.
The clearness of expression assists infection because the receiver, who mingles in consciousness with the author, is the better satisfied the more clearly the feeling is transmitted, which, as it seems to him, he has long known and felt, and for which he has only now found expression.
But most of all is the degree of infectiousness of art increased by the degree of sincerity in the artist. As soon as the spectator, hearer, or reader feels that the artist is infected by his own production, and writes, sings, or plays for himself, and not merely to act on others, this mental condition of the artist infects the receiver; and contrariwise, as soon as the spectator, reader, or hearer feels that the author is not writing, singing, or playing for his own satisfaction — does not himself feel what he wishes to express — but is doing it for him, the receiver, a resistance immediately springs up, and the most individual and the newest feelings and the cleverest technique not only fail to produce any infection but actually repel.
I have mentioned three conditions of contagiousness in art, but they may be all summed up into one, the last, sincerity, i.e., that the artist should be impelled by an inner need to express his feeling. That condition includes the first; for if the artist is sincere he will express the feeling as he experienced it. And as each man is different from everyone else, his feeling will be individual for everyone else; and the more individual it is — the more the artist has drawn it from the depths of his nature — the more sympathetic and sincere will it be. And this same sincerity will impel the artist to find a clear expression of the feeling which he wishes to transmit.
Therefore this third condition — sincerity — is the most important of the three. It is always complied with in peasant art, and this explains why such art always acts so powerfully; but it is a condition almost entirely absent from our upper-class art, which is continually produced by artists actuated by personal aims of covetousness or vanity.
Such are the three conditions which divide art from its counterfeits, and which also decide the quality of every work of art apart from its subject matter.
The absence of any one of these conditions excludes a work form the category of art and relegates it to that of art’s counterfeits. If the work does not transmit the artist’s peculiarity of feeling and is therefore not individual, if it is unintelligibly expressed, or if it has not proceeded from the author’s inner need for expression — it is not a work of art. If all these conditions are present, even in the smallest degree, then the work, even if a weak one, is yet a work of art.
The presence in various degrees of these three conditions — individuality, clearness, and sincerity — decides the merit of a work of art as art, apart from subject matter. All works of art take rank of merit according to the degree in which they fulfill the first, the second, and the third of these conditions. In one the individuality of the feeling transmitted may predominate; in another, clearness of expression; in a third, sincerity; while a fourth may have sincerity and individuality but be deficient in clearness; a fifth, individuality and clearness but less sincerity; and so forth, in all possible degrees and combinations.
Thus is art divided from that which is not art, and thus is the quality of art as art decided, independently of its subject matter, i.e., apart from whether the feelings it transmits are good or bad.
But how are we to define good and bad art with reference to its subject matter?
To Plato, art was imitation of nature, but in the 19th century, photography took over that function, and in the 20th, abstract art overturned the whole notion that art was about representation. And although art meant skill early on, conceptual artists elevated ideas over execution. So what is art? Does it have to be beautiful? Expressive? Original? Uplifting? Intellectual? Here’s how 27 artists, critics, and others answered the question, "What is art?"
…ACCORDING TO A DICTIONARY:
1. [from the 1300s] Skill; its display, application, or expression… [from the 1600s] The expression or application of creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting, drawing, or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
-- Oxford English Dictionary Online
…IMITATION OR CREATION?
2. [Socrates:] Which is the art of painting designed to be—an imitation of things as they are, or as they appear—of appearance or of reality?
[Glaucon:] Of appearance.
[Socrates:] Then the imitator…is a long way off the truth…
– Plato, (429–347 B.C.E.) Athenian philosopher, The Republic, Book X, translated by Benjamin Jowett
3. Art is the unceasing effort to compete with the beauty of flowers – and never succeeding.
– Marc Chagall (1887–1985) Russian-French artist, remark, 1977
4. The imitator is a poor kind of creature. If the man who paints only the tree, or flower, or other surface he sees before him were an artist, the king of artists would be the photographer.
– James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), American-born, British-based artist, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies (1890)
5. The craftsman knows what he wants to make before he makes it.…The making of a work of art…is a strange and risky business in which the maker never knows quite what he is making until he makes it.
– R.G. Collingwood (1889–1943), English philosopher, The Principles of Art (1938)
6. Art is either a plagiarist or a revolutionary.
– Paul Gauguin, (1848–1903), Peruvian-born French artist, quoted in Huneker, The Pathos of Distance (1913)
…CREATING BEAUTY OR HARMONY
7. Filling a space in a beautiful way. That's what art means to me.
– Georgia O'Keeffe (1887–1986), American painter, in Art News December 1977
8. Art is harmony.
– Georges Seurat (1859–1891), French painter, letter to Maurice Beaubourg (1890)
…SOMETHING THAT REVEALS THE ESSENTIAL OR HIDDEN TRUTH
9. To me the thing that art does for life is to clean it – to strip it to form.
– Robert Frost (1874–1963), American poet, in Fire and Ice: The Art and Thoughts of Robert Frost, by Lawrence Thompson (1942)
10. Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.
– Paul Klee (1879–1940), Swiss painter, The Inward Vision (1959)
11. We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.
– Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), Spanish painter living in France, quoted in Dore Ashton's Picasso on Art (1972)
…THOUGHT EXPRESSED THROUGH FORM (OR NOT)
12. To give a body and a perfect form to one’s thought, this—and only this—is to be an artist.
– Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825), French painter, in Jacques-Louis David, by Anita Brooker (1980)
13. [In order to distinguish Andy Warhol’s Brillo Boxes from actual Brillo boxes, art can be defined as] embodied meaning.
– Arthur C. Danto (1924–2013), American philosopher of art, What Art Is (2013)
14. Ideas alone can be works of art….All ideas need not be made physical.…A work of art may be understood as a conductor from the artist’s mind to the viewer’s. But it may never reach the viewer, or it may never leave the artist’s mind.
– Sol LeWitt (1928–2007), American artist, "Sentences on Conceptual Art," in Art and Its Significance, edited by Stephen David Ross (1994)
…A SOURCE OF CALM IN A CHAOTIC WORLD
15. What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.
– Henri Matisse (1869–1954), French artist, Notes of a Painter (1908)
16. Art has something to do with the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos.
– Saul Bellow (1915–2005), American novelist, in George Plimpton, Writers at Work, third series (1967)
17. I don’t think art is elite or mysterious. I don’t think anybody can separate art from politics. The intention to separate art from politics is itself a very political intention.
– Ai Weiwei (1957-), Chinese artist, “Shame on Me,” in Der Spiegel, November 21, 2011.
…SELF-EXPRESSION OR AUTOBIOGRAPHY
18. What is art? Art grows out of grief and joy, but mainly grief. It is born of people’s lives.
– Edvard Munch (1863–1944), Norwegian artist, in Edvard Munch: The Man and His Art, by Ragna Stang (1977)
19. All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster's autobiography.
– Federico Fellini (1920–1993), Italian film director, in Atlantic Monthly, December 1965
20. Airing one's dirty linen never makes for a masterpiece.
– François Truffaut (1932–1984), French film director, Bed and Board (1972)
…COMMUNICATION OF FEELINGS
21. To evoke in oneself a feeling one has experienced, and…then, by means of movements, lines, colors, sounds or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling—this is the activity of art.
– Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910), Russian author, What is Art? (1890)
22. Art has to move you and design does not, unless it's a good design for a bus.
– David Hockney (1937–) British artist, to The Guardian on October 26, 1988
23. Art is a habit-forming drug.
– Marcel Duchamp, (1887–1968), French-born American artist, quoted in Richter, Dada: art and anti-art (1964)
…AN ATTEMPT AT IMMORTALITY
24. Life is short, art is long, often quoted as ‘Ars longa, vita brevis’, after Seneca's rendering in De Brevitate Vitae sect.
– Hippocrates (c.460–357 BC), Greek physician, Aphorisms sect. 1, para. 1 (translated by W. H. S. Jones)
25. Art is a revolt, a protest against extinction.
– André Malraux (1901–1976), French novelist, essayist, and art critic, Les Voix du silence(1951)
…WHATEVER IS DISPLAYED IN A MUSEUM OR GALLERY
26. [In 1917, Marcel Duchamp, using the pseudonym R. Mutt, submitted a store-bought urinal, which he titled “Fountain,” to an art exhibition.] Whether Mr. Mutt with his own hands made the fountain or not has no importance. He chose it. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under a new title and point of view (and) created a new thought for the object.
27. If one general statement can be made about the art of our times, it is that one by one the old criteria of what a work of art ought to be have been discarded in favor of a dynamic approach in which everything is possible
– Peter Selz (1919- ) German-born American art historian, Art in Our Times (1981)
A fundamental purpose inherent to most artistic disciplines is the underlying intention to appeal to, and connect with, human emotion.
- Examine the communication, utilitarian, aesthetic, therapeutic, and intellectual purposes of art.
- KEY POINTS
- Art can arouse aesthetic or moral feelings, and can be understood as a way of communicating these feelings.
- Art can function on a therapeutic level as well, as with art therapy.
- Since the introduction of conceptual art and postmodern theory, it has been proven that anything can, in fact, be termed art.
- Concerned with beauty, artistic impact, or appearance.
- The characteristics, key events, and situations which compose the essentials of human existence, such as birth, growth, emotionality, aspiration, conflict, and mortality.
A fundamental purpose of most art forms is the underlying intention to appeal to, and connect with, human emotion. Art can arouse aesthetic or moral feelings, and can be understood as a way of communicating these feelings. Artists express something so that their audience is aroused to some extent, and this may be done consciously or unconsciously. Art may be considered an exploration of the human condition, or what it is to be human.
The decorative arts add aesthetic and design values to everyday objects, such as a glass or a chair . The utilitarian nature of these objects is enhanced in order to appeal to one's aesthetic sense of beauty. Entire schools of thought exist based on the concepts of design theory intended for the physical world.
The decorative arts add aesthetic and design values to everyday objects.
Art can function on a therapeutic level as well, an idea that is explored by the discipline of art therapy. While definitions and practices vary, art therapy can be generally understood as a form of therapy that uses art media as its primary mode of communication. It is a relatively young discipline, first begun around the mid-20th century.
Historically, the fine arts were meant to appeal to the human intellect, though currently there are no true boundaries. Typically, fine art movements have reacted to each other both intellectually and aesthetically throughout the ages. With the introduction of conceptual art and postmodern theory, practically anything can be termed art. In general terms, the fine arts represent an exploration of the human condition and the attempt at a deeper understanding of life.