What is Art? In common parlance it is used in diverse ways, from describing human activities creating auditory, visual or performing artefacts to anything that impresses the eye and pulls at the heartstrings. It is used to describe a creator’s technical skills in bringing forth realistic or imaginative images and tangible objects that are appreciated for their beauty and emotional power. However, art is not in broad terms restricted to specific works. It also covers criticism of art, history of art, production of works of art and aesthetic propagation of art.
There are various art forms that have evolved over time. The oldest documented ones are the visual art forms that include sculpture and paintings that have come down through the ages. In fact, the history of mankind has been partly documented from visual arts found in caves inhabited by ancient human beings. Other forms of visual arts that have a comparatively modern origin are printmaking, photography and other visual media.
A very important part of visual arts is Architecture. However, unlike other forms in the same category, architecture involves creation of objects and edifices where practical considerations have to be taken into account unlike paintings, decorative arts or advertising. This is exemplified if comparisons are made between structures. Huge and imposing architecture of cathedrals and churches are designed to accommodate large congregations while majestic castles with no less architectural splendours are for private use only.
Performing arts include film, dance, theatre and music. In a broader definition literature and other interactive media is also considered to be in this class.
Categorisation of arts into the sections mentioned here is a comparatively new phenomenon. Until the 17th century, art was considered to be any form of skill or mastery and was not deemed to be separate from sciences or crafts. This perception changed radically after the 17th century when focus shifted to aesthetic considerations and fine arts was separated from applied and decorative arts that required high levels of acquired skills too.
In spite of these fine dividing lines, the definition of what constitutes art has always been a subject of intense debate over the years. General descriptions have also undergone changes and today it is considered to be an area where imagination and technical skills are applied by human agencies to create a work of aesthetic value. Incidentally, aesthetics today is regarded as a branch of philosophy that explores the nature of art and creativity leading to its interpretation.
Art is also characterised through its mimesis or the extent of representation of reality, storytelling properties and communication of emotion. In the Romantic period, art was also seen as a faculty of the human mind that could be clubbed with religion and science.