art - For
numerous reasons, a difficult word to define without starting
endless argument! Many definitions have been proposed. At least
art involves a degree of human involvement — through manual skills
or thought — as with the word "artificial,"
meaning made by humans instead of by nature. Definitions vary
in how they divide all
that is artificial into what is and isn't art. The most common
means is to rely upon the estimations of art experts and institutions.
However, people of some cultures
do not (or refuse to) refer to some works as "art."
Because of this, many people have taken to using the broader terms
material culture or visual culture when referring
to such works. No American Indian language includes such a word
as art. The Japanese
created such a word only after coming into contact with European
This diagram was produced with Plumb Design and Thinkmap.com'sVisual Thesaurus -- an animated display of words and meanings -- a visual representation of the English language. Looking up a word -- in this case "art" -- creates a visualization with that word in the center of the display, connected to related words and meanings. The four nodes surrounding "art," stand for these four senses of the word:
the products of human creativity
the creation of beautiful or significant things
a superior skill that you learn by study and praise and observation
photographs or other representations in a publication
Visual Thesaurus provides an excellent means to visualizing relationships between words. It is ideal for brainstorming textual ideas in a visual way (or the other way around!)
"Life is short, art endures. (Vita
brevis, ars longa.)"
Hippocrates (c. 460 - 400 BCE)
Greek philosopher. Aphorisms, Section I, 1.
"Art completes what nature cannot
bring to finish"
Aristotle (384 - 322 BCE),
Greek philosopher. See nature.
"Art is a half-effaced recollection
of a higher state from which we have fallen since the time of
Saint Hildegarde (1098-1179).
"That which is static and repetitive
is boring. That which is dynamic and random is confusing. In
between lies art."
John A. Locke (1632-1704), English philosopher.
"Criticism is easy, art is difficult."
Detouches [Philippe Nericault] (1680-1754) French. Le Glorieux,
"Were I called on to define, very
briefly, the term Art, I should call it 'the reproduction of
what the Senses perceive in Nature through the veil of the soul.'
The mere imitation, however accurate, of what is in Nature, entitles
no man to the sacred name of 'Artist.'"
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1845), U.S. poet, critic, short-story writer.
"Marginalia," in Southern Literary Messenger
(Richmond, VA, June 1849; reprinted in Essays and Reviews,
"Shall I tell you what I think are
the two qualities of a work of art? First, it must be the indescribable,
and second, it must be inimitable."
Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1914), French Impressionist. From an interview with
Walter Pach in Scribner's Magazine, May, 1912.
"You come to nature with all her
theories, and she knocks them all flat."
Pierre Auguste Renoir.
"It is art that makes life, makes
interest, makes importance . . . and I know of no substitute
whatever for the force and beauty of its process."
Henry James (1843-1916), U.S. author. Letter, July 10, 1915.
"Art requires philosophy, just as
philosophy requires art. Otherwise, what would become of beauty?"
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), French Post-Impressionist.
Intimate Journals (translated by Van Wyck Brooks, 1923;
reprinted 1930, p. 193).
"It is through art, and through art
only, that we can realize our perfection; through art and art
only that we can shield ourselves from the sordid perils of actual
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), English poet and playwright. The
Critic as Artist, part II, 1891.
"Art is the most intense mode of
invidualism that the world has known."
"Paradoxically though it may seem,
it is none the less true that life imitates art far more than
art imitates life."
"Art is the imposing of a pattern
on experience, and our aesthetic enjoyment is recognition of
Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), British philosopher. Dialogues,
June 10, 1943 (1954).
"Only through art can we get outside
of ourselves and know another's view of the universe which is
not the same as ours and see landscapes which would otherwise
have remained unknown to us like the landscapes of the moon.
Thanks to art, instead of seeing a single world, our own, we
see it multiply until we have before us as many worlds as there
are original artists . . . . And many centuries after their core,
whether we call it Rembrandt or Vermeer, is extinguished, they
continue to send us their special rays."
Marcel Proust (1871-1922) French writer. The Maxims of Marcel
Proust, translated by Justin O'Brien, published 1948.
"Surely all art is the result of
one's having been in danger, of having gone through an experience
all the way to the end, where no one can go any further."
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), German poet. Letter, June 24,
1907, to his wife (published in Rilke's Letters on Cézanne,
1952; translated 1985).
"Art is nothing tangible. We cannot call a painting 'art' as the words 'artifact' and 'artificial' imply. The thing made is a work of art made by art, but not itself art. The art remains in the artist and is the knowledge by which things are made."
Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (1877-1947), Indian writer. See knowledge.
"True art is characterized by an
irresistible urge in the creative artist."
Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German mathematician and physicist.
"Art does not reproduce the visible;
rather, it makes visible."
Paul Klee (1879-1940), Swiss artist.
See Bauhaus and reproduction.
"Art washes away from the soul the
dust of everyday life."
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Spanish
"For Arp, art is Arp."
Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), French-American Cubist, then Dadaist, writing about Jean [aka Hans]
Arp (French, 1887-1966), another Dadaist / Surrealist. From a catalogue, Arp,
Galleria Schwarz, Milan, 1965.
"Art is the unceasing effort to compete
with the beauty of flowers -- and never succeeding."
Marc Chagall (1889-1985), French painter. See Surrealism.
"But all categories of art, idealistic
or realistic, surrealistic or constructivist (a new form of idealism)
must satisfy a simple test (or they are in no sense works of
art): they must persist as objects of contemplation."
Herbert Read (1893-1968), British art writer. Modern Sculpture.
"Art is the objectification of feeling,
and the subjectification of nature."
Susanne Langer (1895-1985). Mind, An Essay on Human Feeling.
"Art is an adventure into an unknown
world, which can only be explored by those willing to take the
Mark Rothko (1903-1970), American Abstract Expressionist painter.
"I have the loftiest idea, and the
most passionate one, of art. Much too lofty to agree to subject
it too anything. Much too passionate to want to divorce it from
Albert Camus (1913-1961), French existentialist writer.
"Art establishes the basic human
truths which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment."
John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) U.S. president. An address at Amherst
College, October 26, 1963.
"I am for an art that takes its forms
from the lines of life itself, that twists and extends and accumulates
and spits and drips and is heavy and coarse and blunt and sweet
and stupid as life itself."
Claes Oldenburg (1929-), American Pop artist. In an exhibition catalogue,
"Art today is a new kind of instrument,
an instrument for modifying consciousness and organizing new
modes of sensibility . . . . Artists have had to become self-conscious
aestheticians: continually challenging their means, their materials
Susan Sontag (1933-), American writer. Against Interpretation.
"My dear Tristan, to be an artist
at all is like living in Switzerland during a world war."
Tom Stoppard (1937-), American [?] playwright. Travesties,
"Art is making something out of nothing
and selling it."
Frank Zappa (1940-1993), American musical satirist.
"Do not imagine that Art is something
which is designed to give gentle uplift and self-confidence.
Art is not a brassiere. At least, not in the English sense. But
do not forget that brassiere is the French word for life-jacket."
Julian Barnes (1946-), English writer. Flaubert's Parrot.
What is Art? is a site authored by Bart Rosier featuring his
short scholarly essay on the question of what constitutes art.
It considers the difficulties of precisely defining the concept,
and assesses the most commonly held assumptions of those who
use the word. Included is a detailed bibliography and links to
related web sites.