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Artistic merit is a term that is used in relation to cultural products when referring to the judgment of their perceived quality or value as works of art.
Criticism of virtually any art form – be it music, film, literature, or painting – centers on the concept of artistic merit, which different critics can have varying definitions of.
Many audiences fail to distinguish between the problem of distinguishing art from non-art and the problem of distinguishing good art from bad art: in many cases, people claim that such-and-such film or song is "not art" or "not real art" when they intend to say that they do not consider it to be good or successful art.
In Western Europe and its daughter societies from around 1500 to 1870, artistic merit was closely related to faithfulness to nature (not always as literal, precise transcription but certainly as an interest in some aspect of the physical world) and sometimes narrative coherence (in many cases history painting was considered the highest form of art) and obedience to classical precepts. This criterion, however, has failed for painting with the rise of photography and film. In general, rigid criteria for artistic merit tend to fall apart fairly rapidly and the preferred standards for artistic merit vary across time and place.
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