Plastic arts

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Plastic arts are art forms which involve physical manipulation of a plastic medium, such as clay, wax or paint, to create works of art. The term is also used to refer to the visual arts (such as painting, sculpture, ceramics, architecture, film and photography), rather than literature and music.[1] Materials for use in the plastic arts, in the narrower definition, include those that can be carved or shaped, such as stone or wood, concrete, glass, or metal.

The term "plastic art" is compatible with that used by neo-plasticists. Piet Mondrian used the term in his essay "Plastic Art and Pure Plastic Art (Figurative Art and Non-Figurative Art) ", published in the book CIRCLE (1937). He describes "plastic arts" as "figurative" and "subjective"; whereas "pure plastic arts" are "non-figurative" and "objective".[2]


The word "plastic" draws from the Greek word "plasticos," which means "to mold" or "to shape." It has long preceded its dominant modern meaning as a synthetic material. The term "plastic arts" has been used historically to denote visual art forms (painting, sculpture, and ceramics) as opposed to literature or music. The related terms plasticity and plasticism became more widely used in the early 20th century by critics discussing modern painting, particularly the works of Paul Cézanne.[3]

The oldest known "plastic art" dates back to 30,000–34,000 BP. [4]


In contrast to the limiting of 'plastic arts' to sculpture and architecture by Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling in 1807,[5] the German critic August Wilhelm Schlegel (1767–1845) applied the concept not only to visual arts, but also poetry.

Classical poetry lines he saw utilizing plastic isolation, and rhyme falling under the Romantic (domain).[6]

In Schlegel's Viennese lectures (1809–1811), published in 1827 as On the Theory and History of the Plastic Arts, he contrasted the plasticism of Classical Art with picturesque Romanticism. He

operated with the antinomy of terms plastic/pictorial, mechanically/ organically, finite/ infinite, and closed/accomplished. Schlegel stated that the spirit of the entire antique culture and poetry was plastic and that the spirit of modern culture, however, was picturesque (pittoresk)[7]

These distinctions were carried over into Russian Romanticism aesthetics

Venevitinov objected to the indiscriminate use of the term 'pictures'. In his use of August Schlegel's term 'plastic' (plastisch, plastika) he argues for a return to the simple, primitive, enclosed, defined, limited, finite, corporeal, and plastic world of the ancients. There seem to have been two interpretations of the plastic - picturesque contrast (antitheses) in Romantic Idealist philosophy. As Venevitinov uses the contrast, and as August Schlegel intended it to be used when he defined it in Lecture I of Vorlesungen über dramatische Kunst und Literatur, it denoted the difference between the corporeal mind of the man of antiquity and the 'picturesque' mind of modern man. Ancient art appeals directly to the senses, modern art gives rise to mental pictures or images. The former is therefore real and corporeal, the latter ideal.[8]


See also[edit]

  • Art materials – Materials and tools used to create a work of art
  • Handicraft – Item production made completely by hand or with simple tools
  • Media (arts) – Materials and tools used to create a work of art
  • Plastic in art – Use of synthetic materials to create art
  • Visual arts – Art forms that create works that are primarily visual in nature


  1. ^ "Merriam-Webster Online (entry for "plastic arts")". Retrieved 2011-10-30.
  2. ^ Mondrian, Piet (1937). CIRCLE. Internet Archive: Faber and Faber Ltd. pp. 41–56. ISBN 0-571-09552-6. Retrieved 13 April 2024.
  3. ^ Kyle, Jill Anderson (2009). Staviydky; Rothkoff (eds.). Cezanne and American Modernism (First ed.). Yale University Press. pp. 67, 68. ISBN 9780300147155.
  4. ^ Witzel, E. J. Michael (2012). The Origins of the World's Mythologies. Oxford University Press. p. 260. ISBN 9780199710157. Apart from rock art, whether engraved, drawn, or painted, there also exist some examples of early sculptures and plastic art (30,000–34,000 bp )
  5. ^ Russian Romantic Criticism: An Anthology, edited by Lauren Gray Leighton, Published by Greenwood Publishing Group, 1987, ISBN 0313255849, ISBN 978-0313255847
  6. ^ The literary theories of August Wilhelm Schlegel by Ralph W. Ewton jnr, Published by Walter de Gruyter and Co (1972), ISBN 3110991632, ISBN 978-3110991635
  7. ^ Civic Art Then and Now: The Culture of Good Place-making by Charles C. Bohl, in Sitte, Hegemann and the Metropolis: Modern Civic Art and International Exchanges, edited by Charles Bohl and Jean-François Lejeune, Published by Routledge, 2009, ISBN 0415424070, ISBN 978-0415424073
  8. ^ Russian Romantic Criticism: An Anthology, edited by Lauren Gray Leighton, Published by Greenwood Publishing Group, 1987, ISBN 0313255849, ISBN 978-0313255847

Further reading[edit]

  • Barnes, A. C., The Art in Painting, 3rd ed., 1937, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., NY. OCLC 1572753
  • Bukumirovic, D. (1998). Maga Magazinovic. Biblioteka Fatalne srpkinje knj. br. 4. Beograd: Narodna knj.
  • Fazenda, M. J. (1997). Between the pictorial and the expression of ideas: the plastic arts and literature in the dance of Paula Massano. N.p.
  • Gerón, C. (2000). Enciclopedia de las artes plásticas dominicanas: 1844–2000. 4th ed. Dominican Republic s.n.
  • Schlegel, August Wilhelm., (1966) Vorlesungen uber dramatische Kunst und Literatur, Stuttgart: Kohlhammer Verlag, 1966, p. 21f.

External links[edit]