Talk:Art/Archive 1

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Archive 1 Archive 2 Archive 3


This article really needs work Sanjay Diwakar.

I am very tempted to remove all the quotes about art. They aren't even about art, per se--e.g., the quotation about impressionism. What is the point of having a list of quotations in an encyclopedia article?

And the quote on surrealism is a oversimiplification/distortion of surrealism. --Daniel C. Boyer

Philosophy of art is very much concerned with definitions of "art," and if there is one thing that is clear on this subject, it is that there is no single way to characterize art that everyone will be willing to agree upon. Therefore, the notion of a Wikipedia article starting out declaring, "Listen up, people, this is what 'art' means" is frankly ridiculous.

The notion of Wikipedia telling somebody about what anything means is ridiculous. You think YOU can tell ME what a tree is? Or wine? As a freshman linguistics student I got quite a surprise when several professors told me that the subject of my studies, language, could not clearly be defined. Yet, Wikipedia has managed to build an entry that does exactly that.
Of course, the art literati are overjoyed by the notion that their 'thing' defies definition, that it is too mystical to be described. But art can and should be defined. The difficulty of this task stems probably from everybody having an opinion about art. Unfortunately, although I have an opinion about art, I cannot present any facts about. Fortunately, though, Wikipedia is all about opinions, and somebody more versed in the world of art than me should be able to present a few of the more sensible ones. branko
It's that "a few" which is the whole point - it's not that nobody has ever definied art, or that it's an impossible task to even attempt. The point is that we can't give a single definition, because people just can't agree on one. Different people have different ideas about what should and should not be described as "art". By the way, questions of definition should be dealt with at definition of art. --Camembert

Anyway, this article about art should, at least, (1) give several paragraphs about different attempts to define "art" by leading philosophers, art historians, and artists--as well as observations about the very idea of giving a definition of "art"; (2) briefly characterize various art media and styles; (3) outline art history.

MichaelTinkler, help!!!

I'll try to work on this more later but I've got to work on some other stuff right now. Unfortunately, it's easier to kvetch than it is to do actual work.  :-) --LMS

I like Larry's outline, but as I taught a seminar last spring in which we never came to a less than 20 minute definition of Art, I'm not sure I'm up to it! I rather like the 'short takes' as a cumulative non-definition. --MichaelTinkler

The page does not acknowledge found art in its definition. --

Fails to deal with questions related to surrealist visual production and its relation to art; the subject with extra-aesthetic (in how the production of them was pursued) surrealist paintings, drawings and the like have to be dealt with very subtly. --Daniel C. Boyer 20:23, 30 Oct 2003 (UTC)

5/2/04- This article really needs work, but I dont know where to start. The article deifines art so broadly that everything becomes art, so art becomes nothing. Even the tie of art to creative expression is lost in the article with the suggestion that something can become art even if there is no creative intent. Then, the addition of the Asian and Martial arts???? It does not make sense to devote 1/3 of the article to Asian and Martial Arts. To have 1/3 of the article deal with martial arts, but yet no mention of da Vinci, Michelangelo, Picasso or Van Gogh?? If someone came to this article to gain some understanding of art, its significance, its historical importance, its impact on our lives today, its value in the future, the importance of supporting art, or other important issues, they would come away with nothing. As written, art is meaningless, since everything is art, why should we support art in schools or in the community. Everyting is art, we are all artists, and therefore we need not worry about art. I don't want to erase some one elses work, so am not changing the article, but would like to suggest that Asian and Martial arts does not warrant its own major section and should be significantly shortened to a sentence or two and included under the section "Types of Art". While I understand that it can be an impossible task to agree on what is and is not art, could we at least agree on a few examples of Historically significant art, and perhaps include a section on "Some Examples of Historically Significant Artwork". Anything that shows that while art can be broadly defined, there are also specific examples of significant art that has touched MANY people over a LONG period of time in a SIGNIFICANT way.

This article needs work...

I completely agree. it doesn't really take advantage of the strengths of wikipedia's strength as a hypertextual encyclopedia. Beyond the obvious (like the article doesn't really talk much about what exactly art has been discussed to be) it doesn't have a link list to the variety of articles about different kinds of art in wikipedia, such as ohh, I dunno - conceptual art or video art f'rinstance. I wil look into working on this over the next few weeks and submit a list of improvements which I'll submit to this talk page. I think one of the more obvious points of departure is to stipulate that there is broad disagreement over what exactly art is, and what its purpose should be, etc. Rather than get into any kind of advocacy subordinate pages can be developed and then linked out to it. I could see the page being something like:


Art in this article is Visual Art and it is discussed by many ( )

'Theories of Art (links):'

  • Marxist theory of art
  • Aristotelean theory of art


Historically, Art has been ( ) and in the past several hundred years these movements ( ):

'Art movements (links):'

  • Impressionism
  • Fauvism
  • Cubism


Ideas communicated in art have been subject to much discussion over the millennia such as ( ) and :

'Ideas about art (links):'

  • Aesthetics
  • Creative Practice
  • Propaganda

There are fields related to Art (some theories of art don't see them as separate) and they frequently cross boundaries and influence each other such as:

'related fields (links):'

  • Graphic Design
  • Calligraphy


anyway: this is the kind of arrangement that I think would be a good start. Art is such a huge field of human endeavour that this page could get out of hand 'really' quickly and exceed file limits. I think that if the article is informative enough to get an idea of what the subject is and has enough links out to intimately related subjects, it will be a good page. Right now, it's just painfully vague and incomplete.

How does that sound?

best to all.


Also: After viewing Definition of art page, it seems that page, with some modification, would make a good page for Art. Too bad it's "Definition of Art". Suggestions?

The future of this page

Wow. Art is such a broad thing, shouldn't this just be a category/disambig page? How can we expect to cram everything about art into one page? It'd be madness. I was going to list all the different styles of art with explanations but that's kind of a futile endeavour, as I'm sure the pages already exist elsewhere. As it stands, this page is totally useless. 01:01, 1 Jul 2004 (UTC)

  • I think the point is not the inherent use of the page, but the fact that people want somethign to read when they search for Art on wikipedia, more than just a list of other topics. Check out my rant at Talk:Definition of art#This page and Art to see what i mean. siroχo 19:50, Jul 19, 2004 (UTC)

Picture: Mondrian?

Is that picture really by Mondrian? It looks... well, crap. And not much like Mondrian. --Camembert

Oh, it's gone. I still don't think it's really Mondrian, but I guess it doesn't matter now. --Camembert
I'd never seen it before...I don't want to use a sort of cliche, but it looked like a little kid's drawing. Most of mondrian's work is very beautiful despite its simplicity. That looked like a crayon drawing :-\ Too obscure to be placed there anyway, that's why I replaced it 04:43, 1 Jul 2004 (UTC)
Well, it's back. I wonder if Dmn can tell is what it is called, from when it dates, and where the picture comes from? Whatever it may be, I'm not really sure it's great for this article (it is indeed at best obscure), but if we have that info, we might at least be able to use it somewhere (the info should, in any case, be on the image page). --Camembert

Well, it's gone again. For the record: I left a note on User:Dmn's talk page asking him to have a look at my queries here, but no response. I'm also going to remove the image form Piet Mondrian pending some evidence that it is actually by him. --Camembert

This page and Definition of art

If you're interested in improving this page, please see my little rant over at Talk:Definition of art#This page and Art siroχo 19:47, Jul 19, 2004 (UTC)

Conflict Draft

Art/Draft -SV 14:11, 2004 Jul 21 (UTC)

I'd like to leave the lists of movements, materials etc in the article as they are in Poetry rather than linking out to them. More like a one-stop-shop- to find anything you want to know about art in the fewest clicks possible. Anyone got an opinion?Bmills 14:27, 21 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Isn't that what Category:Art is for? I guess it would be more useful if it were organized by topic instead of alphabetically, though. On a related note, what is that Art/Draft page SV linked to? -- Merphant 00:37, 22 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Misc questions

  • In ancient Greece, wasn't art combined with math and music and poetry and stuff? There is a page, Greek art (more accurately ancient Greek art that we could link to, although maybe this is best left in the art history section.
Art history needs expanding on in the article, for sure. Bmills 07:42, 22 Jul 2004 (UTC) I note that Art history is in even worse shape that Art is. Bmills 08:20, 22 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  • What about fine arts? The page doesn't mention that at all.
Not sure if it's really relevant. Bmills 07:42, 22 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  • What is that section "Thoughts on Art"? There's a whole page over at Wikiquote devoted to that. The link seems to have gotten lost in the article. The quotes given here seem kind of random, and in the case of the Zappa quote, irrelevant (although there used to be a great Zappa quote about the nature of art (well music actually) over at definition of art). There's another one that I can't remember exactly; it's something like "Art needs a frame; otherwise, 'what's that shit on the wall?'". I'll look them up and add it to wikiquote.
I think the quotes should go completely. Bmills 07:42, 22 Jul 2004 (UTC)

-- Merphant 00:37, 22 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Is not the word art a shortening of the word artifact, which means anything made by man? If so, then should not art come to represent anything made by man, in which case should all things man-made be art or is nothing man-made art? Jaberwocky6669 09:38, Aug 5, 2004 (UTC)

Added the limited geographic scope template to this article. It seems to me that the article takes a very western view of art, and generally fails to discuss things art from other cultural and spiritual perspectives. Overall, I would expect this article to proportionally represent each culture's view of art, whether the culture be current or ancient. So far, it's doing that very badly, though I appreciate that the article has been worked on a lot, and people have been making some effort.

At the very least, I'd expect a fair portion of the article to discuss asian views art, since art has been developing in Asia for at least as long as in the west, with just as much change and debate over its definition, I'm sure. African and Mayan views of art, etc., would also be interesting to see, and very useful for readers seeking a good non-biased intro to what art really is. -- Jel 10:08, 8 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Jel - I applaud your intention to widen out this entry to include other cultural perspectives on art. but somewhat timidly would like to offer the possibility that Art as we are attempting to define it, IS a western categorisation. A compound concept bourne of the rennaisance search for ancient knowledge and subsequently added to by numerous developments that had the effect of raising simple production to a fairly ritualised social and economic construct.

I suggest that where we have artists and have had for at least 400 years most other (non western cultures) have until very recently had artisans. of course in hindsight these people can be approached intelectually as artists but that is simply to see them through our context.

The westerners with art in mind classified the great Japanese woodcut makers as artists, when in japan they were highly sought after producers of goods, tradesmen if you like. As our culture has pervaded so has our definitons and customs, so sure a Yoruba tribesman will happily own up to being an artist (and so he should) but the tradition in which he works does not partake of most of our associations with the word.

Perhaps though if we were to reverse engineer this process and stop investing our search for the definition of 'art' with the mystique of a ritual - in other words view it as just another trade - we might actually get a result. Sure enough there is an awfull lot to say about art, in all of its varied forms, but most of it can be said in the many sub-headings that we all know are just waiting to be filled. the point of this page is not to get hung up on detail but to define the concept and point to its intricacies through related links.

DavidP 04:47, 26 Feb 2005 (UTC)

First paragraph is confusing

The first paragraph is confusing. First, it says that arts excludes those endeavors related to human survival and reproduction. Then, 2 sentences later, it says that art is anything derived from the "creative impulse", including science and religion. This is contradictory for at least 2 reasons: (1) obviously, science is related to human survival; (2) it can be argued that the artistic impulse itself has evolutionary origins ultimately "related to survival". For example, religion is mentioned. While not as obviously related to survival as science, it's not hard to argue how religion also serves such purposes, and even that these developed from evolution. More generally, the artistic "impulse" may be a sophisticated kind of psychological "coping mechanism" that helps man interpret and accept a chaotic world and universe. My point isn't that this must be true; just that it can be argued to be true, and many people have argued as much.

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Having looked at 'visual art' and 'Fine art' and found a fairly sad can of worms, which I attempted to straighten out (please have a look and wiki them) it was a delight to come to this page called 'Art'.

A few small details aside - i think it now does a very fair job of tackling the subject.

The Key point seems to be in its avoidance of dwelling on any specific form too much. we all know that the subject is huge and that the confusion of disciplines and sub categories is torturous, but that is exactly the reason that this page should avoid refering to any singular instance of art, instead it should be the doorway that leads off into music, drama, sculpture, visual arts, black arts, martial arts, and all the rest. once we are at those pages is the time to get more specific. so for this page the distinctions are pitched just about right.

I was especially heartened to see the mention of a need to see art from the perspective of producer, viewer and object. this really is an important step.

I have got one further aspect that is not represented though - I'll try it out on you guys here first. that is art as a therapeutic activity as outlined by donald Kuspit. he states that in addition to art production (technique or disipline) and appreciation(or critique) the very act of creating is of physical and mental benefit. in other words therapeutic. this is a contentious issue because it follows that the quality of the art (an important factor in both production and appreciation) is of little importance to the person in the act of creating. to give an example; a composer uses art to make a fantastic score for a film, we listen to the film score and we get something from it. these are the usual considerations - Kuspit would suggest that when we whistle we may attempt to get the film score right, or we may just make a god awfull noise but the act of making the sound ourselves in full control of the outcome is beneficial.

This sort of begins to fill in the strange survival and reproduction issue. if you take birth and death out of the equation all you are left with is existance, and existance consists almost entirely of experience. so to appreciate that which is other than yourself has the effect of confirming your existance - in a passive, I see it so I'm alive kind of way - but to produce and more than that to feel yourself produce confirms both your existance and your taking part in the world. it is utterly confirming.

that is until someone else says that its rubbish. OK so i mentioned that in a fairly subjective manner but I'd like to know if you think its worth an objective referenced entry.

DavidP 05:26, 26 Feb 2005 (UTC)

tried a bit of copyediting!

Yeah - this article is a nightmare isn't it. Where do you start etc. Oh well, glad someone did anyway. Duncan Smith 15:14, 13 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Classical definition of art

There is a lot of fun argument here about the definition of "art". Part of the fun is the Modern attitude for breaking rules and redefinition.

I think it would be useful to consider the classical definition of art, in the tradition of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, and how Modern art deviates from this standard. Although this is Western philosophy, from what I understand, many of the same ideas are found in other cultures, and in particular in the classical arts and philosophies of East and South Asia.

"Art is the virtue of making things well."

- A virtue is an acquired good habit of an individual person: there may be some inborn gifts, but learning and practice help develop a skill into a habit. In the classical view, the opposite of virtue is vice: a bad habit. So a rank amateur or a cat with paint on its paws can make an aesthetical pleasing object, but this object is not classically called art because it is not a product of someone with the virtue -- or skill and practice -- of art. Due to individual human nature, some people find it easier to be virtuous in some areas than others; but only if this good action become habitual can we call it a virtue -- consistency is key here.

- Art is classified as a practical intellectual virtue, along with prudence, which is the habit of conducting oneself well. The intellectual virtues in general, which also include science, attempt to conform the intellect with truth.

- "Making things well" can apply to both useful or aesthetic items, so we can talk about practical arts or fine arts. The modern tendency has been to only call the fine arts 'art', while the useful arts are reduced to mere craftsmanship, artisanship, or engineering. Classically, even a good athlete can be called an artist; this connection is most clear with the performing arts.

- "A thing well made" has conformity to an objective standard. A drinking cup, for example, is classically well made if it holds liquid without leaking or absorbing the liquid, if it is durable, if it is not made of a poisonous material, if it can be easily drank from, if it rests on a level surface without spilling, and so forth. In other words, a well-made drinking cup conforms to the ideal of what a drinking cup ought to be. A well-made fine arts object, say a painting, conforms to its subject: for example, a painting of a flower should elicit the same aesthetic response that one would have from viewing the flower itself. It is in this sense that art tries to conform to truth: conformity to reality, or conforming to an objective ideal (and don't forget that the ancients considered ideals real also).

- The virtues of Art and Science are virtues only in a restricted sense. We say that someone is a good painter, or a good physicist, but not good in a moral sense, for example, if someone is prudent, just, or temperate, we can say that they are at least somewhat morally good: and the moral virtues build upon each other, but art and science do not build up the moral virtues.

- Beauty is objective, although the perception of it is influenced by our subjective perceptions; good truth-seeking attempts to filter out these subjectivities and find the universals. Classically, we don't say that something is beautiful because we merely perceive it as beautiful; sometimes novelty can influence us, among other factors. Evaluation of beauty requires a certain rationality, in a broad sense, and not emotionalism. As with other moral judgements, the perception of beauty is influenced by objective beauty itself, the circumstances of the perception, and the mental state of the perceiver. Beauty comes from order, symmetry, and scale.

- The purpose of art is "the imitation of nature", which is not to be taken to mean a mere copying of natural objects, but seeing the higher and more perfect forms or ideals embodied or shadowed in these natural objects.

- Beauty exists in mathematics in a very pure form. Music, our most abstract art form, is beautiful if it conforms to certain mathematical forms and ratios found in arithmetic and geometry. Some of these ratios are also cosmic, such as the music of the spheres. These ideal mathematical ratios correspond to certain musical harmonies and scales. Classical architecture also conforms itself to these basic mathematical and musical ratios.

- Truth, goodness, and beauty, are of the same substance, while also paradoxically remaining distinct from each other. Separating one off from the other is considered disordered.

The Modern definition of art -- or perhaps I should say the Postmodern definition -- stands these principles on their head, inverting them in some way in a sense of fun or subversiveness.

- Art is not a virtue.. An outsider without training or influence can do art. Little children can do art. A cat can do art. A computer can do art. Some artists are born brilliant, and make art without any practice or acquired skill. An artist can change his style or medium and immediately produce art.

- Art is doing whatever an artist says is art. The artist conforms to no one but his own will. The more useless an item is, the more artful it is. Making a product for sale is drudgery. If hoi polloi hate the artwork, the better it is. Art is for the approval of the elite or politically conscious.

- There is no objective reality, or objective reality is unknowable, or reality is strictly and uncommensurately relative to the artist. An artist can make a cup that leaks, is made of dung, and is 200 pounds in weight, but the artist can still call it a drinking cup. The artist does not have to conform his work to any kind of reality, and resort to pure abstraction or parody.

- A famous artist is a person worthy of imitation and fame, without regard to his character, and that good art makes the artist good.

- Beauty is subjective. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder". It is claimed that someone may find a dismembered body beautiful: some even have been placed on display as an art exhibit. Emotions are what makes art powerful, especially the emotional reaction of the bourgeois.

- Imitation is to be avoided at all times, except when doing parody. Creativity -- creation of new things out of nothing -- is highly prized.

- Dissonance and noise in music are desired. Geometric randomness in postmodern (not necessarily Postmodern) architecture, especially deconstructionism, take this to an extreme degree.

- "What is truth?" You can make a beautiful film about a bad man; random violence can be beautiful.

The classical definition of art is close to common sense, or to what the non-Modern-art-educated person on the street would think. Imagine a a guy in overalls from Peoria in a Modern art museum, and his reaction to the artwork there: "My six year old kid could do better." "This is junk." "They call that art?" "This is ugly." "What is this supposed to be?" These reactions stem from having a classical conception of art. The Modern inversion of the classical standard of art was a self-conscious attempt to subvert the meaning of the word 'art', in a revolutionary gesture of visual violence against the old world order. I think that this may be a reason why it is so hard to define art nowadays: we are trying to define it on its own apparent terms instead of seeing it in terms of what it is defying. marcusscotus

Non-Western Classical Art

Random notes on other Classical art traditions. The 'Art' article is labled as 'culturally-biased', so perhaps these little ideas could be useful.


In Chinese Classical painting, what is to be captured by the artist is 'truth of natural forms' or 'spiritual essence', which is parallel to the Western concept of 'ideals' or 'forms'.

Poetry, calligraphy and painting are the ‘three perfections’ of the scholar-artist. Painting and calligraphy are strongly linked skills.

Three ranks of painting: spiritual, marvelous, and competent.

"Form-likeness", or conformity to visual reality, increases an image's spiritual likeness.

Chinese Classical arts affect change in society not through technology or novelty, but by resurrecting ancient truths.

Ancient arts should not become outmoded, while modern arts should not become decadent.

Classical Chinese arts are not purely secular.

A story: A Chinese emperor commissioned a famous artists to paint him a picture of a fish. The artist delayed giving the emperor his painting; he always said that it wasn't ready yet. After a year, the impatient Emperor went to the artist, demanding his painting. The artist sat on the floor with a paintbrush and paper, and with one motion of his hand, painted a masterpiece fish. The Emperor, angry, demanded why the artist delayed giving him his painting. The artist, silently, opened a closet door, and thousands of paintings of fish fell to the floor.

Types of landscapes: places to see, places to play in, places to live in, and heavenly places.

good stuff yes, but what you are refering to here is mainly pertinent to painting, a branch of the visual arts that has its own page (yes even caligraphy and to some extent poetry in the context you discribe). More to the point this is expressed in some very wooly phrases.
another classical chinese art form is ceramics, and its preoccupation with glazes is more akin to chemistry as we know it, the intention of the ceramicist being expresion of a mood - so you see art is not just about representation. however this page is about art, there is perhaps a need to cover spiruality as an issue (in fact in reference to kandinsky it is almost essential) but it would help greatly if we could just manage to come up with a scheme that would allow for the subject 'art' to be described in ALL of the other contexts with which it is associated. for instance.
  • Art as a spiritual exercise - both the doing and the viewing
  • art as an educational activity
  • art as a therapeutic intervention
  • art as a economic industry
  • art as a practice
  • art as an historical study - art history, anthropology, ethnology etc
  • art as a pholosophical study - art theory, philosophy of art, etc
  • art as a political instrument - early soviet policies, american government funding, iconoclasm, etc
  • art as a cultural imperative - elgin marbles, national association with various styles and movements
Of course there is a pressing need to relate all cultural outlooks to this subject, unfortunately just adding a list of nations and some isolated anecdotes wont begin to do justice to this universal phenomenon.  :DavidP 23:16, 22 October 2005 (UTC)


Islamic art is nonrepresentational; only God is beautiful, and this beauty is shown abstractly using signs. Beauty is in the form, not the representation.

In Islamic art in general, and architecture in particular, beauty and utility are both inseparable. Ugliness is uselessness.

Art should reflect the cosmic poetry, the logos of God in His creation of the world.

again what is it about representation that is pertinent to art in its broader context? wether a work is caligraphic or mathematical as in abstract islamic deoration - it is still art. In the case of the common islamic patterns, beauty is not even in the form, as they are direct codifications of the chapter numbers of the koran - so perhaps to say that 'classical islamic art was used as a method of illustrating gods work on earth' may have some relevance for antiquarian interests, it really doesnt help to shed any light on the works of Beirut film makers or the practice of artists such as Mona Hatoum.
One final point. to say that Islamic art is nonrepresentational is, to put it mildly, a load of codswallop. It is true to say that fundamentalists proscribe the representation of humans and animals, but flowers and plants are valid subjects. But alongside this you should bear in mind that this stance is in the minority over the entire period of Islamic doctrine, just take a look at mughal painting, persian miniatures and of course the large output of contemporary Islamic artists. :DavidP 23:42, 22 October 2005 (UTC)


Indian art is rich in symbolism and allegory. Mystical and mythic associations enhance the beauty of an artwork.

Indian art needs to be seen in a spiritual light, emotions and intellect are insufficient for appreciating it.

An artist attempts to infuse his artwork with Rasa, the spirit or essence of the work. The art patron strives to detect the Rasa. Parts of Rasa are mood, determinants, consequents, and complementary emotional states, enduring emotional state, and involuntary bodily emotions. The kinds of Rasa are erotic, comic, pathetic, furious, heroic, terrible, odious, marvelous, and quiescent. Rasa is not made, it is bestowed.

Traditional artists of India of emphasize aesthetics, which to them is a state of heightened awareness and empathic bliss, of a spiritual kind, beyond pleasure.

Dance, drama, and music are classically a single artform.

Classical Indian arts are inseparable from religion.

which religion would that be then? Hindi, Sihk, Islamic, Bhudist, Christian, Ba'hai, Jain, Zoroastrians, Jews? Rasa is an Hindu concept associated with Krishna, is this the right page for it?
 :DavidP 23:52, 22 October 2005 (UTC)


The classical art traditions of these cultures has strong parallels with Western tradition, which I don't find surprising. marcusscotus

marcusscotus, these are wonderful ideas! And the article sure could use them. >>sparkit|TALK<< 18:47, August 6, 2005 (UTC)

Conclusions and new directions

Looking back on the two years of above comments -- if there is consensus on anything about this topic, it is that it's impossible to have one.

At the very beginning, Branko wrote:

" if there is one thing that is clear on this subject, it is that there is no single way to characterize art that everyone will be willing to agree upon."

Camembert concurred with:

"The point is that we can't give a single definition, because people just can't agree on one. ".


" taught a seminar last spring in which we never came to a less than 20 minute definition of Art, I'm not sure I'm up to it! I rather like the 'short takes' as a cumulative non-definition"

So -- I'm inclined to agree with DavidP that:

"there is an awfull lot to say about art, in all of its varied forms, but most of it can be said in the many sub-headings that we all know are just waiting to be filled. the point of this page is not to get hung up on detail but to define the concept and point to its intricacies through related links."

In defining that concept, I think marcusscotus has pointed in a useful direction:

" I think that this may be a reason why it is so hard to define art nowadays: we are trying to define it on its own apparent terms instead of seeing it in terms of what it is defying."

This would concur with DavidP who "somewhat timidly" suggested that:

" Art as we are attempting to define it, IS a western categorisation.

I suspect that DavidP is being timid here because he wishes to be respectful towards the great arts and cultures of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, etc. It appears from his discussion that he has studied and admired them --- so he still wants to say that art is a "universal phenomenon."

But I think that, encouaged by Wikipedia's prime directive to "be bold", we should recognize that even though every culture has cultivated various arts -- and even though many of us respond very strongly and positively to things from cultures not our own --- STILL -- a concept of art that would encompass all of them is a " western categorisation" that emerged less than 300 years ago -- and as our Classical scholar, Marcuscotus has suggested, it is best understood for what it defies.

Hence -- the following paragraph that I offer as the entrance door into Wikipedia's entry for "art"  :

Art is an open-ended category of distinction, with its roots in European Romanticism, that accompanied the global growth of a secular, industrialized, urbanized world. It may be applied to things or performances and the distinction extends to those who made or found them. There are no necessary or sufficient criteria for the items chosen other than the necessity of originality, although the choice is independant of original intention and use. It is a category that seeks diversity and a narrative (art history) of liberation and exploration.

Since this notion is specific to a time and place -- I would also suggest that the time may come when it will be abandoned (except by die-hards) -- i.e. "art" will be dead.

A possible re- structure for this entry might be as follows:

  • a section on the history of European collections of non-European art and the art theories that accompanied them
  • The humanism of the Hellenistic period -- the development of secular arts.
  • Rome as a polyglot culture - tolerating the various arts and practices of the subject peoples - maybe even encouraging that variety by allowing them to import their practice to the capital city.
  • Revival of Hellenistic culture in 15th Century western Europe.
  • Revival of secular political ( Roman republican ) values in 17th and 18th Century Europe (and colonies).
  • the romantic movement - emphasis on exoticism, personal vision,variety,human nature -- the concept of a human nature that is beyond human cultures.
  • Inclusion of ancient and non-European artifacts in art museums - Beginning with Egyptian sculpture into the British museum, 1760, -continuing with establishment of public Asian collections 1870.
  • Development of the avante garde- beginning 1863- the

explicit attempt to make art that is not yet recognized as such.

  • a section that would invite many contributors -- perhaps through unedited outside links --to display the diversity of art notions being presented by living artists and those who collect them -- including those who pursue non-European traditions
(and let there be a full diversity of opinion regarding "Defining art" and "Forms of art" -- currently presented in Wikipedia's Section 2 -- each developed by its own advocates -- instead of pretending that there can be consensus on any of these issues)
--Mountshang 14:24, 10 November 2005 (UTC)

Art - does it need a bit of disambig?

The page 'art' is begining to look better, but it is almost exclusively focused on a single definition of the word. There are others that perhaps should be disambiguated before the first paragraph here.

(The OED is a useful source here as it also gives dates of first recorded usage in English). it records art as steming from latin 'ar' - to put together, join, fit.

1 Art: Skill as a result of knowledge and practise.
2 Art: Human skill as opposed to nature
3 Art: the learning of the classical schools also known as the trivium: Grammar, logic and rhetoric. (first use 1573)
4 Art: Technical or professional skill, ie artful (first use 1588)
5 Art: perfection of workmanship or execution as an object in itself (first use 1620)
6 Art: skill applied to the arts of imitation and design (first use 1668)

This list shows that our efforts here are mainly aimed at the last definition. It is probably the most common form of use, but the 3rd 4th and 5th really should be represented on this page without reference to the visual arts.

the list also helps to clarify some of the seemingly irreconsilable misconstructions that are common on this page. martial arts for instance make sense when seen in the sense of perfection of execution, but make a horrible mess when we try to shoehorn it into our (visual art or even arts)biased text. DavidP 16:54, 12 November 2005 (UTC)

The changes I've made today are as follows:

  1. a new opening paragraph -indicating art as an historical concept rather than a category concerning which there is any consensus.
  2. a section on the history of the concept --it's foundations in the classical tradition -- then it's development over the past 200 years
  3. a section on the relevant issues of today -which is an (unedited) copy of what was already on the Wikipedia page. Nothing was added -- nothing was removed (except for the opening paragraph)
  4. all the other sections also remain unchanged --except that I moved the reference to martial arts from the end of the article to the beginning.

I think the value of this page -- and the value of Wikipedia in general -- is as a handy reference center for a subject -- so I'd like to see this page grow with links to outside sites and a bibliography attached to EACH topic of discussion.

--Mountshang 16:34, 16 November 2005 (UTC)

edits made in first paragraph


When accompanied by a specific purpose, art is a supposedly superior way of cultivating knowledge and skill in order of entertaining that goal.

be replaced by:

When accompanied by a specific purpose, art is a demonstrably superior way of fulfilling it with the cultivation of specific knowledge and skills.

(since a claim that X is an art implies that it can be demonstrated (not just 'supposed') that it 'fulfills' (not just entertains) a certain goal - even if the preference for that goal is assumed.)

Could the following be eliminated ?:

Interpersonal communication is the implied purpose when no other is specified

(since I'm doubting this is accurate. For example, if someone says about an unknown person,"She's a real artist", all that you know is that she's really good at doing SOMETHING -- which may or may not involve interpersonal communication) Mountshang 14:17, 5 December 2005 (UTC)

Major Overhaul

Just gave the page a major overhaul - what was with all the empty titles and the bullet points? Surely an encyclopedia entry must make at least some nod towards conventional prose? I've removed several exclusionary statements from the intro (such as 'necessary or sufficient criteria for the items chosen other than the necessity of originality'), and some bizarre categorisations ('european' and 'non-european' - am odd distinction for a language elsewhere described as universal). The extension of art does not extend to those who make, find, exhibit or own them. Since when is the owner of art also art?

Art did not come about in Romatic Europe - cave paintings are unarguably art, and are millenia in age. This introduction was far, far too restrictive.

This article needs a hell of a lot of work. Perhaps some talk of theories in art. The difficulty is in keeping it elastic enough to cover the creative process in general, and still able to cover the basics of the various forms of art. Perhaps some could put in some important theories of art? I've started with Plato and Aristotle, anyone else help out?

Visual Error 22:37, 6 December 2005 (UTC)

Discussion of Visual Error's new version

VE's major overhaul renews the (hopeless) quest for establishing a non-specific (without modifiers like martial/medical/financial/etc) notion of art as a human activity that is both distinct (from non-art) and universal (applicable accross time and culture)

I call it hopeless because it has failed so many times --not just on Wikipedia -- but in the greater world of scholarship as well. There just is no current consensus on this topic -- the closest thing perhaps being the wide respect given to Danto (the "end of art") or Dickie (the institutional definition)

Can perception and judgement be objective ? VE dances around this question. He writes "Perception is always colored by experience, so a reaction to art as 'ugly' or 'beautiful' is necessarily subjective." -- and -- " It is this use of the word (judgement )as a measure of high quality and high value that gives the term its flavor of subjectivity."

Is VE suggesting that perception can be basically objective even if it's 'colored by experience' -- or that judgements can be objective even though they have a "flavor of subjectivity" ?

But eventually he concludes that " 'art' offers no true definition besides those based within the cultural, historical and geographical context in which it is applied"

This is the observation on which my approach was based --and that's why I proposed that the Wikipedia entry on art examine the history of the concept of art -- rather than try to made some muddled list of "generally accepted characteristics"

And muddled, VE's discussion certainly is. (although I think he's done as good a job as anyone could do)

Look what happens, for example, when he applies his discussion to a specific work of art:

"(art) encourages an intuitive understanding rather than a rational understanding, as, for example, with an article in a scientific journal; was created with the intention of evoking such an understanding, or an attempt at such an understanding, in the audience;elusive, in that the work may communicate on many different levels of appreciation; one may take the example of Gericault's Raft of the Medusa, in the case of which special knowledge concerning the shipwreck the painting depicts is not a prerequisite to appreciating it, but allows the appreciation of Gericault's political intentions in the piece; in relation to the above, the piece may offer itself to many different interpretations, or, though it superficially depicts a mundane event or object, invites reflection upon elevated themes; demonstrates a high level of ability or fluency within a medium; this characteristic might be considered a point of contention, since many modern artists (most notably, conceptual artists) do not themselves create the works they conceive, or do not even create the work in a conventional, demonstrative sense (one might think of Tracey Emin's controversial My Bed); the conferral of a particularly appealing or aesthetically satisfying structure or form upon an original set of unrelated, passive constituents.

If "Raft of the Medusa" is open to many interpretations, then how do we know whether it has fulfilled its purpose ? (earlier VE had written: "Essentially, the creative arts denote a collection of disciplines whose principle purpose (some might require it to be the sole purpose) is in the output of material that will cultivate certain moods or thoughts in the viewer")

If even its "high level of ability or fluency within a medium" may be considered irrelevant to its status as art --- then what's left ? Why can "Raft of the Medusa" be considered an example of art other of course, than for the observation that it's in a world famous "art" museum.

Concerning the page that I presented, I agree with VE that "an encyclopedia entry must make at least some nod towards conventional prose" -- and -- I was hoping that others, or eventually myself, would fill in text within all those " empty titles and the bullet points?" Like VE, I consider the page a work in progress, that " needs a hell of a lot of work"

But I would hold to the following:

  • Originality as a necessary condition. VE wrote that: "Art explores both human emotions and ways to arouse them — and good art brings something new and original in either of these two respects." -- and I would add that lots of non-art things explore and arouse human emotions, but without the recognition of some kind of originality, art has not been recognized as such.
  • European/non-European as a non-bizarre categorization. A fuller response could be given -- but wouldn't it suffice to mention the ubiquity of textbooks and classes on the topic of "Western civilization" ? (while admitting than some areas of Europe are marginally involved in that civilization -- specifically Russian until Peter the Great and the Balkans until 1900)
  • I did not claim that those who own art are art -- but rather that the distinction of the one also distinguishes the other (in both directions, come to think of it)
  • Cave paintings ARE arguably non-art ---- and even if there are a few that became widely accepted after 1900 as such --- there is no evidence that they were considered anything like art back when they were made ---or for the many millenia that followed. Most civilizations have no respect for things made by earlier or other peoples -- unless they respect the earlier people as their ancestors. (so Ming dynasty Chinese would collect and cherish pre-Han bronzes -- while the Spanish melted down tons of incredible Inca sculptures to recycle the gold)

In conclusion -- I think VE is leading us back down the same-old-blind-alley. As someone wrote earlier in this discussion, nobody is going to visit a page in Wikipedia to be told what art is --- but ---- someone might visit to discover a really useful, organized bibliography on the history of the idea of art and its contemporary variants.

If time were important here, I'd like revert away from VE's approach --- but since we do have all the time in the world --- let's keep VE's page up there and give it, hopefully, a more thorough critique than he gave mine.

Mountshang 16:56, 7 December 2005 (UTC)

Apologies, but I didn't write a great deal of the article you find offensive. My greatest difficulty with the page as it was wasn't so much what it said, but the way it was laid out. There were countless empty titles fulfilling no purpose I could see. What language there was seemed un-encyclopediac and laden with poor phraseology - I found the phrase 'anthropological prospective', which can hardly be considered good, clear, well-used English. At the time, I didn't think this could be a framework to be filled, but some misguided edits. I see I was wrong now, but I do think that such empty titles, even if they are to be filled with content, should be avoided.
But anyway, I've wandered off point. But I didn't write much of that content that you find lacking - I don't think I can even be given credit for the bits you suggest holding on to, unfortunately - I merely altered and adapted the language of their expression. Of course, it's difficult in a discussion like this to identify exactly who is responsible for what, and changing language certainly alters meaning, but I think it's unfair to criticise my apparent opinions without ascertaining if they are my opinions. With the edits I did make my intention was to move to something more general in defining art - this is, of course, an extremely difficult thing to do (rapidly found myuself wandering into a mire of generalities and unable to get out, like a Sherlock Holmes villain...)
I still happen to think the article needs a great deal of work, and that we need some more experts in the field (which I certainly am not) to donate content. Though I grant you my overhaul wasn't earth-shattering, I hope it's a small step forward from what it was.
It seems I also owe you an apology, Mountshang. I didn't realise that you had hoped to fill in the bullet points gradually - it seemed bizarre that an article should be so bare of content and so full of titles (which, in themselves, weren't bad titles - part of my frustration derived from the fact that they were very good titles, but alone). I'm sorry I didn't take more time to try and figure out what the intention was, and it seems I've misunderstood your expressions at several points. But in any case, isn't there any mechnism in place whereby potential edits can be stored but without necessitating blank titles in the main article? A suggestions page, as it were. That way time could be taken, as you intended, to buildup content carefully, without having a detrimental affect on the main article.
Anyway, it seems I should learn to temper my drive to edit,edit,edit. If there's anything I can do to help a more concerted effort, I'd be glad to; it seems we both agree this is a work in progress.
Visual Error 11:18, 8 December 2005 (UTC)

A Proposal regarding this discussion page

Thankyou for your generous reply, VE.

We both agree that the page for "Art" is a work-in-progress ---- needs a lot of work -- and I'm guessing that it will be constantly (and properly) revised for as long as Wikipedia lasts on the internet.

We can also agree that my previous entry was too rough / too unfinished for publication -- so I have no problem with you replacing it --- but I do have a problem with the text that replaced it.

If I understand you correctly, most of that text was written by someone else and you don't necessarily agree with it. So could I ask you to remove those parts which you do not find acceptable -- and then we can begin to discuss those parts with which you do agree ?

And --- might we consider fundamentally changing how we use this discussion page ?

Under current usage --- it seems to be a ongoing chronicle of every opinion that was ever sent to it.

Could we transform -- and structure -- it into a forum of on-going issues ?

The current contents will ( as always) be saved in the History archive -- and a link could be put on the new page to send newcomers who want to look at it.

Then we might structure an ongoing discussion page as follows:

== Discussion of the Introductory paragraphs ==
(a topic that interests all of us)
==Discussion of Current generally accepted characteristics of art==
(a topic that interests you and many others)
==Discussion of the History of the Idea of art==
(a topic that interests me -- and hopefully a few others)

As parts of these discussions lead to acceptable text -- they could be transferred to the Article page.

Then periodically -- maybe twice a year ? -- the whole discussion page would be sent to History -- a link put on the replacement page so new people can find it -- and a new structure for discussion created fit for whoever is currently working on the topic.

Is there any other topic in Wikipedia as contentious as "Art" ?

Is any other article vandalized daily by some teenage prankster who replaces it with acronyms ? Is there any other topic as vast -- since, unlike poetry or music -- we have things that some of us call art that span 40,000 years from thousands of different cultures. What are the limits of expertise on this topic ? How much can one person see ? How much can one person know ? Even those who are acknowledged to be experts in specific artists or genres can only be trusted on a limited range of questions, mostly concerning identification or monetary value. Questions that concern meaning or other kinds of value (other than monetary) seem to defy expertise by defying consensus. We certainly do have people who have been vetted as experts -- and they staff art museums and universities -- but what is the real extent of their expertise when fashions in opinion change so rapidly ? Or if -- as some experts say -- art is dead or art is institutionally determined -- what kind of expertise is possible at all ?

So I don't think we need to wait for experts to appear --we just need to present a structure so that people who know something/anything can contribute what they can. Mountshang 17:19, 8 December 2005 (UTC)


There has been a page called "Arts" around for a while. It purports to be a disambiguation page, but it spends most of its space trying to define "Art". The whole singular plural thing is ridiculous. After the merge, "Arts" will be a redirect to "Art". -- fairplay 05:54, 19 December 2005 (UTC)

Please just pick up the content from the history of "Arts". This one is obvious. It is now a redirect. I also copied in the verbiage from the "Art" Category. We need ONE definition of "Art" and this is the page for that definition. ONE disambig page for Art and redirects for all the plural and variations of the word Art. Again, review the old versions to pick up any content of value. -- fairplay 06:07, 19 December 2005 (UTC)
There is a difference between the terms; art is more often used to describe painting/drawing etc. while 'arts' is often used to mean the broader meaning with language, music etc. Technically they are the same thing, but in popular usage the meaning is different I think. And at universities a "degree in arts" usually means a general degree with history etc. but a "degree in art" implies art school. To make the old 'arts' page easier to find - here it is -- Cfitzart 08:45, 19 December 2005 (UTC)

Major problems in opening paragraphs

  1. art museums are full of things that WERE driven by vocation -- often the vocation of priest or ruler -- and there's plenty of things that are connectable to the sex drive (see Paglia's "Sexual Personae")
  2. there's very little in art musuems -- especially prior to 1800 -- that could be reasonably said to have the "principal purpose (or sole purpose) ..compelled by a personal drive —untainted by materialist, or wanton concerns"

I hope that whoever introduced these ideas will reconsider them.

(and meanwhile -- I really wonder whether anything in the article after the section on etymology is worth keeping. Why should anyone care what Wikipedia presents as the general characteristics of art ?) Mountshang 02:10, 21 December 2005 (UTC)

Yes the materialist thing should be removed - art can be a job not just 'personal drive'. I removed "compelled by a personal drive —untainted by materialist, or wanton concerns" Cfitzart 03:28, 21 December 2005 (UTC)

But there are still problems:

Art does not just refer to "the act and process of making material works" The word began by referring to the process of doing anything that required some skill and knowledge. (as in "art of love")In more recent times, it has come to refer to a special class of preferred things .(as in "this is a piece of art")

and yes, many of the things called art probably were driven by necessity and related to biological drive.

Mountshang 22:13, 22 December 2005 (UTC)

I've removed the first paragraphs (after no response was given to the problems that I indicated) -- and have replaced it with an attempt to locate the concept of art historically and to account for all the things (both historical and current) to which it may now be applied.

We have to focus on how the word has been applied rather than on how we might wish to apply it.

Mountshang 16:16, 28 December 2005 (UTC)

Questions in Etymology

Can anyone cite a use of "ars" in Latin literature where it refers to an arrangement that is random, has no identifiable purpose, and does not require some specific knowledge or skill ?

Is anyone aware of "ars" referring to a deliberate arrangement by nature (rather than by human or divine agency) ? (as the word "tao" in Mandarin may refer to all three)

Mountshang 16:28, 28 December 2005 (UTC)