What Is Art

Science describes things as they are; art, how they feel, how they feel they are. ” Fernando Pessoa

There are countless possibilities for defining art. There is no way to limit them to a certain style or taste. Conceptual variations were attributed in time and space.

The word derives from the Latin ars, artis , which means way of being or acting, profession, natural or acquired skill, and, in Greco-Roman culture, it had the sense of craft, skill. In this conception, art was linked to the purpose of doing, that is, it was conceived based on an executive and manual aspect.

Art was also and is seen by some as knowledge, vision or contemplation. In this case, the external aspect of art, the created object, is placed in the background and it is granted a sense of vision of reality, that is, a portrait of ways of knowing.

The third definition states that art is expression. This vision, which is the result of Romanticism in particular, defines art based on its externalized elements in the motives that make it alive, that is, it aligns the forms of the created artistic object with the feelings that animate and arouse it.

Certainly all of these conceptions of art have their meaning and value. Art is, par excellence, the place of knowledge, creation and expression. In short, art as a doing, art as knowledge and art as expression.

The definition of art can vary according to a given cultural context, that is, the existence, or not, of a process that leads to the creation of a beautiful object, with all its theoretical, personal and social implications, consequences of appreciating beauty as an essential part of the result. But it is also possible to qualify as objects or creative processes from other eras or civilizations as art, a judgment made outside the concrete evaluation it had for its author or for the society to which he belonged. The mere later aesthetic appreciation of this object or process was already sufficient to be entitled as art. Such qualification is what makes it possible today to call prehistoric works of art, in other times considered primitive.

We list some definitions for Art:

  • Human creation of aesthetic values ​​(beauty, balance, harmony, revolt, etc.) that synthesize your emotions, your history, your feelings and your culture;
  • Man’s ability to create and express himself, transmitting ideas, sensations and feelings through the manipulation of diverse materials and means;
  • Human activity linked to aesthetic manifestations, made by artists from perception, emotions and ideas, with the aim of stimulating this interest of conscience in one or more spectators, and each work of art has a unique and different meaning;
  • Reflection of the human being who often represent his social-historical condition and his essence of being a thinker;
  • Ability or disposition directed towards the execution of a practical or theoretical purpose, carried out in a conscious, controlled and rational way;
  • Composed of means and procedures carried out by man, through which it is possible to obtain practical purposes or the production of objects; technique to create something;
  • Set of works from a certain historical period, nation, peoples, artistic movement, for example, Medieval Art, African Art, Realistic Art, etc.

Humanity creates objects to satisfy its practical needs – utilitarian art; as a way of life so that the world knows what it thinks; to publicize your beliefs (or those of others); to stimulate and distract yourself and others; and to explore new ways of looking at and interpreting objects and scenes.

Ernest Gombrich, a famous art historian, said that there is really nothing that can be called art. There are only artists. Art is a type of cultural phenomenon. Absolute rules about art do not survive time, but each time, different groups (or each individual) choose how they understand this phenomenon. Art historians seek to determine periods that employ a certain aesthetic style, calling them artistic movements.

Art registers ideas and ideologies of cultures and ethnicities, so it becomes fundamental for understanding the history of humanity and the world. Artistic forms can extrapolate reality, exaggerate accepted things or simply create new ways of observing reality.

One of the characteristics of art is the difficulty in making it useful. Often this difficulty in finding immediate use for art masks prejudices against art and artists. As a human cultural manifestation, it can be used for social cohesion, reaffirming values ​​or, on the contrary, criticizing them.

Art has a transcendent function, that is, ink stains on a canvas or words written on a paper symbolize states of human consciousness, encompassing perception, emotion and reason. Art can bring clues about the life, history and customs of a people, of a time, including those already extinct. Thus, we know various civilizations through their art.


Art is linked to aesthetics, because it is considered a faculty or act by which, working on a material, image or sound, man creates beauty by striving to give expression to the material or immaterial world that inspires him.

The artwork instigates reflection and the senses. There is a part of Philosophy, called Aesthetics, which deals with thinking about art and beauty. The word aesthetic comes from the Greek aesthetiká , that is, things perceived by the senses, by the sensations. This would be the part of Philosophy dedicated to understanding the effects of the sensations provoked by art.


When a work of art is contemplated, an interaction occurs, experimenting in this relationship with different aesthetics, feelings and perceptions. To appreciate a picture painted in a traditional way, that is, with paint on canvas, for example, is to immerse yourself in an experience of the senses.

The beautiful is not necessarily the created object, but the result of art, that is, the encounter with the sensations that the work provides to those who observe it. This is because, even if an object created is not considered beautiful, in the traditionally conceived way – with perfect shapes and harmonic proportions – the artistic experience will always be an experience with the beautiful, as the contact with the work will provide a contact with the elements of the sensitive.


Art history consists of a science that studies artistic movements, changes in aesthetic valorization, works of art and artists. This analysis is done according to the social, political and religious aspects of the time that is studied. Several other sciences serve as an aid to art history, such as numismatics, paleography, history, archeology, psychology, sociology, etc.

Through the history of art it is possible to learn about the human being through the evolution of its diverse expressions and artistic manifestations.

Art transforms our way of thinking and understanding the world, because it makes us rethink our sociocultural and artistic positions. It seeks the analysis of art objects in historical paths, because in some way art interferes in society and, at the same time, receives influences from the environment in which it is inserted.

Studying art history means understanding and reflecting on the main currents of art criticism, the study of artistic objects, seeking art in the man-world relationship, thinking and analyzing the cultural-artistic and aesthetic moments of different times and societies, creating this forms significant knowledge about humanity.


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