ENGL 328: Art

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The human expression of creativity in an aesthetic form. It can be in different forms such as music, paintings, movies, and sculpture. It is not limited to a specific form however.

It is also the process of creating certain works that could be perceived as art.

Any piece of written, oral, musical, or visual work that expresses an individual, group, society, or culture. Other forms of the word-"artistic," "artist," "artifact."

One of the many definitions from Merriam-Webster's dictionary for art is that art is a skill acquired by experience, study or observation <the art of making friends> art

Oxford English Dictionary Definition

The Oxford English Dictionary traces the usage of the noun "art" back to 1225. Then, it was used in reference to a skill that had been acquired with practice or knowledge. In the earlier centuries, the word was used in relation to religion, as it is present in Acts (a New Testement book written by St. Luke), and also used by Saint Margaret, and in various proverbs. Additioanlly, the word "art" pertains to human workmanship, and is set in opposition to nature, because it occurs under the manipulations of human skill and practice rather than inherently. For example, Sir T. Browne, in 1643, wrote that, "Now nature is not at variance with art, nor art with nature: they being both the servants of his providence. Art is the perfecttion of Nature..Nature hath made one World, and Art another."

Implications of the Term

The word "art" implies imitation, as art is usually created in imitation of nature, or other pieces of literature, music, movies, etc. An example from Samuel Johnson's The Major Works states that "the chief business of art is to copy nature" (291). Art also has a positive connotation, and when one thinks of "art," beauty is usually a term that follows it.

I googled the word "Art" to see what the first images were that came up and this is what I found. art

Art as an Imitation of Human Nature

Art is usually always portrayed exclusively as a human endeavor. Everything that was created by nature is not art, but may be perceived as art through human senses. That may be why so many people have said that art should imitate nature. Additionally, because art usually portrays a human sentiment, people, or nature perceived by humans, it can be said that art imiates human nature because it depends on the way a particular person perceives an aspect of the world.

Johnson speaks of art as being something that not everyone has the ability to produce, but that everyone can learn to appreciate it. It is sort of a hierarchy and if you cannot produce art you must give credit to those who can. On page 177 Johnson also mentions art is for educating people. So those that have the ability to produce art must teach those who do not. Additionally, Johnson views art as a process of development. To him, art is never finished, and is not stagnant. One must continually hone their skills, and learn to control them in order to produce the clearest imitations possible. He emphasizes this when he argues that the “great art is the art of blotting,” meaning that all literary pieces should be revised, the presentation should be clear, and that unnecessary components should be removed, or “blotted” (Johnson 291). Here, the tension between the necessity of nature in order to produce art is evident, because nature is hardly seen as controllable or perfect, and yet Johnson believes that one should be able to manipulate it.

Beauty is a form of Art according to Burke. In "A Philosophical into the Sublime and the Beautiful," he says, "It is my design to consider beauty as distinguished from the sublime...by beauty I mean that quality or those qualities in bodies, by which they cause love, or some passion similar to it." (75)

Requirements to be Considered "Art"

Additionally, art is tied with aesthetics, which implies that in order for something to be considered art, it must adhere to a prescribed set of values, usually having to do with particular critics' perceptions and judgments.

What is considered art changes from one person to another. There are many debates over what some may see as art. What is art is simply a matter of perception of one individual, or to say it another way, "art is in the eye of the beholder.". It should be noted that art is not determined by the artist but by the person who perceives it to be art. The artist can only create it based on his or her emotions. It is the emotions of the observer that will determine if it is art even though it can be argued that the artist is an observer as well.

Folk art is art of a particular community or nation, usually small in size. Folk art has the connotation of being less than high art. This may have came about as different cultures that were otherwise unknown, came in the mainstream and high culture needed to separate folk art from their traditional exclusive view of art. This may also begin to explain the term “modern art”. Modern may be used to distinguish between the old, exclusive values of art and the new more general and open values of art.

Art could be considered something of pure aesthetic value and have no other value of its own. A painting that is considered a masterpiece of art has no other purpose but to sit there and be pretty. If something is useful and beautiful it can be considered art but that object could lose its usefulness and still be considered art. An example of this may be a nice car which is beautiful and can serve as a means of conveyance, but its usefulness and beauty are independent of each other.

Things that are part of one's daily life can be considered art: Your clothes, your shoes, your dresser, your car, etc. These are usually overlooked, but someone had to design it at some point. 'Design' is art.

Art can also be the way literature appears on the pages in the books we read. The fonts, the page layouts and the structure of the sentences or phrases is a form of art. It essentially is the art of the author's.

Art will always have an artist, and there are many kinds. artist

Art as an Indicator of Social Class

Within the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, art is seen as a refined skill. Marianne and Elinor are both instructed in the "female arts" of drawing, painting, singing, dance, and music. There is the prevalent idea that one must possess a certain "sensibility" and education in order to appreciate art, and one can only gain access to the arts if one is of a privileged class. For instance, on page 36, Marianne, a member of the upper classes in Britain, "was discovered to be musical, and she was invited to play..." Here, her skills are put on display, and so the idea of art as a form of entertainment and human connection, is exemplified.

Art as a Movement

Lyrical Ballads provides a clear example of romanticism and its sentiments. Romanticism plays on feeling and intuition, and focuses on returning man to a state of nature where he could live a more pure life. In the poem, "Old Man Traveling" on page 103, the idea that a return to nature will lead to the perfect and fulfilling sense of peace is evident: "He is by nature led/To peace so perfect, that the young behold/With envy..." Here, one can see that Wordsworth rejects the idea of industrialization. Wordsworth wrote in the common vernacular that appears uncluttered and more pure because it is accessible to all.


There is a connection between art and emotion. What one person deems to be art will bring out a certain emotion of that person. This is where much of the subjective nature of art derives from. Art will make a certain person think or feel in a particular way while it may evoke an opposite reaction in another person.

Edmund Burke describes art as something more than just a picture. It is the idea of affecting one's emotion with a verbal description rather than just presenting a clear idea through a drawing or painting.

“Human” is an interesting cluster word that goes along with art. Art has been discussed throughout this site as a human concept. To be art something has to be either perceived as art or created to be art by a person.

Many times the word art is used in a context that suggests it to be the opposite of science. It gives the word art yet another way to be considered subjective and personal. It is not precise like science. Hence the saying, “Its more of an art than a science.” What does this phrase say about the word art? It may mean that it is a philosophical concept and not determinable by reason. There seems to be an implication that art is not something that is precise. Art is not always accurate, exact, or definite. Art, as a concept, is ambiguous.

There is also a cluster with the word "nature," because art usually imitates an aspect of human nature, and Samuel Johnson affirms this when he states that " it is justly considered as the greatest excellency of art to imitate nature" (177). When Johnson refers to "nature," he is referencing "human nature."

Not to overuse google but I found a ton of clusters with the word "art" on google. art clusters

Art can ignite "passion," which can be a powerful sense of emotion; Passion can take place before, during, and after Art is produced or presented in nature.

Additionally, when one produces or criticizes art, one must have a particular "sensibility," and so having a particular part of knowledge, or education, plays into that sensibility.

Another cluster word for art is technology. There is a relationship between technology and the way art has gradually become less exclusive. This is especially true today where the internet allows people to have a platform that otherwise would not be there, to display their own forms of art.