When Arts turned to Fine in "Fine Arts" ?

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  11 November 2005
When Arts turned to Fine in "Fine Arts" ?

Artists from the last century and earlier where called painter, sculptor ... simply artist

Why we added "fine" and call it "fine arts" even the beauty seen on fine artist's work are very personal.

Fine artist actually seems to only do personal, i read that french artist from 19th century wanted to do art for art ! this fashion survived to our recent decades and fine artists are devoted to do their work and express through them but also teach art or write books. Perhaps it's more than a fashion ?

Someone has a clear idea on what "fine" means and the history of fine arts ?
  11 November 2005
It's not all that easy to give a clear definition of "fine art". It's complex and there are many myths and misconceptions surrounding the term "fine art".

Initially it started like you describe. In France a movement of artists arose who wanted to make art for the sake of beauty of art/personal expression. Before that, artists made a living working for the king, nobility, rich merchants or the church.
This happened around the time of the French Revolution (end of the 18th century) and in all three "classical" art forms (painting, sculpture, music) artists began to make art just to please and/or express themselves.

For instance: Beethoven was one of the first composers who refused to compose for patrons. In many ways it was a direct protest against the Ancient Regime, where Royalty and the Church were all powerful and the common people had no power at all. Overthrowing this Ancient Regime marked the beginning of democracy in Europe.

The term "fine art" itself arose in England at the end of the 19th century due to a conflict between the Arts and Crafts movement (William Morris, Rossetti and other "decorative" artists) and the elitist Modernist movement (Virginia Woolf/Bloomsbury Group), who wanted to seperate decorative art and "real" art (whatever that may be).

The Modernist movement eventually led to modern/non-figurative art such as can be seen in the Bauhaus/Cobra movements.

To this day there is a distinction in the artworld between art produced for personal reasons (still called "fine art") and art produced for a purpose (book illustration, cartoons, animated film). However, this distinction is fading, because it is both impractical and illogical (not to mention elitist).

Nowadays "visual arts" (including book illustration, decorative art, cartoons etc.) is the more preferred term.

It's more complex than that, but I hope this helps answering your question.

Last edited by Margie : 11 November 2005 at 04:36 PM.
  11 November 2005
The term "art" is a relatively modern thing, as it had a different meaning back in the days as it does now. Technically speaking, the Sistine Chapel and Mona Lisa are not art, because they do not fit the definition of art we know now. (The sistine chapel was commisioned by the pope. In fact, Michelangelo was forced to paint it for religious and political reasons.)

In medieval times, many things were considered art, and could be learned, such as the art of shoemaking, grammer, sculpture etc... To seperate the different kinds of art, a new term was derived, the "beaux arts", or fine art. Charles Perrault wrote in the 'le Cabinet des Beaux Arts' about eight fine arts: eloquence, poetry, music, architecture, painting, scultpure, optics and mechanics.

By 1746, however, The fine arts were reduced to: music, poetry, painting, sculptures and dance (which is more similar to what we believe in today), and was seperated from the mechanical arts.

Hope that helped. (Ahh dammti! Why's my text black? lol)
CG Animated Series: The EVON Project

Last edited by RobertoOrtiz : 11 November 2005 at 08:54 PM.
  11 November 2005
These are interesting

is there any other 'official' theory on this called 'fine art' ? (univerisity , college ... ?)

in the education field
  11 November 2005
In universities where I live, a Fine Arts course would focus on the ideas behind the artwork. At the end of it you would have some draughtsmanship skills and be able to write about art theories.

To be taught more practical skills which you would need to go into the videogames industry or something, you would go to a Design course.

I think in most cases if you ask art teachers why there is such a division, they would tell you that areas such as illustration/cartoons/decorative art produce work which is lacking an idea to drive it.

If you look at history there are many illustrators who produced pictures which could also be seen as fine art, like Arthur Rackham. And nowadays there are those who produce artworks for commercial reasons which could be considered fine art (such as animated films done by Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli).

There is no real difference between these two categories, apart from the fact that Damien Hirst wouldn't have been able to sell a shark in a box of formaldehyde for so much money if he were not in fine arts.
  12 December 2005

so true. its basically a marketting category at this point. the exact same artwork could be received very differently depending on the venue its promoted in. its something i have been thinking about a lot myself lately. the only venue i am aware of for what i am working on is probably fine arts, its an installation so its not a project i could really sell or expect to make a living from the proceeds of in any case, but at least its a venue.

and in fact this divide has kind of EFFEd things up, as anything relating to technical skill is relegated to craft or design, and anything conceptually interesting is fine art, and rarely do the two meet any more.
  12 December 2005
yenvalmar's comment got me thinking about a "business strategy" conversation we had at work. Basically, it seems like "fine artists" are "pure differentiators", or basically, a luxury brand name. Interestingly, I think it's easier to sell uniqueness rather than skillfullness.

That is, it's easier to argue that "I'm valuable because I'm different" when you're obviously different from the world around you. To say "I'm valuable because I'm skilled" is hard. First, there are a lot of very skilled artists around; being "more skilled" is hard and not a very positive way to go about your business. Also, making the "this was really hard to do" argument is difficult if you're talking to someone who doesn't know the trade.

So when you think about it, the nuttier "fine artists" are just better at selling. People these days get so much visual input, it's hard to "stand out" with skillful renderings.
  12 December 2005
wow, an interesting conversation :)

yes, this is very true. however, i, and probably the surrealists before me, and a lot of other artists along side me, mostly over in the painting community, am interested in the pavlovian association of technically polished work with commercial and conceptually tired concepts, and that by JUXTAPOZING (hee hee) a commercial (or in the time of the surrealists, academic)rendering style to a noncommercial , personally oriented subject matter, well heres where we get into matters of taste, but i find that very interesting indeed, both as a viewer and creator of art. to that end i think 3d animation is pretty much the ultimate activity as an artist. not in terms of the quality or validity of animation as a media, but in terms of the mastery of process you need to make it. thats one of the things that called me to it myself..

and to come full circle back to the actual point of the conversation, with the modern emphasis on either process as a totally free form thing you make up as part of the concept of your work, or just ignore it, in "fine arts" schools, thats why most fine arts venue 3d sucks technically, these people cant imagine the amount of process you have to master. i went to school with a few, trust me.

Last edited by yenvalmar : 12 December 2005 at 08:01 PM.
  12 December 2005
As stated previously, the definition of Art has changed linguistically over the course of history. However, many things that are labeled "fine arts" today, just seem to be people who lack the skill to do something masterfully, and want to make themselves look like the more skilled person in the end. Hence, they tend to argue things like "expression", "intellectualism", and produce pseudo-intellectual fallacies to make themselves superior.

Art before the mid to late 19th century was always about the subject, and usually about patrons/etc. It was a skillful, crafstmans trade, one that could include entrepeneurship, and was a primary source of entertainment or social power. This is the actual definition of art, the original definition of art, and those who deny it, do it only because they fear they lack the skill to acquire such mastery.

I often laugh when I hear many "modern artists" who produce "fine art" as they call it today, and use people like Dali, Picasso, and Kandinsky to defend their freedom of expression. These three artists, and many more who started the modern "fine" art movement would be ashamed of these people. All three of them, and many more of their time, had a firm grasp of more classical skills, that allowed them to produce realistically lifelike drawings. They also believed that in order to produce the so called fine "modern art" you must first be able to realistically create artwork first, before you had the right to create new odd concepts. People of today who create "fine art" and lack the ability to do any sort of realism, Picasso/Dali/Kandinsky et al. would shun, tell them they are wannabe artists, and to get lost.

Picasso himself, often the most used for defense in today's art world, never believed that one should have to explain themself. He would often tell viewers, to look at the paintings, and find the expression within the art, not the other way around. Only on a very very select few paintings did he ever try to explain himself.

This is exactly the problem with the term "fine art." Never was art about expression, before the last 1-2 centuries. Cavemen did not put those simple drawings on walls to express themselves, rather to record their history. They did not have skills such as linear perspective, and other more advanced techniques hence the reason it was not so good.

Now, some fine artists follow suit with the traditional artworks. They create aesthetically pleasing images, that usually indicate some sort of illustration or realism. However, today, most of these artists are rare. Fine artists of today, tend to lean toward modern art styles, and simply lack the ability to create certain works of art. There is no craftsmanship involved, they merely try to express themselves, until finally they figure its good and now its time to explain that "expression" (*cough* BS *cough*) to the community.

People who create what "fine artists" call "commercial art" tend to have much much more skill and craft than most "fine artists." Many commercial artists have the ability to manipulate things in such a way, that they can produce some basic premise of realism if asked to do so. Animators, illustrators, digital, 3d, you name it. Many of the artists on websites like this one, are the ones who would actually make historically famed artists proud. They have a craft, and knowledge to make aesthetically pleasing images.

Perhaps many computer-generated images or handdrawn sketches/illustrations today will never be called as great as famed paintings and sculpture, however these are what real artwork is all about. They have a craft, a purpose, and the person behind the image has skill. Some even make the works symbolic, and have a deeper meaning, even if that comes in teh form of sci-fi or fantasy. It does not matter. Most of the people who produce "commercial art" as fine artists call it, are the true artists of todays. The people who usually label themselves "fine artists"(except for a small portion of that group) are not artists, they are people who think they deserve a title, that they simply lack a craft for.

I also have respect for people who create what you might call 3d surrealist work. The 3d, when animated, or given effects with the right camera placement, tends to produce well crafted, visually appealing imagery that gives a sense of illusion. Objects merge, blend and bend in ways that are always shown more effectively when given that more realistic sense of lighting, color bleeding, et al.

The "fine artists" can keep their followers and so called "expressive intellectualism." However when it comes to the broader definition of art, such as what is art? those so called "fine artists" don't even deserve so much as mild consideration. I'll take the Renaissance arts, the Illustrations and 2d digital/3d art, and the Escher-like creations of today over any other "so called art" any day.
One day, Bunnies will rule the world.
  12 December 2005
'tis "fine rap", sir

There always seems to be a pretty big divide between people who dig "fine art" and those who don't. Interestingly, I find that rap music often draws the same kind of reaction. I've heard so many people say things like "I like many kinds of music... except rap..." Personally, I'm not a big fan of most fine art or most rap music, though on occasion, I find a "diamond in the rough" in either art form...

Interestingly, I see non-traditional fine art growing in significance as realistic imagery has grown; particularly as photography, TV, and movies, became more regular in peoples lives. Does anybody know what the fine art market is like now compared to 50 and 150 years ago? I wonder if the "average person" is now more, or less connected to "fine art" then they were before major media technology shifts.
  12 December 2005
Skirnir, I love you! haha. You have just put into words everything that I could not
  12 December 2005
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