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The definition of art

The idea of contemporary art has been discussed at length by scholars and art patrons alike. A notion of fine art is both taken in context for a traditional historical meaning and one fulfilling the ideas of Plato and Aristotle, in a purely aesthetic one. Here we will examine the concepts of both and how they relate to society as a whole.

Modern definitions of art, focus on the way art changes over time, its’ historical aspects and the way in which they relate to, not only our own individual world view, but society as a whole. Traditional definitions pertain to the representational, expressive and formalistic characteristics of a work of art. Each may be assigned to a work of art, and help to define them, only as much as they describe them. While broad generalizations can be made, some of the properties remain constant. Each specific to the individual pieces, but all part of the whole, characterize a work of art.

Representation has been associated with classical art, and the notion that the object resembles the subject and is an example, representation, of someone or something else. Imitative by nature, as man is, this style of art is often symbolic, but more often realistic in style.

The great philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, have gone on to say, that representational art is characterized by three things; the object represented, the manner in which it is represented and the materials used to do so. The concept of imitation as a characteristic of man is evident in our development from childhood through our lifetimes. At very young ages, we learn most everything from what we see, and hear, and mimic those actions. As we mature, we learn to choose what we deem important, but can still emulate or learn from study and analysis, what we as individuals find important or to our liking. In art, realism concerns itself with some preconceived ideas and perceptions, but varies stylistically, as the artists aspires to as his own ideal or manner in which he would like to portray something.

Expressionism refers to an artistic style in which not objective reality, but rather the subjective emotions, are illustrated and responses to objects and events that are aroused within a person are depicted. Emotional experience rather then physical reality are evoked in Expressionist art and meaning can be found in these visceral reactions even if entirely subjective without a predefined sense of reality.

Formalism in art is concerned with primarily the elements of form in a work of art. Theorists believe that form is of primary importance and that the inherent qualities that make a work successful are because of this very essential part of it. Historical, stylistic and even symbolic elements are not actually evident or even present. The meaning, therefore stems solely from the color, line, shape and dimension, as the word form implies, and consists of that alone without any other meaning for the work of art.

We see here many interpretations of what art is, all of them are relevant when discussing a work of art. These great philosophers have examined the meaning more closely while others, the visual elements we as casual observers can see. Still, the appreciation of art is subjective and each patron will have to decide what constitutes a great piece to them as an individual.

The many variations and ideas related to a meaning of art and meaning in art will be further investigated here on

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