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By Edited Jan 6, 2016 5 2


What is art? is a simple question and there have been numerous definitions given. But to exactly define what is art is very difficult for it can encompass anything and everything and to find a single definition that satisfies everyone is impossible. According to Leo Tolstoy, the activity of an art is based on the fact that a man receiving through his sense of hearing or sight another man's expression of feeling, is capable of experiencing the emotion which moved the man who expressed it. For example, one man laughs and another hearing that, becomes merry; or one man weeps and another hearing that, feels sorrow.

And it is on this capacity of man to receive another man's expression of feeling and to experience those feelings himself, that the activity of art is based.

In late Antiquity the arts consisted of the seven artes liberales, the liberal arts: Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, Geometry, Arithmetic, Astronomy, and Music. Philosophy was the mother of them all. On a lower level stood the technical arts like architecture, agriculture, painting, sculpture and other crafts. Art in the Middle Ages was "the ape of nature".

And what is art today? An object perceived as art today may have not been so before. In 'The Prehistory of the Mind', Steve Mithen defines art as artifacts or images with symbolic meanings as a means of communication. Anything could be a work of art. That gives us a lot of freedom in looking at, enjoying, or creating art.

Art is an intrinsic part of human behavior. Art can be made by any of us. It need not result in museum-quality work; it can be only an elaboration of an ordinary object: a hair style rather than plain hair, fashion rather than a simple covering to keep warm, decorating rather than a room with furniture. We can all dance, sing, and doodle; some just do these better than others.

Art is appreciated by all of us. We need no special knowledge or sensory apparatus or experience to respond to a rhythm, a tune, a series of bright colors, a monumental building, or a parade. We can all be thrilled and soothed by art.

Art can be used for social manipulation. All of us are subject to art's whim. Nancy Aiken's 'The Biological Origins of Art', quotes that "Art can direct thinking, beliefs, and behavior. Art is a means to educate, subjugate, subvert, and convert. Art has this power because it can tap into and use our reflexive responses to natural, biologically relevant stimuli. We are unable to control these responses. We do not even realize what is happening."

Yet, art plays a large part in making our lives infinitely rich and any artist's or poet's role, is to try and express what we all feel.


Mar 6, 2011 6:17pm
That is the best definition of the Arts, I've ever heard in simple. As in artist, i see art everywhere I go in the oddest places and can't help to be amused with everything! I understand you very well, however, the best thing I read on this article is the fact that art can subjugate, and manipulate, very true. That means we sometimes are not aware of the music, videos, magazines, etc. and the feelings they exalt. thanks for the article. It is much appreciated.
May 30, 2011 12:19pm
Thanks for an interesting article.
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