From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The visual arts are art forms that focus on the creation of works which are primarily visual in nature, such as painting, photography, printmaking, and filmmaking. Those that involve three-dimensional objects, such as sculpture and architecture, are called plastic arts.
The current usage of the term "visual arts" includes fine arts as well as crafts, but this was not always the case. Before the Arts and Crafts movement in Britain and elsewhere at the turn of the 20th century, "visual artist" referred to a person working in the fine arts (such as painting, sculpture, or printmaking) and not the handicraft, craft, or applied art disciplines. The distinction was emphasized by artists of the Arts and Crafts movement who valued vernacular art forms as much as high forms. The movement contrasted with modernists who sought to withhold the high arts from the masses by keeping them esoteric. Art schools made a distinction between the fine arts and the crafts in such a way that a craftsperson could not be considered a practitioner of art.
In colloquial speech, fine art is sometimes referred to as capital "A" art, or art with a capital "A."
Drawing is a means of making an image, using any of a wide variety of tools and techniques. It generally involves making marks on a surface by applying pressure from a tool, or moving a tool across a surface using dry media such as graphite pencils, pen and ink, inked brushes, wax color pencils, crayons, charcoals, pastels, and markers. Digital tools which simulate the effects of these are also used. The main techniques used in drawing are: line drawing, hatching, crosshatching, random hatching, scribbling, stippling, and blending. An artist who excels in drawing is referred to as a draftsman or draughtsman".
Drawing goes back at least 16,000 years to Paleolithic cave representations of animals such as those at Lascaux in France and Altamira in Spain. In ancient Egypt, ink drawings on papyrus, often depicting people, were used as models for painting or sculture. Drawings on Greek vases, initially geometric, later developed to the human form with black-figure pottery during the 7th century BC.
With paper becoming common in Europe by the 15th century, drawing was adopted by masters such as Sandro Botticelli, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci who sometimes treated drawing as an art in its own right rather than a preparatory stage for painting or sculpture.
Painting taken literally is the practice of applying pigment suspended in a carrier (or medium) and a binding agent (a glue) to a surface (support) such as paper, canvas or a wall. However, when used in an artistic sense it means the use of this activity in combination with drawing, composition and other aesthetic considerations in order to manifest the expressive and conceptual intention of the practitioner. Painting is also used to express spiritual motifs and ideas; sites of this kind of painting range from artwork depicting mythological figures on pottery to The Sistine Chapel to the human body itself.
Origins and early history
Like drawing, painting has its origins in caves and on rock faces. The finest examples, believed by some to be 32,000 years old, are in the Chauvet and Lascaux caves in southern France. In shades of red, brown, yellow and black, the paintings on the walls and ceilings are of bison, cattle, horses and deer.
Paintings of human figures can be found in the tombs of ancient Egypt. In the great temple of Ramses II, Nefertari, his queen, is depicted being led by Isis. The Greeks contributed to the development of painting but much of their work has been lost. One of the best remaining representations is the mosaic of the Battle of Issus found at Pompeii which was probably based on a Greek painting. Greek and Roman art contributed to Byzantine art in the 4th century BC which initiated a tradition in icon painting.
Apart from the illuminated manuscripts produced by monks during the Middle Ages, the next significant contribution to European art was from Italy's renaissance painters. From Giotto in the 13th century to Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael at the beginning of the 16th century, this was the richest period in Italian art as the chiaroscuro technique was used to create the illusion of 3-D space.
Painters in northern Europe too were influenced by the Italian school. Jan van Eyck from Belgium, Pieter Bruegel the Elder from the Netherlands and Hans Holbein the Younger from Germany are among the most successful painters of the times. They used the glazing technique with oils to achieve depth and luminosity.
The 17th century saw the emergence of the great Dutch masters such as the versatile Rembrandt who is especially remembered for his potraits and Bible scenes, and Vermeer who specialized in interior scenes of Dutch life.
Impressionism began in France in the 19th century with a loose association of artists including Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Paul Cézanne who brought a new freely brushed style to painting, often choosing to paint realistic scenes of modern life outside rather than in the studio. They achieved intense colour vibration by using pure, unmixed colours and short brush strokes.
Towards the end of the 19th century, several young painters took impressionism a stage further, using geometric forms and unnatural colour to depict emotions while striving for deeper symbolism. Of particular note are Paul Gauguin, who was strongly influenced by Asian, African and Japanese art, Vincent van Gogh, a Dutchman who moved to France where he drew on the strong sunlight of the south, and Toulouse-Lautrec, remembered for his vivid paintings of night life in the Paris district of Montmartre.
Symbolism, expressionism and cubism
Edvard Munch, a Norwegian artist, developed his symbolistic approach at the end of the 19th century, inspired by the French impressionist Manet. The Scream (1893), his most famous work, is widely interpreted as representing the universal anxiety of modern man. Partly as a result of Munch's influence, the German expressionist movement originated in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century as artists such as Ernst Kirschner and Erich Heckel began to distort reality for an emotional effect.
In parallel, the style known as cubism developed in France as artists focused on the volume and space of sharp structures within a composition. Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque were the leading proponents of the movement. Objects are broken up, analyzed, and re-assembled in an abstracted form. By the 1920s, the style had developed into surrealism with Dali and Magritte.
Printmaking is creating for artistic purposes an image on a matrix which is then transferred to a two-dimensional (flat) surface by means of ink (or another form of pigmentation). Except in the case of a monotype, the same matrix can be used to produce many examples of the print. Historically, the major techniques (also called media) involved are woodcut, line engraving, etching, lithography, and screenprinting (serigraphy, silkscreening) but there are many others, including modern digital techniques. Normally the surface upon which the print is printed is paper, but there are exceptions, from cloth and vellum to modern materials. Prints in the Western tradition produced before about 1830 are known as old master prints. There are other major printmaking traditions, especially that of Japan (ukiyo-e).
In China, the art of printmaking developed some 1,100 years ago as illustrations alongside text cut in woodblocks for printing on paper. Initially images were mainly religious but in the Song Dynasty, artists began to cut landscapes. During the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1616-1911) dynasties, the technique was perfected for both religious and artistic engravings.
In Europe, from around 1400 AD woodcut, was used for master prints on paper by using techniques for printing on cloth which had been developed in the Byzantine and Islamic worlds. Michael Wolgemut improved German woodcut from about 1475, and Erhard Reuwich, a Dutchman, was the first to use cross-hatching. At the end of the century Albrecht Dürer brought the Western woodcut to a level that has never been surpassed, increasing the status of the single-leaf woodcut.
Photography is the process of making pictures by means of the action of light. Light patterns reflected or emitted from objects are recorded onto a sensitive medium or storage chip through a timed exposure. The process is done through mechanical, chemical or digital devices known as cameras.
The word comes from the Greek words φως phos ("light"), and γραφις graphis ("stylus", "paintbrush") or γραφη graphê, together meaning "drawing with light" or "representation by means of lines" or "drawing." Traditionally, the product of photography has been called a photograph. The term photo is an abbreviation; many people also call them pictures. In digital photography, the term image has begun to replace photograph. (The term image is traditional in geometric optics.)
Filmmaking is the process of making a motion-picture, from an initial conception and research, through scriptwriting, shooting and recording, animation or other special effects, editing, sound and music work and finally distribution to an audience; it refers broadly to the creation of all types of films, embracing documentary, strains of theatre and literature in film, and poetic or experimental practices, and is often used to refer to video-based processes as well.
- Quatre siècles de Surréalisme (1973) by Pierre Belfond
- Dreamers of Decadence: Symbolist Painters of the 1890s (1971) by Philippe Jullian