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for the eye - for the ear - for the mind

By region: American art - Italian art - French art - Belgian and especially Flemish art - British art

Essays: art and politics

Art movements and genres: academic art - abstract art - anti-art - body art - conceptual art - contemporary art - dada - decadent art - decorative art - electronic art - degenerate art - expressionism - fantastic art - impressionism - Fluxus - futurism - landscape - minimalism - Mannerism - modern art - Modernism - pop art - postmodern art - romanticism - realism - renaissance - surrealism - symbolism - transgressive art -

Related: aesthetics - abstract art - advertising - appropriation - architecture - art criticism - art deco - art film - art for art's sake - art history - art horror - artificial - art nouveau - artist - art music - art theory - avant-garde - beauty - commercial art - content - convention - creativity - design - drawing - erotic art - fantasy - fashion - fiction - film - fine arts - form - found objects - gaze - genre - graphic art - grotesque art - high arts - image - imagination - imitation - innovation - kitsch - low arts - medium - music - nude - originality - painting - photography - religion - reproduction - representation - Salons des Refusés - show - style - technique - taste - theatre - visual arts - The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

«La culture, c’est la règle, et l’art, c’est l’exception» --Jean-Luc Godard

The great Odalisque (1814) Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

Olympia , 1863 - Edouard Manet (Oil on canvas, 130.5 x 190 cm, Musee d'Orsay, Paris)

Impression, soleil levant (1872/1873) - Claude Monet

The Isle of the Dead (1880) - Arnold Böcklin


Art, in its broadest meaning, is the expression of creativity or imagination, or both.

Throughout the written history of humankind, various constrictions have been applied to the broad concept. Most individuals know what they consider to be art, and what they believe is not art. Additionally, groups, such as academia, have a vaguely shared notions of what is, or is not, art.

The word art is often used to refer to the visual arts, and arts is used to refer to visual art, literature, music, dance — the fine arts. However, such distinctions are the subject of many discussions and debates.

Art seems to be almost universal throughout the human race — integral to the human condition. There are no cultures that do not participate in it to some extent, and child art is created by all from about the first birthday. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art [Aug 2005]

List of visual artists

A - Marina Abramoviæ - Vito Acconci - Jacques Fabian Gautier d'Agoty - Laurie Anderson - Arcimboldo - B - Balthus - Matthew Barney - Jean Michel Basquiat - Aubrey Beardsley - Max Beckman - Vanessa Beecroft - Hans Bellmer - Richard Bernstein - Gilles Berquet - Fred Bervoets - Joseph Beuys - Guillaume Bijl - Arnold Böcklin - Hieronymus Bosch - Marcel Broodthaers - Brueghel - François Boucher - C - Rupert Carabin - Caravaggio - Pierre Cardin - Paul Chabas - Jake and Dinos Chapman - Lucas Cranach - Gustave Courbet - André Courrèges - John Currin - D - Salvador Dalí - Honoré Daumier - Eugène Delacroix - Luc Deleu - Wim Delvoye - Achille Devéria - Danny Devos - Otto Dix - Gustave Doré - Marcel Duchamp - Albrecht Dürer - E - James Ensor - Tracey Emin - Max Ernst - F - Jan Fabre - Eric Fischl - Henry Fuseli - Piero Fornasetti - G - Antoni Gaudí - Théodore Géricault - Jean-Léon Gérôme - H.R. Giger - Gilbert & George - Vincent van Gogh - Francisco de Goya - Dan Graham - Grandville - Hans Baldung Grien - George Grosz - Matthias Grünewald - H - Richard Hamilton - Keith Haring - Raoul Hausmann - Damien Hirst - Hokusai - Jenny Holzer - I - Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres - J - Allen Jones - Frida Kahlo Yves Klein - Gustav Klimt - K - Mike Kelley - Jeff Koons - Alfred Kubin - L - Jean-Jacques Lebel - Fernand Léger - Tamara de Lempicka - Roy Lichtenstein - Mirka Lugosi - M - René Magritte - Edouard Manet - Piero Manzoni - Marcel Mariën - Quentin Massys - Alessandro Mendini - Michelangelo - Claude Monet - Gustave Moreau - Otto Mühl - Pierre Molinier - Carlo Mollino - William Morris - Edvard Munch - N - Hermann Nitsch - O - Chris Ofili - Orlan - P - Panamarenko - Francis Picabia - Georges Pichard - Pablo Picasso - Giovanni Piranesi - Jackson Pollock - R - Paco Rabanne - Marcantonio Raimondi - Man Ray - Odilon Redon - Paula Rego - Jamie Reid - Félicien Rops - Peter Paul Rubens - S - Andres Serrano - Egon Schiele - Cindy Sherman - Romain Slocombe - Robert Smithson - Hajime Sorayama - Eric Stanton - T - Roland Topor - Clovis Trouille - Luc Tuymans - V - Leonardo da Vinci - W - Andy Warhol - James Whistler - John Willie - Z - Unica Zürn

photography: Helmut Newton - Nobuyoshi Araki - Cecil Beaton - Guy Bourdin - William Klein - David LaChapelle - Richard Kern - Eric Kroll - Bettina Rheims - Joel Peter Witkin

design: Luigi Colani - Joe Colombo - Gaetano Pesce - Ettore Sottsass -

architecture: Le Corbusier - Frank Gehry -

curator: Jan Hoet - Eduard Fuchs -

graphic design: Pedro Bell - Guido Crepax - Robert Crumb - Jean Giraud - Tanino Liberatore - Shusei Nagaoka Milo Manara - Jacques Tardi -

Low and high art

High art and low art.

Arts are generally considered low(er) when they are:

See also: aura

Avant-Garde and kitsch

[Kitsch] is perhaps most clearly visible where love poetry changes into pornography ... perverting the infinite goal of love ... into a series of finite sex acts..... Whoever produces kitsch ... is not to be evaluated by esthetic measures but is ethically depraved; he is a criminal who wills radical evil.
Hermann Broch, Evil in the Value System of Art, 1933

The word kitsch became popularized in the 1930s by the theorists Theodor Adorno, Hermann Broch, and Clement Greenberg, who each sought to define avant-garde and kitsch as being opposites. To the art world of the time, the immense popularity of kitsch was perceived as a threat to culture. The arguments of all three theorists relied on an implicit definition of kitsch as a type of false consciousness, a Marxist term meaning a mindset present within the structures of capitalism that is misguided as to its own desires and wants. Marxists suppose there to be a disjunction between the real state of affairs and the way that they phenomenally appear.

Quaerens Quem Devoret (1888) - Jean-Léon Gérôme

Adorno perceived this in terms of what he called the "culture industry", where the art is controlled and formulated by the needs of the market and given to a passive population which accepts it — what is marketed is art that is non-challenging and formally incoherent, but which serves its purpose of giving the audience leisure and something to watch. It helps serve the oppression of the population by capitalism by distracting them from their alienation. Contrarily, art for Adorno is supposed to be subjective, challenging, and oriented against the oppressiveness of the power structure. He claimed that kitsch is parody of catharsis, and a parody of aesthetic consciousness.

Starry Night over the Rhone (1888) - Van Gogh
Oil on canvas; 72,5 x 92 cm
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Broch called kitsch "the evil within the value-system of art" — that is, if true art is "good", kitsch is "evil". While art was creative, Broch held that kitsch depended solely on plundering creative art by adopting formulas that seek to imitate it, limiting itself to conventions and demanding a totalitarianism of those recognizable conventions. To him, kitsch was not the same as bad art; it formed a system of its own. He argued that kitsch involved trying to achieve "beauty" instead of "truth" and that any attempt to make something beautiful would lead to kitsch.

Greenberg held similar views; believing that the avant-garde arose in order to defend aesthetic standards from the decline of taste involved in consumer society, and seeing kitsch and art as opposites. He outlined this in his essay "Avant-Garde and Kitsch". One of his more controversial claims was that kitsch was equivalent to Academic art: "All kitsch is academic, and conversely, all that is academic is kitsch." He argued this based on the fact that Academic art, such as that in the 19th century, was heavily centered in rules and formulations that were taught and tried to make art into something learnable and easily expressible. He later came to withdraw from his position of equating the two, as it became heavily criticized. While it is true that some Academic art might have been kitsch, not all of it is, and not all kitsch is academic.

Other theorists over time have also linked kitsch to totalitarianism. The Czech writer Milan Kundera, in his book The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), defined it as "the absolute denial of shit." His argument was that kitsch functions by excluding from view everything that humans find difficult to come to terms with, offering instead a sanitised view of the world in which "all answers are given in advance and preclude any questions."


For Kundera, "Kitsch causes two tears to flow in quick succession. The first tear says: How nice to see children running on the grass! The second tear says: How nice to be moved, together with all mankind, by children running on the grass! It is the second tear that makes kitsch kitsch." --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitsch#Avant-garde_and_kitsch [Aug 2005]

Compare Quaerens Quem Devoret by Jean-Léon Gérôme with Van Gogh's Starry Night over the Rhone, both works painted in 1888, one is considered kitsch, the other high art.

see also: kitsch - avant garde - aesthetics

Art in Theory 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas - Charles Harrison, Paul Wood [...]

    Art in Theory 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas - Charles Harrison, Paul Wood [Amazon.com]
    Since it was first published in 1992, this book has become one of the leading anthologies of art theoretical texts in the English-speaking world. This expanded edition includes the fruits of recent research, involving a considerable amount of newly translated material from the entire period, together with additional texts from the last decades of the twentieth century. The features that made the first edition so successful have been retained: The volume provides comprehensive representation of the theories, which underpinned developments in the visual arts during the twentieth century. As well as writings by artists, the anthology includes texts by critics, philosophers, politicians and literary figures. The content is clearly structured into eight broadly chronological sections, starting with the legacy of symbolism and concluding with contemporary debates about the postmodern. The editors provide individual introductions to each of the 340 anthologized texts. Material new to this expanded edition includes texts on African art, on the Bauhaus and on the re-emergent avant-gardes of the period after the Second World War. Post-modernist debates are amplified by texts on gender, on installation and performance art, and on the increasing globalization of culture. --Amazon.com

Post-Pop-Art (1989) - Paul Taylor

    Post-Pop Art (New Criticism Series, No. 1) (1989) Paul Taylor (Editor) [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    Post Pop Art brings together critical essays about American British, and Continental Pop Art written by some of the leading theorists of our time. From Guy Debord's proto-Pop Situationist manifesto of 1950 to a late reflection by Roland Barthes, and two arguments about Pop by the influential philosopher Jean Baudrillard, Post Pop Art provides a timely retrospective look at the complex origins and contemporary manifestations of Pop Art. Post Pop Art also looks at the classic period of Pop Art from a 1980s perspective and discusses its relevance to Punk and New Wave music, artistic appropriation, and the post Pop movements of today. "That critics can still find in Pop a model for political debate is only one of the multitude of paradoxes that abound in this seemingly most impassive and celebratory of art movements," writes Paul Taylor. Also included in the book are essays by Dan Graham on Punk, the full text of a famous essay by Dick Hebdige, "In Poor Taste," and two essays by Americans David Dietcher and Mary Anne Staniszewski written after Andy Warhol's death. Paul Taylor, an art critic in New York is the founding editor and publisher of Art & Text magazine. He has curated several exhibitions on Pop Art and is editor of Impresario: Malcolm McLaren and the British New Wave. Post­Pop Art is a Flash Art Book. --Book Description via Amazon.com

Critical Terms for Art History - Robert S. Nelson, Richard Shiff

Critical Terms for Art History - Robert S. Nelson, Richard Shiff [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

This companion volume to Critical Terms for Literary Study contains scholarly essays that explore 22 terms commonly used by contemporary art historians. Terms such as representation, originality, appropriation, gaze, and commodity are treated within a historical context, and their influence on art criticism and aesthetics is shown. Here, critical visual theories that utilize the terms are applied to key visual images and objects. The diverse artworks cited include the bronze statue of "The Four Horses of San Marco," Manet's "A Bar at the Folies-Bergere," Walker Evans's photograph "Annie Mae Gudger," and Jeff Koons's "Vacuum Cleaner." Assuming a sophisticated level of art history scholarship, the erudite essays contain numerous bibliographic references. The essays are intended to promote research and debate. Recommended for academic and comprehensive art history collections.?Joan Levin, MLS, Chicago --From Library Journal

The nature of the visual has, over the past decade, moved to the center of debates in the humanities. No longer simply the study of timeless masterpieces, art history as a discipline is now addressing some of the most basic questions about cultural production, questions such as how images function and how expectations and social factors mediate what we see. The new scope of art history has required a major expansion and reassessment of methods and terminology.

Edited by Robert Nelson and Richard Shiff, Critical Terms for Art History is both an exposition and a demonstration of contested terms from the current art historical vocabulary. In individual essays, scholars examine the history and use of these terms by grounding their discussions in single works of art, reading each work through current debates and methods. This instructive combination of theory and practice allows readers to examine the terms as they are seeing them employed. In its wide representation of contemporary discourse, Critical Terms for Art History is a comprehensive effort to map historical and theoretical debates over the visual environment.

Like its companion, Critical Terms for Literary Study, this book will prove an invaluable resource both for those beginning to learn about the visual theory and for scholars and historians. --Product Description

Ways of Seeing (1972) John Berger

  1. Ways of Seeing (1972) John Berger [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Ways of Seeing is the book of a groundbreaking and brilliant TV series that Berger created with Mike Dibb in the 1970s. The book isn't quite as amazing as the series, but it's acquired canonical status anyway as Berger's most frequently set text on art and art criticism. Which is a pity, because while the impressive confidence of Berger's judgments was inspiring back then (Marina Warner and Michael Ondaatje have each paid tribute to it), time has passed over the last quarter of a century and the book is in danger of looking old-fashioned. The theory of desire, which Berger manages to popularise in a single succinct chapter, has been challenged, confirmed, turned upside-down and generally elaborated upon so much since the book was written that his version of it is now inadequate. Advertising is vastly more sophisticated now than it was in 1972 - the ads reproduced in the book, while perfectly representative of their time, are almost laughable in their blatant sexism and classism. (You wouldn't get away with them now, that's for sure.) But the account of the rise of oil painting is still persuasive, even if it lacks the cheek and mischievousness of the TV version. Readers expecting to find Berger's most incisive and complex criticism should look elsewhere, though, to The Sense of Sight or About Looking, because Ways of Seeing is essentially a popularisation of theories that have since become much more complex, and Berger's lapidary, no-argument tone is hardly applicable anymore. Somebody should release the series on video, then we'd get the same ideas in a more engaging and fascinating manner. lexo-2 via amazon.com Ways of Seeing is an influential book by John Berger, consisting of several essays about art, feminism and publicity. It is often assigned to college freshmen who are studying art history. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ways_of_Seeing [Aug 2005]

    The Painting of Modern Life - Timothy J. Clark

    The Painting of Modern Life - Timothy J. Clark [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    The Paris of the 1860s and 1870s was supposedly a brand-new city, equipped with boulevards, cafés, parks, and suburban pleasure grounds--the birthplace of those habits of commerce and leisure that constitute "modern life." Questioning those who view Impressionism solely in terms of artistic technique, T. J. Clark describes the painting of Manet, Degas, Seurat, and others as an attempt to give form to that modernity and seek out its typical representatives--be they bar-maids, boaters, prostitutes, sightseers, or petits bourgeois lunching on the grass. The central question of The Painting of Modern Life is this: did modern painting as it came into being celebrate the consumer-oriented culture of the Paris of Napoleon III, or open it to critical scrutiny? The revised edition of this classic book includes a new preface by the author. --Book Description via Amazon.com

    Not surprisingly, The Painting of Modern of Life has been negatively "reviewed" by every major writer (except Greil Marcus) who has devoted more than a paragraph to it. The manner in which The New York Times responded to it may be paradigmatic: it chose to publish two "reviews" of Clark's book, one devoted to Clark's "politics" and one devoted to his "aesthetics," precisely because his book is an attempt to supercede the contradiction between politics and aesthetics. In its "review" of the "politics" of The Painting of Modern Life, the NYT claimed that "ultimately [Clark] remains weighed down by the chains of ideology"; in its "review" of the book's "aesthetics," it claimed that Clark's book is "seriously flawed" in its lack of attention to the Impressionist painters' concern with "light and color." One isn't sure which is the more preposterous: the ridiculous content of the respective "reviews," or their spectacular separation from each other. --http://www.notbored.org/manet.html [Jul 2004]

    Venus in Exile : The Rejection of Beauty in Twentieth-Century Art (2001) - Wendy Steiner

    Venus in Exile : The Rejection of Beauty in Twentieth-Century Art (2001) - Wendy Steiner [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    "In the twentieth century, the avant-garde declared a clean break with history, but their hostility to the female subject and the beauty she symbolized had..." (more)

    From Publishers Weekly
    Ever since the Renaissance, the female body has been a primary symbol of artistic beauty in the West. But with the advent of avant-garde and modernist art, beauty suddenly became suspect. In Venus in Exile, renowned cultural critic Wendy Steiner explores how this happened, tracing the twentieth century's troubled relationship with beauty. Steiner shows how the avant-garde set out to replace the supposed impurity of woman and ornament with pure form - a new standard of art. Arguing that both modern artists and feminists rejected the female subject as an aesthetic symbol, Steiner suggests that we understand the experience of beauty as a form of communication, in which finding someone or something beautiful leads viewers to recognize beauty in themselves as well. She ends by discussing recent works that have begun to restore beauty to art, including the paintings of Marlene Dumas, the novels of Penelope Fitzgerald, and the choreography of Mark Morris. --via Amazon.uk

    see also: aesthetics - beauty - Venus - modernism

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