What Is Art, and How Do I Appreciate It?

People define art in diverse ways, and it carries on as an influence on society for generation upon generation. This article discusses what art is, where it came from, and how to appreciate it.

What is Art?

If you look for the definition of art in a dictionary, you will find many interpretations of the word art. One of the more concise definitions of art is “Works produced by human creative skill and imagination.” Adding to this definition is art is something that, when produced, reflects beauty or invokes emotion from its audience. There are several types of art that most people are aware of:

  • Painting
  • Sculpture
  • Literature
  • Music
  • Cinema
  • Theater
  • Architecture

The above categories do not represent all art forms, though they are collectively known as “the arts.” 

How Old is Art?

Art is an influential presence in society and is ever-changing and evolving. Around 60 years ago, archaeologists discovered the oldest known paintings on Sulawesi in Indonesia. The art was found in 100s of limestone caves and depicted the outline of hands with animal figures and symbols. Modern analysis of these paintings dates back to 39,900 BC.

Over time, archeologists discovered sculptures dating back to prehistoric times. One of the oldest of these is the Venus of Berekhat Ram. The archeologists found it in 1981, and the piece dates from 230-700,000 BC years old. Experts speculate it could have possibly been sculpted in the homo Erectus period. 

Why Does Art Matter? 

Historically, art serves to be a measure of our cultural advancement. Consider the art of architecture. You have Stonehenge, easter island, castles, and cathedrals to show advances we have made over eras. Paintings have captured the atmospheres and cultures of current events, the simple beauty of a flower, or social representations of the times. Art brings us out of modes of simple survival and takes people beyond to a realm of meaningful creation and expression. 

What Constitutes a Work of Art?

There are three main components to art that are inseparable from each other. The first component is the subject, which is the focus or topic of the work. The form is the second component and relates to the composition or development of the work. Finally, the third component of art is content. Content refers to the meaning, message, or intent of the work. 

In addition to the three main components, six elements play a part in a piece’s qualifications as a work of art. Some of the elements are color, space, and line. Finally, nine principles encompass a work of art, and a few of them are contrast, balance, and harmony. 

How Do I Appreciate Art?

You may wonder how to appreciate art more. The answer is simple, take the time to notice the components, elements, and principles. For fun, visit museums and write your impressions of what you like or don’t like down in a journal. Pay attention to the emotional reactions the art invokes in you, and that is where you build an appreciation of art. 

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