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Art is the product of creative human activity in which materials are shaped or selected to convey an idea, emotion, or visually interesting form. The word art can refer to the visual arts, including painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, decorative arts, crafts, and other visual works that combine materials or forms. Art is the use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects that can be shared with others. It involves the arranging of elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions and acts as a means of communication with the viewer as it represents the thoughts of the artist.

While art is an action, the person who performs the action is known as an artist. The word artist is a descriptive term applied to a person who performs activities that are said to be art. Artists use their art as a mean of communication. Jamaican artists have been known to portray strong feeling through their works of art. These works of art either appear in two dimensional or three dimensional forms and each form in its own way portrays some feelings, emotions or ideas. Their works of art have been known to tell stories or depict ideas and can either be a realistic piece or an abstract. For most people, the main enjoyment in art is that pieces of art seem to stir the emotions and feelings of the viewer.

Osmond Watson is considered one of Jamaica’s most prominent artists having compiled some of Jamaica’s most collectible pieces of artwork. He has excelled in both 3d and 2d art as he is both a painter and a sculptor. Osmond Watson once stated “my philosophy on art is simple- my aim is to glorify Black people through my work with the hope that it will uplift the masses of the region giving dignity and self respect where it is needed and to make people more aware of their own beauty”. This is exactly what his pieces seem to do. The combination of simplified forms, dark outlines, bold and acidic colours easily distinguish his painting. It is sometimes combined with frames that are hand-crafted and ornate, his choice of subject matter, and his wit and his idiosyncratic style confirm that Osmond Watson is a unique and significant Caribbean artist.

“Peace and Love” is a famous painting done by Watson. He uses the elements and principles to deliver this message. The most obvious and dominant element he uses is colour. He uses the colour blue to represent peace and this is the first notion that one gets when one first looks at this piece. A small amount of red is used throughout the piece and this supports the aspects of love, strength and power among blacks. Brown in this is also used to represent a feeling of comfort and home. In the background Watson uses blue with a hint of zigzag lines that coupled with the subject’s hair adds non-tactile texture and depth to the piece. Watson uses a Rastafarian as the subject of his piece due to the fact that Rastafarians are usually associated with meditation and peace.

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ARTH101: Art Appreciation (2018.A.01)

What is art.

Read this section to get a better understanding of aesthetics in fine art. Pay attention to the role of aesthetics as a way of articulating ideas about art from various points of view.

1.1 Learning Outcomes

After completing this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Recognize various historical arguments about the definition of art and who is an artist.
  • Engage arguments that distinguish between art and craft.
  • Critically evaluate claims about whether an object is or is not art from multiple points of view.
  • Engage questions about who is considered an artist and the role of the viewer.
  • Productively speculate about various reasons why people have made and continue to make art.
  • Recognize your intuitive understanding of art, and potentially build a broader, more comprehensive view of the nature and definition of visual art, one which incorporates historically and culturally diverse art objects and answers conceptual challenges.

1.2 Introduction

We live in a rapidly changing world in which images play an important, even central, role. With widespread use of personal electronics, we instantaneously deliver and receive sound, video, and text messages. Corporations and governments worldwide recognize the power of advertising. Art museums worldwide are putting large parts of their collections online. Today we are seeing theater-quality movies made with inexpensive equipment that was unavailable ten years ago. Selfies, personal video, and memes are everywhere. In 1968, artist Andy Warhol (1928-1987, USA) said, "In the future everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes". We are seeing that prediction come true with the advent of personal electronics that rival the sophistication of the most advanced professional studios of only twenty years ago. we are surrounded by images, but, for all of our clever technical abilities, the fundamental dynamics of visual art remain the same.

meaning of art essay

Figure 1.1 I Blind Homer with Guide

Artist: Bouguereau

Take a few minutes to look over the accompanying image, Blind Homer and His Guide. (Figure 1.1) It was painted in 1875 by a leading member of the French Ecole des Beaux Arts, or School of Fine Arts, William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1925, France), and serves as a good example of the kinds of paintings made in Europe during that time. We might wonder what a painting made more than 100 years ago in a foreign country could have to do with us today.

The French Academic artist Bouguereau's painting is more than a literal presentation of a forgotten moment in ancient history. The painting challenges viewers from every age to go deeper, to see the symbolism behind the history. Homer, who is thought to have lived around  1000 BCE, was the chief poet of the ancient Greeks. Ancient Greek ideas about social roles and the nature of virtue come to us in part from Homer's epic poems the Illiad and the Odyssey. In Bouguereau's painting, Homer symbolizes civilization and culture. Homer wanders blindly through a savage wilderness with only a youth to shelter him. In this way, Bouguereau implies that a wilderness can be not only physical but also cultural, and in that sense, all of us wander through a wilderness that threatens the human spirit found in culture. His painting asks the question, "How are cultural values carried forward?" In Bouguereau's work, the young man has taken responsibility for protecting Homer, who sym­bolizes the refined wisdom of the past and the foundation of western culture. This image is a call to the youth of Bouguereau's generation (and to ours) to bring precious culture forward safely through an ever-threatening wilderness.

Wherever we find human beings, we find visual art. Works of visual art raise questions not only about our ancestors, but also about the nature of visual art itself. What is art? Who is an artist? Why do artists make art? What is the role of the viewer? Does everything count as art? How have people defined art through time? How do we define art today?

In this chapter, we will examine these questions in more detail. The purpose of this examination is twofold: to increase your awareness of the mechanics of those images and, thus, more effectively understand the visual art that we encounter in our daily lives. Images are powerful. Images are used in our culture in many ways, not all of them benign. When we enhance our visual literacy, we raise our awareness of the powerful images that surround us.

1.3 What is Visual Art?

To explore a subject, we need first to define it. Defining art, however, proves elusive. You may have heard it said (or even said it yourself) that "it might be art, but it's not Art", which means, "I might not know how to define it, but I know it when I see it."

Everywhere we look, we see images designed to command our attention, including images of desire, images of power, religious images, images meant to recall memories, and images intended to manipulate our appetites. But are they art?

Some languages do not have a separate word for art. In those cultures, objects tend to be utilitarian in purpose but often include in their design the intent to delight, portray a special status, or commemorate an important event or ritual. Thus, while the objects are not considered art, they do have artistic functions.

1.3.1 Historic Development of the Idea of Art

The idea of art has developmentally progressed from human prehistory to the present day. Changes to the definition of art over time can be seen as attempts to resolve problems with earlier definitions. The ancient Greeks saw the goal of visual art as copying, or mimesis. Nineteenth-cen­ tury art theorists promoted the idea that art is communication: it produces feelings in the viewer. In the early twentieth century, the idea of significant form, the quality shared by aesthetically pleasing objects, was proposed as a definition of art. Today, many artists and thinkers agree with the institutional theory of art, which shifts focus from the work of art itself to who has the power to decide what is and is not art. While this progression of definitions of art is not exhaustive, it is instructive. Mimesis

The ancient Greek definition of art as mimesis, or imitation of the real world, appears in the myth of Zeux­ is and Parhassios, rival painters from ancient Greece in the late fifth cen­ tury BCE who competed for the title of greatest artist. (Figure 1.2) Zeuxis painted a bowl of grapes that was so lifelike that birds came down to peck at the image of fruit. Parhassios was unimpressed with this achievement. When viewing Parhassios's work, Ze­uxis, on his part, asked that the curtain over the painting be drawn back so he could see his rival's work more clearly. Parhassios declared himself the victor because the curtain was the painting, and while Zeuxis fooled the birds with his work, Parhassios fooled a thinking human being-a much more difficult feat.

meaning of art essay

Figure 1.2  I  Zeuxis conceding defeat:  " I  have deceived  the birds, but Parhassios has deceived Zeuxis."

Artist: Joachim von Sandrart; engraving by Johann Jakob von Sandrart

The ancient Greeks felt that the visual artist's goal was to copy visual experience. This ap­proach appears in the realism of ancient Greek sculpture and pottery. We must sadly note that, due to the action of time and weather, no paintings from ancient Greek artists exist today. We can only surmise their quality based on tales such as that of Zeuxis and Parhassios, the obvious skill in ancient Greek sculpture, and in drawings that survive on ancient Greek pottery.

This definition of art as copying reality has a problem, though. Jackson Pollock (1912-1956, USA), a leader in the New York School of the 1950s, intentionally did not copy existing objects in his art. (Figure 1.3) While painting these works, Pollock and his fellow artists would consciously avoid making marks or passages that resembled recognizable objects. They succeeded at making artwork that did not copy anything, thus demonstrating that the ancient Greek view of art as mime sis-simple copying-does not sufficiently define art.

meaning of art essay

Figure 1.3 I Left: The She-Wolf; Right : Gothic

Artist: Jackson Pollock Communication

A later attempt at defining art comes from the nineteenth-century Russian author Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy wrote on many subjects, and is the author of the great novel War and Peace (1869). He was also an art theorist. He proposed that art is the communication of feeling, stating, "Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that others are infected by these feelings and also experience them."

This definition does not succeed because it is impossible to confirm that the feelings of the art­ist have been successfully conveyed to another person. Further, suppose an artist created a work of art that no one else ever saw. Since no feeling had been communicated through it,would it still be a work of art? The work did not "hand on to others" anything at all because it was never seen. Therefore, it would fail as art according to Tolstoy's definition. Significant Form

To address these limitations of existing definitions of art, in 1913 English art critic Clive Bell proposed that art is significant form, or the "quality that brings us aesthetic pleasure." Bell stated: "to appreciate a work of art we need bring with us nothing but a sense of form and colour." In Bell's view, the term "form" simply means line, shape, mass, as well as color. Significant form is the collection of those elements that rises to the level of your awareness and gives you noticeable pleasure in its beauty. Unfortunately, aesthetics, pleasure in the beauty and appreciation of art, are impossible to measure or reliably define. What brings aesthetic pleasure to one person may not affect another. Aesthetic pleasure exists only in the viewer, not in the object. Thus significant form is purely subjective. While Clive Bell did advance the debate about art by moving it away from requiring strict representation, his definition gets us no closer to understanding what does or does not qualify as an art object. Artworld

One definition of art widely held today was first promoted in the 1960s by American philosophers George Dickie and Althur Danto, and is called the institutional theory of art, or the "Art­ world" theory. In the simplest version of this theory, art is an object or set of conditions that has been designated as art by a "person or persons acting on behalf of the art world", and the art world is a "complex field of forces" that determine what is and is not art. Unfortunately, this definition gets us no further along because it is not about art at all! Instead, it is about who has the power to define art, which is a political issue, not an aesthetic one.

1.3.2 Definition of Art

We each perceive the world from our own position or per­spective and from that percep­tion we make a mental image of the world. Science is the process of turning perceptions into a coherent mental picture of the universe through testing and observation. (Figure 1.4) Sci­ence moves concepts from the world into the mind. Science is vitally important because it al­lows us to understand how the world works and to use that un­derstanding to make good pre­dictions. Alt is the other side of

meaning of art essay

Figure 1.4 I Perception: Art and Science

Author: Jeffrey LeMieux

meaning of art essay

Figure 1.5 I Portrait of Percy  Bysshe Shelley

Artist: Alfred Clint

meaning of art essay

Figure 1.6 I Portrait of Jean-Jacques  Rousseau

Artist: Maurice Quentin de La Tour

We need both art and science to exist in the world. From our earliest age, we both observe the world and do things to change it. We are all both scientists and artists. Every human activity has both a science (observation) and an art (expression) to it. Anyone who has participated in the discipline of Yoga, for example, can see that even something as simple as breathing has both an art and a science to it.

This definition of art covers the wide variety of objects that we see in museums, on social media, or even in our daily walk to work. But this definition of art is not enough. The bigger question is: what art is worthy of our attention, and how do we know when we have found it? Ultimately, each of us must answer that question for ourselves.

But we do have help if we want it. People who have made a disciplined study of art can offer ideas about what art is im­portant and why. In the course of this text, we will examine some of those ideas about art. Due to the importance of respecting the individual, the decision about what art is best must belong to the individual. We ask only that the student understand the ideas as presented.

When challenged with a question or problem about what is best, we first ask, "What do I personally know about it?" When we realize our personal resources are limited, we might ask friends, neighbors, and relatives what they know. In addition to these important resources, the educated person can refer to a larger body of possible solutions drawn from a study of the history of literature, philosophy, and art: What did the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley say about truth in his essay Defense of Poetry (1840)? (Figure 1.5) What did the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau claim about human nature in his treatise Emile or On Education (1762)? (Figure 1.6) What did Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675, Netherlands) show us about the quiet dignity of the domestic space in his painting Woman Holding a Balance? (Figure 1.7) Through experiencing these works of art and literature, our ideas about such things can be tested and validated or found wanting.

We will examine works of visual art from a diverse range of cultures and periods. The challenge for you as the reader is to increase your ability to interpret works of art through the use of context, visual dynamics, and introspection, and to integrate them into a coher­ ent worldview. The best outcome of an encounter with art is an awakening of the mind and spirit to a new point of view. A mind stretched beyond itself never returns to its original dimension.

1.3.3 The Distinction of Fine Art

From our definition of art proposed above, it would seem that craft and fine art are indistinguishable as both come from the mind into the world. But the distinction between craft and art is real and important. This distinction is most commonly understood as one based on the use or end purpose of an object, or as an effect of the material used. Clay, textiles, glass, and jewelry were long considered the province of craft, not art. If an object's intended use was a part of daily living, then it was generally thought to be the product of craft, not fine art. But many objects originally intended to be functional, such as quilts, are now thought to qualify as fine art. (Figure 1.8)

So what could be the difference between art and craft? Anyone who has been exposed to training in a craft such as carpentry or plumbing recognizes that craft follows a formula, that is, a set of rules that govern not only how the work is to be conducted but also what the outcome of that work must be. The level of craft is judged by how closely the end product matches the pre-determined outcome. We want our houses to stand and water to flow when we turn on our faucets. Fine art, on the other hand, results from a free and open-ended exploration that does not depend on a pre-determined formula for its out­ come or validity. Its outcome is surprising and original. Almost all fine art objects are a combination of some level both of craft and art. Art stands on craft, but goes beyond it.

meaning of art essay

Figure 1.7 I Woman Holding a Balance

Artist: Johannes Vermeer

meaning of art essay

Figure 1.8 I Quilt

Artist: Lucy Mingo

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Essay on Art

500 words essay on art.

Each morning we see the sunshine outside and relax while some draw it to feel relaxed. Thus, you see that art is everywhere and anywhere if we look closely. In other words, everything in life is artwork. The essay on art will help us go through the importance of art and its meaning for a better understanding.

essay on art

What is Art?

For as long as humanity has existed, art has been part of our lives. For many years, people have been creating and enjoying art.  It expresses emotions or expression of life. It is one such creation that enables interpretation of any kind.

It is a skill that applies to music, painting, poetry, dance and more. Moreover, nature is no less than art. For instance, if nature creates something unique, it is also art. Artists use their artwork for passing along their feelings.

Thus, art and artists bring value to society and have been doing so throughout history. Art gives us an innovative way to view the world or society around us. Most important thing is that it lets us interpret it on our own individual experiences and associations.

Art is similar to live which has many definitions and examples. What is constant is that art is not perfect or does not revolve around perfection. It is something that continues growing and developing to express emotions, thoughts and human capacities.

Importance of Art

Art comes in many different forms which include audios, visuals and more. Audios comprise songs, music, poems and more whereas visuals include painting, photography, movies and more.

You will notice that we consume a lot of audio art in the form of music, songs and more. It is because they help us to relax our mind. Moreover, it also has the ability to change our mood and brighten it up.

After that, it also motivates us and strengthens our emotions. Poetries are audio arts that help the author express their feelings in writings. We also have music that requires musical instruments to create a piece of art.

Other than that, visual arts help artists communicate with the viewer. It also allows the viewer to interpret the art in their own way. Thus, it invokes a variety of emotions among us. Thus, you see how essential art is for humankind.

Without art, the world would be a dull place. Take the recent pandemic, for example, it was not the sports or news which kept us entertained but the artists. Their work of arts in the form of shows, songs, music and more added meaning to our boring lives.

Therefore, art adds happiness and colours to our lives and save us from the boring monotony of daily life.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

Conclusion of the Essay on Art

All in all, art is universal and can be found everywhere. It is not only for people who exercise work art but for those who consume it. If there were no art, we wouldn’t have been able to see the beauty in things. In other words, art helps us feel relaxed and forget about our problems.

FAQ of Essay on Art

Question 1: How can art help us?

Answer 1: Art can help us in a lot of ways. It can stimulate the release of dopamine in your bodies. This will in turn lower the feelings of depression and increase the feeling of confidence. Moreover, it makes us feel better about ourselves.

Question 2: What is the importance of art?

Answer 2: Art is essential as it covers all the developmental domains in child development. Moreover, it helps in physical development and enhancing gross and motor skills. For example, playing with dough can fine-tune your muscle control in your fingers.

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Philosophical Perspectives on Art

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Stephen Davies, Philosophical Perspectives on Art , Oxford University Press, 2007, 279pp., $75.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780199202423.

Reviewed by Christian Helmut Wenzel, National Chi Nan University, Taiwan

This book consists of a collection of articles that appeared between 1984 and 2006, plus an introduction. All articles appeared originally in English, but one has been translated from the Spanish. They are all written in an abstract and argumentative style. Thus the book is analytic and not historical in method. There are also no pictures and very little by way of examples. In the essays, Davies pursues universal and essentialist claims. Officially there are two parts to the book, but due to its being a collection of previously published essays there is naturally much overlap and the dividing line is not clear. The first part is concerned with the distinctive character of artworks, the possibility of defining art, and the question of whether art is universal for all human beings. The second part is about interpretation and appreciation, art's meaning, truth, emotions, and expressiveness.

After his book Themes in the Philosophy of Music of 2003 and the more introductory and student-friendly The Philosophy of Art of 2006 for the Blackwell series Foundations of the Philosophy of the Arts, Davies has put together some less introductory and more demanding essays for his new Philosophical Perspectives on Art of 2007. But the themes and positions are naturally similar to those expressed in his previous work. There are sixteen chapters -- ranging from fundamental discussions about the definition of art, where the author sometimes does indeed "theorize not about the nature of art but about theorizing about art" (23), to more concrete topics such as biology, architecture, metaphors, meaning, and expression in art. Nevertheless, the general mode of thought remains a rather abstract one.

The first essay asks whether art is more like gold or more like parking tickets: in general, "the way we view and categorize the world is shaped by our desires and projects as much as by the world's independent structure" (24); parking tickets are more of the former kind, the results of our desires and projects, whereas gold we think of as existing independently of us. One might be tempted to say that art belongs to the first kind of objects, because it is created by us. But Davies argues that art belongs, similarly to weed and seagulls, to an intermediate domain between gold and parking tickets (essay 1): what counts as a weed or as art depends on us as well as on what we find and meet with in the world around us. I think Davies takes such a position because he believes that art is universal, human, and to be found everywhere, whereas parking tickets are not. Although he prefers to locate art in the domain of culture and not biology (essay 7), he still favors essentialism (essay 2). This seems to me to be why Davies takes an intermediate position regarding the ontology of art. Especially through his essentialist commitment, this is a more traditional position than most of what we find in the second half of the twentieth century. Indeed, Davies says that "the aesthetic, as traditionally understood, has made something of a comeback recently" (28), and if this is true, it seems to me he will be in good company.

Davies defends essentialism against cluster theory if the latter is taken as undercutting essentialism. Saying that something is art if it satisfies, say, eight out of ten criteria, is still, he claims, a way of defining art and therefore still a type of essentialism. “The cluster account deserves to be taken seriously precisely because it provides a plausible description of what kinds of things can make something art. Rather than counting against essentialism in aesthetics, it indicates another way for essentialism to be true" (42). There is much to be said for this, but I don't think it goes as far as Davies wants it to. Cluster theory certainly gives a definition, but an essence derived from this definition is, I think, somewhat fuzzy. Whatever criterion from the list of ten one chooses, it does not need to be met in all cases. It often is, but sometimes is not. This creates fuzziness that is similar to mere family resemblance. It seems to me that Davies underestimates this aspect of fuzziness in cluster theory and the way it affects and somewhat modifies traditional essentialism.

Davies briefly discusses the pros and cons of functionalism and proceduralism, the former claiming that art satisfies a need for aesthetic experience, the latter taking it that art is art in virtue of being baptized as such. After this, there is a slightly longer essay on the notion of non-Western art. Davies begins with the observation that "the members of all cultures have always engaged in storytelling, drawing, carving and whittling, song, dance, and acting or mime" (51), and it therefore does not come as a surprise that he defends a universalist position. The "ubiquity" of these practices "suggests that art is universal" (51). Languages might differ, but concepts don't need to. "The crux concerns the concepts possessed within non-Western cultures, not the vocabularies of their languages" (55). That is certainly true, yet I wonder whether it is that easy. I doubt that the concepts appear to be so universal and language independent once we take a closer look at certain practices and values. Wittgenstein for instance once wrote: "Chinesische Gesten verstehen wir so wenig, wie chinesische Sätze" (Big Typescript), and I think there is a point to this. Although I have sympathy for the idea that "there is a transcultural notion of the aesthetic" (60), I also have some reservations. How difficult things can be is something I have tried to bring out in "Beauty in Kant and Confucius. A First Step", Journal of Chinese Philosophy 33/1 (2006), pp. 95-107.

I have a general worry and concern regarding Davies' analytic approach and many others of its kind (although I am sympathetic to analytic philosophy as much as to historical approaches). Davies' discussion is not only written but also conceived in English and in a certain framework: almost all the literature and theories he refers to are taken from the framework of the English-speaking, analytic literature of the last fifty years. There is no discussion of theories put forward in France or Italy (there is a little discussion of Kant on free and dependent beauty, in essay 6), and there is nothing about Africa or South America. Japan and China have not only produced works of art but also theories of art. If philosophy wants to make universal claims -- and I think it usually does, and justly so -- it will be useful to look into such other traditions as well. Especially if one favors contextualism, as Davies does ("when it comes to the ontology of art, I favor contextualism", 76), this should be an obvious thing to do. Davies also rightly observes that "it is only in confrontation with the 'other', with an intrusive alien presence, that the society is forced to define itself, to reflect on its own character" (55), and I suggest that analytic philosophy, as we know it from the English-speaking traditions of the twentieth century, also has a history and is therefore in need of such a "confrontation", especially when it makes claims to universality.

Art is usually understood as historical and reflexive within the tradition it belongs to. But then there arises the problem of how to explain "first art." Davies faces this problem by

arguing for the existence of aesthetic properties (essay 5). One of the few places where Davies explicitly takes up an issue that is not (at least not only) from the last fifty years of English language discussions is his treatment of free and dependent beauty in Kant. He finds these notions problematic and not convincing. "Six-limbedness counts against beauty in people, but not in Hindu gods or insects". This is true, but Kant would not say that 'six-limbedness' is an object of beauty to start with, because it is too conceptual. Furthermore, Davies observes that "in the later decades of the twentieth century, some analytic philosophers of art challenged the constellation of ideas that made up the inheritance of Enlightenment aesthetics" (86). This is also true, but it sounds as if nothing had happened in Europe during the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, which certainly is not the case.

Regarding Ellen Dissanayake's evolutionary account of art (essay 7), Davies acknowledges that "her position avoids the trivializing reductions of most ethological approaches, which tie beauty to sexual attractions and see the interest and value of art exhausted by its potential as a tool for seduction" (110), and he also admits that her view "applies most comfortably to what might be called 'low' or 'folk' art" (114). But in the end, he observes, we need more than biological perspectives. We need cultural aspects to account for the more highly-developed art forms, especially for art for its own sake. Dissanayake herself is aware of this, but instead of introducing cultural aspects to account for such art forms, she concludes, according to Davies, that "this comparatively recent European conception of art is aberrant" (114). But it seems to me that Dissanayake might have given up too easily. I think one can make an argument in evolutionary terms even for the case of art for its own sake. Contemplation can be a good and useful thing, for oneself as well as for others, and communities might leave a niche for it and be selected for doing this.

When it comes to the "meaning" of art, Davies favors an "original context theory", over a "modern" one: "The creation and appreciation of literature answers primarily to an interest [not] in works alone … [but] to works as the product of human authors" (149), and he argues that this still allows for multiple interpretations of works of art. He strongly defends the view that "the meaning of a literary work is fixed by factors holding at the time of the work's creation" (149), and he regards opposing postmodern theories as "counterintuitive" (161). Context theory is taken up again in another essay, where he discusses three theories of intentionalism: actual, hypothetical, and contextual. These turn out to be not as different from each other as has often been claimed (essay 11). They merely disagree over whether we should aim "to disclose what was meant, to consider what might have been meant, or to present the work in a manner that makes it most valuable as literature" (189). Davies argues that the third approach should be the preferred one. It even turns out that two or more conflicting interpretations can be true at the same time (essay 12). A literary work can have more than one meaning, and a sentence allows for more than one reading.

In the last chapter, Davies criticizes a version of Expression Theory that he takes to be its "ur-form". This theory "explains art's expressiveness as arising from artists' expressing their concurrent emotions of feelings in the production of art" (241-2). He says the view is widespread, but he thinks it is mistaken because "it is not common for most artists to work creatively under the duress of emotion" (242). The expressiveness of artworks does not reflect the artist's emotion as tears indicate sadness. Artists simply don't create their works in this way. Nevertheless, I must admit that on first blush it seemed to me that when looking at a painting by Vincent van Gogh and having just read his letters to his brother Theo, it will be difficult to avoid having the feeling that one sees things a bit the way he saw them and that one shares his emotions to some extent. Van Gogh certainly painted passionately, and his feelings are intertwined with his ways of seeing things. Feelings are complex and cannot be fully grasped by a simple word such as "sadness". But Davies offers a fine-tuned analysis of emotional expressiveness that sheds some light on what is actually going on. He distinguishes between three kinds of expressiveness: (1) unintentional, unreflected, and natural (primary) expressions; (2) intentional, reflected, and non-constitutive (secondary) expressions, an understanding of which presupposes independent knowledge of the agent's intentions and circumstances; and (3) expressions that rely on conventions and rituals (tertiary expressions of emotions). Davies then argues that the expressiveness of art is more of the second and third and much less of the first kind than we usually think. This indeed makes sense in the van Gogh case I introduced above, because there we have some additional knowledge through his letters. Besides the threefold distinction, this essay also offers several detailed discussions of how the expressiveness of art and the artists' own emotions must be distinguished in various cases and circumstances. Although van Gogh is "responsible" for the work's expressiveness, "appearances of primary expressions" do not need to " be primary expressions" (255).

All in all, this is a useful and stimulating book. The sixteen essays collected in it not only give "philosophical perspectives on art", as the title promises, but also offer sharp analyses that still form a unity.

  • Corrections

“Without Art Mankind Could Not Exist”: Leo Tolstoy’s Essay What is Art

In his essay “What is Art?” Leo Tolstoy, the author of War and Peace, defines art as a way to communicate emotion with the ultimate goal of uniting humanity.

leo tolstoy ploughed field

How can we define art? What is authentic art and what is good art? Leo Tolstoy answered these questions in “What is Art?” (1897), his most comprehensive essay on the theory of art. Tolstoy’s theory has a lot of charming aspects. He believes that art is a means of communicating emotion, with the aim of promoting mutual understanding. By gaining awareness of each other’s feelings we can successfully practice empathy and ultimately unite to further mankind’s collective well-being. 

Furthermore, Tolstoy firmly denies that pleasure is art’s sole purpose. Instead, he supports a moral-based art able to appeal to everyone and not just the privileged few. Although he takes a clear stance in favor of Christianity as a valid foundation for morality, his definition of religious perception is flexible. As a result, it is possible to easily replace it with all sorts of different ideological schemes.

Personally, I do not approach Tolstoy’s theory as a set of laws for understanding art. More than anything, “What is art?” is a piece of art itself. A work about the meaning of art and a fertile foundation on which truly beautiful ideas can flourish.

Most of the paintings used for this article were drawn by realist painter Ilya Repin. The Russian painter created a series of portraits of Tolstoy, which were exhibited together at the 2019 exhibition “Repin: The Myth of Tolstoy” at the State Museum L.N. Tolstoy. More information regarding the relationship between Tolstoy and Repin can be found in this article . 

Who was Tolstoy?

leo tolstoy in his study

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Leo Tolstoy ( Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy) was born in 1828 in his family estate of Yasnaya Polyana, some 200km from Moscow. His family belonged in the Russian aristocracy and thus Leo inherited the title of count. In 1851 he joined the tsarist army to pay off his accumulated debt but quickly regretted this decision. Eventually, he left the army right after the end of the Crimean War in 1856. 

After traveling Europe and witnessing the suffering and cruelty of the world, Tolstoy was transformed. From a privileged aristocrat, he became a Christian anarchist arguing against the State and propagating non-violence. This was the doctrine that inspired Gandhi and was expressed as non-resistance to evil. This means that evil cannot be fought with evil means and one should neither accept nor resist it.  

Tolstoy’s writing made him famous around the world and he is justly considered among the four giants of Russian Literature next to Dostoevsky, Chekhov, and Turgenev. His most famous novels are War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877). However, he also wrote multiple philosophical and theological texts as well as theatrical plays and short stories. Upon completing his masterpiece Anna Karenina , Tolstoy fell into a state of insufferable existential despair.

Charmed by the faith of the common people, he turned to Christianity. Eventually, he dismissed the Russian Church and every other Church as corrupted and looked for his own answers. His theological explorations led to the formulation of his own version of Christianity, which deeply influenced his social vision.  He died in 1910 at the age of 82 after suffering from pneumonia.

Art Based On Beauty And Taste 

ilya repin leo tolstoy

Tolstoy wrote “What is art?” in 1897. There, he laid down his opinions on several art-related issues. Throughout this essay , he remains confident that he is the first to provide an exact definition for art:

“…however strange it may seem to say so, in spite of the mountains of books written about art, no exact definition of art has been constructed. And the reason of this is that the conception of art has been based on the conception of beauty.”  

So, what is art for Tolstoy? Before answering the question, the Russian novelist seeks a proper basis for his definition. Examining works of other philosophers and artists, he notices that they usually assume that beauty is art’s foundation. For them beauty is either that which provides a certain kind of pleasure or that which is perfect according to objective, universal laws.

Tolstoy thinks that both cases lead to subjective definitions of beauty and in turn to subjective definitions of art. Those who realize the impossibility of objectively defining beauty, turn to a study of taste asking why a thing pleases. Again, Tolstoy sees no point in this, as taste is also subjective. There is no way of explaining why one thing pleases someone but displeases someone else, he concludes. 

Theories that Justify the Canon

ilya repin leo tolstoy sketches

Theories of art based on beauty or taste inescapably include only that type of art that appeals to certain people:

“First acknowledging a certain set of productions to be art (because they please us) and then framing such a theory of art that all those productions which please a certain circle of people should fit into it.”

These theories are made to justify the existing art canon which covers anything from Greek art to Shakespeare and Beethoven. In reality, the canon is nothing more than the artworks appreciated by the upper classes. To justify new productions that please the elites, new theories that expand and reaffirm the canon are constantly created: 

“No matter what insanities appear in art, when once they find acceptance among the upper classes of our society, a theory is quickly invented to explain and sanction them; just as if there had never been periods in history when certain special circles of people recognized and approved false, deformed, and insensate art which subsequently left no trace and has been utterly forgotten.”  

The true definition of art, according to Tolstoy, should be based on moral principles. Before anything, we need to question if a work of art is moral. If it is moral, then it is good art. If it is not moral, it is bad. This rationale leads Tolstoy to a very bizarre idea. At one point in his essay, he states that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliette, Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister, and his own War and Peace are immoral and therefore bad art. But what does Tolstoy exactly mean when he says that something is good or bad art? And what is the nature of the morality he uses for his artistic judgments?

What is Art?

tolstoy portrait ilya repin

Art is a means of communicating feelings the same way words transmit thoughts. In art, someone transmits a feeling and “infects” others with what he/she feels. Tolstoy encapsulates his definition of art in the following passages:

“To evoke in oneself a feeling one has once experienced, and having evoked it in oneself, then, by means of movements, lines, colors, sounds, or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling that others may experience the same feeling – this is the activity of art. Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hand on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings and also experience them.”

In its essence, art is a means of union among men brought together by commonly experienced feelings. It facilitates access to the psychology of others fostering empathy and understanding by tearing down the walls of the Subject. This function of art is not only useful but also necessary for the progress and wellbeing of humanity.

The innumerable feelings experienced by humans both in past and present are available to us only through art. The loss of such a unique ability would be a catastrophe. “Men would be like beasts”, says Tolstoy, and even goes as far as to claim that without art, mankind could not exist. This is a bold declaration, which recalls the Nietzschean aphorism that human existence is justified only as an aesthetic phenomenon.

Art in the Extended and Limited Sense of the Word

leo tolstpy ilya repin portrait

Tolstoy’s definition expands to almost every aspect of human activity way beyond the fine arts. Even a boy telling the story of how he met a wolf can be art. That is, however, only if the boy succeeds in making the listeners feel the fear and anguish of the encounter. Works of art are everywhere, according to this view. Cradlesong, jest, mimicry, house ornamentation, dress and utensils, even triumphal processions are all works of art. 

This is, in my view, the strongest point of Tolstoy’s theory. Namely, that it considers almost the totality of human activity as art. However, there is a distinction between this expanded art, and art in the limited sense of the word. The latter corresponds to the fine arts and is the area that Tolstoy investigates further in his essay.  A weak point of the theory is that it never examines the act of creation and art that is not shared with others. 

Real and Counterfeit Art

tolstoy in woods

The distinction between real and counterfeit, good and bad art is Tolstoy’s contribution to the field of art criticism. Despite its many weaknesses, this system offers an interesting alternative to judging and appreciating art.

Tolstoy names real art (i.e. authentic, true to itself) the one resulting from an honest, internal need for expression. The product of this internal urge becomes a real work of art, if it successfully evokes feelings to other people. In this process, the receiver of the artistic impression becomes so united with the artist’s experience, that he/she feels like the artwork is his/her own. Therefore, real art removes the barrier between Subject and Object, and between receiver and sender of an artistic impression. In addition, it removes the barrier between the receivers who experience unity through a common feeling.

“In this freeing of our personality from its separation and isolation, in this uniting of it with others, lies the chief characteristic and the great attractive force of art.” Furthermore, a work that does not evoke feelings and spiritual union with others is counterfeit art. No matter how poetical, realistic, effectful, or interesting it is, it must meet these conditions to succeed. Otherwise it is just a counterfeit posing as real art.  

Emotional Infectiousness

old tolstoy

Emotional infectiousness is a necessary quality of a work of art. The degree of infectiousness is not always the same but varies according to three conditions:

  • The individuality of the feeling transmitted: the more specific to a person the feeling, the more successful the artwork.
  • The clearness of the feeling transmitted: the clearness of expression assists the transition of feelings and increases the pleasure derived from art.
  • The sincerity of the artist: the force with which the artist feels the emotion he/she transmits through his/her art. 

Out of all three, sincerity is the most important. Without it, the other two conditions cannot exist. Worth noting is that Tolstoy finds sincerity almost always present in “peasant art” but almost always absent in “upper-class art”. If a work lacks even one of the three qualities, it is counterfeit art. In contrast, it is real if it possesses all three. In that case, it only remains to judge whether this real artwork is good or bad, more or less successful. The success of an artwork is based firstly on the degree of its infectiousness. The more infectious the artwork, the better.  

The Religious Perception of Art

entombment of christ el greco

Tolstoy believes that art is a means of progress towards perfection. With time, art evolves rendering accessible the experience of humanity for humanity’s sake. This is a process of moral realization and results in society becoming kinder and more compassionate. A genuinely good artwork ought to make accessible these good feelings that move humanity closer to its moral completion. Within this framework, a good work of art must also be moral. 

But how can we judge what feelings are morally good? Tolstoy’s answer lies in what he calls “the religious perception of the age”. This is defined as the understanding of the meaning of life as conceived by a group of people. This understanding is the moral compass of a society and always points towards certain values. For Tolstoy, the religious perception of his time is found in Christianity. As a result, all good art must carry the foundational message of this religion understood as brotherhood among all people. This union of man aiming at his collective well-being, argues Tolstoy, must be revered as the highest value of all. 

Although it relates to religion, religious perception is not the same with religious cult. In fact, the definition of religious perception is so wide, that it describes ideology in general. To this interpretation leads Tolstoy’s view that, even if a society recognizes no religion, it always has a religious morality. This can be compared with the direction of a flowing river:

If the river flows at all, it must have a direction. If a society lives, there must be a religious perception indicating the direction in which, more or less consciously, all its members tend.

what is truth christ pilate

It is safe to say that more than a century after Tolstoy’s death, “What is Art?” retains its appeal. We should not easily dismiss the idea that (good) art communicates feelings and promotes unity through universal understanding. This is especially the case in our time where many question art’s importance and see it as a source of confusion and division. 

  • Tolstoy, L.N. 1902. What is Art? In the Novels and Other Works of Lyof N. Tolstoy . translated by Aline Delano. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. pp. 328-527. Available at: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/43409
  • Jahn, G.R. 1975. ‘The Aesthetic Theory of Leo Tolstoy’s What Is Art?’. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism , Vol. 34, No. 1. pp. 59-65. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/428645
  • Morson, G.S. 2019. ‘Leo Tolstoy’. Encyclopædia Britannica. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Leo-Tolstoy

meaning of art essay

Theodor Adorno on the Essay: An Antidote to Modernity

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By Antonis Chaliakopoulos MSc Museum Studies, BA History & Archaeology Antonis is an archaeologist with a passion for museums and heritage and a keen interest in aesthetics and the reception of classical art. He holds an MSc in Museum Studies from the University of Glasgow and a BA in History and Archaeology from the University of Athens (NKUA). Antonis is a senior staff member at TheCollector, managing the Archaeology and Ancient History department. In his spare time, he publishes articles on his specialty.

Read more by Antonis Chaliakopoulos


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The Value of Art Why should we care about art?

The Value of Art, Essays on Art

One of the first questions raised when talking about art is simple—why should we care? Art in the contemporary era is easy to dismiss as a selfish pastime for people who have too much time on their hands. Creating art doesn't cure disease, build roads, or feed the poor. So to understand the value of art, let’s look at how art has been valued through history and consider how it is valuable today.

The value of creating

At its most basic level, the act of creating is rewarding in itself. Children draw for the joy of it before they can speak, and creating pictures, sculptures and writing is both a valuable means of communicating ideas and simply fun. Creating is instinctive in humans, for the pleasure of exercising creativity. While applied creativity is valueable in a work context, free-form creativity leads to new ideas.

Material value

Through the ages, art has often been created from valuable materials. Gold , ivory and gemstones adorn medieval crowns , and even the paints used by renaissance artists were made from rare materials like lapis lazuli , ground into pigment. These objects have creative value for their beauty and craftsmanship, but they are also intrinsically valuable because of the materials they contain.

Historical value

Artwork is a record of cultural history. Many ancient cultures are entirely lost to time except for the artworks they created, a legacy that helps us understand our human past. Even recent work can help us understand the lives and times of its creators, like the artwork of African-American artists during the Harlem Renaissance . Artwork is inextricably tied to the time and cultural context it was created in, a relationship called zeitgeist , making art a window into history.

Religious value

For religions around the world, artwork is often used to illustrate their beliefs. Depicting gods and goddesses, from Shiva to the Madonna , make the concepts of faith real to the faithful. Artwork has been believed to contain the spirits of gods or ancestors, or may be used to imbue architecture with an aura of awe and worship like the Badshahi Mosque .

Patriotic value

Art has long been a source of national pride, both as an example of the skill and dedication of a country’s artisans and as expressions of national accomplishments and history, like the Arc de Triomphe , a heroic monument honoring the soldiers who died in the Napoleonic Wars. The patriotic value of art slides into propaganda as well, used to sway the populace towards a political agenda.

Symbolic value

Art is uniquely suited to communicating ideas. Whether it’s writing or painting or sculpture, artwork can distill complex concepts into symbols that can be understood, even sometimes across language barriers and cultures. When art achieves symbolic value it can become a rallying point for a movement, like J. Howard Miller’s 1942 illustration of Rosie the Riveter, which has become an icon of feminism and women’s economic impact across the western world.

Societal value

And here’s where the rubber meets the road: when we look at our world today, we see a seemingly insurmountable wave of fear, bigotry, and hatred expressed by groups of people against anyone who is different from them. While issues of racial and gender bias, homophobia and religious intolerance run deep, and have many complex sources, much of the problem lies with a lack of empathy. When you look at another person and don't see them as human, that’s the beginning of fear, violence and war. Art is communication. And in the contemporary world, it’s often a deeply personal communication. When you create art, you share your worldview, your history, your culture and yourself with the world. Art is a window, however small, into the human struggles and stories of all people. So go see art, find art from other cultures, other religions, other orientations and perspectives. If we learn about each other, maybe we can finally see that we're all in this together. Art is a uniquely human expression of creativity. It helps us understand our past, people who are different from us, and ultimately, ourselves.

Reed Enger, "The Value of Art, Why should we care about art?," in Obelisk Art History , Published June 24, 2017; last modified November 08, 2022, http://www.arthistoryproject.com/essays/the-value-of-art/.

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What is an Art Essay and How to Write it?

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Art is the expression of one’s thoughts, ideas, emotions, and feelings through different mediums like music, dance, literature, painting, or theater. If you are an art student, then for your university assignments, your instructors may ask you to submit an art essay on relevant themes. Basically, essay writing is a challenging task. Moreover, before you begin working on it, you must know the basics. In case, you have no idea what is an art essay or if you are clueless about how to write an art essay, then continue reading this blog post. Here, we have presented complete details on art essay writing. Explore and update your knowledge of writing an impressive essay on art.

What is an Art Essay?

An art essay is a kind of essay that analyzes an artwork from different perspectives. It mainly allows the authors to represent their viewpoint on the literature or other pieces of art in a deep and authentic manner. Art is a broad field with no limit to creativity and an art essay can be written on any literature, outstanding personalities, cognitive tales, historical events, natural phenomena, and discoveries in various fields. Particularly, the art essay aims to develop the capability of students to identify cognitive information, recognize key features, build cause-and-effect relationships, and so on.

Till now, concisely, we have seen what an art essay means. Next, let us look at the simple and effective way to craft a brilliant art essay.

Understand How to Write an Art Essay

What is an Art Essay

If you wonder how to write an art essay, take a look below. Especially, by following the steps suggested here, you can come up with an excellent art essay deserving of top grades.

Select an Ideal Art Essay Topic

To compose an essay, a good topic is needed the most. The same applies to art essays as well. If you are asked to write an art essay, then first choose an ideal essay topic from any art themes or literature. Note that, the topic you choose should focus on your personal interest and it should also allow you to discuss it from a scientific point of view. To add freshness to your art essay, you can also pick a controversial topic or an issue in the art field and analyze the problem from a unique perspective.

List of Popular Art Essay Topics

  • The influence of technology on modern art.
  • Art is the voice of the oppressed.
  • The effects of globalization on the art scene.
  • Women Artists in Art History.
  • The relationship of popular culture with contemporary art.
  • Evolution of visual art forms.
  • The role of the political environment in art.
  • Exhibition activities and curatorship.
  • Role of media in portraying art and culture.
  • Current influences on modern art.

Also read: Best Art History Thesis Topics to Deal With

Conduct Research and Analysis

Once you have chosen a topic for your art essay, conduct extensive research on the topic and gather the relevant ideas for discussion from various credible sources. In particular, find out the argument or thesis statement for your essay. Anyone can craft an essay, but in order to improve the credibility of the essay, it is essential to explain the argument with claims. Furthermore, analyze the piece of art from different angles and note down how the work is illustrated; what are the objectives of the work, and so on.

Sketch an Art Essay Outline

After research and analysis, create a plan for your essay. If you have a clear plan, then you can easily structure your art essay. Moreover, creating an art essay outline will also help you determine the size of your work, highlight important information, and organize the major ideas without omitting any.

Compose an Art Essay

Following the essay outline creation, begin writing your art essay. Remember, the art essay you compose should contain essential sections such as the introduction, body, and conclusion. In specific, the art essay you craft should describe the artwork or the subject you have chosen, the art type, and why the author has worked on that subject. Additionally, you should also describe the art elements and principles of design with valid supporting facts and evidence. Whenever you take references from other sources, make sure to cite them properly in order to avoid plagiarism issues.

Proofread and Edit

After the art essay is prepared, make sure to proofread the content several times and improve its quality. For checking grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors, you can use any tool or get assistance from experienced editors. Note that, the art essay ready for submission should be flawless, accurate, and original.

Standard Structure of an Art Essay

An art essay should be structured properly by adding three major sections such as the introduction, body, and conclusion. In the introduction part, you should describe the topic you have chosen and a list of things to be discussed in the essay. But, in the body section, you should analyze the problem or the topic from a different aspect. On the other hand, in the conclusion section, you should summarize and present a thesis restatement.

Here, let us see how to write the introduction, body, and conclusion of an Art Essay


In case, you are in a dilemma of how to start your creativity essay, follow the tips recommended here to come up with an engaging introduction.

The introduction is the major part that has the power to grab the attention of the readers. Hence, first set the tone of your work. Next, in an art essay introduction, you should add a powerful thesis statement relevant to your topic. A thesis statement is nothing but the core idea of the paper. Say, for example, your thesis statement can be like ‘The Indian art was influenced by religion and beliefs’. However, you should present the evidence to prove your point of view.

Along with a clear and relevant thesis statement, make sure the introduction is directly tied to the body and reflected in the conclusion. We also suggest employing hooks such as quotations, statistics, and aphorisms to grab the reader’s attention to the essay.

It is the central part of your essay about art, where you need to talk about the core idea that you have mentioned in the introduction. The following are some essential elements that you need to include in your body section to make it more efficient.

  • Make use of a topic sentence. This is often the opening statement that informs your readers about what you will be discussing in the next section.
  • Look for evidence. You must cite authoritative viewpoints to make your statements sound trustworthy. Be certain to use the right citation that suits the context. But don’t make it too long.
  • Describe your point of view. This is your response to the information you have presented.
  • Explain your stance. Of course, one comment is insufficient; you must articulate your opinion and explain why this information is important. Make sure that this text passage is connected to both the following paragraph and the first paragraph.

Also read: Learn How to Cite Sources in an Essay Using Various Formats

Finally, in the conclusion, summarize all the arguments in favor of your thesis statement. This will remind the reader that you were successful in defending your argument. However, in the conclusion, never add new information because it will spark new ideas and make the essay look incomplete. Instead, use a rhetorical question or a call to action, so that you make your readers remember your essay for a long time.

Other Major Details to Include in an Art Essay

Here, let us look at some important information that can be included in an art creativity.

Basic Details

While writing an essay about art, make sure to present your definition of ‘ creativity along with an explanation. Also, provide two examples to support your viewpoint. One example can be from a literary text and the other one can be from life. In general, highlighting the primary ideas will help you reduce the reading time. When presenting the general information, you can focus on the core text and what the author approves, denies, and warns.

A Concise Description

Using your own words describe what you see in the picture or artwork. A complete analysis of the picture will help you understand the life inside it. Also, you can get to know why the author had chosen that plot, what his inspirations are, and so on. Sometimes, you can connect some fantastic stories with the pictures.

It is essential for you to identify the kind of art chosen and you should also be aware of the various terminologies related to it. Typically, while writing a response to a fiction work, you should be able to discuss what the plot, composition, themes, artistic way, and ideas are. On the other hand, when working on a picture, you should be skillful in using the terms, genres, materials, colors, tones, backgrounds, and more.

Also read: Socialism Essay Topics To Score the Perfect Grade

Art Elements

Be certain to describe art elements. Some primary elements of art are pictures, play, graphics, lyrics, and poetry. Before you explain how to value the craft, emphasize the entire point of identifying creativity. One of the simple ways to recognize the work is through appreciation. After examining the context and premises of the artwork, you can appreciate and also understand what was there in the author’s mind while working on it. In specific, you should be aware of the reasons for your opinion/feedback and whether the work has any positive features.

Principles of Design

Art and design are two major concepts that are interlinked. Designing is not only about decoration, it is something that requires the highest form of creativity to serve the real needs of people. Design can be functional and emotional, but not economical or practical. However, the core ideas behind the design should be modern and innovative. A sketch or illustration communicates the painter’s ultimate view of the concept. This culminates in a book illustration, a painting in a gallery, and a job in a frame on the wall.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully, by now, you will have learned how to write an art essay. In case, you have any doubts on this subject or if you are still not confident enough to draft an outstanding art creativity, call us immediately. We have numerous subject experts on our platform to provide clarifications to all your queries and to offer you help with writing art essays, research papers, and dissertations as per your needs. Since our art essay helpers are well-experienced, getting original and flawless papers from them on any essay about art topic will be easy for you. Most importantly, by taking our affordable art assignment help online , you can also complete your tasks ahead of the deadline and boost your grades.

Instead of pressurizing yourself, simply book your order on our website and earn the numerous excellent benefits offered by our art essay help services online.

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Art Essay Writing Guide

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What is the purpose of an art essay?

Generally, an art essay is an essay that talks about art in sculpture, paintings, architecture, music and portraits.

These kinds of essays are used for:

  • Painting visual pictures: an art essay is an essay that showcases visual arts and creative ideas that people have come up with.
  • Improving creativity: the whole purpose of art essays is to provide a platform for students to tap into their creative side and vividly paint a picture of a certain image using words.

art essay writing

Art essay topic choice

Like every other essay, there are general tips that should be considered when coming up with an art essay writing topic.

  • The type of art: this may include a painting, a sculpture or just a simple hand diagram. The type of art is important as it sets out what you are supposed to write about.
  • What intrigues you about the art: this is the most important part of the essay. The whole art essay is based on what you want others to know about the piece of art.
  • Personal interests: what you, as a writer, love is very important as it narrows down the topic. It is easier to write on topics that are well-known to you.

There are a number of art essay writing topics to choose from.

Below is a list of topics for an art essay

  • Differences between Picasso’s concepts and Matisse’s
  • The history of art in the Netherlands
  • Differences between Bernini and Borromini
  • The inspiration behind famous painting
  • The Mona Lisa
  • Leonardo Da Vinci
  • Ancient Roman structures
  • The sculptures of nude women
  • Impressionism era of art in Netherlands
  • The graphics of modern day art
  • Insinuations behind ‘The Thinker’
  • The Pieta of Michelangelo
  • The contribution of Vincent Van Gogh and Piet Mondrian
  • Flemish Baroque in the 17th century.

The above are some of the good topics for an art essay.

Structure of an art essay

The art essay topics determine the kind of structure to build on. However, most have a standard art essay structure.

Sample of art essay outline


The Mona Lisa is one of the most known paintings in the world. This is the painting of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco Del Giocondo, believed to have been painted in the 16th century. It is the work of Leonardo da Vinci and it was purchased by King Francis I. The Mona Lisa is currently under the ownership of the French government.

Thesis statement

The Mona Lisa has had a great impact towards the contribution of art in France:

(i)    It is one of the most famous paintings in the world. The Mona Lisa is the painting that everyone wants to see. It is so precious that only a copy of it is actually showcased in the museum.

(ii)    It has led to the growth of art. The Mona Lisa has inspired artists all over France. There has been a rise of many artists including Camille Pissarro, a painter, and Etienne-Jules Marey, a photographer.

It is clear that the Mona Lisa is the soft spot in France. The French take pride in it and have used it to improve their lives. Besides its contribution to art, it has also placed France among the leading countries that celebrate art. This has therefore created a culture of being drawn to art and it is reflected in their way of life.

The above is a sample of outline for an art essay.

art essay tips

Arts essay tips on writing the introduction

An art essay introduction identifies the art and the artist. Art is diverse, as it could be sculptures, architecture, performing arts or paintings in it. This is where you state why you chose that topic.  It also contains a history of the said art and brief details, like who the artist is, the year, the location, etc.

The introduction for an art essay states the thesis. It may be a general statement about the art or a specific aspect of it.

Tips on thesis writing

The thesis statement should be simple and easy to write about. Too complex statements tend to be confusing.

  • Pick a statement that is closer to your understanding.
  • Ensure it is as simple as possible.
  • To avoid irrelevancy, one can have an art essay draft that they can build on.

Tips on the body (transitions, paragraphs, and length)

This is the main part of the essay where you derive analysis based on your point of view.  Describe why the art is so appealing to you. Ensure that your defense covers an angle that has not already been covered for uniqueness. For example, one can focus only on the strokes of a portrait. However, ensure that what you describe is relevant to the thesis of your art essay topics.

The essay should not be too long. The sentence construction should also be well done. For this reason, it is advisable to have your points arranged into paragraphs. Ensure that each paragraph is independent and speaks volumes. This ensures that the art essay hooks the reader.

The transition from one paragraph to the next should also be smooth. Using cliché transitions makes the essay boring; therefore, you need to be creative.

Tips on conclusion writing

In an art essay conclusion, one needs to state their opinion. What you think the artists` feelings were and why they decided to paint it the way they did. At this point, you can state the events that contributed to the artist coming up with that art. The conclusion for an art essay requires a lot of research into the background of both the art and the artist(s). For this reason, the references and sources of the information should be cited.

Advice for writers

In art essay writing it is important to first do your research. Art is so diverse and this can be sometimes confusing. The topic to write on should be related to your interests, for example, as a musician, you would find it easier to write about performing arts and music. Besides this, do not plagiarize any work done. Cite and state all sources, making sure that you observe all rules of patent and copyrights.

For you to be a good writer, these art essay tips will be very helpful.  The best writer is the one who admits to being in a need of help. The art essay writing guide can also be used to find more about art essay writing steps. Different sources could give different art essay outlines so you need to be careful.

Finalizing the essay

After writing the art essay, it is important to have a clean essay. This calls for proofreading and editing. Proofreading ensures that you do not have any grammatical errors, the art essay outlining is as required, your sentence construction is good and the language used is the required one. Some sites offer art essay writing guide for use when one gets stuck.  Proofreading also ensures that the art essay structure is followed. After this is done, ensure that the format used is correct whether APA, MLA or Chicago.

meaning of art essay

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The meaning of art as viewed by various philosophers:

Tolstoy Hegel Wittgenstein Maritain

Leo Tolstoy on What is Art?

Aetheticians have attempted to work backwards by first listing acknowledged works of art, and then trying to find a theory to fit them all. So now, no matter what insanities appear in art, once they find acceptance among the upper classes of society, a theory is quickly invented to explain and sanction them, just as if there had never appeared in history people who produced false and deformed art, which was afterwards discarded and forgotten. And one may see now in the art of our circle, to what lengths the insanity and deformity of art may go.

So that theory of art is nothing but the setting up as good whatever pleases us, that is, pleases a certain class of people. In order define any human activity, it is necessary to understand its sense and importance; to do that one must examine the activity itself, and its causes and effects, not merely in relation to the pleasure we get out of it. If we say that the aim of any activity is merely pleasure, and is defined by that pleasure, our definition will be false. If we compare it to the food question, nobody would affirm that the importance of food consists in the pleasure we get from eating it. We know that the satisfaction of the taste buds is no infallible guide to the best food from a health point of view, in the same way the pleasure we get from a painting is no indication of its worth. People who consider the meaning of art to be pleasure cannot realise its true meaning, in fact, people will come to understand the meaning of art only when they cease to consider that the aim of art is pleasure.

So then – what is art?

The latest definitions are:

The first definition is inexact, because instead of speaking of the human activity itself, it only speaks of the derivation of it The second definition is inexact because a man may express his emotions by means of lines colours etc, and yet may not act on others by his expression so the result is not art. The third definition is inexact, because  in the production of objects or actions affording pleasure,  conjuring tricks or gymnastic exercises may be included, which are not art. Furthermore, the production of a play which does not afford pleasure to the producer or audience, may yet be a work of art. The inaccuracy of all these definitions arises from the fact that, in them all, the object considered is the pleasure art may give, and not the purpose it may serve in the life of man and of humanity.

In order to define art correctly, it is necessary to cease to consider it as a means to pleasure, and to consider it as one of the conditions of life. Viewed in this way, we see that art is one of the means of communication between man and man.

Every work of art causes the receiver to enter into a certain kind of relationship, both with the artist and all who receive the same impression. Just as words transmit thoughts, so art transmits feelings. The activity of art is based on the fact that when we witness a man experiencing an emotion, we to some extent share it. To evoke in oneself a feeling that one has once experienced, and to transmit that feeling to others through forms and colours, sounds or movements.

That is art. Art is not pleasure, but a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for life and progress towards well-being of individuals and of humanity. Thanks to his capacity to express thoughts by words, every man may know the debt he owes to the past, and be able to hand on what he has acheived to future generations. If humans lacked this capacity, we would be like wild beasts, and if people lacked this capacity for being infected by art, people might be more savage still, and more separated from one another.

All human life is filled with art, from cradle songs to fashion in clothes, but by the word ‘art’, we mean that part of artistic activity which we select as having special importance. This special importance has always been given to that part of art which transmits feelings flowing from religious perception. This was how Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle looked on art, and how all the great religious teachers understood it. Plato was so convinced of the power of art, that he suggested that artists should be banned from his ideal republic. Yet that is a less harmful attitude than the attitude in our European society today, where art is regarded as a good thing only if it affords pleasure.

How has our society come down to this? It is because the estimation of the value of art (that is, the feeling it transmits) depends on man’s perception of the meaning of life. Humanity unceasingly moves forward from a lower, more partial view of life to a higher and broader view. Religions are the exponents of the highest comprehension of life accessible to the best and foremost people at a given time. Later the rest of society follows their lead. Therefore religions have always served as bases for the valuation of human semtiments. If feelings bring men nearer the ideal their religion indicates, they are good, if they oppose it, they are bad.

Thus in the case of the Greeks, if the religion places the meaning of life in earthly happiness, in beauty and strength, then art transmitting the joy and energy of life would be considered good, but art transmitting despondency would be bad. If the meaning of life is seen in the well-being of one’s nation, or in honouring one’s ancestors, as in the case of the Romans and Chinese, then art transmitting joy in self sacrifice for one’s country or exalting one’s ancestors would be good, and the contrary, bad. If the meaning of life is seen in freeing oneself from the yoke of animalism, as in Buddhism, then art which elevates the soul and humbles the flesh is good, whereas art exalting bodily passions would be bad. But art in our society has been so perverted that not only has bad art come to be considered good, but even the very perception of what art really is, has been lost.

In order to find out why, we must distinguish art from counterfeit art. Real art must be infectious – the receiver of a true artistic impression is so united to the artist that he feels as though the work were his own – as if what it expresses was what he had been longing to express. A real work of art destroys the separation between himself and the artist, and even between himself and all those others who also appreciate this art. In this freeing of our personality from its isolation, and uniting it with others, lies the great attractive force of art. Not only is infection a sure sign of art, but the degree of infectiousness is the sole measure of excellence in art.

This depends on three things: 1. The individuality of the feeling transmitted. 2. Its clarity. 3. The sincerity of the artist – ie, the the degree of force with which the artist feels the emotion he transmits.

If the viewer feels that the artist works for himself, he is affected, but if he feels that the artist is not infected, but is trying to influence him, the viewer feels a resistance, and is repelled instead. All can be summed up in a word – sincerity. The artist should be impelled by an inner need to express his feeling. Now, just as the evolution of knowledge proceeds by truer and more necessary knowledge displacing previous knowledge, so the evolution of feeling proceeds through art – feelings more kind and needful to humanity replace the older feelings. That is the purpose of art. In every age there exists an understanding of the meaning of life which represents the highest level which has been attained.

If it appears that in our Society there is no religious perception, this is not because there is none, but because we do not want to see it. And often this is because it exposes the fact that our life is inconsistent with that religious perception. In our times religion is regarded as a superstition which humanity has outgrown, and yet if humanity is to progress there must be a guide to the direction of that movement. Religions have always furnished that guide throughout history. So there must be some form of religious perception today – and in its widest and most practical application, it is the consciousness that or well-being – materially and spiritually – lies in the growth of brotherhood among men – in their loving harmony with one another.

The chief mistake made by the people of the upper classes at the time of the Renaissance was that they set up in place of religious art, an art which aimed only at giving pleasure. It is said that the great evil is not that we do not know God, but that we make a god of something lower. Instead of art which feeds the spirit, an empty and often vicious art is set up, which hides from us our need for true art. And true art for our time would demand the union of all people without exception – above all virtues it sets brotherly love to all men.

G.W.F.Hegel (1770 -1831) on the Philosophy of Fine Art

Art can serve many puposes, and even be a pastime, but we want to examine the kind of art that is free in its aim and means. This is the only true art. Its highest function is only served when it has established itself in a sphere which it shares with religion and philosophy, becoming thereby a mode and form through which the Divine, the profoundest interests of mankind, and spiritual truths of the widest range, are brought home to consciousness and expressed. It is in works of art that nations have deposited the richest ideas they possess, and often art serves as a key of interpretation to the wisdom and understanding of peoples. Philosophy and religion also do this, but art appeals to the senses and is nearer to Nature and to our sensitive and emotional life.

Art is the primary bond of mediation between the external world of the senses and the medium of pure thought and understanding. It could be objected that art was unworthy, being of the world of appearances and its deceptions.

But in the world of Nature appearance is essential to reality.There could be no such thing as truth if it did not actually appear for some person. And appearance in Nature itself is deceptive. It is only beyond the appearance of everyday life that we shall discover reality in any true sense. At least art does not pretend to be reality, whereas Nature, pretending to be the only reality,is more deceptive.

There are three factors determining a work of art:

1. A work of art is not produced by Nature; it is brought into being by the agency of man. 2. It is created essentially for man, and it is addressed to his senses 3. It contains an end bound up with it With regard to the first factor; a work of art cannot be imitated by mere dexterity, art is an activity of the soul, constrained to work out of its own wealth, and to bring before the mind’s eye a wholly other and far richer content; a unique creation.

The essential point to maintain is that although talent and genius imply natural power, yet it is indispensable that

(a) this power be thoughtfully cultivated (b) reflection should be brought to bear on the particular way it is exercised (c)  it should be kept alive with use and practice in actual work.

A work of art possesses a purely technical side – that of craft. This is most obvious in architecture and sculpture, less so in painting and music, least in poetry.

Added to this the more exalted the rank of the artist the more profoundly he ought to portray depths of soul and mind. Study is the means by which the artist brings to consciousness such a content.

Is art inferior to Nature? Art originates in the human spirit, it has received the baptism of the human mind and soul of man. The spiritual values are seized in the work of art and emphasized with greater purity and clarity than is possible in ordinary reality, therefore the work of art is greater.

What is the human need that stimulates art production?

Man is a thinking consciousness; he makes explicit to himself all that exists. He has a need to bring himself in his own inner life to consciousness. He needs to assert himself in that which is presented him in immediacy, external to himself, and by doing so at the same time to recognize himself therein. This purpose he achieves by the alteration he effects in external objects, upon which he imprints the seal of his inner life. He does this in order that he may divest the world of its alienation from himself.

A boy throws stones into a stream, and then looks with wonder at the circles which follow in the water, seeing there something of hs own doing. This need runs through everything up to the level of art. Man satisfies his spirit by making explicit to his inner life all that exists, as well as further giving a realized external embodiment to the self thus made explicit. And by this reduplication of what is his own he places before the vision and within the cognition of himself and others what is within him.

The second factor; art is addressed to man’s senses. Writers have asked what feelings art ought to excite. But feelings are subjective and passing, although powerful at the time, which is why people are so proud of having emotions. The trouble is that they do not attempt to study their emotions, which would help by creating thereby a distance from them. Art can give this distance, because by depicting emotions, it helps the onlooker towards the study of his own emotions.

Is art there to excite a feeling for beauty? To appreciate beauty people have cultivated taste, but taste is superficial, and cannot grasp the real profoundity of art. Art scholarship is too often concerned only with externals. Art therefore is not just for the senses. The mind is intended to be affected as well and to receive some kind of satisfaction in it. The creative imagination of a true artist is the imagination of a great mind and a big heart, it grasps the profoundest and most embracing human interests in the wholly definite presentation of imagery borrowed from objective experience.

The third factor: What is the end or aim of art?

Art is not meant to be a mere imitation of Nature – if it attempts a mere copy it will always lag a long way behind. Nevertheless the artist must learn the laws of Nature; of colour and chiaroscuro; of line and form. So what is the true content of art, and what is its aim? One opinion is that it is the the task of art to bring before us everything that the spirit of man can concieve. Is it the task of art to enflame man’s passions and set them staggering about in a Bacchantic riot?

Sensual desire is more brutal and domineering the more it appropriates the entire man, so that he does not retain the power to separate himself, and loses touch with his universal capacity.  Sometimes art showing such passions can awaken man to the horror of his condition, he can see them outside himself, they come before him as objects rather than part of himself – he begins to be free from them as aliens.

In the same way, wailing women were hired at funerals, to create an external expression of grief, so that the sufferer can see his sorrow in an objective form and in reflecting on it, his sorrow is made lighter. So art, while still remaining in the sphere of the senses, faces man from the might of his sensitive experience by means of its representations.

It has been said that art’s aim is the purification of passions, that it is its duty to instruct. Is this true? We have seen how art instructs by revealing to man the contents of his nature, but if art tries to bluntly teach, it becomes merely a maxim, with the art added on as bait. Thereby the very nature of art is abused. For a work of art ought not to bring before the creative imagination a content in its universality as such, but rather this universality under the mode of individual concreteness and distinctive sensuous particularity.

An external morality would limit the subject matter of art, but art, unlike history and the sciences, which have their subject matter determined, has a  free choice in the selection of its subjects. So when we ask what is the end of art, we must be careful that we are not saying in effect, what is the use of art, as if art had to have a reason for existing  other than for itself.  On the other hand we must maintain that it is art’s function to reveal

Truth under the mode of art’s sensuous or material configuration, to display reconciled differences and therefore prove that it possesses its final aim in itself. For other ends such as instruction, purification, improvement, riches, fame and honour have nothing to do with a work of art as such, still less with the concept of art.

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951)

Wittgenstein has said that in his opinion the subject of aesthetics is very big and entirely misunderstood. The use of the word “beautiful” is even more apt to be misunderstood. He would like a book on philosophy to contain chapters on words, and confusions that come up with them. He compares language to a tool chest; words are used together in a family of ways – yet the tools could be very different.

As to the word “beautiful”, a child hears the word mainly as an interjection. It is remarkable that in real life adjectives such as “beautiful”, “lovely” etc. play hardly any role at all. The words used are more like “right” or “correct”.

For example, take the question, “How should poetry be read?” For example you might discuss in reading blank verse, how to stress the rhythm correctly. A man says: “It ought to be read this way!” and reads it out, and you say, “Oh yes! Now it makes sense!”

What does a man ordering a suit at the tailor’s say? “That’s the right length. That’s too short!”.

In the case of the word “correct” you have a variety of related cases. In one case you learn the rules. A tailor learns how to measure and cut the coat. A customer comes in and says “This coat is too short!” but the tailor disagrees because he says “I made it according to the rules!”

So judgement is needed as well as rules.

Nevertheless we need the rules. In art, if someone hasn’t learned the rules he wouldn’t be able to make an aesthetic judgement. In learning the rules, you get a more and more refined judgement; in fact learning the rules actually changes your judgement.

The rules of harmony in music came about because they expressed the way most people wanted the chords to follow – their wishes crytallized in these rules. All the greatest composers wrote in accordance with these rules, and yet you can say that every composer changed the rules, but the variation was very slight, not all the rules were changed.

In the Arts, a person who has judgment also changes and develops. We can distinguish between a person who knows what he is talking about and one who does not.

A word we can discuss is the word “appreciate”. What is appreciation? If a man at the tailor’s looks at a great many patterns and says, “This is too dark” or “This is a little too loud’, he is what we call an appreciator of material. Similarly in music he might say, “Does this harmonize? No, the bass is not quite loud enough.”

Although we can see when someone appreciates something, it is impossible to describe. To do this we would have to describe the whole environment. On the subject of correctness, a good tailor won’t use any words except words like “Too long” or “All right”. But when we talk of a symphony by Beethoven we don’t talk of correctness. Entirely different things enter. One wouldn’t even talk of appreciating the really tremendous things in art. In a style of architecture a door may be correct, and you appreciate it, but in the case of a Gothic Cathedral, we do not just find it correct – it has a different role to play in our lives. It is as different as if we were talking about a man and said on the one hand “He behaves well.” and on the other “He made a great impression on me.”

To describe what you mean by a cultured taste, you have to describe a culture. What we describe as a cultured taste perhaps didn’t exist in the Middle Ages. An entirely different game is played in different ages. In order to become clear about aesthetic words you have to describe ways of living. A landlady might love a sentimental painting, you might want to throw it in the fire …. alright! That’s that..

Jacques Maritain b. 1882

Art and poetry come from a deeper part of the intellect – not the reasoning part alone.

There is an interpenetration of art and nature – so that a place comes alive because of its history.

Oriental artists try to forget themselves, and meditate on the subject of nature, rendering it as truly as they can, becoming one with things but leaving their egos out.

In the West, artists evolved from studying things, to the portrayal of the Divine after the Christian Church was established. Man passed from a sense of the human self as object, to the sacred art which depicted Christ’s self as man, to a sense of human self as subject, and then became absorbed in his own inward development. Later artists such as Cezanne became intent on revealing the buried significance of the visible world. Man’s longing for order and harmony emerges from the brute universe of the eye in the act of seeing and brings forth a quality of emotion which finds an echo in other human beings. Three rules on art.

First: the very idea of rules in the fine arts changes and becomes transfigured through the impact of beauty on the activity of art. So the rules must be continually reborn, and the artist is forever exploring the unknown.

Second: the work to be made is unique, and an end in itself. Each time, and for every single work, there is for the artist a new and unique way to strive after the making of his art.

Third: because the work is an end in itself, and a unique participation in beauty, reason alone is not enough for the artist. Because in art as in contemplation, intellectuality at its peak goes beyond concepts and reason, and is achieved through union with the subject, which love alone can bring about.

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The Artist

What is Art? Why is Art Important?

what is art

What is art? – The dictionary definition of art says that it is “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination , especially in the production of aesthetic objects” (Merriam-Webster). Art is essential to society as it stimulates creativity , reflects culture, fosters empathy, provokes thought, and offers a medium for expression. It enhances society’s intellectual and emotional understanding of the world.

But the thing about art is that it’s so diverse that there are as many ways to understand it as there are people.

That’s why there are scholars who give their special definition of the word, such as the one penned by this famous Russian novelist, which goes:

“Art is the activity by which a person, having experienced an emotion, intentionally transmits it to others” – Leo Tolstoy

During his life, Tolstoy was known to write based on his life experiences, such as his most famous work, “War and Peace,” which used much of his experience during the Crimean War.

Whether or not his definition of art is the best, the point is that people look at art based on how they have experienced it.

What is Art?

There are many common definitions of art as per many books by famous artists and authors . Few to quote:

  • any creative work of a human being
  • a form of expressing oneself
  • resides in the quality of doing; the process is not magic
  • an act of making something visually entertaining
  • an activity that manifests beauty ( What is Beauty in Art? )
  • the mastery, an ideal way of doing things
  • not a thing — it is a way (Elbert Hubbard)
  • the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known
  • discovery and development of elementary principles of nature into beautiful forms suitable for human use (Frank Lloyd Wright)

Why is Art Important?

Probably, the most prominent theory which best explains – Why is art important – is from Van Jones, which subtly provides a great response to What is art?

Van Jones presented a graph that accurately represents the interaction between the four aspects of society and its different members.

Consequently, Vones depicts why art is important to our society.

The graph (below) represents our society.

Society is driven by the powerful elites, the dependent masses, the government, cultural producers, and artists

meaning of art essay

On the left, you have action, and on the right, ideas; elites are at the top, and the masses are below. There’s an inside act and an outside act.

On the inside, there’s big money: elites are spending millions of dollars to influence politicians and policymakers. The inside act has the power to influence policy creators.

On the outside, we at the grassroots set our expectations and needs so that the elected candidates pass laws that give us power. Masses reflect what society wants (heart)

The left side, “action,” often means quantifiable policy changes. The right side, “ideas,” can be harder to see. We are not necessarily talking about concrete things here, but rather, a “headspace.”

Academic institutions and think tanks, which are not always involved in the immediate policy wins, are significant in creating a culture of thought

While the left side, “action,” continues to produce quantifiable policy changes and new laws, the right side, “ïdeas,” can be hard to quantify its outcome. Although “head” talks about theories and academics, it fails to contribute significantly to policymakers.

Artists come into the play here at this moment

Artists are represented here on the side of ideas, in the “heart space.”

Art is uniquely positioned to move people—inspiring us, inciting new questions, and provoking curiosity, excitement, and outrage.

Artists can strengthen the will and push people to act. They do not think like policymakers or academics people.

Artists think from their heart – big, revolutionary, and visionary ideas.

This is why artists are able to move people to action, thus creates a significant cultural and political contributions.

This is what makes art powerful.

Impact of Art on Politics, Culture, and People

Art is essential in society because it is an essential ingredient in empowering people’s hearts.

When activists show images of children suffering from poverty or oppression in their campaigns, this is the art of pulling the heartstrings of society’s elite and powerful to make changes.

Similarly, when photographers publish photos of war-torn areas, it catches the attention of the masses whose hearts reach out to those who need help.

When an artist creates great music and movies, it entertains people worldwide. This is art, making a difference in society.

A very modern example of art in action is street art. When the famous Italian street artist Blu created the mural in Kreuzberg , it sparked a lot of solid and different reactions rooted deeply in the differences between East and West Berlin.

Who would have thought that a wall painting depicting two masked figures trying to unmask each other could elicit such strong reactions?

Mural Blu

Now, the issue behind this mural is a different matter to discuss. But whether or not the effect of the mural was good, it cannot be denied how a well-crafted piece of art can have a significant impact on society.

Art is also a remarkable mode of depicting culture from all over the world

When you see a Zen garden in Sydney or San Francisco, you know that it’s a practice that originated from China.

Likewise, when you see paper swans swarming a beautiful wedding ceremony, you know that this is origami, an art from Japan.

When you see films featuring Bollywood music and dancing, you know that it’s a movie from India. Art can take cultural practices from their origins and transport and integrate them into different parts of the world without losing their identity.

There, these art forms can entertain, create awareness, and even inspire foreigners to accept these cultures, no matter how strange or alien they may seem.

And that’s precisely what John Dewey implies in Art as an Experience:

“Barriers are dissolved; limiting prejudices melt away when we enter into the spirit of Negro or Polynesian Art. This insensible melting is far more efficacious than the change effected by reasoning, because it enters directly into attitude.”

This is especially important in our highly globalized world.

Art has played an essential role in helping fight against intolerance of different cultures, racism, and other forms of unjust societal segregation.

With immigration becoming a trend, the world’s countries are expected to be more tolerant and accepting of those who enter their borders.

Art helps make that happen by making sure that identities and their cultures are given due recognition around the world.

Art stimulates creativity and innovation.

Art inspires creativity and innovation beyond boundaries, encouraging imagination, lateral thinking, and risk-taking. The process of creating art involves experimentation and novel ideas, which can influence progress in various industries.

Art also challenges perceptions and assumptions, encouraging critical thinking and open-mindedness, which are essential for innovation. By presenting alternative realities or questioning the status quo, art inspires individuals to think differently and to approach problems from unique angles.

Furthermore, the aesthetic experience of art can lead to epiphanies and insights.

The beauty or emotional impact of a piece of art can trigger ideas and spark the imagination in ways that logical reasoning alone may not. This can lead to breakthroughs in creative and scientific endeavors, as individuals draw inspiration from the emotions evoked by art.

Art plays a subtle yet significant role in our daily lives.

For instance, when a child takes part in a school art project, they are given a variety of materials to create a collage. As they construct a 3D model of an imaginary winged vehicle with multiple wheels, the textures and shapes inspire them. This hands-on exploration of materials and forms sparks the child’s interest in engineering and design, planting the seeds for future innovation.

The above example illustrates how art can engage young minds, encouraging them to think creatively and envision innovative solutions beyond conventional boundaries.

In essence, art fuels the creative fire, providing the sparks that can ignite the next wave of innovation in society.

Great Art elicits powerful sentiments and tells meaningful stories

Art can take the form of film, music, theatre, and pop culture , all of which aim to entertain and make people happy. But when films, songs, or plays are made for a specific audience or purpose, the art begins to diversify.

Films, for example, can be made to spread awareness or cultural appreciation. Songs can also be composed in a way that brings out certain emotions, give inspiration, or boost the morale of people.

During the Victorian period in England, women started to make a name for themselves with classic artworks such as Elizabeth Sirani’s “ Portia Wounding Her Thigh ”, a painting that signifies the message that a woman is now willing to distance herself from gender biasedness.

Porcia wounding her thigh, by Elisabetta Sirani.

The painting’s subject depicts an act of a woman possessing the same strength as that of a man. “Portia” represents surrender because she isn’t the same type of woman known in society as weak and prone to gossip.

One of the revolutionary works in history that ultimately opened the doors of art to women in general showed the power of women in art

There are also works of art that illicit intellectual solid discourse – the kind that can question norms and change the behavior of society.

Sometimes, still, art is there to reach out to a person who shares the same thoughts, feelings, and experiences as the artist.

The truth is that art is more than just a practice – it is a way of life. Art is more than just a skill – it is a passion. Art is more than just an image – each one tells a story.

The fact that art is quite connected to human experience makes it unsurprising that we have always made it part of our ways of living.

This is why ancient and present-day indigenous groups from all over the world have a knack for mixing art and their traditional artifacts or rituals without them knowing, which in fact one of the fundamental reasons why art is essential.

Why is Art so Powerful?  Why is art important to human society?

Perhaps the most straightforward answer to this question is that art touches us emotionally.

Art is influential because it can potentially influence our culture, politics, and even the economy. When we see a powerful work of art, we feel it touching deep within our core, giving us the power to make real-life changes.

In the words of Leo Tolstoy:

“The activity of art is based on the capacity of people to infect others with their own emotions and to be infected by the emotions of others. Strong emotions, weak emotions, important emotions or irrelevant emotions, good emotions or bad emotions – if they contaminate the reader, the spectator, or the listener – it attains the function of art.”

In sum, art can be considered powerful because of the following reasons, among others:

  • It has the power to educate people about almost anything. It can create awareness and present information in a way that could be absorbed by many quickly. In a world where some don’t even have access to good education, art makes education an even greater equalizer of society.
  • It promotes cultural appreciation among a generation that’s currently preoccupied with their technology. It can be said that if it weren’t for art, our history, culture, and traditions would be in more danger of being forgotten than they already are.
  • It breaks cultural, social, and economic barriers . While art can’t solve poverty or promote social justice alone, it can be a leveled playing field for discourse and expression. The reason why everyone can relate to art is that everyone has emotions and personal experiences. Therefore, anyone can learn to appreciate art regardless of social background, economic standing, or political affiliation.
  • It accesses higher orders of thinking . Art doesn’t just make you absorb information. Instead, it makes you think about current ideas and inspire you to make your own. This is why creativity is a form of intelligence – it is a unique ability that unlocks the potential of the human mind. Studies have shown that exposure to art can improve you in other fields of knowledge.

The truth is that people have recognized how influential art can be.

Many times in history, I have heard of people being criticized, threatened, censored, and even killed because of their artwork.

Those responsible for these reactions, whether a belligerent government or a dissident group, take these measures against artists, knowing how much their works can affect the politics in a given area.

In the hands of good people, however, art can be used to give back hope or instill courage in a society that’s undergoing a lot of hardships.

Art is a powerful form of therapy .

meaning of art essay

Some say art is boring . But the fact remains that art has the power to take cultural practices from where they are from and then transport and integrate them into different parts of the world without losing their identity.

Art helps make that happen by making sure that identities and their cultures are given due recognition around the world. Thus, it is essential to reflect upon – Why art is critical – which, in fact, provides you the answer to – What is art?

This is why we at The Artist believe that art is a form of creative human expression, a way of enriching the human experience.

NFTs: The Future of Art

Now, the world of art is shifting towards a digital and alternative world. And NFT is becoming a game-changing variable in the future of art .

What is NFT artwork?

An NFT , which stands for “non-fungible token” can be defined as a digital file that can be simply and easily transferred across a blockchain network.

Many people around the world are seeking out these digital assets to sell and trade in their everyday market trading, since these items are able to be traced, have value and oftentimes also have considerable rarity for collectors.

While artistic works are certainly a part of the NFT market, a variety of different players are getting involved through gaming systems, avatars, and even entire virtual worlds.

Such tokens have a wide variety of usage and while for many these are out of reach, for serious investors NFTs can prove to be a profitable source of income.

Art plays a significant role in society by acting as an educational equalizer, fostering cultural appreciation, bridging cultural and social divides, and stimulating higher orders of thinking and creativity.

Art and its definition will always be controversial.

There will always be debates about what art is and what is not.

But no matter what the definition may be, it has been around us for as long as humans have existed (i.e. cave paintings, hieroglyphics).

Whether or not we are aware of it, we allow art to affect our lives one way or another, and the reasons why we make art are many!

We use the arts for our entertainment, cultural appreciation, aesthetics, personal improvement, and even social change. We use the arts to thrive in this world.

So, share your thoughts – What does art mean to you? Art plays a subtle yet significant role in our daily lives. For instance, when a child takes part in a school art project, they are given a variety of materials to create a collage. As they construct a 3D model of an imaginary winged vehicle with multiple wheels, the textures and shapes inspire them. This hands-on exploration of materials and forms sparks the child’s interest in engineering and design, planting the seeds for future innovation. This example illustrates how art can engage young minds, encouraging them to think creatively and envision innovative solutions beyond conventional boundaries.

Passionate experimenter with a heart for art, design, and tech. A relentless explorer of the culture, creative and innovative realms.

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Art, Its Definition, Perception and Functions Essay

Definition of art, understanding art, functions of art, works cited.

Art plays an integral role in our world because it has a substantial impact on every aspect of the human existence. People who have ever been involved in art have a deep inner world. Research often focuses on effects of art on individuals. Thus, doctors have long proven a positive impact of classical music on people; millions of drawings were studied to understand people and their psychology, and more. Art educates, enlightens, and enriches a person. It does not attempt to induce a person to take a particular action. Instead, art establishes the system of human values and attitudes that lead to a certain behavior. While listening to wonderful music or peering at a beautiful painting or another work of art, a person extends the boundaries of unambiguous rationality. Therefore, the power of art lies in appealing to the human conscience and awakening the inner beauty of person to manifest all their best qualities. This essay will discuss the contemporary definition of art, its purpose, and forms, and identify its various functions.

Giving one unified definition of art is hard. According to Davies, art is designed to bring aesthetic experience; however, he states that “something could be art even though it is poor in aesthetic value and in other respects” (37). While there are functional and procedural definitions of art, essentially for each person art has its own meaning. Today, there are many movements and types of art: music, dancing, painting, sculpture, movies, etc.

I particularly like the multi-functional definition provided by Lois Fichner-Rathus: Art is a “practical skill or its application,” “work of creative imagination,” “skill or knowledge to influence,” and “method of doing a thing” (3). In my opinion, art is a subjective and a creative form of self-expression. I believe that creativity is the key factor in determining art because otherwise it will not stand out from thousands of other artworks. It can be expressed in any form besides traditional representation of art. For example, for someone cooking, dancing or teaching can be art, because it frees their imagination and person can show his inner self. Art excites the soul and raises strong feelings of happiness, admiration and more. I believe that true art is the most beautiful creation of the humanity because it inspires, makes us enjoy life, and love the surrounding world. It can carry a person away from everyday troubles into the infinite world of dreams and fantasies. Art also has the power to influence people by reflecting on current trends and raise political issues, changes in cultural and social values.

Art criticism is a practice of professional critics evaluating and posting their opinions on different forms of art based on specific criteria. The artwork’s purpose can vary from the intentions of its creator. Sometimes, an art piece can have an explicit, self-evident meaning or a statement but sometimes, for instance, in the abstract art, the purpose of the piece could remain a mystery. Form implies the arrangement of all visual elements and provides substance to an idea (Fichner-Rathus 7). A skilled manipulation of light, color, and lines greatly contribute to the visualization of emotions, atmosphere depicted in the artwork. When looking at an artwork, both paying close attention to purpose and analyzing form is important because together they intertwine to create an intended impression.

I think that visual experience of art is just not enough to fully appreciate its significance. For instance, the famous photograph of Kevin Carter of a girl and a vulture in Sudan would not be so outstanding if it was taken in America, and not in Sudan. The power of photography to transmit a powerful message within one shot is undoubtful. However, knowing its context is crucial to recognize its importance. In order to understand an art work, one should have historical knowledge of when it was created, what influenced its content and what is the message behind it. Although, some pieces of art do not have a real purpose and do not require high knowledge of symbolism or history to enjoy bright colors, unusual shapes, and scenery.

All forms of art impact our society in different ways. I think three most important functions of art is communicating thought, ideas, and emotions; serve as a means of political protest or social injustice and last but not least- education.

Art is a powerful tool for communication. People used art as a means of communication before the emergence of actual words. From the very childhood, we consume art: we watch movies, listen to music, and go to museums and more. Art has the ability to communicate complex ideas without words, create our perceptions of world, morality, justice, and patriotism. For instance, some might understand the concept of love from music and paintings. Even blind, deaf or disabled people can use art to communicate with the surrounding world. With simple manipulation of visual elements, art can transmit emotions to viewers: make them happy or sad, motivate and inspire or show empathy.

Artists always found ways to influence politics. For instance, with the means of protest art, social activists are able to protect human rights and raise the awareness of many other issues. As reported by Lewela and Sipalla, “Protest art may not necessarily spur revolutions, but as a change agent its immense value lies in speaking truth to power. It is also educational, cathartic and empowering in situations of injustice”. It can be expressed in the form of street art, performance, graffiti, and distribution of flyers or banners conveying a particular message. Art is also used by politicians to spread political ideologies to the general population. For instance, since ancient times art pieces celebrated and glorified political leaders.

Artistic expression is also effectively used in education. Art is a big a part of our history: from the prehistoric era, Renaissance and up to day serve as a primary source of information about people’s lifestyle, social, cultural heritage and political values and more. Further, using art has been proved to be useful in child education because art appreciation encourages them to think and express their ideas. For instance, drawing develops motor skills, talking about art impacts language, creating art pushes their creativity and raises cultural awareness. Adults also gain an enormous amount of knowledge from artworks regarding cultural and spiritual enrichment.

In conclusion, I think that art is individual and can be expressed in traditional and untraditional means. Art does not have race or nationality; art is not biased, art unites people. Art is eternal; it brings beauty and peace to the world. Art also plays an educational, communicative role in the formation of man; it contributes to cultural enrichment and is powerful to bring political or social change in the community.

Davies, Stephen. The Philosophy of Art . John Wiley & Sons, 2016.

Fichner-Rathus, Lois. Understanding Art. Cengage Learning, 2017.

Lewela, Karest, and Sepalla Humphrey. “The Meaning of Protest Art to Society.” Pambazuka , 2014, Web.

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meaning of art essay

Visual Analysis: How to Analyze a Painting and Write an Essay

meaning of art essay

A visual analysis essay is an entry-level essay sometimes taught in high school and early university courses. Both communications and art history students use visual analysis to understand art and other visual messages. In our article, we will define the term and give an in-depth guide on how to look at a piece of art and write a visual analysis essay. Stay tuned until the end for a handy visual analysis essay example from our graduate paper writing service .

What Is Visual Analysis?

Visual analysis is the process of looking at a piece of visual art (painting, photography, film, etc.) and dissecting it for the artist’s intended meaning and means of execution. In some cases, works are also analyzed for historical significance and their impact on culture, art, politics, and the social consciousness of the time. This article will teach you how to perform a formal analysis of art.

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A visual analysis essay is a type of essay written mostly by students majoring in Art History and Communications. The process of visual analysis can be applied to painting, visual art, journalism, photo-journalism, photography, film, and writing. Works in these mediums are often meant to be consumed for entertainment or informative purposes. Visual analysis goes beyond that, focusing on form, themes, execution, and the compositional elements that make up the work.

Classical paintings are a common topic for a visual analysis essay because of their depth and historical significance. Take the famous Raphael painting Transfiguration. At first glance, it is an attractive image showing a famous scene from the Bible. But a more in-depth look reveals practical painting techniques, relationships between figures, heavy symbolism, and a remarkable choice of colors by the talented Raphael. This deeper look at a painting, a photograph, visual or written art is the process of visual analysis.

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Formal Analysis of Art: Who Does It?

Most people who face visual analysis essays are Communication, English, and Art History students. Communications students explore mediums such as theater, print media, news, films, photos — basically anything. Comm is basically a giant, all-encompassing major where visual analysis is synonymous with Tuesday.

Art History students study the world of art to understand how it developed. They do visual analysis with every painting they look it at and discuss it in class.

English Literature students perform visual analysis too. Every writer paints an image in the head of their reader. This image, like a painting, can be clear, or purposefully unclear. It can be factual, to the point, or emotional and abstract like Ulysses, challenging you to search your emotions rather than facts and realities.

How to Conduct Visual Analysis: What to Look For

Whether you study journalism or art, writing a visual analysis essay will be a frequent challenge on your academic journey. The primary principles can be learned and applied to any medium, regardless of whether it’s photography or painting.

For the sake of clarity, we’ve chosen to talk about painting, the most common medium for the formal analysis of art.

Visual Analysis

In analyzing a painting, there are a few essential points that the writer must know.

  • Who is the painter, and what era of art did they belong to? Classical painters depict scenes from the Bible, literature, or historical events (like the burning of Rome or the death of Socrates). Modernists, on the other hand, tend to subvert classical themes and offer a different approach to art. Modernism was born as a reaction to classical painting, therefore analyzing modernist art by the standards of classical art would not work.
  • What was the painter’s purpose? Classical painters like Michelangelo were usually hired by the Vatican or by noble families. Michelangelo didn’t paint the Sistine Chapel just for fun; he was paid to do it.
  • Who is the audience? Artists like Andy Warhol tried to appeal to the masses. Others like Marcel Duchamp made art for art people, aiming to evolve the art form.
  • What is the historical context? Research your artist/painting thoroughly before you write. The points of analysis that can be applied to a Renaissance painter cannot be applied to a Surrealist painter. Surrealism is an artistic movement, and understanding its essence is the key to analyzing any surrealist painting.

Familiarizing yourself with these essential points will give you all the information and context, you need to write a good visual analysis essay.

But visual analysis can go deeper than that — especially when dealing with historic pieces of visual art. Students explore different angles of interpretation, the interplay of colors and themes, how the piece was made and various reactions, and critiques of it. Let’s dig deeper.

A Detailed Process of Analyzing Visual Art

Performing a formal analysis of art is a fundamental skill taught at entry-level art history classes. Students who study art or communications further develop this skill through the years. Not all types of analysis apply to every work of art; every art piece is unique. When performing visual analysis, it’s essential to keep in mind why this particular work of art is important in its own way.

Visual Analysis

Step 1: General Info

To begin, identify the following necessary information on the work of art and the artist.

  • Subject — who or what does this work represent?
  • Artist — who is the author of this piece? Refer to them by their last name.
  • Date and Provenance — when and where this work of art was made. Is it typical to its historical period or geographical location?
  • Past and Current Locations — where was this work was displayed initially, and where is it now?
  • Medium and Creation Techniques — what medium was this piece made for and why is it important to that medium? Note which materials were used in its execution and its size.

Step 2: Describe the Painting

Next, describe what the painting depicts or represents. This section will be like an abstract, summarizing all the visible aspects of the piece, painting the image in the reader’s mind. Here are the dominant features to look for in a painting:

  • Characters or Figures: who they are and what they represent.
  • If this is a classical painting, identify the story or theme depicted.
  • If this is an abstract painting, pay attention to shapes and colors.
  • Lighting and overall mood of the painting.
  • Identify the setting.

Step 3: Detailed Analysis

The largest chunk of your paper will focus on a detailed visual analysis of the work. This is where you go past the basics and look at the art elements and the principles of design of the work.

Art elements deal mostly with the artist’s intricate painting techniques and basics of composition.

  • Lines — painters use a variety of lines ranging from straight and horizontal to thick, curved, even implied lines.
  • Shapes — shapes can be distinct or hidden in plain sight; note all the geometrical patterns of the painting.
  • Use of Light — identify the source of light, or whether the lighting is flat; see whether the painter chooses contrasting or even colors and explain the significance of their choice in relation to the painting.
  • Colors — identify how the painter uses color; which colors are primary, which are secondary; what is the tone of the painting (warm or cool?)
  • Patterns — are there repeating patterns in the painting? These could be figures as well as hidden textural patterns.
  • Use of Space — what kind of perspective is used in the painting; how does the artist show depth (if they do).
  • Passage of Time and Motion

Design principles look at the painting from a broader perspective; how the art elements are used to create a rounded experience from an artistic and a thematic perspective.

  • Variety and Unity - explore how rich and varied the artists’ techniques are and whether they create a sense of unity or chaos.
  • Symmetry or Asymmetry - identify points of balance in the painting, whether it’s patterns, shapes, or use of colors.
  • Emphasis - identify the points of focus, both from a thematic and artistic perspective. Does the painter emphasize a particular color or element of architecture?
  • Proportions - explain how objects and figures work together to provide a sense of scale, mass, and volume to the overall painting.
  • Use of Rhythm - identify how the artist implies a particular rhythm through their techniques and figures.

Seeing as each work of art is unique, be thoughtful in which art elements and design principles you wish to discuss in your essay. Visual analysis does not limit itself to painting and can also be applied to mediums like photography.

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The Structure: How to Write a Visual Analysis Paper

It’s safe to use the five-paragraph essay structure for your visual analysis essay. If you are looking at a painting, take the most important aspects of it that stand out to you and discuss them in relation to your thesis. Structure it with the simple essay structure:

Introduction: An introduction to a visual analysis essay serves to give basic information on the work of art and briefly summarize the points of discussion.

  • Give a brief description of the painting: name of artist, year, artistic movement (if necessary), and the artist’s purpose in creating this work.
  • Briefly describe what is in the painting.
  • Add interesting facts about the artist, painting, or historical period to give your reader some context.
  • As in all introductions, don’t forget to include an attention-grabber to get your audience interested in reading your work.

Thesis: In your thesis, state the points of analysis on this work of art which you will discuss in your essay.

Body: Explore the work of art and all of its aspects in detail. Refer to the section above titled “A Detailed Process of Analyzing Visual Art,” which will comprise most of your essay’s body.

Conclusion: After you’ve thoroughly analyzed the painting and the artist’s techniques, give your thoughts and opinions on the work. Your observations should be based on the points of analysis in your essay. Discuss how the art elements and design principles of the artist give the painting meaning and support your observations with facts from your essay.

Citation: Standard citation rules apply to these essays. Use in-text citations when quoting a book, website, journal, or a movie, and include a sources cited page listing your sources. And there’s no need to worry about how to cite a piece of art throughout the text. Explain thoroughly what work of art you’re analyzing in your introduction, and refer to it by name in the body of your essay like this — Transfiguration by Raphael.

If you want a more in-depth look at the classic essay structure, feel free to visit our 5-PARAGRAPH-ESSAY blog

Learn From a Visual Analysis Example

Many YouTube videos are analyzing famous paintings like the Death of Socrates, which can be a great art analysis example to go by. But the best way to understand the format and presentation is by looking at a painting analysis essay example done by a scholarly writer. One of our writers has penned an outstanding piece on Leonardo Da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronnière, which you may find below. Use it as a reference point for your visual analysis essay, and you can’t go wrong!

Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian artist born in April 1452 and died in May 1519who lived in the Renaissance era. His fame and popularity were based on his painting sand contribution to the Italian artwork. Leonardo was also an active inventor, a vibrant musician, writer, and scientist as well as a talented sculptor amongst other fields. His various career fields proved that he wanted to know everything about nature. In the book “Leonardo Da Vinci: The Mind of the Renaissance” by Alessandro Vezzosi, it is argued that Leonardo was one of the most successful and versatile artists and anatomists of the Italian renaissance based on his unique artwork and paintings (Vezzosi, p1454). Some of his groundbreaking research in medicine, metal-casting, natural science, architecture, and weaponry amongst other fields have been explored in the book. He was doing all these in the renaissance period in Italy from the 1470s till his death.

Visual analysis essays will appear early in your communications and art history degrees. Learning how to formally analyze art is an essential skill, whether you intend to pursue a career in art or communications.

Before diving into analysis, get a solid historical background on the painter and their life. Analyzing a painting isn’t mere entertainment; one must pay attention to intricate details which the painter might have hidden from plain sight.

We live in an environment saturated by digital media. By gaining the skill of visual analysis, you will not only heighten your appreciation of the arts but be able to thoroughly analyze the media messages you face in your daily life.

Also, don't forget to read summary of Lord of the Flies , and the article about Beowulf characters .

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Art Essay Examples

Cathy A.

Art Essay Examples to Get You Inspired - Top 10 Samples

Published on: May 4, 2023

Last updated on: Jul 21, 2023

art essay examples

Share this article

Are you struggling to come up with ideas for your art essay? Or are you looking for examples to help guide you in the right direction? 

Look no further, as we have got you covered!

In this blog, we provide a range of art writing examples that cover different art forms, time periods, and themes. Whether you're interested in the classics or contemporary art, we have something for everyone. These examples offer insight into how to structure your essay, analyze art pieces, and write compelling arguments.

So, let's explore our collection of art essay examples and take the first step toward becoming a better art writer!

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Good Art Essay Examples

In the following section, we will examine a selection of art essay examples that are inspiring for various academic levels.

College Art Essay Examples

Let’s take a look at college art essay examples below:  

The Intersection of Art and Politics: An Analysis of Picasso's Guernica

The Role of Nature in American Art: A Comparative Study

University Art Essay Examples

University-level art essay assignments often differ in length and complexity. Here are two examples:

Gender and Identity in Contemporary Art: A Comparative Study

Art and Activism: The Role of Street Art in Political Movements

A Level Art Essay Examples

Below are some art paper examples A level. Check out: 

The Use Of Color In Wassily Kandinsky's Composition Viii

The Influence of African Art on Pablo Picasso's Les Demoiselles D'avignon

A Level Fine Art Essay Examples

If you're a student of fine arts, these A-level fine arts examples can serve as inspiration for your own work.

The Use Of Texture In Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night

Exploring Identity Through Portraiture: A Comparative Study

Art Essay Examples IELTS 

The Impact of Art on Mental Health

The Effects of Technology on Art And Creativity

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Paper Due? Why Suffer? That's our Job!

AP Art Essay Examples

A Comparison of Neoclassical and Romantic Art

An Examination Of The Effects Of Globalization On Contemporary Art

Types of Art Essay with Examples

Art essays can be categorized into different types. Let's take a brief look at these types with examples:

Art Criticism Essay : A critical essay analyzing and evaluating an artwork, its elements, and its meaning.

The Persistence of Memory" by Salvador Dali: A Critical Analysis

Art History Essay: A comprehensive essay that examines the historical context, development, and significance of an artwork or art movement.

The Renaissance: A Rebirth of Artistic Expression

Exhibition Review: A review of an art exhibition that evaluates the quality and significance of the artwork on display.

A Review of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Exhibition

Contemporary Art Essay: An essay that explores and analyzes contemporary art and its cultural and social context.

The Intersection of Technology and Art in Contemporary Society

Modern Art Essay: An essay that examines modern art and its significance in the development of modernism.

Cubism and its Influence on Modern Art [insert pdf]

Art Theory Essay: An essay that analyzes and critiques various theories and approaches to art.

Feminist Art Theory: A Critical Analysis of its Impact on Contemporary Art [insert pdf]

Additional Art Essay Example

Let’s take a brief look at some added art essay samples:

Artwork Essay Example

Artist Essay Example

Advanced Higher Art Essay Example

Common Art Essay Prompts

Here are some common art essay topics that you may encounter during your coursework:

  • Describe a piece of artwork that has inspired you.
  • A comparative analysis of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and Michelangelo's David.
  • Analyze the cultural significance of a particular art movement.
  • Discuss the relationship between art and politics.
  • Compare and contrast two works of art from different time periods or cultures.
  • The representation of identity in art
  • The Evolution of Artists' Paintings:
  • From Traditional to Contemporary Art
  • The representation of identity in Frida Kahlo's self-portraits.
  • The significance of oil on canvas in the history of art.
  • The significance of the Mona Lisa in the Italian Renaissance

Art Essay Topics IELTS

Here are some art essay topics for IELTS students. Take a look: 

  • The value of art education.
  • The role of museums in preserving art and culture.
  • The impact of globalization on contemporary art.
  • The influence of technology on art and artists.
  • The significance of public art in urban environments.

Tips For Writing a Successful Art Essay

Here are some tips for writing a stand-out art essay:

  • Develop a clear thesis statement that guides your essay: Your thesis statement should clearly and concisely state the main argument of your essay.
  • Conduct thorough research and analysis of the artwork you are writing about : This includes examining the visual elements of the artwork, researching the artist, and considering the historical significance.
  • Use formal and precise language to discuss the artwork: Avoid using colloquial language and instead focus on using formal language to describe the artwork.
  • Include specific examples from the artwork to support your arguments: Use specific details from the artwork to back up your analysis.
  • Avoid personal bias and subjective language: Your essay should be objective and avoid using personal opinions or subjective language.
  • Consider the historical and cultural context of the artwork: Analyze the artwork in the context of the time period and cultural context in which they were created.
  • Edit and proofread your essay carefully before submitting it: Ensure your essay is well-organized, coherent, and free of grammatical errors and typos.
  • Use proper citation format when referencing sources: Follow the appropriate citation style guidelines and give credit to all sources used in your essay.
  • Be concise and focused in your writing: Stick to your main thesis statement and avoid going off-topic or including irrelevant information.
  • Read your essay aloud to ensure clarity and coherence: Reading your essay out loud can help you identify inconsistencies or any other mistakes.

The Bottom Line!

We hope that the art essay examples we've explored have provided you with inspiration for your own essay. Art offers endless possibilities for analysis and your essay is a chance to showcase your unique opinions.

Use these examples as a guide to craft an essay that reflects your personality while demonstrating your knowledge of the subject.

Short on time? Let CollegeEssay.org help you! Our essay writing service offers professional assistance to help you achieve academic success. 

Don't wait, reach out to our art essay writing service.

Take the first step towards excellence in your art studies with our AI essay writer !

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What Is Art Essay. Definition Paper Sample

I believe that every person has his/her own view considering the definition of art. Why? Because it is such a multifaceted concept that it is simply not possible to give a universal definition to it that will completely cover all its aspects. What we can do – is to give some kind of general definition that the majority of people will agree with, and then define some of its aspects for ourselves – the most important ones that distinguish art from some attempts of self-realization. In this short essay, I will present my view of what art is.

For me, this concept of what art means is very complex and encompasses a great variety of subtypes. It can be realized in all the possible spheres of life, and in every one of them, it can take so many forms that it is impossible to describe them all at once. If I try to generalize, art for me is a kind of thing that warms my heart and makes me think. When I see a real masterpiece in the form of painting or hear it as a beautiful tune, I can never feel indifference in relation to it. I don’t like everything I see in museums, for instance, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t consider the sample I don’t like to be amateurish. Instead, regarding many of them, I feel that they are true creations of geniuses, just of not my type.

When I was a freshman in college, I also want to be an artist, but not in the true sense of the word. I don’t have any particular creative talent, such as…

Do you want to get a custom essay about art from real masters of their craft? Place an order now, and a professional writer will compose a state-of-the-art original essay in just 3 hours or less!

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Narrative Edge

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Header content, tagged as: , kathy bradley's sifting artifacts: essays.

January 02, 2024

  • Peter Biello and
  • Orlando Montoya

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In her third book of essays, Georgia Author of the Year Award winner Kathy Bradley continues to ask important questions about humanity, community, and stewardship. In this episode, Peter and Orlando discuss this "rare gem" of a book, the difficulties and art of writing against a deadline, and finding meaning and metaphor in the simplest things. 

Sifting Artifacts: Essays by Kathy A. Bradley

Peter Biello: Coming up in this episode.

Orlando Montoya: How can that be interesting? How is that not boring? And...

Peter Biello:  Yeah, sell it to me, man. What's going on here?

Orlando Montoya: She's finding, like, meaning and inner truth, larger questions in, like, the simplest things.

Kathy Bradley: Words have always been my preferred manner of not just communication, but of understanding things. I operate with a great deal of curiosity.

Peter Biello: It strikes me that she's using what T.S. Eliot called the objective correlative. Is that something you've heard of or is that just for writer school types?

Orlando Montoya: This podcast from Georgia Public Broadcasting highlights books with Georgia Connections, hosted by two of your favorite public radio book nerds, who also happen to be your hosts of All Things Considered on GPB radio. I'm Orlando Montoya.

Peter Biello: And I'm Peter Biello. Thanks for joining us. As we introduce you to authors, their writings, and the insights behind the stories mixed with our own thoughts and ideas on just what gives these works the Narrative Edge . Okay, Orlando, what book are you recommending for me today?

Orlando Montoya: Well, Peter, I got something different. It's not a book. It is a book. I am going to get to a book. But what I'm really talking about here today is a writer. Her name is Kathy Bradley. She's from Bulloch County. She's a columnist for the Statesboro Herald . And she's been writing, every 14 days, a column in that newspaper since 1996 with only a two-year break.

Peter Biello: Wow. Okay.

Orlando Montoya: And she has a book. It's called Sifting Artifacts . That's a collection of her essays. I've got it right here. But so today we're not talking about a story with, like a beginning, a middle and an end. There's no, like, topic that we normally dive into here other than the writer, Kathy Bradley.

Peter Biello: Okay. And I know you spent 23 years in Savannah covering Southeast Georgia, including Bulloch County. Is this how you know her?

Orlando Montoya: You know what? I have to be honest, I only vaguely remember the name Kathy Bradley. I must have seen the Statesboro Herald , must have seen her name. But I actually found her by just Googling authors, and I found out she is a three-time Georgia writer of the year selectee. And it's really just surprising that there's not really a lot about her out there. So once you find, you know, something that you think is a rare gem and nobody else is talking about this person, like, yeah, you want to champion that person.

Peter Biello: Okay. Well, consider her championed on this podcast. What speaks to you about her writing?

Orlando Montoya: Well, there's a lot to say. First of all, it's very nature-based. She lives on a farm. She's lived on a farm for 50 years. There's a lot of stillness in her writing, so there's not a lot of grand action. It's not, like, murder — compared to what we normally read and focus on this podcast, it really is quite a change. Very contemplative. Not slow. It's not slow because we're talking about 250-word essays. It's more like poetry. And you know how I like poetry.

Peter Biello: Yeah.

Orlando Montoya: So it's the it's the art of column writing. Which, for her, is a release.

Kathy Bradley: It allows me an opportunity to process what is going on around me, not just in my particular life, but in the, um — the community around me, the world around me. You know, what I'm experiencing. Words have always been my preferred manner of not just communication, but of — of understanding things. You know, I operate with a great deal of curiosity. And when something comes to my mind and I need to know the answer to it, I need to be able to put it into words.

Orlando Montoya: So think about that 250 words every 14 days. Tick tock, tick tock. Deadline. We know deadlines.

Peter Biello: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Orlando Montoya: But this column writing every 14 days, 250 words is — like I said, it takes a special kind of talent. And she's got three books of essays. The latest one is called Sifting Artifacts , and she's working on another one as well. It's going to be a little bit different.

Peter Biello: And you said she's very nature-based. How so? Can you give me an example?

Orlando Montoya: Well, like I said, she spent 50 years on a farm. She moved to —

Peter Biello: So she's writing about the animals she keeps or the plants she's growing.

Orlando Montoya: She's writing about like walking around in the woods. She's write — I took a — when I was reading this book, I made, like, a list of her topics, and it was like sunsets, buzzards, cotton, the change of seasons, the leaves, walking in the woods. You're like, "How can that be interesting? How is that not boring?" And...

Orlando Montoya: She's finding, like, meaning and inner truth. Larger questions in, like, the simplest things.

Peter Biello: So for, like, for example?

Orlando Montoya: So for example, in one of her essays, she writes about a funeral parlor fan. So you've been to some Southern funerals, maybe?

Peter Biello: I have never been to a Southern funeral, which is sort of a shortcoming for me. I guess I need to experience, that part of Southern culture.

Orlando Montoya: They might take place in the summer and it's very, very hot. And they will give you a fan, a little fan to wave on yourself. Right. And I'm sure you've seen the pictures of like church people there fanning themselves.

Peter Biello: You sometimes think that's just a movie thing.

Orlando Montoya: No.

Peter Biello: This Yankee thinks "oh that's just a something a Southern director made up to convince them we're in the South."

Orlando Montoya: No, no, it's it's a fan. And and so she takes — she's talking about this fan and she says "a comfort: That's what the fan is." Not in a physical way, but in the way of being a solace in an uncertain world. Take this thin, yet sturdy piece of cardboard with balsa wood handle and be reminded that some things last. It won't keep you cool, but it will keep you sure.

Peter Biello: Okay.

Orlando Montoya: So I mean, that's just poetry to me. Another essay, she talks about a grapefruit and it becomes a meditation on death. In another essay, she talks about a drive in the countryside, and it becomes about the nature of time. She talks about the memory of JFK's assassination, and that becomes a story about storytelling. So she talks a lot in metaphors.

Kathy Bradley: Usually what happens is I spend an awful lot of time outside, and usually I will be outside either taking a walk or just sitting on the porch or something. And I will notice a particular object or the movement of the leaf or the way a bird lands somewhere. And it sort of highlights itself. And I become captured by it, quite frankly. And I stare at it, listen to it long enough that I begin to see the metaphor. And I realize that I'm — I'm learning something I didn't know I knew.

Peter Biello: It strikes me that she's using what T.S. Eliot called the objective correlative. Is that something you've heard of or is that just for writers' school types?

Orlando Montoya: I've never heard of that.

Peter Biello: Essentially, it's a technique that — that writers, poets often use. So it seems appropriate here if she's, you know, writing in a way that evokes poetry for you. It's that if you focus long enough on on a tiny, tiny detail, how you feel about that thing or the the universal subject buried in that thing according to you and your subconscious is just naturally going to come out. Seems like that's what she's doing there.

Orlando Montoya: That's what she's doing. Exactly.

Peter Biello: Does she always sort of mind the right thing or do you feel ever that she's kind of stretching it to make a point to fill that deadline, as you said?

Orlando Montoya: Not really. I read this entire book, right? It's got, like — I must have read like about four or five years' worth of her essays. And there's — there's just not a dud in the bunch to me. And if it were me and you and somebody asked me to put all my work together for the last four years, I'd have to, like, seriously edit it, get out the duds. But I don't get any duds in this one.

Peter Biello: Wow. So tell me more about her language. You said it was like poetry. Can you give me an example of her poetry?

Orlando Montoya: Well, I think that all the essays are different, but there's a lot of them that have rhythm, a rhythm in the the words of the phrases. And she also uses what I'll call "country language," words that are specifically about countryside things. Words like "fence row" and "pennyroyal" and "sawtooth oak." I mean, I just love these words because I don't use them. And I asked her if she was aware of this language use in her work.

Kathy Bradley: And I will say yes and no. I realize from having conversations with, with people like you that I use words that are unfamiliar to them but very familiar to me. But at the same time, when I'm writing, I try not to be conscious of it because I want what I'm writing to sound like me — conversational. And those are the words I use in conversation, particularly with my family and neighbors and that kind of thing. But when I go back and read it again, I realize what I've done and I hope I've written well enough that people can figure out what a fence row is. If they've never seen that word or they, they can figure out what a sawtooth oak looks like.

Peter Biello: I have no idea what a sawtooth oak looks like, but I can imagine an oak. Close enough?

Orlando Montoya: I can envision a fence row.

Peter Biello: A row of fences?

Orlando Montoya: I — and — but the way the way it's written, it it just all fits and it works.

Peter Biello: Mm hmm. Okay. So is she a farmer? Like, when she's not doing these columns? Is she actually like —

Orlando Montoya: She is a retired lawyer? Can you believe it or not? 

Peter Biello: Okay. I can imagine. Then why she would want to sort of seek refuge in the opposite of a courthouse, which is a farm.

Orlando Montoya: She's lived on her farm, her family farm for 50 years, but she retired as a lawyer four years ago. She spent 38 years in practice, 19 years in private practice and 19 years as a prosecuting attorney in juvenile court. And the interesting thing is that none of that comes out in her writing. So in her writing, there's like very few, like, inside scenes, like, there's very few like "I'm at a shopping mall" or "I'm in an urban setting" or "I'm inside" somewhere. She's usually outside somewhere or talking about relationships with other people. Now, of course, she can't write about her attorney-client matters, especially in juvenile court, but she's a very curious person, and that comes across in her writing. She uses metaphor a lot, and I imagine that she would find curiosity and metaphor in the work that she does as a lawyer, but she just — she just can't write about it.

Kathy Bradley: I tend to be very empathetic. And if I were to write much about other people, I would — I would have to be very careful of their feelings. And I think that if I have any any identifying quality at all in my writing, it is that I am willing to be vulnerable and open. And I have the right to do that with regard to myself and my own experiences. But I don't have the right to do that to other people. The book that I'm working on now, I'm changing some names. It's a little different from the first three books and and I'm changing names in it because I, I don't have the right to tell somebody else's story. I only have the right to tell mine.

Orlando Montoya: Now, the reason that's interesting to me is because that's the opposite of what you and I do, right?

Peter Biello: Right. We're trying to put people on the record with their name out there.

Orlando Montoya: And I try to keep myself out of the story. And it's all about the story and that other person, right? So this is completely the opposite of what I do. And so maybe that's one reason I'm attracted to it, because it is — it is so interior.

Peter Biello: I'm trying to think of the state of mind I would have to be in to pick up a book like this. And I'm sort of thinking of like, you know, long days of work where I'm just immersed in the city and I just want quiet and I just want to be away from people for a little while, and I just want someone to paint a setting for me so that I feel like I've just been dropped into it.

Orlando Montoya: Yeah, this book is certainly something to calm your spirit.

Peter Biello: It's reminding me of — not having read it, just having you describe it to me — it's reminding me of a couple of things. Both of them from Vermont, actually, which is also big into the farming life, right? One is a writer, Chris Bohjalian. Do you know Chris Bohjalian?

Peter Biello: He's fairly popular. He writes novels. His novel, Midwives , was an Oprah selection back in the day. Anyway, he wrote a column which seems similar to what she's writing. It was called "Idyll Banter" — I-D-Y-L-L Banter — where he's writing about sort of small-town Vermont life in the way that it seems like that she's writing about small Georgia farm life. And the other one is, is David Budbill, who was a poet and playwright. He died a few years ago, and he wrote kind of the meditative poems where he really honed in on simple objects around his, his rural mountainside home. Sounds pretty similar. So I mention all this because if writers are already, like, tuned into this book and they're looking for something similar, I think those two would probably meet at — the columns by Chris Bohjalian, not his novels.

Orlando Montoya: Well, I think that that it's great that you found an example of what she does or something similar.

Peter Biello: The first time anyone's compared Vermont to Georgia in the history of comparisons.

Orlando Montoya: There's a lot of similarities. A lot of similarities.

Peter Biello: Yeah, that's not — that's true. If you look for them there, they're there, I promise. So a lot of columnists, essayists in Georgia, in general, Orlando. What gives her the Narative Edge?

Orlando Montoya: Well, like I said, she's revealing herself. She's revealing the strangeness of her imaginings. And I don't find a dud in the book. Pick a date. Pick a date between Jan. 15 and Dec. 18.

Peter Biello: And you'll find one.

Orlando Montoya:  I'll find and I'll pick out an example here and read you something.

Peter Biello: Okay. Let's do Feb. 1.

Orlando Montoya: Okay. '15, '16, '17 or '18?

Peter Biello: ' 15. We'll just do '15. Feb. 1 [2015].

Orlando Montoya: " From inside the house, I can hear both sets of wind chimes clanging, harmonizing from opposite eves, dancing madly like Russian cossacks. The sun is high and the light is white. There is no good reason to stay inside. The ruts in the road have dried into peaks, crunchy beneath the footfalls that I am trying unsuccessfully to slow to a stroll. I am wondering, is the sky really the bluest sky I've ever seen?

Peter Biello: That does sound like poetry.

Orlando Montoya: And it goes on from there. Again. Very beautiful, poetic, still, meaningful, deep, all while talking about the most ordinary of things.

Kathy Bradley: I just try to be very aware of this moment. And someone asked me not long ago about the fact that my pieces are dated, you know, and why did I do that? And I had to stop and think about it because I hadn't really given it a whole lot of specific thought. But the idea that life — life is very — you know, "finite" is such a ridiculous word to use. But, but everything about it is. You know, I'm never going to be sitting here talking to you ever again. Not like this. Not with Benjamin sitting here very patiently listening to us and, and his cat moving around the apartment and the sunlight coming in exactly the way it is. It's never going to happen again. And one of the things that I try to do in my writing is to encourage people to, to understand that a little better than sometimes we do when we're running from jobs to children's ballet lessons to back to the house. You know, we — we get too busy. And I want people to take a moment and realize this is the only time you're ever going to have this moment. So to get back to your question, no, I don't run out of things because every day, every moment is different.

Orlando Montoya: All right. So she has three books of collected essays:  Breathing and Walking Around ; Wandering Towards Center;  and the latest, released in 2022, called Sifting Artifacts . She's working on a next one. But you can also go to KathyABradley.com. And every 14 days she drops a new column.

Peter Biello: Wow. Okay. Kathy Bradley, Sifting Artifacts . Orlando, thank you so much for sharing this. Really. We do appreciate it.

Orlando Montoya: It's been a pleasure. Thanks for listening to Narrative Edge . We'll be back in two weeks with a brand-new episode. This podcast is a production of Georgia Public Broadcasting. Find us online at GPB.org/NarrativeEdge .

Peter Biello: You can also catch us on the daily GPB News podcast  Georgia Today for a concise update on the latest news in Georgia. For more on that and all of our podcasts, go to GPB.org/Podcasts .

Secondary Content

About the authors.

Peter Biello

Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered on GPB. 

His interviews and stories can be heard every weekday from 4 to 6 p.m. on GPB.

Orlando Montoya, newscaster producer for GPB.

Orlando Montoya is newscaster producer for Georgia Public Broadcasting.

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Guest Essay

Trump Should Not Be Disqualified by an Ambiguous Clause

A cage is set over a voting booth.

By Kurt Lash

Mr. Lash is the author of the law paper “ The Meaning and Ambiguity of Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment .”

Challenges to disqualify Donald Trump from the office of president under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment are popping up all over the country. On Thursday the secretary of state of Maine ruled that Mr. Trump would be ineligible for the state’s primary ballot, a decision that can be appealed to the state’s Supreme Court. On Wednesday the Michigan Supreme Court ruled narrowly that the state will allow Mr. Trump to stay on the primary ballot but left open a potential future challenge to his inclusion on a general-election ballot.

But so far only one — the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling that bars Mr. Trump from the primary ballot — has reached the doorstep of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court should take the case and reverse the Colorado Supreme Court ruling and do so for the very reason cited by the Colorado judges. According to the Colorado court (quoting an earlier, unrelated case ), Section 3 should be interpreted “in light of the objective sought to be achieved and the mischief to be avoided.”

That is exactly right. The Colorado court failed, however, to follow its own advice.

When Congress passed the 14th Amendment, there wasn’t a person in the Senate or House who worried about loyal Americans electing a former rebel like Jefferson Davis as president. Instead, Republicans feared that the leaders of the rebellion would use their local popularity to disrupt Republican Reconstruction policy in Congress or in the states. Section 3 expressly addressed these concerns and did so without denying loyal Americans their right to choose a president.

To date, much of the debate over Section 3 has focused on whether the president is an “officer” who takes an “oath.” This is an issue in the second part of the provision. What neither scholars nor courts have yet focused on is the first part of Section 3. The threshold issue is whether the framers and ratifiers thought that the president holds a “civil” office “under the United States.” This is a much more specific and historically difficult question.

Here are the key opening words of Section 3: “No person shall be a senator or representative in Congress, or elector of president and vice president, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States or under any state.”

The text begins by expressly naming offices that rebel leaders might secure for themselves on the basis of their local popularity. The greatest fear was that these rebels would return to Congress and join Northern Democrats in thwarting Republican Reconstruction policy.

As Representative Thaddeus Stevens warned his colleagues, without a properly worded Section 3, “that side of the House will be filled with yelling secessionists and hissing copperheads” — a reference to Northern Democrats who had opposed the Civil War. It was possible that a coalition of Southern and Northern Democratic presidential electors would nominate a “hissing copperhead.”

Congressional Republicans were so concerned about mischief in the Electoral College that they delayed the passage of the 14th Amendment in order to make sure the issue was properly addressed. The joint committee’s draft of Section 3 prohibited rebels from voting for presidential electors, but this left open an enormous loophole. As Representative John Longyear pointed out, this prohibition would be “easily evaded by appointing electors of president and vice president through their legislatures.”

Senator Jacob Howard agreed that Section 3 would not “prevent state legislatures from choosing rebels as presidential electors,” and he led the effort to rewrite Section 3 in a manner that closed the loophole. The result is the final version that prohibits leading rebels from serving as presidential electors, whether elected or appointed.

The only reason to secure a trustworthy Electoral College is in order to secure a trustworthy president. So Section 3 focuses on state-level decision making. It expressly addresses three key positions for which leading rebels might use their remaining popularity to disrupt Republican Reconstruction: the Senate, the House of Representatives and state-selected presidential electors.

Radical Republicans like Thaddeus Stevens would have gone further and completely disenfranchised anyone who had participated in the rebellion, leader or not. Moderate Republicans, however, were more optimistic. As Senator Daniel Clark noted, once leading rebels were removed, “those who have moved in humble spheres [would] return to their loyalty and to the government.”

The strategy worked. In 1868, despite the scattered participation of former rebel soldiers as presidential electors, Southern Black voters helped elect the Republican Ulysses S. Grant over the Democrat Horatio Seymour.

It is possible to read Section 3 as impliedly including the office of president as one of the “civil” offices “under the United States” covered by the general catchall provision. It would be odd to stuff the highest office in the land into a general provision that included everything from postmasters to toll takers, but the text is ambiguous enough to make this a possible reading.

However, if the framers meant the catchall provision to include presidents and postmasters, they were remarkably negligent. According to longstanding congressional precedent and legal authority, the phrase “civil office under the United States” did not include the office of president of the United States. As Joseph Story explained in his influential “ Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States ,” the congressional precedent known as Blount’s case established that the offices of president, senator and representative were not civil offices under the government of the United States; they were the government of the United States. The phrase “civil office under the United States” referred to appointed offices.

In addition to legal authority, there is also common sense to guide us. The text of Section 3 is structured in a manner that moves from high federal office to low state office, and the apex federal political offices are expressly named. As the former Attorney General Reverdy Johnson explained, “the specific exclusion in the case of senators and representatives” led him to initially presume that the framers excluded the office of president. He accepted a colleague’s suggestion to the contrary, but if the text created such a presumption in the mind of a former attorney general, it is reasonable to think it may have created the same presumption in the minds of ratifiers.

Actually, we have no idea whether the ratifiers shared Mr. Johnson’s initial presumption. This is because no one has discovered a single example of any ratifier discussing whether Section 3 included the office of president of the United States. Despite extraordinary efforts by researchers, no one has yet found evidence that any ratifier even considered the possibility that Section 3 abridged the people’s right to choose their president.

The silence of the ratifiers on this point is important. Those favoring the disqualification of Mr. Trump insist that there is nothing antidemocratic about constraining the presidential choices of the national electorate. The Constitution, after all, contains a number of provisions that deny the people the right to elect whomever they wish. Article II, Section One , for example, prevents the people from electing anyone who is under age 35 or who is a foreign-born candidate.

Those qualifications are expressly declared in the text, and they received robust vetting and debate in the ratifying conventions. In the case of Section 3, the Supreme Court is being asked to impose new constraints on the democratic process by way of textual implication and in the absence of any public debate whatsoever.

Such a reading is neither democratically appropriate nor textually necessary. And it was most certainly not “the objective sought to be achieved [or] the mischief to be avoided” by Section 3.

At best, the text of Section 3 is ambiguous regarding the office of president. The Supreme Court should limit the clause to its historically verifiable meaning and scope.

Let the people make their own decisions about Donald Trump.

Kurt Lash, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, is the author of, most recently, “ The Reconstruction Amendments : Essential Documents” and the forthcoming “A Troubled Birth of Freedom: The Struggle to Amend the Constitution in the Aftermath of the Civil War.”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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