Visual Arts vs. Fine Arts

Edouard Manet - BoatingWith all of the art terminology, it can be difficult to understand what art actually is, so let’s define the basics. What are visual arts and what are fine arts?

Visual arts are everything that is created that can be seen, and some works that fall within the visual arts are, Sculpture, drawing, painting, photography, architecture, printmaking, film and other variations of these.

Arts that are considered to be in the category of the decorative arts are also considered to be part of the visual arts and these are, ceramics, jewelry, metal crafting, furniture and interior design, wood working, and others within this realm.

In other words visual arts are art that you look at, but “The Arts” were not always categorized as such. The Arts was the term given to anything that was scholarly in the middle ages and this included language, geometry, mathematics, astronomy, music, and painting. In other words these were defined as the arts because they were not really “useful arts,” and only people that were refined could dedicate themselves to these arts.

Later over time people realized that there was a difference between the sciences and what we know as art. The problem is that the list of fine arts started getting very extensive. After all it included music, literature, architecture, decorative arts, painting, and performing arts, so in the 20th century the fine arts was again divided into what we know as the Visual Arts, that of sculpture, painting, decorative, etc, the auditory arts, that of music, drama, literature, and Performing Arts, which is a combination of both forms of art.

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