The term "fine art" was first coined in 1767 in reference to the arts that were "concerned with beauty or which appealed to taste" (S.O.E.D 1991). The term has been used to refer to a limited number of visual art forms, including painting, sculpture, and printmaking, and is still used by schools, institutes, and other organizations to indicate a traditional perspective on the visual arts, often implying an association with classic or academic art.
The word "fine" does not so much denote the quality of the artwork in question, but rather the purity of the discipline. This definition tends to exclude visual art forms that could be considered craftwork or applied art, such as textiles. The more recent term "visual art" is widely considered to be a more inclusive and descriptive phrase for today's variety of current art practices, and for the multitude of mediums in which high art is now more widely recognized to occur.
The term is still often used outside of the arts to denote when someone has perfected an activity to a very high level of skill. For example, one might say that "Pelé took football to the level of a fine art."
That fine art is seen as being distinct from the crafts is largely the result of an issue raised in Britain by the conflict between the followers of the Arts and Crafts Movement, including William Morris, and the early modernists, including Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group. The former sought to bring socialist principles to bear on the arts by including the more commonplace crafts of the masses within the realm of the arts, while the modernists sought to keep artistic endeavour exclusive, esoteric, and elitist.
Today the term is often improperly used to give any artistic discipline an emphasis that implies higher quality.
The Fine Arts
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04