The visual arts are a class of artforms, including painting, sculpture, photography, and others, that focus on the creation of artworks which are primarily visual in nature. The visual arts are distiguished from the performing arts, language arts, culinary arts , and other such classes of artwork. The definition is not strict, and many artistic disciplines involve aspects of the visual arts as well other types.
In Britain until recently the fine arts—painting, sculpture, printmaking, et cetera—were seen as distinct from craft disciplines such as applied art, design, textiles, and the various metalworking disciplines such as blacksmithing and jewelery. This distinction arose from the work of a group of artists led by William Morris known as the Arts and Crafts Movement whose political aim was to value vernacular artforms as much as high forms. The movement was at odds with modernists who sought to withold the high arts from the masses by keeping them esoteric.
The result of the conflict between the two groups was to politicise the products of what we now know as visual artists. British art schools made a clear distinction between the fine arts (a term that hints at their supposed superiority) and the crafts in such a way that a craftsperson could not be considered a practitioner of high art. Although this is no longer the case, the residue of inequality between the crafts or applied arts and the so-called fine arts still exists in some quarters. In Britain the term "visual arts" is suitably independent of these older, loaded concepts and as such is the preferred term for work across all the disciplines in question.
A similar stigma exists in the US, where "arts and crafts" has a very particular meaning, denoting the sort of artwork first taught in elementary school and also (later in life) a variety of kitschy, household artwork. Most craftspeople are still not seen as practicing "fine art" among the traditional art school set, but certainly can produce "high art" if considered to be a "visual artist", nomatter the medium.
Common types of visual art
History of the visual arts
See also: Art movements
Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13