Understanding the Arts

Posted: September 9th, 2013

Understanding the Arts








Understanding and Evaluating the Arts

“Art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power” (Oxford dictionary, 2012). It can also be taken to be “A selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value judgments” (Aynrand, 2012). Art can be expressed via various forms. Painting, sculpture, and printmaking are just a few examples of this. As shown by the overall definition, all types of art are interconnected.


“At the Lapin Agile” is a painting by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso in 1905. The medium used is oil on canvas measuring 39 by 39.5 inches. It depicts a bar scene in Montmartre featuring the painter as a sad clown nursing a drink. There is also a gaudy woman and a guitarist sitting against a wall (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012). The painting exemplifies the art via the painter’s vivid interpretation of his reality in the bar scene and the emotions expressed in the characters. This work was based on real life.


American artist Harriet Whitney Frishmuth lived from 1880 to 1980. One of her most famous works “The vine” created in 1924 was inspired by famous female dancers. The bronze sculpture measures 83.5 by 28.5 inches. It depicts a nude female dancer caught up in her performance, a moving portrayal of a living vine. She is holding a grapevine on outstretched hands (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012). The application of creativity in bringing movement to a bronze figure to show the beauty of dance is in line with the definition of art.


The Taj Mahal in Agra, India was built as a tomb by an Emperor called Jahan for his second wife Mumtaz in the 17th century. It was designed by a Persian called Ustad Issa Khan Effendi. The white marble assumes different tones depending on the light changes. It has a variety of rich fittings such as Persian carpets, silver and gold lamps. The walls have detailed carvings and abstract motifs. Some of them have writings of the Koran as a decorative feature. A red sandstone path leads to a three-storey sandstone octagon shaped entrance with two smaller rooms at its side (Agra India Organization, 2012). Art in the form of architecture was used as an expression of the emperor’s deep emotions. The creative skill of the designer is shown by the keen attention to detail of the carvings and the resultant beauty.


Aaron Siskind’s photograph “Harlem, Most Crowded Block” was taken in 1940. The medium used is Gelatin silver print, and it measures 14 by 11 inches. Contrary to what its title suggests, the composition of the photograph is anything but crowded. It features a young woman with one hand akimbo talking to a little boy on a sidewalk. The wall behind them is dirty and so big that it dwarfs the two (Silverstein, 2012). This photograph demonstrates the use of art to be appreciated by its emotive power. The expression of the little boy evokes a feeling of curiosity and the desire to know the topic under discussion in the viewer.

Conceptual Art

Conceptual art is well demonstrated by the works of modern British conceptual artist David Shrigley, in particular by his work the “Light Switch”. This downloadable game features an animated hand and a light switch on an iPhone screen. “Players control the hand to poke the light switch, and as the switch alternates, the player’s screen goes black, as if the light had gone off on their phones. A counter in the top left marks the number of times the light is flipped” (Chayka, 2010). The use of the artist’s interpretation of reality to form a message concurs with the definition of art as the selective interpretation of reality.


Sebald Beham`s woodcut print “Large Church Festival” is a rich composition of several scenes depicting the rowdy Sunday peasant party scenes common in 16th century in Nuremberg city, Germany. The Print is officially dated in 1535 A.D. by the British museum and is 360mm high and 140mm wide (Britishmuseum, 2012). This work demonstrates the creative skill of the artist by the intricate detail depicting realistic scenes of day-to-day life. It has the emotive power of age-old human, social activities that people can identify with.

Installation Art

An interesting example of Installation Art is the scale model of a part of the “Running Fence” of Sonoma and Marin Counties in California. It was constructed from May to August in 1976. Creation of the model was a collaboration between Christo, a Bulgarian, Jeanne Claude, a Moroccan ,and Gregory Johnson, an American. The model is made of wood, cardboard, and paper. It measures an average of 22 x 57x 36inches on a scale of 1:200 metric (Smithsonian, 2012)

The artist’s creative power is shown by his unique idea of displaying the beauty of a simple object. It sends the message of the reality of work often needed to make simple items of great importance.

Performance Art


“Ballet is an artistic dance form performed to music, using precise and highly formalized set steps and gestures.” It is characterized by light, graceful movements and the use of pointed shoes with reinforced toes (Oxford, 2012). Ballet is exemplified as an art form by its expression of feelings and stories via rhythmic movements of the body. These stories are often the metaphysical reality of the dancers being projected to audience. The movements also display the creativity involved in using movement to imitate the realistic characters of objects and individuals.


Agra India organization. (2012). Architecture of Taj Mahal. Retrieved from: http://www.agraindia.org.uk/taj-mahal/architecture/index.html

Ayn Rand Institute. (2012). Essentials of Objectivism. Retrieved from: www.aynrand.org/

British Museum. (2012). Sebald Beham, Large Church Festival. Retrieved from: www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/pd/s/sebald_beham,_large_church_fes.aspx

Buce silverstein gallery of Aaron Siskind Foundation. (2012). Retrieved from: http://brucesilverstein.com/galleries.php?gid=543&i=8&page=next

Chayka, K. (2012). David Shrigley`s “Light Switch” iphone application. Retrieved from: www.artinfo.com/news/story/760302/app-art-david-shrigleys-light-switch-takes-a-swipe-at-conceptual-art-on-the-iphone

Metropolitan Museum of art. (2012). “Harriet Whitney Frishmuth: The Vine (27.66)”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved from: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/27.66

Metropolitan Museum of art. (2012). “Pablo Picasso: At the Lapin Agile (1992.391)”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved from: www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1992.391

Oxford dictionary. (2012). Retrieved from: www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/art

Smithsonian American Art Museum. (2012). Installation exterior. Retrieved from: www.americanart.si.edu/collections/search/artwork/?id=77578

Wolf, J. (2012). Conceptual Art. Retrieved from: www.theartstory.org/movement-conceptual-art.htm

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