What Is Art?

Historically, art has been created for all sorts of reasons – to entertain, to inspire, to educate, and to communicate. But it can be difficult to pin down exactly what art is. Some people define it by its technical skill, while others consider only that the work should make them feel something. Then there are those who believe that all created works of art have some sort of symbolic meaning buried within them. And yet others think that any piece of work can be regarded as art if it is done with the purpose of entertaining or inspiring.

The problem is that definitions of art change and grow with each new work, and are influenced by the social, cultural and philosophical context in which it is produced. For example, in the era of Romanticism and individualism art came to mean originality. The search for what was unique led to a whole raft of movements including Cubism and Futurism.

It was also a time when art was used as a means of memorializing important people and events, from paintings and murals of Biblical scenes to sculptures of Napoleon and George Washington. It is also the period when many people began to see beauty in the world around them, leading to the creation of landscape painting.

A lot of art was also made to challenge the viewer, to stimulate thought and imagination, to teach a moral lesson, or to tell a story. But some artists went beyond this to attempt to express the very essence of life itself. Martin Heidegger, one of the most influential philosophers in history, argued that art is not just an expression of the element of truth within a culture. Art actually produces that truth, and is the springboard from which that truth can be revealed.

Art can be seen as a form of social commentary, and can help to shape a society’s values. For example, in the era of post-modernism, art has been used as a tool to address serious issues such as poverty and homelessness by encouraging activism and sparking constructive discussion.

But despite all the difficulties, it is still possible to say what art is. It is that work of creative genius which has a magical power to capture the world not just of material things, but also of human emotions, society and spiritual experience. In this way, it is not unlike a poem which can move the soul, or music which can touch the heart. But, to be truly great, art needs to go beyond mere expression and become a reflection of the world in all its glory. It is in this way that real art will endure. Art is all about perception, and it is this that makes it such a powerful force. That is why we should continue to support and encourage artists, whatever the whims of fashion may be. Because if we do not, it will be easy for others to forget the value of what art has given us.