Defining Art

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Defining Art



Since the time of Plato there have been philosophical debates regarding the definition of what constitutes art. Throughout this chapter I will be presenting for consideration a range of ideas and theories that have been proposed to establish a more definitive explanation. Each of these theories has its insightful explanation of art. Each theory claims that its appraisal of art to be correct and necessary in an attempt to establish art' s defining properties without which there can be no basis for appreciating and evaluating it if what we behold is a work of art or not, or whether one work of art is better than another (Weitz 27).

Mimetic Theory

The Mimetic Theory supports the idea of objectivity that the replicated object looks exactly as the real thing (Danto Disenfranchisement 24). For this reason, art created in the Mimetic Theory is without subjective, personal interpretations from the artist and is independent of the artist' s values and beliefs. This concept has dominated much of the artistic content in representational art for centuries highlighted by the works of da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Durer, to name a few. It then segued into the modern realism movements of the mid 19th century which progressed to capture the everyday commonplace themes and social dimensions wrought by the industrial revolution. Realism in art climaxed with the introduction of photography as a visual source and the expertise that releases art from the Mimetic Theory (Ranciere 36). In this way, representational art that mimics or visually captures an aspect of the real world as contemplated in the Mimetic Art Theory can readily be accomplished through photography and can easily miss the vast potential of what art can do.

Aesthetic Theory

The Aesthetic Theory is an appreciation of artistic beauty, regardless of how ugly the work may first have appeared (Danto Abuse 49). It affirms that art can only be considered true art when it is beautiful and appealing to the viewer. This theory explores artistic skill, interpretation and appreciation that allow people to have a clear grasp of the properties of art in order to adequately appreciate and respond to it and say why one artwork is good or better than another. The Aesthetic Theory is seen as being important for the foundations of both appreciation and criticism of art.

Since the 18th century, art and beauty have had a strong mutual association where a piece of work is considered art if it is sufficiently beautiful to elicit a pleasing experience for the beholder. One social philosopher and art critic of the early 20th century influenced by Kant and who strongly advocated for abstract art, Clive Bell, defined art as a “significant form” that exhibits a blend of lines, symmetry, shapes and colors that elicit cognitive awareness and aesthetic experience of beholding beauty for the beholder who has the rare ability to appreciate art (Bell 20). The aesthetic emotion resulting from an appreciation of an art form is unique to each individual, independent of any moral order or ...
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