Home Forums What is Art? Art History? What is Art? What is Art History? Reply To: What is Art? What is Art History?

Jessi Willeto

DISAGREE: “Art is harmony.”— Georges Seurat (1859—1891), French painter, letter to Maurice Beaubourg (1890)
Part I:
I disagree with this statement because I personally define art as various emotions, depictions, interpretations, of anything and everything. By saying art is harmony, we are denying ourselves the right to express discord within our own lives. Art isn’t just harmony, art is chaos. Art encompasses all emotions we can have if we so choose. Art is history, and as we all know, history can be very ugly. War, blood, death, decay, can be interpreted as ugly. I truly think it cannot be simply defined through harmony.
AGREE: “Ideas alone can be works of art….All ideas need not be made physical.…A work of art may be understood as a conductor from the artist’s mind to the viewer’s. But it may never reach the viewer, or it may never leave the artist’s mind.”
— Sol LeWitt (1928—2007), American artist, “Sentences on Conceptual Art,” in Art and Its Significance, edited by Stephen David Ross (1994)
I really love this statement because it makes art so personal. It is completely subjective and up to the artist themselves on whether or not they choose to share their own art. We can all have our personal definitions of art, and that is what is beautiful about it. I don’t like it being confined to a simple space and definition, because that leaves room for comparative art– we should not be comparing our progress with one another. We should enjoy our individuality and own interpretations.
Part II:
“What is Art History? Why do we study the history of art? How does it help us understand the world in which we live?”
Art history is simply history. Without the art we have found from various centuries we would not have history. Take for example the the Lion Hunt of Ashurbanipal — that entire piece depicts clothing, styles, ways of life within that timeline. Yes, it is art, but more so, it holds the perspective of a point of time that is long-lost. That is quite precious. We study the history of art to study history of people, and to see how different OR similar elements of art can be and develop within completely different societies. It gives us something linear about the development of art styles. It helps us understand the world we live in because our society is built upon older societies. It’s amazing that we can find such well-preserved pieces.