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

Tamara Toy

Part 1-What is art? “Art is the unceasing effort to compete with the beauty of flowers — and never succeeding.’— Marc Chagall (1887—1985) Russian-French artist, remark, 1977

Disagree. This would imply that there is a comparison in natural beauty and artistic beauty. The difference between the two is that art speaks also in emotion, not just the aesthetic. Different styles of art tend to evoke different emotions, ranging from beautiful emotions to tragic ones. While natural beauty can, and does, evoke emotions, the difference is that art’s source is emotion, not just the beauty of a sunrise or a flower blooming in its prime. As well, art is more individualistic than natural beauty. There are works of art that make me feel wonder and awe while others remind me of a darker feeling, ranging from fear to bewilderment, each work that may not bring forth the same feeling for most anyone else. Meanwhile, few people would argue the beauty of a rosebud. There is something about seeing something in a work of art that makes us think deeper than the aesthetic appeal. For example, a dying flower may make us sad that the season of life is coming to an end while seeing a similar scene in a work of art tends to make the viewer think on a deeper level. In my mind, there is no competition between a flower a work of art. Each has its place as something to be admired.

“What is art? Art grows out of grief and joy, but mainly grief. It is born of people’s lives.’— Edvard Munch (1863—1944), Norwegian artist, in Edvard Munch: The Man and His Art, by Ragna Stang (1977)

Agree. I know the saying is that artists half to suffer to be artists and I feel there is some truth to that. Not that pain makes one more in touch with being artistic but that one has to live to see not only the beauty of things, as well as the darkness of them. Everything has to have a contrast to be seen so if one does not live, and experience the good and the bad of life, it would be impossible to create something that exhibits those contrasts.

Part 2-What is art history? In researching this question, I found it interesting that there seem to be two different ways this can go. Some answers are straight forward and say it is the study of art in a historical context. Others state that defining the “history’ part is as difficult as defining the “art’ component of the question. For me, I feel that while defining what is art is difficult, that the history part is much more exact. It is important to study art in a historical context because not only do we learn about art, but we also learn about our own history, in a sociocultural context. Every work of art has a story and a reason for its existence. To not study that would be a tragedy lost to time.