What is fine art? What is the difference fine arts and applied or decorative art?
The notion of Fine Arts among the classification of arts is not a very old one, and after different arts were created, different definitions were produced for fine arts. All definitions used for explaining aesthetic sciences are not perfect and absolute, on the opposite, definitions of beauty are relative and temporary.
Plato was the first to theorize aesthetics philosophically, and after him, Kant expanded this theory. Many scholars believe Kant’s views are the beginning of aesthetic science.
The direct or indirect social effects of these aesthetic views as well as other factors results in what is known as low art or high art.
In third century A.D, Philesteratus separated some of the arts like poetry, music, painting and sculpture, from industry and classified them among sciences (among some kinds of wisdom?).
In the middle ages the difference between arts disappeared; in renaissance it was thought that visual arts are different from craft, and thus were placed among human science.
In eighteenth century the concept of fine art was created and poetry, music, painting, sculpture, dance and architecture were classed in one group. On the other hand, Charles Balteu in 1746 (i.e. eighteenth century) divided the arts into the three groups:
1. Fine Art including poetry, music, painting, sculpture and photography;
2. Applied Arts (or mechanical art) including products of handicrafts;
3. Mixed art including oratory, eloquence, architecture and performing arts.
Fine art is limited to a number of visual arts and performing arts forms, including painting, sculpture, dance, theatre, architecture and printmaking. The word ‘Fine Art’ is use to introduce antecedent artwhich is supposed to explain the relationship between fine art and classic or academic art.
Fine art in Britain was distinguished from applied art as a result of the conflict between the followers of the Arts and Crafts Movement, including William Morris, and the early modernists (Art Nouveau), including Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.
The term Applied Arts refers to the application of design and aesthetics to objects of daily use.
Applied arts include groups of arts such as industrial design, graphic design, fashion design, interior design, decorative art and functional art. In addition, nowadays architecture and photography are also classified in this group. Some aspects of education and teaching can be considered applied art. The field of applied arts may share the same study methods and technologies with applied sciences, and one might even say that any daily work and/or function in accordance with human usefulness and benefit can be regarded as applied arts.
Hence, as mentioned above, decorative art falls in the field of applied arts. Decorative art is defined as the embellishment and functional activity in ceramic, wood, glass, metal, or textile. The field includes ceramics, furniture, furnishings, interior design, and architecture.
Thus fine art can be explained as follows: some branches of visual art share borders with craft or applied art, but the border is blurred in many objects such that a fine object can also be regarded an applied or decorative artwork, on the other hand, an applied art object can be considered fine art depending on its function, operation and meaning.
Finally the concept of fine art is explained by final goal or purpose, which is implicated in itself.
Fain art depends on perception and pleasure and is not related to concepts and scientific understanding. A fine object can give rise to pleasure and at the same time enjoy some kind of function; according to the Kant, beauty is what creates pleasure free of interest and without a concept, as something with a useless end.
In his view, beauty is humanistic and natural: ‘Fine art is an art, in so far as it has at the same time the appearance of being nature. A product of fine art must be recognized to be art and not nature. Nevertheless the finality in its form must appear just as free from the constraint of arbitrary rules as if it were a product of mere nature.’ So art is completely humanistic.
He differentiated the following three notions: the fine, the agreeable and the good. The fine does not have any relationship with the good or the agreeable, because the origin of that, is feeling and feeling is particular to human.
Kant’s idea regarding beauty is that our imagination for pleasure or displeasure of an object is our judgement between beauty and deformity which is the effect of our perception.
One of the differences between applied and fine arts is based on functionality, having purpose, ways of using material and the extent to which an object is produced in a given period of time. As a result, if an object is produced by a single artist, it will be classified as fine art, and if it is produced in large amounts, it will be grouped as applied art.
As indicated above, the borders are relative and depended on the function of an object and even if an object is classified as appliedart and decorations are considered to be in the group of applied art.
Beauty and decorations are inseparable. The object which has decoration can be beautiful as well and placed in the group of fine art. (Although in Kant’s view, an object is fine art when no interest is concerned and it pursues no other end but pleasure.) Whereas in definitions stated above, fine art is the stimulator of viewer’s feelings while applied art and design of an object is aimed at utility. (however this object can be beautiful too.) The difference between fine art and applied art began with the industrial revolution, by politicians to get advantage in industrial competition and the government supported visual arts, by the establishment of museums, galleries, design schools and decorative art museums, etc, and separated art from machine production process.
Nowadays a fine object in art is one that has a suitable function, conformity with material and method of production, mass production and fine external.