What is Art?

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What is Art?

Is there truth to the old adage:

"Modern Art" is produced by incompetents, sold by charlatans and bought by ignoramuses?

It is enlightening to juxtapose "Fine Art" to "Modern Art"

Excerpt from Book: "How Life Really Works"

Book I: Man and the Universe

Chapter 05.00: Anthropology

To say that a work of art is good, but incomprehensible to the majority

of men, is the same as saying of some kind of food that it is very good

but that most people can't eat it.

                     Leo Tolstoy, What Is Art? (1898)


It is enlightening to juxtapose "Fine Art" to "Modern Art" and to examine the fallacy of "The Emperor's New Clothes": The illusion of art created by so-called "art-cognoscenti", who are more interested in promoting the commercially hyped value of "Modern Art", than in the intrinsic beauty of "Fine Art".

It is elucidating that most people see beyond this sham: Museums of Modern Art are almost devoid of visitors while the typical Museum of Fine Art (often, next door) is packed with people, hungry for beauty and the esthetics that are an innate part of human nature.

The following Criteria could be of help in defining "Fine Art"   ---   as opposed to Modern Art, Abstract Art, Primitive Art, Folk Art, and the many other art forms that are often included in the hierarchical concept of "Art": 

No Communication: No Art --- Art, including music, represents the direct communication of human emotions, without the assistance of explanatory comments in the nature of writing or other artifacts. Similar to the awe we feel when we are face to face with the beauty of nature, we can be moved through a whole array of powerful emotions when we listen to a Beethoven symphony. On the other hand, paint poured at random on a clean canvas might, at best, communicate the chaos, avarice or contempt in the mind of such an "artist". How can emotions be communicated if we cannot even discern which side of the painting is up.

No Craftsmanship:  No Art  ---  Many schoolchildren exhibit more craftsmanship in "chalkboard art" than is seen in most "Modern Art". It requires years of training  and long periods of time to produce any object of value. Worthless junk can be produced by anyone, overnight.

No Talent: No Art  --  Only the spark of talent or genius can produce beauty and true art of lasting value.  Just as rationality is the sine qua non for science, talent is the sine qua non for art. In the absence of this criterion, anybody could be trained to produce great Art. (Alas, since I am devoid of artistic talent, I will never be able to produce great works of art.)

No Maturity: No Art  --  The lapse of time is the filter that separates the wheat from the chaff:  --  As an old Wine mellows with age, true art is confirmed by the lapse of time: If it has survived the critique of more than one hundred years, it may qualify as "art". The absurdities of the Picassos of this world will be swept into the dustbin of history, while the works of Rembrandt will continue to delight future generations of man.  --  The Louvre does not display modern art, neither does the National Art Gallery of London. Picasso's most famous work, the Guernica, cannot be found in the Prado. There are no Van Goghs in the Louvre. The National Gallery (London) does not display any works produced in the 20th century. Grandma Moses' paintings are hidden in the basement of the National Art Gallery in Washington.


Epicures was a relentless searcher for the truth. He would have enjoyed this iconoclastic exposure of intellectual pretence and pseudo-sophistication.


What is "Fine Art"?

The Laocoon Group represents an example of "Fine Art". This sculpture complies with all of the above criteria:

Laocoon Group, The Vatican Museum, Marble, Height 8'

The Laocoon Group dates to the 1st Century BC. It is a masterpiece of the Hellenistic Age in Greece.

This sculpture is in the Vatican Museum in Rome. It is a very intense dramatization of the suffering of Laacoon and his sons. In Greek mythology, Laocoon is a priest of  Troy who advised the Trojans not to bring the Trojan horse within the walls of their city. The Laocoon group sculpture is a depiction of  the death of Laocoon and his sons as punishment for Laocoon's advice.

The work depicts in utter realism the agony that can befall man. The serpents unite the three figures, drawing the observer from one figure to the next. Every inch of Laocoon's face depicts his pain: From his wrinkled forehead to half shut eyes and parted lips, the figure cries out in pain. Both father and sons are portrayed in a haunting state of agony. There is no inch of the sculpture that is free from pain and torment, from basic human emotions.

Art is the direct communication of human emotions.


  You may enjoy viewing two illustrative sub-pages to this page: Paintings and Sculpture. Their purpose is to juxtapose so-called "Modern Art" and "Fine Art".

 All images on this web site are reproduced for non-profit, educational purposes only.

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