What Is Art?

There are about as many definitions of art as there are people alive. As a widely accepted definition, art is produced when imagination or creativity are used to create something that can be directly experienced through our senses. Although visual art that is witnessed through our sense of sight is the most common form, art can appeal to our other senses as well, such as our auditory or tactile perceptions.

The Seven Forms of Art


Painting is one of the oldest kinds of art, dating back tens of thousands of years, and is evident on caves at various sites across the world, such as the Drakensberg in South Africa, the Northern Territory in Australia, and the Lascaux paintings in France to name only three of many sacred sites that are scattered across the globe. Some of these sites have become designated world heritage sites to preserve cultural history associated with those areas, and to preserve them.

Painting is the application of paint, usually on a two-dimensional surface.

Paint consists of a pigment, combined with a binding agent such as oil, egg, or water and possibly a filler, to make the quantity more substantial. In ancient times, people relied on natural materials such as plant matter, bones, and soft stones and rocks to make their pigments but today artificial coloring is mostly used. In modern times, various other additives are included in the ingredients, which make the paint more user-friendly and convenient.

Paint can be applied in various ways – the sky’s the limit. Brushes, fingers, spray cans or sponges can be used, for example. In modern art, painters mostly use canvas to paint on but other surfaces such as board or wood can also be used.


Sculpture is another ancient art form, dating back to some of the earliest civilizations. Unlike painting though, this form of art involves the creation of art in the three dimensions. The type of material used can be anything natural or artificial – from clay, metal, and wood to objects that artists come across in their everyday lives.

Different processes can be used in creating sculptures, such as modeling, casting, assembling, and carving.

Sculptures can be free-standing, independent forms, or they can be made in relief, where the form emerges from a background. An example of a free-standing sculpture is Christ the Redeemer (1931) in Rio de Janeiro by Paul Landowski.

Mount Rushmore which was constructed between 1927 and 1941 is a colossal demonstration of a sculpture done in relief, as well as the elaborate forms carved into the temple complex at Khajuraho in India. Sculptures can also include other forms of art, especially painting.

The ancient Greeks and Romans were also known for their exceptional sculptures, such as The Orator and Head of a Roman Patrician, both of which were created in the 1st century BCE. The Statue of Liberty is a more modern example of sculpture (1886) that has become famous around the world.


People often identify architecture as going back to the very first structures that people built as dwellings. If we are to define architecture in this way, we can think of the teepee in America or the yurt in Mongolia. Some architecture has a distinct aesthetic quality though – indeed, the relationship between utility and beauty is sometimes central in architectural design as it is in other forms of art.

Looking back, some of the most exquisite examples of architecture still boggle the mind.

Think of the Pyramids in Egypt which are thousands of years old, the Colosseum (70 A.D.) in ancient Rome, and the magnificent Taj Mahal (1648) in India – each of these marvels has its own story that continues to capture our hearts and remind us of earlier times in our collective history that reflect the beautiful, heart-wrenching and sometimes darker aspects of what it means to be human.


Theater is a performance art that usually includes a visual element that has been used for entertainment purposes for thousands of years. One of the most famous locations central to bringing Romans together for entertainment was the Colosseum which, although now in ruins, remains a testimony to the flourishing culture of the Roman Empire. Indeed, Rome in the 6th century BCE is seen as the earliest example of theater in the “western world”.

Theater is a unique form of art in the sense that it can combine several different forms of art in one theater production. A variety of artists can be involved in the range of complex elements that may be involved in a theater production, including costume and stage designers, musicians, actors, and writers.

Theater can take several forms such as puppetry, dance, circuses, magic shows, or plays.

The history of theater is rich and alive with the spectrum of human emotion that we have all experienced when witnessing the stories that are embodied in performance, whether in cinema, theater, or even spoken word. Genres include tragedy, comedy, and drama.

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