Fine Art Definition

Fine Art Definition – A Brief Introduction to the Fine Arts

What is fine arts and what is the fine art definition? The various types of fine art are produced largely for aesthetic or artistic expression in European scholastic tradition, as opposed to applied or decorative art, which must also have some practical use, such as ceramics or most metalworking. According to the aesthetic concepts established during the Italian Renaissance, there was a difference between designing an object and fine art, meaning that the best art was that which permitted the artist’s imagination to be fully expressed and displayed, unconstrained by any of the practical concerns involved in, for example, manufacturing and decorating a teacup. Let’s take a look at the history of this style of art, as well as the types of fine art and fine art examples.



What Is Fine Arts?

It was crucial that the artwork not be created by dividing the labor between several workers with specific expertise, as may be required with a furniture item. Even in the fine arts, there was a genre hierarchy determined by the degree of creative imagination necessary, with historical fine art paintings ranked above still life. In one fine art definition, it is characterized as visual art that was developed largely for intellectual and aesthetic reasons and is valued for its beauty and substance, such as sculpture, drawing, painting, graphics, and architecture.

Fine Arts ExamplesDance at Le Moulin de la Galette (1876) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, located in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France; Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


The History of Fine Arts

According to some historians, the notion of a unique category of fine art was invented in the West during the early modern era. Before the 17th century, there existed a conventional “art system” in the Western world. A comparable system exists in several traditional cultures. An artist or craftsman was a competent creator in that system, a piece of art was the practical output of skillful effort, and admiration of the arts was inextricably linked to their place in life. In other words, art used to signify roughly the same thing as skills, and terms like “the art of battle” have carried on in that sense.

Similar concepts have been voiced by Pierre Bourdieu, Paul Oskar Kristeller, and Terry Eagleton, however, the moment of creation is frequently attributed to the Italian Renaissance.

However, it might be claimed that the classical period, from which virtually little theoretical literature on art exists, had analogous divisions in practice. The identities of creatives recorded in literary sources include Greek sculptors and painters, as well as carvers of engraved jewels to a lesser degree. Several members of these groupings became famous and were imitated and revered for generations after their deaths.



Types of Fine Art

Until the late 19th English Arts & Crafts Movement, there existed a clear separation between functional decorative art and purely aesthetic fine art. With the creation of the classification of visual art in the 20th century, this arbitrary difference became blurred, and several decorative or craft arts (particularly pottery) are now regarded as fine arts examples. Fine art definitions are subject to change, although the majority include the following mediums and techniques:

Fine ArtsMarcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917), photographed by Alfred Stieglitz at the 291 art gallery following the 1917 Society of Independent Artists exhibit, with the entry tag visible. The backdrop is The Warriors by Marsden Hartley; Marcel Duchamp, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Fine Art Drawings

Drawing is one of the oldest types of fine art. Drawing with charcoal, for example, is especially old, with examples dating back as far as 26,000 BCE, such as the Nawarla Gabarnmang charcoal drawings. Chalk, which has a feel and appearance comparable to pastels, is another one of the oldest drawing mediums and has been employed by artists since prehistory. A famous example of a fine art chalk artwork is Head of a Smiling Woman (1543) by Agnolo Bronzino.

Other fine art examples which fall into the drawing category are works created in pencil, pastel, as well as ink, and pen.

Fine Art PaintingsHead of a Smiling Woman (1543) by Agnolo Bronzino; Bronzino, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Fine Art Paintings

Painting is another extremely old medium that dates back to prehistory. Fine art paintings include pieces produced in oil, tempera, watercolor, acrylic, gouache, and inks. History is full of famous fine art paintings, such as the Mona Lisa (1503) by Leonardo da Vinci, whose enigmatic smile still captivates the masses to the present day.

What Is Fine ArtsMona Lisa (1503) by Leonardo da Vinci; Leonardo da Vinci, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Fine Art Sculptures

Sculptures are another ancient art form, one which luckily entails the utilization of materials that were crafted from natural objects, and hence, have stood the test of time and years of the worst weather conditions. This has allowed us to still appreciate and study them in the modern era. Initially, sculptures were made from wood and stone and later progressed to other materials and technology advanced, such as bronze.

A very famous example of a fine art statue would be David (1504) by Michelangelo.

Types of Fine ArtDavid (1504) by Michelangelo; Michelangelo, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Fine Art Printmaking

Printmaking represented a major breakthrough in how humans copied texts and artworks, allowing for the quick production of multiple replicas of any given design or words. Prints can be made from engravings, woodcuts, lithography, etches, or more modern methods like silk screen printing. Marilyn Diptych (1962) by Andy Warhol is a very well-known example of the silkscreen method.


Other Fine Art Examples

Fine art is always evolving, and therefore what we consider to be one of the fine arts also changes over time. Photography is also now regarded as one of the types of fine art. Animation is also now considered to be one of the fine art examples. Even though architecture is largely practical, there is also a very large aesthetic element, hence why it is also regarded as a fine art.

Fine Art DefinitionCovered ceramic Chinese teapot or wine pot with “powder-blue” glaze (between 1662 and 1722), located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, United States; Metropolitan Museum of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons


The term “fine art” refers to the purity of the practice according to classical Western European precepts, rather than the merit of the art in question. Except for architecture, where functional usefulness was acknowledged, this fine art meaning initially excluded “useful” applied or ornamental arts, as well as products of what were considered crafts. In current practice, these differences and constraints are largely useless, as the artist’s notion or aim takes precedence, regardless of the manner by which it is communicated.




Frequently Asked Questions


What Is Fine Arts?

One could argue that there is an art to doing almost anything, as art is a word often used interchangeably with skill. However, when it comes to fine art specifically, it concerns artworks that were produced for purely aesthetic merits. This is poised to crafts and other design genres which necessitate practical application.


What Are Common Fine Art Examples?

Many types of drawings are regarded as fine art. Fine art paintings are probably the most well-known example. However, types of fine art also include printmaking, sculpture, architecture, and photography.

Cite this Article

Jordan, Anthony, “Fine Art Definition – A Brief Introduction to the Fine Arts.” artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source. February 17, 2023. URL:

Anthony, J. (2023, 17 February). Fine Art Definition – A Brief Introduction to the Fine Arts. artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source.

Anthony, Jordan. “Fine Art Definition – A Brief Introduction to the Fine Arts.” artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source, February 17, 2023.

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