You can find numerous forms of art, all of which form a fundamental part of our society. Art also occupies nearly every aspect of our lives, and anyone who appreciates art can find it in almost anything. Art expresses some deep human emotions and can describe the world we live in. Visual art forms are powerful tools in our society, many depicting our history and thoughts throughout time until the present day. In this article, we will be examining all the various types of visual art and looking at a few visual art examples.
- 1 What Is Visual Art?
- 2 Common Types of Visual Arts
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Visual Art?
A broad definition of “the arts” covers anything from theatre, architecture, sculpting, painting, music, printing, and much more. However, a visual arts definition involves artistic creations that we can see, like paintings or sculptures, rather than auditory arts like music.
Before we get to the three types of art, below we have three general categories, which most art types fit into.
The church in Auvers-Sur-Oise, view from the Chevet (1890) by Vincent van Gogh; located in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France; Vincent van Gogh, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
General Visual Art Forms
Visual art is divided into three general types, which include fine art, as well as commercial, and decorative art. These three are then classified into more specific visual art forms that include representational, non-abstract, and abstract art like drawing, fashion design, painting, photography, graphic design, crafts, video and film making, and architecture.
All of these find their place in one of the general types of visual art categories.
The sole purpose of fine art is for the artist to express themselves and share their message. They are telling a story, whether it is painting, drawing, sculpting, or even poetry and photography. In most cases, artists gain many followers and collectors who love their work and will follow the artist and see how they evolve and mature.
Fine art will always be the centerpiece of any room or space, and will always be the focal point where everything else around fits in.
Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1866) by Claude Monet, located in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France; Claude Monet, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
This means that fine art can easily fit into any form of décor, but it is not bound by it like decorative art is. Fine art pieces are often sold because the buyer was drawn to them. The artist spent a lot of time to convey his message, even if it took multiple layers of paint to perfect it, and the artist may also have used high-quality paints to create their art piece, which can then stand the test of time and last for a very long time.
Even though fine art can be sold, there is still a slight difference between this and commercial art.
Commercial Visual Art Forms
Commercial art can take the form of a logo on a wrapper of a favorite candy bar, an advertisement in a magazine, or on a billboard. These labels and images were designed by someone to sell a product, which defines it as commercial art.
Images and labels are found in magazines, social media, and many more outlets, and they are mass-produced with the sole purpose, of selling a product.
They are also there to raise the visibility of the product, as well as to convey some form of message. When you see the term “graphic design”, it means using images and words to create advertisements or websites online, which will be used as a form of commercial art.
Often an illustration in a book can also be considered commercial art.
The sole purpose of decorative art is for the art to fit into a space where it can be displayed. Take for example an interior decorator, who creates an appealing or visual décor, where they have carefully selected an art piece, they can design the room around.
This means that the art piece fits into the room or space they have created.
Have you ever noticed in hotel lobbies, corporate offices, and health care facilities, how the artwork fits into the room or space? The artwork is so designed, to get you to feel something when you enter the room. The whole room is designed to create a certain ambiance, that will attract your attention. Decorative art depends on the design trend, and it has a very limited time where the art piece will make room for the new design.
Therefore, creative art is fairly cheap, and you can buy it almost anywhere, which means that there is not much value placed on decorative art and it is merely a simple form of decoration.
What Are the Three Types of Visual Art?
Three basic types of visual art are classified into three subcategories, which are representational art, abstract art, and non-objective art, and all of these types of visual art are very often misunderstood and misrepresented. So, whether the artwork is a three-dimensional sculpture or a two- dimensional flat painting or drawing, they all find their place under one of the below three categories. Many times, the artist will include information that informs the viewer of the type of art.
However, the medium used, and the method of application can affect how the art piece is categorized.
Representational art is easily recognized as art as it represents actual people or objects. These can be sculptures, paintings, and drawings. The art is created from real-life sources and is a more realistic art form as it represents nature, objects, people, and animals.
This type of visual art can also be divided into further subcategories that include Impressionism, stylization, realism, and idealism.
All of these visual art forms represent actual subjects that are taken from the real world. Representational art forms are possibly the oldest examples of visual arts and can be tracked down as far back as the Paleolithic Figurine, The Venus of Willendorf. A few more visual art examples of this art form include the following.
● Water Lilies (1840–1926) by Claude Monet
● Two Sisters (On the Terrace) (1881) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Since the objects and subjects used in representational art are easily recognized, it is accepted by most people. This is because the two art forms, non-objective and abstract art, are fairly new. People have often reported that representational art seems to be more realistic.
This is because the other art forms concentrate more on the perception of the artist and the meaning of the object or subject.
When it comes to an abstract visual arts definition, it is often misunderstood as its aim or purpose is to take a subject from reality and then present it in such a way that it appears differently from the way it is in reality. This is done by taking shapes, colors, and lines and transforming them.
This form of art also includes cubism, minimalism, and Precisionism.
Svanen (The Swan) (1915) by Hilma af Klint; Hilma af Klint, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Abstract art can also occur when the artist decides that he wants to portray the subject in a non-traditional manner. This form of art is fairly new to the art world and bases its views on deviations from reality captured by the Impressionists. Abstract art started gaining popularity in the early part of the 20th century.
An example of abstract art can be appreciated in the painting Woman with Guitar (1913) by Georges Braque.
Artists started to view paintings more intellectually, and this new approach can be seen in The Treachery of Images (1928 – 1929) by René Magritte. This is an example of a representational painting of a smoker’s pipe, but the painting is not really a pipe but rather represents a painting of a pipe.
This new approach to painting provides a new style of intellectual expression. There does appear to be a misunderstanding between abstract and non-objective art forms, but this is made clear when the artist starts with a subject that is from reality, then the artwork is considered abstract art.
However, when the artist creates a subject that has no reference to reality this artwork is considered non-objective art.
This art form is often confused with abstract art, but it is completely different as it takes absolutely nothing from reality and is created entirely for aesthetic purposes. The objective of this art form is to use the principles and elements of art in such a way that the final result will be visually stimulating.
The artist creates his artwork with no indication of reality, which is considered non-objective. Evidence of this art form is seen in Jackson Pollock’s famous painting, Number One (1948).
Common Types of Visual Arts
There are quite a few categories and then subcategories when trying to classify the various types of art. As we have already mentioned the main types of visual art, we can now list the various more common types of art. All of these can fall under one or more of the above categories.
All of these differ in the various techniques applied and the mediums used.
The most common forms of art most of us think of include painting, drawing, and sculpting among others. However, visual art forms have grown and evolved and today include things like modern and contemporary art. Also, technology has brought in another element of art from graphic art to photography. Below are some examples of visual arts that we all know.
This may be one of the oldest forms of visual art and is also known as a form of traditional art. In history, artists used dyes and expensive natural pigments for their art. Some of these pigments were also extremely hazardous to use. Today, we still have some of the more natural pigments, however, most are synthetically produced, which also makes them more affordable.
The more popular forms of painting include oil painting, watercolors, and acrylic paintings. The types of paintings can also be anything from surrealism, abstract, and impressionism to pop art and realism.
On the Terrasse (1881) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, located in the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, United States; Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Another traditional form of art can include a variety of mediums from different types of pens and pencils to pastel, graphite, and charcoal drawings. Drawings are usually done on paper and involve three main types of drawing that include realistic, expressive, and symbolic.
A deluge (c. 1517 – 1518) by Leonardo da Vinci, located in the Royal Collection in the United Kingdom. Pen, black ink, and wash on paper; Leonardo da Vinci, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Sculpting is another common type of visual art and is more of a three-dimensional form of art. Traditional forms used hard materials like wood, clay, ceramics, and stone, while more modern applications can include plastic and other materials.
The sculpture can be free-standing or in reliefs on a surface.
Laocoön and his sons (1506) by Hagesandros, Athenedoros, and Polydoros, located in the Vatican Museums in the Vatican City, Italy; Vatican Museums, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Architecture is a process that involves planning, designing, droughting, and then constructing a structure like a building or bridge. The final design is both practical and expressive or has aesthetic value. Many architectural designs are iconic and are symbols in many cultures.
For example, the Sydney opera house or Saint Peter’s Basilica are famous examples of architecture.
Ceramics can be both an art and a craft as many designs are for display or decorative purposes, while others are more functional. Ceramics can include figurines, pottery, and things like tableware. Items can be made from stoneware, earthenware, porcelain, or bone china.
Photography is a more modern form of art and is not part of the traditional art forms. However, it can still be included as an example of visual arts. Photography can then also be included as an example of fine art as well as commercial art.
Migrant mother, Nipomo, California (1936) by Dorothea Lange; Dorothea Lange, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
You can also include filmmaking as visual art. Motion pictures are also a process that begins by coming up with an idea or story, planning, and then moving on to screenwriting, casting, shooting the movie, recording sound, and finally post-production.
Visual art forms can be simply defined as works of art you can see or perceive. So, this includes things like paintings and sculptures, among others. However, understanding art is a little more complex and can have various interpretations. This is why there is such a variety of art types and forms, which are always changing and evolving.
Take a look at our “What is visual arts?” webstory here!
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Visual Art?
Visual art forms encompass all types of art you can appreciate visually. This includes art like painting, drawing, architecture, sculpting, photography, ceramics, and even filmmaking. All of these require a visual inspection to appreciate them.
What Are the Three Types of Visual Art?
There are many categories and sub-categories when it comes to classifying art. However, the general three types of visual art include fine art, commercial, and decorative art. These can be broken down into three further sub-categories that include Representational art, Abstract, and Non-objective art.
Are Modern and Contemporary Art the Same?
Modern art covers a period from the 1880s to the 1970s and is not considered current, and artists mainly did paintings and drawings. Contemporary art is more current from the 1970s until now and can involve painting and drawings, but artists also use other types of mediums and are more experimental in their works.
Is Music a Visual Art Form?
Music, theater, and dance all fall under the main category of performing arts. However, you can also view these forms of art as a type of visual art in many ways. You watch dancing and theater, and music can inspire artists to paint.
Jordan Anthony is a Cape Town-based film photographer, curator, and arts writer. She holds a Bachelor of Art in Fine Arts from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, where she explored themes like healing, identity, dreams, and intuitive creation in her Contemporary art practice. Jordan has collaborated with various local art institutions, including the KZNSA Gallery in Durban, the Turbine Art Fair, and the Wits Art Museum. Her photography focuses on abstract color manipulations, portraiture, candid shots, and urban landscapes. She’s intrigued by philosophy, memory, and esotericism, drawing inspiration from Surrealism, Fluxus, and ancient civilizations, as well as childhood influences and found objects. Jordan is working for artfilemagazine since 2022 and writes blog posts about art history and photography.
Cite this Article
Jordan, Anthony, “Types of Visual Art – A Look at Different Examples of Visual Arts.” artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source. July 28, 2022. URL: https://artfilemagazine.com/types-of-visual-art/
Anthony, J. (2022, 28 July). Types of Visual Art – A Look at Different Examples of Visual Arts. artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source. https://artfilemagazine.com/types-of-visual-art/