Fine art and visual arts are two terms that are used interchangeably. There can be confusion about what they each mean and different.
Fine art is a broad term used to describe many different types of art; one of the arts under the umbrella of fine art is visual arts. Fine arts can include arts such as music, theatre, dance, literature, and other types of art. In contrast, Visual art is about only arts of a visual nature such as painting, sculpture, or film making.
Fine Arts Vs. Visual Arts
Fine art and visual arts are used a lot, but their meanings and differences can be confusing. When I get confused about what something means, I will turn to the dictionary to check out the dictionary definitions.
Fine Art Definition
The definition in the Oxford Dictionary of Fine Art is:
Looking at this definition, we can see that fine art is a broad term that encompasses many different art forms, including visual art. Fine art focuses on imaginative or creative, aesthetic or visual, and intellectual content.
Visual Art Definition
If we look at the definition of visual art, we will find that visual art is not the same as fine art. In the Oxford dictionary, Visual art is defined as:
Visual art is also a creative art, but visual art is mainly visual. There is no intellectual component in the definition as in the description of fine arts. Visual arts also include painting, sculpture, and filmmaking. Disciplines as literature, poetry, or music are not included in the visual arts.
Fine Art and Visual Art Differences Explained
Though both definitions of fine art and visual art are pretty similar, there are some differences between fine art and visual art. There is a lot of crossover between these terms, so some of their differences are not apparent.
Here are some differences between fine art and visual arts:
- Fine Arts – Fine arts are a broad category of art that is created solely for imaginative, aesthetic or intellectual content.
- Fine Arts Includes – Fine arts is a large umbrella that includes visual arts, performing arts, film, music, poetry and dance. It is a very broad term used for many forms of art.
- Visual Art – Visual art is art that is appreciated by sight only such as painting, photography, sculpture or film making. Visual arts are limited to artwork that is apreciated through viewing.
- Visual Art is Part of Fine Art – Visual arts is listed as one part of fine arts, so visual arts goes under the umbrella of fine arts.
There is a lot of crossover between these two terms, but one of the main aspects is that fine art is an extensive term used to describe many forms of art, and one of those forms of art under the fine art umbrella is visual arts.
Fine Art and Visual Art Redefined
Fine art can also be defined as all forms of art and art that a museum would want to collect or show. That is why a museum may use fine art after its name.
In reality, not every art produced will be museum-worthy; only a tiny amount of all the art produced is museum quality. If we use this definition of fine art, we can say that not all visual art would be classified as fine art.
Many considered the definition of fine art to include art done with skill. Someone may refer to themselves as a “fine art artist.” or “someone who has studied fine art.” This usually means someone who has spent the time and effort to attend college or university-level art classes to study art.
Many Universities will also define this as the “College of Fine Arts.” My former University, Brigham Young University, has a “College of Fine Arts and Communications.” Under the umbrella of the fine arts is the following:
- Department of Art
- School of Communications
- Department of Dance
- School of Music
- Department of Theatre and Media Arts
- Department of Design
Their definition of Fine Arts is similar to many other universities worldwide, including art, communications, dance, music, theatre, media, film, design, graphic design, animation, illustration, photography, advertising, journalism, public relations, and television.
Some of these areas are pure visual arts (i.e., photography, art, film, etc.). Still, others would not be such journalism and some public relations and communications. But they are all under this vast umbrella known as fine arts and communications.
Technology today has blurred the lines between fine art and visual arts even more than they once were. Where fine arts and visual arts were once more defined, now they include a host of art forms.
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Where Did Art Come From?
Many historians believe art started first in Africa; many ancient art forms have been found worldwide. Cavemen art is some of the earliest forms of art. Many cultures put art on their bodies through tattooing and other art forms.
Art and History – Understanding Our Past
When we study art, it helps us understand and gives us clues to the past. As we see what the artist has painted, we can piece together what life was like during that time in history. Art also helps us better understand the cultures and people who once lived and their life.