NaBloPoMo VI: What is Art?

Drawing, TorcayArt is a line around your thoughts. Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)

Aargh!  Not the What is art? question again!  Well, a few years it was posed (again) by (I think) The Guardian Online. I think it was a forum discussing that year’s (as usual, controversial) short list for The Turner Prize. As you can imagine, there were a lot of answers to the question. Some flowery ones which talked about agonies and ecstasies, some philosophical ones (questioning whether there is a painting in the gallery if there’s nobody there to look at it, and so forth). A lot of striking of poses. I decided to have my say and a couple of years later, prowling the Internet for one reason or another, I turned up the web page again and my answer:

Art is an expression of the philosophy of the artist.

“I’m not interested in Philosophy. I just like painting.”
“Everybody has a philosophy, even if it’s an unconscious one. You’ve carried it over from your childhood environment, that’s all.”

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) is known for his highly ornamental, patterned paintings. His most famous is The Kiss (1907-1908) painted during his Golden Phase when he was adding gold leaf to his works. It’s said that this aspect of his work is due to the influence of Byzantine art, but I’ve read also that his father used to engrave on gold for a living.  For comparison, Picasso, during 1907-08 was busy in Paris with what became his proto-cubist work Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

Decorative Klimt was, however, in 1897, one of the founders of the Vienna Secession. The group’s purpose was to showcase the work of unconventional young artists from around the world, irrespective of style. Klimt created three paintings for the ceiling of the Great Hall of the University of Vienna. Philosophy, Medicine and Jurisprudence were criticised as pornographic and never displayed. The paintings were destroyed by Nazis in retreat in 1945.

I still like my definition of art.  I also like this definition, from Charles Johnson. I don’t know which Charles Johnson this is attributed to. Anybody elucidate?

“Without emotion, art is lifeless; without intellect art is shapeless.”

So, what is art?

About AnnIsikArts

Artist/Writer/Chess Enthusiast/Musician (Singer)/Gardener
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8 Responses to NaBloPoMo VI: What is Art?

  1. I like both your definition and Johnson’s. Art is certainly something that, if done well, evokes both thought and feeling. I would contend that the intention of the artist is not as significant as the reaction of the “audience.”


    • annisik51 says:

      Hi Tony. Your response is thought provoking. I’d say that the intention of the artist is/should be, significant first to himherself, because (my personal belief) the artist is responding to a call (sources of said call also a debate:)). There will be a ‘universal’ that will be transmitted to the ‘audience’. What the audience ‘gets’ is a different issue. I hope I am making sense!


  2. Great post Ann. I like the idea of dismissing suggestions of philosophy and just doing it because you like to. If we think too much it can spoil our creativity. At the same time what we produce is a reflection of our intellects and our emotions at that time, if it didn’t it would be lifeless, a jumble of words or a mess of colour, nothing of us would be present. thanks for raising this great question.


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