THE ARTS

Various Author

Edited By: R. A. Guisepi

Paintings and power shovels, sonatas and submarines, dramas and dynamos--they all have one thing in common. They are fashioned by people. They are artificial, in contrast to everything that is natural--plants, animals, minerals. The average 20th-century person would distinguish paintings, sonatas, and dramas as forms of art, while viewing power shovels, submarines, and dynamos as products of technology. This distinction, however, is a modern one that dates from an 18th-century point of view.

In earlier times the word art referred to any useful skill. Shoemaking, metalworking, medicine, agriculture, and even warfare were all once classified as arts. They were equated with what are today called the fine arts--painting, sculpture, music, architecture, literature, dance, and related fields. In that broader sense art has been defined as a skill in making or doing, based on true and adequate reasoning.

The earlier and more comprehensive understanding of art can be seen in the Latin and Greek words that were used to describe it. The Latin word ars (plural, artes) was applied to any skill or knowledge that was needed to produce something. From it the English word art is derived, as is artificial, which means something produced by a human being. The Greek word is even more revealing. It is techne, the source for the term technology, which most people would never confuse with art.

The more general meaning of art survives in some modern expressions. The liberal arts, for instance, refer to the seven courses of university study that were offered during the Middle Ages: grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. The student who finished these courses received a bachelor of arts degree.

The liberal arts originated in ancient Greek and Roman attitudes toward different types of skill. The Greek philosophers, primarily Plato and Aristotle, did not separate the fine arts from the so-called useful arts, as is done today. They distinguished between the liberal arts and the servile arts, and fine arts were classified among the labors of the lower classes in ancient Greece and Rome.

The word liberal comes from the Latin liberalis, meaning "suitable for a freeman." Studies that were taken up by free citizens were thus regarded as the liberal arts. They were arts that required superior mental ability--logic or astronomy, for example. Such arts were in contrast to skills that were basically labor.

Servilis, the Latin word for slavish or servile, was used to describe the handiwork that was often done by slaves, or at least by members of the lower classes. The servile arts involved such skills as metalworking, painting, sculpture, or shoemaking. The products of these arts provided material comforts and conveniences, but such arts were not themselves considered beautiful or noble.

Aesthetics and Beauty

The concept of beaux-arts, a term that was coined in France during the 18th century, is expressed in English as fine arts. But the French word beau (plural, beaux) is usually translated as meaning "beautiful." This usage is the decisive clue to the separation of the fine arts from the useful arts and technology in the 1700s. The arts of the beautiful were separated from the arts of the useful because of the belief that the fine arts had a special quality: they served to give pleasure to an audience. The type of pleasure was called aesthetic, and it referred to the satisfaction given to the individual or group solely from perceiving--seeing or hearing--a work of art. The work could be a painting, a performance of music or drama, a well-designed building, or a piece of literature. The satisfaction could come from a perceived beauty, truth, or goodness; but since the mid-18th century the emphasis has been on beauty.

Aesthetics is the study, or science, of the beautiful. The word is derived from the Greek aisthetikos, meaning "of sense perception." The term aesthetics was coined by a German philosopher, Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten in a two-volume work on the subject. Written in Latin and titled 'Aesthetica Acroamatica', it was published from 1750 to 1758. This unfinished work, which established aesthetics as a branch of philosophy, influenced some noted German philosophers--particularly Immanuel Kant. Kant retained Baumgarten's use of the term to apply to the entire field of sensory knowledge, and his interpretation was adapted by the German writers Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller to present their own studies of the subject. It was Kant's 'Critique of Aesthetic Judgment'--the first part of his 'Critique of Judgment' (1790)--that proved to be the pivotal work on the subject, not Baumgarten's earlier work.

For Baumgarten, aesthetics had two emphases. First, it was a study of the theory of beauty; second, it was a theory of art. These two emphases, when drawn together in one science, served to distinguish the fine arts from the other activities of humankind.

The recognition of these arts as something distinctive and designed for pleasure really began during the Renaissance (primarily the 15th and 16th centuries in Europe). For the first time artists of great skill gained individual reputations and their works were eagerly sought. After a 1,000-year period (from about AD 400 to 1400) during which the church dominated European culture, the arts were taken up by wealthy aristocrats and newly rich merchants and bankers. They competed with one another in the possession of beautiful things--homes, gardens, collections of paintings and sculpture, fine books, and theatrical performances.

The arts of decoration and design also gained a prestige they never had enjoyed earlier. Architects, landscape artists, painters, and sculptors gained a new prominence and, often, great financial rewards. Monarchs, nobles, and the growing middle class became patrons of the arts: they hired composers, dramatists, and other artists to create works for them. By the time Baumgarten published his 'Aesthetica Acroamatica' the fine arts had taken hold of the imagination of Europe. His new terminology served to enhance their reputation, while Kant and his successors provided the intellectual framework for understanding them.

Since the late 18th century aesthetics has become a fairly large and diversified field of study. Like the other sciences, it has moved out from the umbrella of philosophy and become a discipline of its own. It attempts to classify the arts--to understand, for example, what such diverse things as ballet and sculpture have in common that allows them to be categorized together as fine arts. The study of aesthetics also tries to describe the forms and styles of the various arts. It devises theories of art history in an attempt to trace patterns of development and change, along with analysis of outside influences on artists and their styles.

Beauty --unlike aesthetics, which was not used as a term until after the 1750s--has been a matter of thoughtful discussion and disagreement for many centuries. The Greek philosopher Plato could, in fact, be considered the true originator of aesthetics because he spoke a great deal about the nature of beauty in several of his dialogues. For Plato, true beauty was an ideal beyond human perception; like truth and goodness, it was eternal. Beauty that was visible could not be absolutely beautiful, he believed, because it was subject to change, growth, and decay. Beauty such as this was, in his judgment, merely a reenactment, or imitation of real beauty.

For all that Plato said about beauty, his writings never give a precise definition of it. The Greek artists and artisans knew how they wanted to present beauty in such masterpieces as the Parthenon in Athens and the statue of Helios in Rhodes. They demanded proportion and harmony, in accordance with their principle of moderation: nothing too much or too little. But examples do not create definitions. During the late Middle Ages, St. Thomas Aquinas tried to define beauty as "something pleasant to behold." In imitation of the Greeks, he noted that "beauty consists in due proportion, for the senses delight in things duly proportioned."

As a definition the words of Aquinas are unsuccessful. That is one of the two chief problems with beauty--the inability to give a clear and concise definition that everyone can understand and agree upon. The second problem is equally vexing: are there real standards of beauty, or is it only a matter of what the audience thinks? The familiar statement, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," is the most common way of saying that what is beautiful depends on the viewer. In other words, one person's beauty may be another's ugliness. The opposite opinion holds that beauty can be separated from ugliness, just as truth can be separated from falsehood and good from evil.

Art, Technology, and Progress

At one time, as noted above, the same meaning was given to art that was applied to techniques. The blanket description that each involves the skill to make or do something is no longer true or accepted, however.

Technology is now generally thought of as applied science. The old terminology still has some validity in the role that skill plays and also in the transformation of matter. The skills of the artist, the craftsman, and the technologist all generally involve changes in the natural world. A block of marble is shaped into a statue by a sculptor. Silicon, metal, and plastic are shaped into a microchip by a technician using a machine. Otherwise art and technology have diverged completely. The goal of artists is to give permanence to the present, to speak to their age by creating works that will endure for all time. The goal of technicians is to press on to the future and to new discoveries.

Technology suggests permanent change and improvement. Once a new technique is discovered and adopted, society does not attempt to revert to the former technique. The automobile displaced the horse and buggy; the electric light replaced kerosene lamps; sound movies replaced silent films; and word processors are rapidly making typewriters obsolete.

This forward march of technology is called progress. In the fine arts such progress does not exist. The skill of the artist rests upon knowledge and experience, just as the skill of the technician does. But the creative processes involved seem to be different. Today, for example, one can admire the design of a Roman chariot, but few people would ever want to depend on it as a regular means of transportation. By contrast, it is still possible to walk into the Vatican's Sistine Chapel and be astounded by the magnificence of Michelangelo's frescoes. These paintings have an excellence that will never become outmoded.

A work of art, whether it be a painting by Titian or a concerto by Mozart, is not a stepping-stone to something else that will someday be considered better. It is not like the vacuum tube, which served its purpose well enough until the transistor was invented. Each artwork stands on its own--distinctive for all time. Even poor imitations cannot damage the goodness and integrity of the original.

All the paintings and pieces of sculpture that have been done since Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci are different from the works of those two masters. But the more recent work can in no sense be viewed as an improvement in the same sense that the steamship is an improvement on the sailing ship. Painting of the 20th century, no matter how good it is, cannot be considered an improvement over the prehistoric cave paintings discovered near Lascaux, France; it can only be considered different.

In the late 20th century art and technology have been united by the computer. It is possible to create musical compositions on a computer. It is also common to design three-dimensional models of commercial products or to sketch out blueprints. Computers are used by sculptors, filmmakers, architects, printmakers, and other workers in the visual arts. It is even possible to create finished works of fine art on a computer screen. But the distinction between technology and art persists. Computers make the execution of some kinds of art more challenging and interesting; they do not, however, make art better.

Useful Arts

Once the fine arts had been exalted by aesthetics into a class by themselves, the word art, when used alone, was normally understood to signify fine art. Otherwise it was modified by various adjectives when referring to other skills. Today, for instance, it is common to hear the terms decorative arts, commercial arts, industrial arts, or graphic arts. Sometimes the word art is omitted altogether, and terms such as applied sciences, technologies, or industries are used instead.

The term useful arts may be used to describe what does not specifically belong to the fine arts. The term is not at all precise, of course. It is obvious that a piano concerto is meant to be heard and enjoyed, without its having any other purpose. The same cannot be said for a well-designed building. While architecture is one of the fine arts, its products have uses other than aesthetic. The principal functions of buildings are as homes and workplaces.

Use and beauty also tend to overlap in other arts whose primary goal is to make useful objects. Furniture, jewelry, china, or carpets made by skilled craftsmen are intended to be beautiful as well as useful. Home-made trunks and quilts and other folk art crafted in rural areas have simple but attractive designs. The patterns created for wall coverings, draperies, and carpets also belong to the general category of decorative arts.

Mass-production industries spend much effort and money to make automobiles, boats, television sets, computers, and home appliances appealing to the eye as well as functional. Commercial art used in advertising usually tries to attract customers to its product or service.

Classifications of the Arts

The arts have been classified as liberal or servile, fine or useful, as noted above. They can also be classified by the sense to which they appeal or by the number of skills needed to create the final product.

Sensory appeal. Arts are usually classified by their appeal to the senses of sight or hearing. Because painting, sculpture, and architecture depend for their aesthetic appreciation on eyesight, they are all visual arts, but a sculpture might also involve the sense of touch. Some useful arts, such as furniture making, also appeal to the touch. Music is an auditory art, related as it is to the hearing. Literature can be both visual and auditory. When an individual reads a novel, the words are conveyed through visual impressions. Talking books provide an auditory experience of the same art. If cooking is included among the useful arts, its appeal is to both taste and smell.

Single or composite arts. Painting, sculpture, music, and literature are single arts. Each is independent of the others in that representative works can be enjoyed alone--one painting, one statue, one symphony, or one poem. Architecture, opera, drama, and dance are composite arts. They depend for their success on a variety of talents.

The great religious structures of medieval and Renaissance Europe were the results of collaboration among architects, stonemasons, glassmakers, sculptors, painters, and mosaicists, to name a few. An opera brings together a dramatic plot, music that is both played and sung, well-designed scenery and costumes, acting, and perhaps dance. A motion picture brings together writers, actors, directors, musicians, costume and set designers, camera operators, and a great variety of other technicians. Ballet combines dance, music, plot, costumes, and scenery.

The development of architecture as a composite art was probably a normal division of labor. No one individual who designed a large building would ever have been expected to have expertise in all phases of its construction. As the designer, the architect probably worked as the foreman and coordinator of the project. The specialists who worked under the architect belonged to their own guilds, just as many artisans belong to unions today.

Imitation and Expression in the Arts

In the fourth chapter of his 'Poetics' Aristotle says, "Imitation is natural to man from childhood, one of his advantages over the lower animals being this, that he is the most imitative creature in the world, and learns at first by imitation. And it is also natural for all to delight in works of imitation." By "works of imitation," Aristotle meant works of art. This included products of human skill that are now regarded as technological. Other terms he could have used for imitation are "representation" and "depiction."

Throughout the whole history of art, from the ancient world until the early 20th century, it was taken for granted that art imitated nature. The 16th-century English poet Thomas Overbury said simply, "Nature is God's. Art is man's instrument." About 300 years later the English critic John Ruskin noted, "Art does not represent things falsely, but truly as they appear to mankind." "Art is the child of nature," wrote the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his "Keramos and Other Poems."

Imitation was considered an aspect of the useful arts as well as what are now called the fine arts. The shoe imitates the foot and the glove the hand. The most enduring theme of the sculptor has been a representation of the human body. A great deal of Far Eastern painting depicts nature. Plato, in his "Sophist" dialogue, remarked that the painter is able to imitate anything in the world, and it is true that a painter's choice of subjects is virtually unlimited--landscapes, buildings, people, animals, scenes of battle, and still lifes of bowls of fruit or flowers. Literature can imitate the drama of all humankind or the individual life. Poetry, in the classical sense, has attempted to imitate truth itself. Music imitates the human passions. Music can also be descriptive in its presentation of sounds that remind a listener of an event--the roar of cannons as Napoleon invaded Russia in Tchaikovsky's '1812 Overture', the rolling waves in Claude Debussy's 'La Mer' (The Sea), and the insect noises in Rimski-Korsakov's 'Flight of the Bumble Bee'.

Imitation, in this sense, does not mean duplication. A real house is three-dimensional, but a painting of the house, though only two-dimensional, could still be a realistic representation. Sculpture, which is three-dimensional, makes a closer approximation of reality, but it lacks the life of what it depicts.

A divorce of art from nature (or at least a partial separation) occurred in the 20th century. The period through the 1960s witnessed such movements in art as cubism, Dadaism, nonobjectivism, abstract expressionism, surrealism, pop art, and minimalism.

The denial that art has to be imitative is at the heart of a statement by Pablo Picasso. When asked whether he painted what he saw, he replied: "I paint what I know is there." To paint what one sees is a description of art as imitation. Picasso's rather cryptic statement clouds the issue of imitation and puts the origin of artistic creation entirely within the artist. The artist's goal is self-expression, not necessarily imitation of any feature of the outer world. Both the inspiration and the subject matter derive from within. Or the artist may be trying to distill the essence of what is seen, to create an abstraction of its qualities.

The movement away from art as imitation, or representation, probably started in France with the work of the impressionists in the 19th century. The word impressionist is itself suggestive. The artist is not just painting a representation, because the artwork is giving a personal impression of what is seen. The artist is not trying to be a photographic realist.

The late 19th and early 20th centuries, therefore, created a sharp break with all past understandings of art. A painting or a piece of sculpture no longer had to refer to something familiar. It could instead consist only of abstract lines, shapes, and colors. Such art can be said to express the inner life, imagination, or emotions of the artist. Or it may be art that refers to nothing at all--just pure abstraction for its own sake.

The art-as-expression theory has generally replaced the art-as-imitation belief. Critics have contended, for instance, that all representational art is to some degree abstract. While some features of its subject are emphasized, others are ignored or downplayed. The Gothic art of the Middle Ages was abstract to some degree in that it did not pretend to depict literal reality. It was intent on portraying religious symbolism, but the abstractions were not so removed from normal experience that they were not easily recognizable by the viewers. Abstract portraits of saints and depictions of events in the life of Jesus had become familiar to viewers by long association.

The performing arts in particular, have the quality of expression. A piece of music can express happiness or sorrow. George Gershwin's 'Ol' Man River' has an air of sadness and fatalism about it. The marches of John Philip Sousa bring to mind the arts of warfare, while some of George M. Cohan's music seems to proclaim patriotism. Paintings can express a large array of emotions, while works of literature can encompass the whole range of human activities. Tragic drama, according to Aristotle, was intended to arouse fear and pity in the viewer, thus affording an emotional release.

Principles of Form

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the motion-picture studio, has long used the Latin motto Ars gratia artis (Art for art's sake). The statement is basically meaningless since it is quite doubtful that anything can exist for its own sake, with no other purpose or goal. Art is at least meant to be enjoyed. But there is a school of art theory that contends the visual arts serve no ends other than their own. The enjoyment of each painting or piece of sculpture is based solely on the visible forms--colors, lines, and shapes, which are sufficient to satisfy the aesthetic tastes of the audience.

This theory of art is on firmer ground when dealing with principles of form. The ancient Greeks had their own principles--harmony, proportion, no excess, no deficiency. Aristotle laid down principles of form for dramatic literature in the 'Poetics'. His first principle was unity: a play must have a beginning, middle, and end; everything in the drama must belong and have a purpose. He also demanded diversity: an artist could paint a canvas one solid color, which would have unity, but it would be completely uninteresting. So too Aristotle demanded with drama. It needs diversity and complexity to make it appealing to an audience, but all the complexity must be drawn together at the end so nothing is left unresolved.

Close to the issue of diversity is a multiplicity of themes. Longer works of fiction often have one dominant story line and several minor themes. This is true, for instance, of Leo Tolstoi's 'War and Peace'. The main themes are Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812 and the love stories of Natasha, with Andre and Pierre. But there are numerous underlying plots and themes that occupy the novel's dozens of characters.

Even paintings can have two thematic levels. Some of the religious works of Hieronymus Bosch, the Dutch painter, are quite complex. His 'Garden of Earthly Delights' has one major theme, but it is composed of isolated scenes with themes of their own. Longer pieces of music, especially symphonies, are multithematic; and epic poems weave together several stories within a major theme. Homer's 'Iliad', the greatest of the epics, is a classic example.

Some works of art--notably drama, novels, long poems, and music--should display development as they progress from beginning to end. There should be no parts that are interchangeable or capable of being shifted from one place to another. Nor should there be breaks that leave the audience wondering what is missing. The process of development should demonstrate balance. Each segment of a work of art needs adequate time--the overture to an opera, for example, cannot be longer than the opera. In a drama the action should be distributed throughout the acts. In a painting, objects in the background must appear smaller than those in the foreground, unless the work is completely abstract.

Style in the Arts

The term style is most easily understood as a way of doing art. When two authors have a different way of writing, each is said to have a personal style. The style of Herman Melville was his own, quite different from that of Mark Twain, for instance. If a writer attracts followers who try to imitate the author's particular way of writing, they help perpetuate a style. Imitators of James Joyce, for example, use his stream-of-consciousness effects, and their writings are called Joycean.

Ancient Greek temples, medieval Romanesque churches, and 20th-century skyscrapers have different characteristics. What is peculiar to each one is its style. A movement in painting, such as impressionism, can be called a style. A school of painting, such as the Hudson River School in the early 19th century, suggests a specific style. There are, in fact, so many ways to describe style that the word has become almost impossible to define.

Many styles of popular music have emerged in the 20th century. One of the most dominant is rock, which itself represents a merging of earlier styles. Within rock several substyles developed. Elvis Presley, who appeared in the mid-1950s, was followed by the Beatles in the early 1960s. At the same time the Rolling Stones began playing a cruder form of rock. The Stones led the way to the punk rock of the Sex Pistols. By 1990 the music of Elvis Presley and his inspiration, Chuck Berry, was called classic rock, in contrast to the later, more extreme or violent styles.

The word style itself is from the Latin stilus, which originally referred to a stake and later was used for a sharpened writing instrument. The word has come into English as stylus, to denote such a pen. Because of its association with the written word, stilus also absorbed a colloquial meaning that referred to a skillful use of words in either writing or speaking. For many centuries other kinds of art were discussed in terms of their manner, characteristics, or similar qualities. The term style was limited to literature and rhetoric.

Not until about 1600 in Italy was style applied to different types of music. Its use for the visual arts came shortly after 1700. Today it is the most common word used to describe distinctive characteristics of individual artists, periods of art, national arts, regional types, and other variations in the arts. Thus the terms Romanesque, Byzantine, Gothic, realistic, postimpressionist, cubist, baroque, rococo, classical, neoclassic, mannerist, pointillistic, surrealistic, minimalist, and similar adjectives can be understood as indicating styles.

In the visual arts especially styles emerge and develop in different ways and for different reasons. A style in architecture, for example, may originate from an attempt to solve structural problems. When the Gothic cathedral first appeared in France in about 1140, those who designed it found a way to support the weights of the walls and ceilings by using external buttresses. As a result greater expanses of the thinner wall were available for windows, something that could not easily be accomplished earlier.

Once the structural solutions of Gothic architecture became generally accepted, new cathedrals were built throughout northern France. The new way of building quickly became a style that was consciously imitated throughout Europe. As a consequence, Gothic substyles developed. England's York Minster (Cathedral of St. Peter), Germany's Cologne cathedral, and Italy's Milan cathedral are all recognizably Gothic. But they also differ from each other in striking ways.

The 20th-century skyscraper was also the product of new technology and imagination. The Sears Tower, in Chicago, and the World Trade Center and the Empire State Building, in New York City, were made possible by steel-beam construction. The introduction of the elevator had made tall buildings feasible, but traditional masonry construction still limited the height of downtown buildings. This problem was solved by William Le Baron Jenney, the engineer who designed the Home Insurance Company building (1884-85) in Chicago. The forerunner of the modern skyscraper, it had a skeleton of cast-iron columns, covered with masonry, and wrought-iron beams. It is probably no coincidence that the most famous tall structure of the time was the Eiffel Tower in Paris, an entirely steel-beam construction (see Eiffel Tower).

Sometimes stylistic changes are little more than a matter of decoration. The three best-known kinds of classical Greek columns were Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. All three types served essentially the same purposes, and from a distance they looked pretty much alike. A closer view showed their stylistic differences, particularly in decoration. Whereas the top of a Doric column was fairly plain, there were a snaillike carving on the Ionic and acanthus leaves atop the Corinthian.

All arts are influenced by the times in which they flourish. They are subject to an era's limitations or abundance--especially the quality and availability of materials for the visual arts. Great works of sculpture by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and other artists benefited from nearby Italian marble quarries. Architecture has always been subject to the technical knowledge of its various periods. What is expressed and the way it is expressed are also grounded in specific epochs. Great events usually spawn a good deal of art. The French Revolution and the career of Napoleon were powerful influences on all the arts of France in both style and content.

The political and economic ideas of a time may have a vivid impact on literature. The Industrial Revolution and its aftermath inspired many writers during the 19th century. Charles Dickens could never have written 'Hard Times' except against the background of a newly industrialized society. Mass poverty and the brutalization of workers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were among the factors that inspired the styles called realism and naturalism. Emile Zola in France and Theodore Dreiser in the United States were notable realists in fiction.

No really good style is ever out of style. The funeral and temple arts of the Egyptians and Mesopotamians became obsolete even in the ancient world. But later styles that developed in Western society have endured. The classical architecture of Greece and Rome reappeared during the Renaissance and again under 19th-century Romanticism. Some modern structures still use classical or neoclassic lines. Gothic has never gone out of style for houses of worship, though most modern Gothic is entirely inauthentic as a way of building. (The problems that the style was designed to solve can now be dealt with in other ways.) The same is true of Byzantine architecture, a product of ancient and medieval Constantinople (now Istanbul).

The Renaissance styles of the late Middle Ages have a broader appeal and are still used in a wider assortment of buildings--museums, educational institutions, and government buildings, to name a few. The mosque, which was developed as a house of worship in Islam, has persisted for centuries, though there are striking regional and national varieties of the style. In traditional societies, such as exist in India, styles may persist almost unchanged for centuries.

The Artist's Training

Artists and their works belong, first and foremost, to specific places and times. Through their works artists interpret their societies to their own generation. At the same time, they distill the essence of their time and place for later generations. An illustration by Norman Rockwell perfectly captures the quality of life in rural, small-town America in the first half of the 20th century. The great rose window of the cathedral at Chartres vividly depicts the objects of belief for 12th-century Christians. Eero Saarinen's Trans World Airlines terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City symbolizes the technology and adventure of flight.

As artists are products of their time, they absorb the prevailing ideas, beliefs, and techniques of their generation. They are also individuals with special talents, who in most cases have devoted significant portions of their lives to training and to sharpening their skills.

Today it is possible to study the arts in a college or university. There are also specialized schools of architecture, music, design, and other arts. These educational institutions are a fairly modern development, mostly from the mid-19th century. From ancient times through the 16th century, artists were trained by other artists in their workshops or studios. Becoming an artist required an extended apprenticeship (see Apprenticeship). The neophyte artist became an apprentice as a young teenager and did the most menial tasks around the studio before being trained in the more difficult tasks of an art or craft. The normal period of service was seven years.

By the 17th century the budding artist was considered more a pupil than an apprentice; the training of student artists by masters lasted well into the 19th century. By the 17th century, however, the early academies had begun to flourish as training centers. In Italy the Accademia di San Luca was founded in Rome in 1593. In France the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, which was patterned after it, was founded in Paris in 1648. England's Royal Academy of Arts was started in London in 1768.

These academies became a vital force in the instruction of young artists, and they exerted a powerful influence on the development of the arts generally. Because the academies limited their enrollments, they created artistic elites within their countries. They also set standards of taste for whole societies. By their insistence on correct technique, the schools tended to standardize art and reward conformity.

Reactions against the monopoly of the academies arose in the 19th century. In London the government-sponsored School of Design opened in 1837. In 1852 the Victoria and Albert Museum was founded, and at the same time a number of other art schools were set up by the government. The combination of museum and art school took hold in other countries as well. A basic part of the artist's training was painting imitations of the old masters in museums. In Paris the French Institute (now the National Superior School of Fine Arts) was set up in 1795 to supervise the arts and displaced the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture as a training institution.

In England, under the leadership of William Morris, schools were established to teach both fine arts and applied arts. This merger of fine and applied arts was furthered by the Bauhaus (house of building), a school of design founded in Weimar, Germany, in 1919 by Walter Gropius. With its outstanding faculty of architects, painters, and other artists, the Bauhaus completely transformed art education. Through its influence, schools of art that embraced its methods and ideals were incorporated into colleges and universities, especially in the United States.

Schools for music training began with the founding of a conservatory in Paris in 1795. Other conservatories were started in European and American cities in the next few decades. Some of these eventually became associated with universities. The first modern school for dance, the Royal Academy of Dance, was founded in France by King Louis XIV in 1661. With this and other French schools, Paris became the leading training center for ballet. Training for the theater was, until the 20th century, similar to an apprenticeship system. Young actors worked in theaters to learn their craft from experienced performers. Today there are two main types of drama school. Some, like the Actors Studio in New York City and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, teach only acting. Others, such as the Yale School of Drama, are workshops associated with universities and colleges.

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