Categories, Forms and Classification of Visual Arts and Crafts.


Ever since the controversial works of Marcel Duchamp, avant-garde artists have been pushing the boundaries of their profession to breaking point. Installations, found-objects, conceptual works, and film, are just some of the media which have been employed to broaden the contemporary aesthetic. A flattened motor car has been presented as an important work of assemblage art; a dead shark has been pickled and turned into an installation; a "human skull" has been 'recreated', studded with precious jewels and turned into a piece of contemporary sculpture; and, to cap it all, an exhibition of contemporary art opened last year at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, consisting of 8 empty rooms. 

Animation Art

Animation (from the Latin word, animare, to breathe life into) is the visual art of making a motion picture from a series of still drawings. Although twenty first century animation is dominated by computerized film and video technology, the creative figure drawing skills and draftsmanship of cartoonists and graphic artists remain an integral part of the process. Famous twentieth century animators include J. Stuart Blackton, George McManus, Max Fleischer, and Walt Disney, and the team from DreamWorks Animation. Famous animated film cartoons include Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny and Donald Duck, Jungle Book, the Simpsons, Shrek and Anime.


There are various types of animations: animated full-length films, like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fritz the Cat, and Shrek; films with both animated and human characters, such as Roger Rabbit, and Lord of the Rings; shorter-length cartoons or TV series, like Tom and Jerry, and the Simpsons; and specific animations for TV and video commercials. The growth of animation, both as an art form and as a commercial product, has led to its growing importance as a study subject. Animation is now taught as a separate figurative art course in a growing number of European as well as American arts colleges. For related disciplines, see Photography and also Video art.

The Draftsman Animator

Animators complete their drawings on cels, transparent acetate sheets. If drawn on paper, they are later transferred to cels using xerography. The most common media for drawing the story are opaque inks and paints, applied with a variety of specialist markers, crayons, and litho pencils. The basic process revolves around the 'storyboard' - a series of one-panel sketches. Accompanying action and dialogue summaries are written under each sketch. Cartoons are particularly labour-intensive: the average short cartoon requires 40-50,000 separate frames or drawings. Making a character sit down can require 10 or more drawings to depict each individual movement.


Relationship Between Architecture and Art

Ever since Antiquity, architecture - the art of designing and constructing buildings - has always been closely intertwined with the history of art, for at least three reasons. First, many public works (especially religious buildings) were designed with aesthetics in mind, as well as functionality. They were built to inspire as well as serve a public function. As a result, they involved the services of a wide range of 'artists' and decorative craftsmen as well as labourers. Second, in many of these buildings, the exteriors and interiors acted as showcases for fine art painting (eg. Sistine Chapel), frieze and relief sculpture (eg. The Parthenon, European Gothic cathedrals), stained glass art (eg. Chartres Cathedral), and other artworks like mosaics and metalwork. Thirdly, public building programs typically went hand in hand with the development of visual art, and most major 'arts' movements (eg. Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassical) influenced both architecture and the fine arts.

Ancient Architecture

Early architecture had two main functions: (1) to consolidate security and power; (2) to please the Gods. The richer the society, the more important these functions became. See also: History of Art: Timeline.

Art Brut

The term "Art Brut" (raw art) was invented by the French painter, sculptor and assemblage artist Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) to describe works "created by people outside the professional art world... from their own depths and not from the stereotypes of Classical or fashionable art." (See the English expression Outsider Art.) Although Dubuffet's category of Art Brut embraces any painting or sculpture created outside the confines of contemporary or traditional culture - and thus free from cultural manipulation or influence - he personally was mainly interested in a specific sub-category of this raw art: namely, works by patients in mental hospitals. See also: Primitivism.

Assemblage Art

A contemporary form of sculpture, comparable to collage, in which a work of art is built up or "assembled" from 3-D materials - typically "found" objects.

Popularized in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s by artists like Robert Rauschenberg (b.1925) and Jim Dine (b.1935), Assemblage is a form of three-dimensional visual art whose compositions are formed from everyday items, usually called "found objects" (objets trouvés). (See also Junk art.)

The term 'assemblage' dates from the early 1950s, when the French faux naif artist Jean Dubuffet (1901-85) referred to his collages of butterfly wings, as 'assemblages d'empreintes'. Sometimes referred to as bricolage, collage and construction, Assemblage was a stepping stone towards other contemporary art forms such as Pop-Art and Installation art.

Body Art

One of the oldest (and newest) forms - includes body painting and face painting, as well as tattoos, mime, "living statues" and (most recently) "performances" by artists like Marina Abramovic and Carole Schneemann.


This fine art, practised widely in the Far East and among Islamic artists, is regarded by the Chinese as the highest form of art.


A type of plastic art, ceramics refers to items made from clay and baked in a kiln. See ancient pottery from China and Greece, below. Two of the foremost European ceramicists are the English artist Bernard Howell Leach (1887-1979), and the Frenchman Camille Le Tallec (1908-91).

Christian Art

This is mostly Biblical Art, or at least works derived from the Bible. It includes Protestant Reformation art and Catholic Counter-Reformation art, as well as Jewish themes. See also: Early Christian sculpture and also: Early Christian Art.


Composition consisting of various materials like newspaper cuttings, cardboard, photos, fabrics and the like, pasted to a board or canvas. May be combined with painting or drawings.

Computer Art

All computer-generated forms of fine or applied art, including computer-controlled types. Also known as Digital, Cybernetic or Internet art.

Conceptual Art

A contemporary art form that places primacy on the concept or idea behind a work of art, rather than the work itself. Leading conceptual artists include: Allan Kaprow (b.1927), and Joseph Beuys (1921-86) the former Professor of Monumental Sculpture at the Dusseldorf Academy, whose dedication earned him a retrospective at the Samuel R Guggenheim Museum (New York).

Design (Artistic)

This refers to the plan involved in creating something according to a set of aesthetics. Examples of artistic design movements include: Art Nouveau, Art Deco, De Stijl, Bauhaus, Ulm Design School and Postmodernism.


A drawing can be a complete work, or a type of preparatory sketching for a painting or sculpture. A central issue in fine art concerns the relative importance of drawing (line) versus color.

  • chalk
  • charcoal
  • conte crayon
  • pastel
  • pen and ink
  • pencil

For a selection of the greatest sketches by some of the finest draftsmen in history, please see: Best Drawings of the Renaissance (1400-1550).

Folk Art

Mostly crafts and utilitarian applied arts made by rural artisans.

French Furniture

The greatest furniture was created during the 17th/18th centuries by French Designers at the Royal Court, in the Louis Quatorze, Quinze and Seize styles. For a short guide, see: French Decorative Arts (1640-1792).

Graffiti Art

Contemporary form of street aerosol spray painting which emerged in East Coast American cities during the late 1960s/early 1970s. Famous graffiti artists include Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-88), Keith Haring (1958-90) and Banksy.

Graphic Art

Types of visual expression defined more by line and tone (disegno), rather than colour (colorito). Includes drawing, cartoons, caricature art, comic strips, illustration, animation and calligraphy, as well as all forms of traditional printmaking. Also includes postmodernist styles of word art (text-based graphics).

Icons (Icon Painting)

Ranks alongside mosaic art as the most popular type of Eastern Orthodox religious art. Closely associated with Byzantine art, and later, Russian icon painters.

Illuminated Manuscripts

This principally refers to religious texts (Christian, Islamic, Jewish) embellished with figurative illustrations and/or abstract geometric designs, exemplified by Book of Kells.


A new category of contemporary art, which employs various 2-D and 3-D materials to create a particular space designed to make an impact on the viewer/visitor. Turner Prize Winner Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin are famous installation artists.


A form of painting, drawing or other graphic art which explains, clarifies, pictorializes or decorates written text.

Jewelry Art

Practised by goldsmiths, as well as other master-craftsmen like silversmiths, gemologists, diamond cutters/setters and lapidaries.

Junk Art

Artworks made from ordinary, everyday materials, or "found objects", of which Marcel Duchamp's "readymades" are a sub-category. Typically includes 3-D works like sculpture, assemblage, collage or installations.

Land Art

A relatively new category of contemporary art, also called Earth art, earthworks, or Environmental art, it was led by Robert Smithson (1938-73), and emerged in America during the 1960s as a reaction against the commercial art world.

Metalwork Art

Embraces goldsmithing, the fashioning of precious metals into objets d'art, as well as enamelwork techniques like cloisonné, plique-a-jour, champlevé, and encrusted enamelling. See: Celtic Metalwork. For more modern works, see also: Fabergé Easter Eggs.

Mosaic Art

An ancient art form, developed by Ancient Greek and Byzantine artists, which creates pictorial designs out of glass tesserae. For its high point during the Middle Ages, see: Ravenna Mosaics (c.400-600) and Christian Byzantine Art (c.400-1200).

Outsider Art

Artworks by painters/sculptors outside mainstream culture; may be mentally ill, or untutored and uneducated: (French equivalent is Art Brut).


Since classical antiquity the highest form of Western art, painting has been dominated by Renaissance-style "Academic Art". Until the invention of pre-mixed paints and the collapsible paint tube in the mid-19th century, painters had to create their own colour pigments from natural plants and metal compounds. See colour in painting. Famous painting movements or schools include: Early/High Renaissance, Mannerism, Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassical, Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, Post Impressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Op-Art, Pop Art, Minimalism, Photorealism, and others.

  • acrylics
  • encaustic painting
  • fresco painting
  • gouache
  • ink and wash
  • nail art
  • oils
  • miniature painting
  • panel painting
  • tempera painting
  • watercolors
  • and more

Performance Art (and Happenings)

A 20th century art form involving a live performance by the artist before an audience. The form was explored and developed by exponents of Futurism, Constructivism, Dada, Surrealism and later contemporary art movements.


A 20th century medium by which the artist captures pictorial images on film as opposed to the traditional fine art supports of canvas, paper or board. New computer software graphics programs have created new opportunities for editing and image manipulation. See also: Is Photography Art? Foremost among exponents of photographic art is the American Ansel Adams, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Guggenheim fellow and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, noted for his black-and-white photographs of the American West. The leading contemporary Irish lens-based artist is Victor Sloan (b.1945).

Poster Art

Peaked during the French Belle Epoque and the Art Nouveau era.

Primitive Art

Associated with Aboriginal, African, Oceanic and other tribal cultures; also embraces Outsider art.


The process of making original prints by pressing an inked block or plate onto a receptive support surface, typically paper. Among great modern exponents of fine art printmaking (eg. woodcuts, engraving, etching, lithography and silkscreen) are the American artist James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), the French artist Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), the Dutch graphic artist MC Escher (1898-1972), Willem de Kooning (1904-97) and Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008), as well as silkscreen printers like Andy Warhol (1928-87), all of whom infused the artform with great vitality.

  • engraving
  • etching
  • giclee prints
  • lithography
  • screen-printing
  • woodcuts
  • and more

Public Art

A vague category of art which encompasses all works paid for by public funds. A more narrow definition might restrict it to all works designed for a space accessible to the general public. Sadly, most public art ends up in stores or offices staffed by public servants!

Religious Art

Typically architecture, or any fine or decorative arts with a religious theme: includes Christian or Islamic, Hindu, Buddhism or any of a hundred different sects. See for instance Chinese Buddhist sculpture (c.100 CE - present).

Rock Art

Traditionally encompasses primitive stone engravings (petroglyphs), relief sculptures, cave painting (pictographs) and megaliths of the Stone Age.

Sand Art

Encompasses sand painting (Navajo Indians, Tibetan Buddhists), sand drawing (Vanuatu, formerly New Hebrides), sand sculpture and architecture.


Sculpture is a three-dimensional work of plastic art created either by (1) Carving - in stone, marble, wood, ivory, bone; (2) modelling - from wax or clay, after which it may be cast in bronze; (3) an assemblage of "found objects". Note: Origami paper folding should also be classed as a plastic art.

  • statue
  • relief sculpture
  • bronze
  • ice sculpture
  • ivory carving
  • marble
  • stone
  • terracotta sculpture
  • wood-carving

Stained Glass Art

The supreme decorative art of the Gothic movement, stained glass reached its zenith during the 12th and 13th centuries when it was created for Christian cathedrals across Europe. Modern stained glass was made in America by John LaFarge and Louis Comfort Tiffany; and on the Continent at the Bauhaus design school.Sadly, the creators of the stained glass masterpieces in Chartres and other Gothic cathedrals remain anonymous, however their skills were kept alive by artists like Marc Chagall (1887-1985) and Joan Miro (1893-1983), and - in Ireland - by such Irish artists as Harry Clarke (1889-1931), Sarah Purser (1848-43) and Evie Hone (1894-1955).

Tapestry Art

An ancient type of textile art, tapestry-making flourished in Europe from the Middle Ages onwards, at the hands of French and (later) Flemish weavers. The most famous works were woven at the Gobelins tapestry and Beauvais tapestry factories in Paris, but see also the famous Bayeux Tapestry (c.1075) a Romanesque work stitched by Anglo-Saxon and French seamsters, depicting the Norman Conquest of 1066.

Video Art

One of the most recent categories of contemporary expression, pioneered by Andy Warhol and others, video is frequently used in installation art, as well as as a stand-alone art form. Several Turner Prize Winners have been video artists. The leading video artist of the twentieth century is probably Bill Viola (b.1951), known for his technical and creative mastery of the genre.


Donation Campaigns

Support UNICEF's Emergency Relief

Right now multiple emergencies threaten children’s lives: Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean, flooding in South Asia and additional disasters around ..
  Start date: Feb, 5 2023   End date: Feb, 5 2024   Donors : 0
$0.00 Raised
$2,000,000.00 Goal

Support UNICEF's Emergency Relief