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The Arts Portal


The Parthenon

The Parthenon on top of the Acropolis, Athens, Greece

The arts is a vast subdivision of culture, encompassing many creative endeavors and disciplines. It is a broader term than "art", which, used as of a field, usually means only the visual arts. The arts encompass the visual arts, the literary arts and the performing artsmusic, theatre, dance and film, among others. This list is by no means comprehensive, but only meant to introduce the concept of the arts. For all intents and purposes, the history of the arts begins with the history of art. The arts might have origins in early human evolutionary prehistory.

Ancient Greek art saw the veneration of the animal form and the development of equivalent skills to show musculature, poise, beauty and anatomically correct proportions. Ancient Roman art depicted gods as idealized humans, shown with characteristic distinguishing features (e.g. Jupiter"s thunderbolt). In Byzantine and Gothic art of the Middle Ages, the dominance of the church insisted on the expression of biblical and not material truths. Eastern art has generally worked in a style akin to Western medieval art, namely a concentration on surface patterning and local colour (meaning the plain colour of an object, such as basic red for a red robe, rather than the modulations of that colour brought about by light, shade and reflection). A characteristic of this style is that the local colour is often defined by an outline (a contemporary equivalent is the cartoon). This is evident in, for example, the art of India, Tibet and Japan. Religious Islamic art forbids iconography, and expresses religious ideas through geometry instead. The physical and rational certainties depicted by the 19th-century Enlightenment were shattered not only by new discoveries of relativity by Einstein and of unseen psychology by Freud, but also by unprecedented technological development. Paradoxically the expressions of new technologies were greatly influenced by the ancient tribal arts of Africa and Oceania, through the works of Paul Gauguin and the Post-Impressionists, Pablo Picasso and the Cubists, as well as the Futurists and others.

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An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1768
An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump is a 1768 oil-on-canvas painting by Joseph Wright of Derby, part of a series of candlelit scenes that Wright painted during the 1760s. The Air Pump departed from previous painting conventions by depicting a scientific subject in the reverential manner formerly reserved for scenes of historical and religious significance. Wright was intimately involved in depicting the Industrial Revolution and the scientific advances of the Enlightenment, but while his paintings were recognized as something out of the ordinary by his contemporaries, his provincial status and choice of subjects meant the style was never widely imitated. The picture has been owned by the National Gallery since 1863 and is still regarded as a masterpiece of British art. The painting depicts a natural philosopher, a forerunner of the modern scientist, recreating one of Robert Boyle"s air pump experiments, in which a bird is deprived of oxygen, before a varied group of onlookers. The group exhibit different reactions, but for most scientific curiosity overcomes concern for the bird. The central figure looks out of the picture as if inviting the viewer"s participation in the outcome.

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General Art and Industrial Exposition of Stockholm (1897)Credit: Photochrom: Photoglob Zürich; Restoration: Lise Broer

A photochrom print of the General Art and Industrial Exposition of Stockholm complex on the island of Djurgården, located in central Stockholm, Sweden. Several of the structures built for the 1897 World"s Fair still remain on the western part of the island, including Djurgårdsbron, the main bridge to the island; the Skansens Bergbana, the funicular railway now in the Skansen open air museum and zoo; and the Nordic Museum.

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1885 hand-coloured albumen silver print by Farsari of three Maiko posing on an engawa
Adolfo Farsari (1841–1898) was an Italian photographer based in Yokohama, Japan. Following a brief military career, including service in the American Civil War, he became a successful entrepreneur and commercial photographer. His photographic work was highly regarded, particularly his hand-coloured portraits and landscapes, which he sold mostly to foreign residents and visitors to the country. Farsari"s images were widely distributed, presented or mentioned in books and periodicals, and sometimes recreated by artists in other media; they shaped foreign perceptions of the people and places of Japan and to some degree affected how Japanese saw themselves and their country. His studio – the last notable foreign-owned studio in Japan – was one of the country"s largest and most prolific commercial photographic firms. Largely due to Farsari"s exacting technical standards and his entrepreneurial abilities it had a significant influence on the development of photography in Japan.

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The toccata from L"Orfeo, composed by Claudio Monteverdi in 1607. Performed by Trisdee and the Bangkok Baroque Ensemble.

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Salvador Dalí, People (September 27, 1976)

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