What Are The Classifications Of Art?

The various classifications of art include fine art, visual art, plastic art, performance art, applied art, and decorative art.

Fine Art

example of fine art
The Ballerina by Teresa Bernard

This category includes works of art that are created primarily for aesthetic reasons.

Fine arts include:

    • Drawing – charcoal, chalk, crayon, pastel, pencil, or pen and ink
    • Painting – oils, watercolor, gouache, acrylics, ink and wash, tempera, or encaustic paints
    • Printmaking – woodcuts, stencils, engraving, etching and lithography, or screen-printing, foil imaging, or giclee prints
    • Sculpture – bronze, stone, marble, wood, or clay
    • Calligraphy – beautiful and stylized handwriting

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Visual Art

example of visual art
Digital Art

The visual arts include all the fine arts, in addition to the following:

    • New media – digital art, computer graphics, computer animation, virtual art, Internet art, interactive art, video games, computer robotics, 3D printing, and art as biotechnology
    • Photography
    • Environmental art
    • Contemporary forms of expression – assemblage, collage, conceptual, installation

Plastic Art

The term plastic art includes artworks that are molded and not necessarily plastic objects. This category consists of three-dimensional works like clay, plaster, stone, metals, wood, and paper (origami).

Performance Art

This classification consists of an art form that refers to public performance events that occur mainly in the theater. Performance arts include:

    • Traditional performance art – theatre, opera, music, and ballet
    • Contemporary performance art – mime
    • Hyper-modern performance art  – happenings

Applied Art

This category encompasses the application of aesthetic designs to everyday functional objects. Applied arts are intended for the use of a career. It includes architecture, computer art, photography, industrial design, graphic design, fashion design, and interior design.

Decorative Art

example of decorative art
Decorative Art

This classification refers to functional but ornamental art forms, such as jewelry, ceramics, mosaic art, and other embellished items by ornaments and other designs. It also includes works in glass, clay, wood, metal, textile fabric, furniture, furnishings, stained glass, and tapestry art. Interior designers often use this art form for home, commercial and retail outlets, and office décor.

Additional Reading

Classification Of Fine Art By Genre

Know Your Art Painting Styles: 7 Most Popular

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What is Art Appreciation?

What is Fine Art?

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UPDATED: 21 October 2020

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Classification of Fine Art Paintings by Genre

The most common method for classifying fine art paintings is by genre (or theme). Genre is a French word that means “type” or “kind.” It’s the type of image a painting has as its subject. For instance, the classification of fine art paintings by genre means a painting is categorized as a landscape, portrait, still life, seascape, wildlife, or other themes.

Common Painting Themes

classification of Fine Art paintings
Abstract Art

Abstract Art is artwork that looks like a two-year-old did it. It has no defined meaning. It seeks to break away from the traditional representation of physical objects in real life. More often than not, abstract art is a collection of meaningless shapes, textures, and colors thrown haphazardly onto a canvas. Its purpose is to let the viewer interpret its meaning for themselves.

cityscape urban landscape
Cityscape

Cityscapes, often known as Urban Landscapes, are paintings that depict the physical characteristics of a city, urban life, sections of a town (such as a city block, street corner, outdoor café, rooftops, etc.), or other metropolitan areas. A Townscape is similar to a cityscape; only it is of a township with a smaller population and perhaps less modern architecture. See the example of a cityscape.

classification of Fine Art
Genre Scene Art

Genre Art is scene art of everyday life. It depicts real life in action with ordinary people at work or in recreational situations. These artworks include intimate scenes of daily life, costumes, domestic settings, interiors, celebrations, tavern scenes, markets, and other street situations. It could also show a busy street, a beach party, a dinner gathering, or anyplace where living goes on. The subject is frequently represented in a realistic manner.

history painting
Historical

History Paintings or Historical Paintings feature subject matter borrowed from classical history and mythology, as well as the Bible. A wide range of historical issues and topics can be shown in history paintings. It frequently depicts a scene from a story or a significant event from the past. It should not be mistaken with genre paintings that reflect events from ordinary life.

Fine Art paintings
Landscapes

Landscape paintings showcase the natural beauty of the great outdoors with its mountains, valleys, meadows, trees, rivers, woods, sky, and weather. It can even include the countryside, farms, and structures that one would expect to find there, such as fencing, bridges, barns, windmills, or farmhouses. See the example of a landscape painting. Title: The Grand Teton Mountains

example of marine maritime art
Maritime Art

Marine Art or Maritime Art derives its inspiration from the sea. This genre of art depicts life on the open seas, boats and ships, fishermen, etc. It includes art showing shipping on rivers and waterways and all art showing boats and ships.  It almost always consists of some element of a seafaring vessel. Ship portraits are a style of maritime art that is still popular today and depicts a single vessel.

example of naive art
Naïve Art

Naïve Art is characterized by its childlike simplicity, which includes minute detail, vibrant colors, disproportionate figures, and a lack of perspective. It depicts basic, easy-to-understand situations of ordinary life that are frequently romanticized. The absence of perspective often creates the illusion that figures within naïve paintings are weightless or floating. Naïve artists are frequently self-taught. They have very little or no formal art training.

Portrait Painting of Tera
Portrait of Tera by Teresa Bernard

Portraits are artistic representations of a person, especially the face. Besides the likeness, the essence of a portrait also captures the mood and personality of the subject. A portrait of an individual may be of the face-only, or it may be head and shoulders, or the full-body. Portraits usually portray the person in a still position, and often the subject is looking directly at the painter. Included in this genre are Group Portraits (consisting of more than one individual), Self Portraits (one in which the artist does an artwork of him/herself), and Pet Portraits (a beloved pet, however, animals usually fall into the wildlife category).

Communion Table still life
Religious Art

Religious Art, also known as Sacred Art, is a kind of visual expression that draws on religious inspiration to convey a message intended to improve the morals of those who view it. The subject can be either a sacred story or a profession of the artist’s faith. Religion means any set of individual beliefs, either Christian or non-Christian, regarded as sacred, holy, spiritual, or divine. Shown is an example of religious art and is titled The Communion Table.

OR coast south of the sea lion caves
Seascapes

Seascape paintings are much like landscapes; only this genre of art depicts the sea with marine landscapes, beach scenes, fish and marine animals, or views of the ocean itself. Fish and other marine animals can also be categorized as wildlife.  Seascapes are not to be confused with Maritime Art which depicts life out on the open sea. The example shown is titled: Oregon Coast Looking South of the Sea Lion Caves.

lunar footprint painting
Space Art

Space Art also referred to as Astronomical Art, is a genre of art that attempts to communicate ideas and appreciation related to the infinite variety and vastness of outer space. It often depicts interstellar and interplanetary elements as its subject. Since the invention of telescopes, artists can now depict the grandeur and majesty of our universe by rendering what they see out there. Planets, stars, constellations, spacecraft, astronauts, black holes, moons, comets, and other heavenly bodies can be found in space art. Some additional art terms related to this category include lunar landscape, moonscape, moonset, etc. The sample shown is a commission painting titled: First Footprint On The Moon.

classification of paintings

Still Life paintings feature an arrangement of everyday inanimate objects laid out on a table or similar surface. The objects used can be either natural or man-made. Examples of natural objects are flowers, food, wine, rocks, seashells, dead animal skulls, etc. Examples of manufactured items are drinking glasses, books, bottles, pottery, coins, dishes, musical instruments, and so forth. The sample shown is titled: Still Life With Fruit and Candle.

african wildlife painting
Wildlife Art

Wildlife Art depicts the natural world and the wild or domesticated animals that live there. It dates back to prehistoric cave paintings as one of the earliest forms of art. Portraits of animals or fish (whether wildlife or family pets) would fit into this genre. The wildlife art sample shown is titled Raging African Elephant.

Additional Reading

Know Your Art Painting Styles: 7 Most Popular

What Are The Classifications of Art?

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What is Fine Art?

what is fine artFine art is a visual expression or application of human creativity involving technical know-how (skill) and thinking of new things (imagination). Artists who create fine works of art do so primarily for aesthetic reasons, and they usually specialize in a specific type of art, such as painting or sculpture.

It is helpful to note that the word “fine” does not indicate the quality of the artwork but rather the discipline’s purity. In other words, creations considered as fine art include calligraphy, drawings, paintings, printmaking, and sculpture. It excludes applied art, decorative arts, and crafts. (See What are the Classifications of Art? for more information.)

Types of Fine Art

    • Drawings—chalk, charcoal, color wax pencil, crayon, graphite pencil, inked brush, marker, pen and ink, pastel, stylus, or various metals like silverpoint
    • Paintings—Acrylic, aerosol paint, enamel, fresco, gouache, hot wax, inks, oils, pastel, tempera, or watercolor (For more information on the various styles of paintings see Know Your Art Painting Styles: 7 Most Popular)
    • Printmaking—engraving, etching, foil imaging, Giclée print, lithography, monoprint, monotype, screen-printing, stencil, or woodcut
    • Sculpture—clay, glass, metal, plastic, stone, or wood
    • Calligraphy—the art of beautiful handwriting or fancy lettering (See Calligraphy for more information.)

Fine Art Skills

The creation of fine artworks requires knowledge in art theory, design techniques, and adequate usage of the tools of the trade necessary for composition, design, and the creation of fine works of art. The skills required can be developed in a variety of ways. These include, but are not limited to:

    • Apprenticeships under other accomplished fine artists
    • Attending college courses at all levels
    • Attending workshops and classes conducted by other artists
    • Joining artists’ collectives
    • Studying the Old Masters and other works of art by modern-day artists

Creative Imagination

Creative thinking is the ability to form a mental image of new ideas or something that has not yet been thought of or beforehand experienced. It involves:

    • picturing within one’s mind familiar objects or concepts in a new light,
    • digging down beneath the surface to find previously unnoticed patterns, and
    • finding connections between seemingly unrelated attributes.

Additional Reading

What Is Art Appreciation?

Related Articles

Classification Of Fine Art Paintings By Genre

Know Your Art Painting Styles: 7 Most Popular

What Are The Classifications of Art?

Have a question?

If you have a question about this painting, please contact us, and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.

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UPDATED: 14 March 2022

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