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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Bible Scripture And Visual Art

Bible scriptures and visual art

What does the Holy Bible reveal about the visual arts?

Let’s see what the Bible tells us about this topic. It is always best to study scripture in context. If possible, you might want to read the verses that come before and after the verses listed to establish context.

From the Scriptures, we learn:

Artistic ability is God-given

    • Exodus 28:3 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood.
    • Exodus 31:1-11 – The Message (MSG)
      1-5God spoke to Moses: “See what I’ve done; I’ve personally chosen Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur of the tribe of Judah. I’ve filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him skill and know-how and expertise in every kind of craft to create designs and work in gold, silver, and bronze; to cut and set gemstones; to carve wood—he’s an all-around craftsman.6-11“Not only that, but I’ve given him Oholiab, son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan, to work with him. And to all who have an aptitude for crafts, I’ve given the skills to make all the things I’ve commanded you: the Tent of Meeting, the Chest of The Testimony and its Atonement-Cover, all the implements for the Tent, the Table and its implements, the pure Lampstand and all its implements, the Altar of Incense, the Altar of Whole-Burnt-Offering and all its implements, the Washbasin and its base, the official vestments, the holy vestments for Aaron the priest and his sons in their priestly duties, the anointing oil, and the aromatic incense for the Holy Place—they’ll make everything just the way I’ve commanded you.”
    • Exodus 35:30-35 – The Message (MSG)
      30-35Moses told the Israelites, “See, God has selected Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. He’s filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability, and know-how for making all sorts of things, to design and work in gold, silver, and bronze; to carve stones and set them; to carve wood, working in every kind of skilled craft. And he’s also made him a teacher, he and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. He’s gifted them with the know-how needed for carving, designing, weaving, and embroidering in blue, purple, and scarlet fabrics and in fine linen. They can make anything and design anything.”

Art is a skill

    • 2 Samuel 5:11 – New International Version (NIV)
      Now Hiram, king of Tyre, sent envoys to David, along with cedar logs and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built a palace for David.
    • 1 Chronicles 22:15 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      You have an abundance of workmen: stonecutters, masons, carpenters, and all kinds of craftsmen without number, skilled in working
    • 2 Chronicles 2:14 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      the son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre. He is trained to work in gold, silver, bronze, iron, stone, and wood, and in purple, blue, and crimson fabrics and fine linen, and to do all sorts of engraving and execute any design that may be assigned him, with your craftsmen, the craftsmen of my lord, David, your father.
    • 2 Chronicles 24:12 – New American Standard Bible (NASB)
      The king and Jehoiada gave it to those who did the work of the service of the house of the Lord; and they hired masons and carpenters to restore the house of the Lord, and also workers in iron and bronze to repair the house of the Lord.
    • Proverbs 31:24 – New American Standard Bible (NASB)
      She makes linen garments and sells them and supplies belts to the tradesmen.
    • Jeremiah 18:1-6 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      1The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2“Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
      5Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6“O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”

Art is beautiful

    • 1 Kings 6 – As you read through this particular passage, you should note that God goes into a great bit of detail on how He wants His temple to be constructed. Some of the instructions even required craftsmen and artisans to complete. From reading these verses, it is clear that God wants a beautiful place of worship for His people.
    • 1 Kings 7:13-51 – In addition to specific instructions regarding the temple construction, God also goes into detail about how He wants the furnishings for the temple to be constructed.
    • Song of Solomon 7:1 – New American Standard Bible (NASB)
      How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O prince’s daughter! The curves of your hips are like jewels, The work of the hands of an artist.
    • Philippians 4:8 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Art glorifies God

    • Psalm 50:2 – New American Standard Bible (NASB)
      Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone forth.
    • 1 Corinthians 10:31 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
    • Colossians 3:23 – New American Standard Bible (NASB)
      Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,

God is the original Artist, the prime Master Craftsman

    • Genesis 1:1, 27 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      1In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
      27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God, he created him; male and female, he created them.
    • Genesis 2:7 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
    • Job 10:8-9 – New International Version (NIV)
      8Your hands shaped me and made me. Will you now turn and destroy me? 9Remember that you molded me like clay. Will you now turn me to dust again?
    • Job 38:4 – New American Standard Bible (NASB)
      “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding.”
    • Psalm 139:13-16 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      13For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them
    • Isaiah 29:16 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?
    • Isaiah 45:9, 18 – New International Version (NIV)
      9“Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands?’
      18For this is what the Lord says—he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited—he says: “I am the Lord, and there is no other.
    • Isaiah 64:8 – New American Standard Bible (NASB)
      But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand.
    • Zachariah 12:1 – New International Version (NIV)
      A prophecy: The word of the Lord concerning Israel. The Lord, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the human spirit within a person, declares:
    • Romans 9:20-21 – New International Version (NIV)
      20But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
    • Ephesians 2:10 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
    • Colossians 1:16 – New American Standard Bible (NASB)
      For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.
    • Hebrews 1:10 – New International Version (NIV)
      He also says, “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
      and the heavens are the work of your hands.
    • Revelation 4:11 – English Standard Version (ESV)
      “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

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