Philosophy of Art

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Undoubtedly, reaching a formal definition of art has been one of the most contentious points for artists, art critics, and scholars alike. This is evident in the tumultous paradigm shifts in art history that have from formalism to expressionism, institutional art to the avant-garde, that have shaped, altered, defined, and changed human understanding and practice of art production and appreciation.


Formalism is one of the most influential concepts underpinning artistic theory and practice. According to formalist definitions of art, an object can only be considered as art if it is characterized by "significant form" (Warburton 21). Here, significant form is presumably the "combinations of lines and colours produced by human hands" that has the ability to "arouse us to the aesthetic emotion"(Ibid 12). Hence, the formalist definition of art argues that the aesthetic experience is an inherent quality of an artwork which is achieved through the artistic manipulation of forms-lines, colors, composition-to produce something that has the ability to provide art viewers a "glimpse of the structure of the world as it really is" (Ibid 13).
Clearly, the formalist emphasis on the internal qualities of an artwork and its ability to reveal the inner nature of its subject point to the dominant framework that art should not be defined by its relationship to other things but be able to hold itself on its own. Consequently, an artwork has intrinsic value simply because it is art. ...
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