You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security.

Visual Arts

These are the arts that meet the eye and evoke an emotion through an expression of skill and imagination. They include the most ancient forms, such as painting and drawing, and the arts that were born thanks to the development of technology, like sculpture, printmaking, photography, and installation art, the latter a combination of multiple creative expressions. Though beauty is in the eye of the beholder, different eras in art history have had their own principles to define beauty, from the richly ornamented taste of the Baroque to the simple, utilitarian style of the Prairie School.
Browse Subcategories

Featured content, January 02, 2021

6 Classical Dances of India
Dance like 1.2 billion people are watching.
List / Visual Arts
Odissi Indian classical female dancer on white background. (Indian dancer; classical dancer; Indian dance)
What’s Inside the Great Pyramid?
Are there mummies inside the Great Pyramid? Hieroglyphs? Hidden treasure? Ghosts? Find out!
Demystified / Visual Arts
pyramid sunset, egypt
The Most Stolen Work of Art
Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece has been stolen by Napoleon and Hitler, among others.
#WTFact / Visual Arts
Click on image for enlargements of panel sections. The Ghent Altarpiece (open view) by Jan and Hubert van Eyck, 1432, polyptych with 12 panels, oil on panel; in the Cathedral of Saint-Bavon, Ghent, Belg.
Street Photography: How a Single Camera Brought About a Genre
The invention of the Leica camera allowed photographers to move through the streets and capture moments that come and go...
Companion / Visual Arts
vintage Leica photo camera at KPI Museum, July 24, 2015, in Kiev, Ukraine
Iranian art and architecture
Iranian art and architecture, the art and architecture of ancient Iranian civilizations. Any reservation about attributing...
Encyclopedia / Visual Arts
Ziggurat at Choghā Zanbīl near Susa, Iran.
Egyptian art and architecture
Egyptian art and architecture, the ancient architectural monuments, sculptures, paintings, and applied crafts produced mainly...
Encyclopedia / Visual Arts
Egyptian Book of the Dead: Anubis
Abstract art
Abstract art, painting, sculpture, or graphic art in which the portrayal of things from the visible world plays no part....
Encyclopedia / Visual Arts
Willem de Kooning: Woman II
Video art
Video art, form of moving-image art that garnered many practitioners in the 1960s and ’70s with the widespread availability...
Encyclopedia / Visual Arts

Visual Arts Quizzes

"The Large Plane Trees" (Road Menders at Saint-Remy) oil on fabric by Vincent van Gogh, 1889; in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Which Artist? Part One Quiz
Which artist originated the art of assemblage? Who was King Charles I’s court painter? Test what you know about artists (and...
Art Nouveau wall covering of poppies by Albert Ainsworth of machine printed on oatmeal paper made in Hackensack, New Jersey, c. 1905.
Art at Random Quiz
Test your knowledge of the deepest nooks and crannies of art history with this quiz.
"Self-Portrait Etching at a Window" etching (drypoint and burin in black on ivory laid paper) by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1648; in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Artistic Styles and Techniques Quiz
Do you know how etching works? What was used in ancient China for drawing and lettering? Learn this and more in this quiz...
"Tilla Durieux" (Ottilie Goddeffroy, 1880-1971) oil on canvas by August Renoir, 1914; in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Which Artist? Part Two Quiz
Which artist painted Guernica? Who coped with arthritis by attaching a paintbrush to his hand? Test what you know...
Workmen constructing the Statue of Liberty in Frederic Auguste Bartholdi's Parisian warehouse workshop; first model; left hand and quarter-sized head. Photo by Albert Fernique, ca. 1882-83.
Sculptors and Sculpture Quiz
Sculpture is one of the oldest and most varied artistic forms. Test how much you know about some of the world’s most famous...
"Madonna and Child" tempera on panel by Sandro Botticelli, c. 1470; in the collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (Florentine Renaissance)
Artists of the Italian Renaissance Quiz
Here’s a quick quiz about one of the most influential periods in the history of art. Learn how much you know about Renaissance...
Marble sarcophagus with garlands, ca. A.D. 200-225; Severan period, Roman; in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. (festoon, swag)
Textiles and Design Quiz
How much do you know about the history of bell-bottoms? What about the origins of Hedwig glass? Test your knowledge of all...
Drawing by Edward Lear for his poem "There was an Old Man in a tree, who was horribly bored by a bee; When they said, "Does it buzz?" he replied, "Yes, it does!" (cont'd)
Everything in Art and Design (Part One) Quiz
Want to learn a little about nearly everything in art and design? Start with this quiz and then keep going to the other three...
"In the Omnibus" color drypoint and aquatint by Mary Cassatt, 1890-91; in the collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (Impressionism)
Everything in Art and Design (Part Two) Quiz
Want to learn a little about nearly everything in art and design? Take this quiz and then keep going through the other parts!
Detail of the Chrysler Building, New York City, New York (photographed in 2007).
Everything in Art and Design (Part Three) Quiz
Want to learn a little about nearly everything in art and design? Start with this quiz and then keep going to the other three...
Image Gallery
Visual Arts
Never Miss a Day in History
Sign up for daily fun facts about this day in history, updates, and special offers delivered right to your inbox.

Visual Arts Subcategories

Egyptian Book of the Dead: Anubis Architecture
Architecture is a sphere of art and design in which functionality and aesthetics can combine to produce visually stunning structures that manage to both catch the eye and serve a functional purpose. The expansive variety of architectural styles that have been employed throughout the ages underscores the fact that not every building need look the same, a principle that is readily apparent when comparing Gothic cathedrals with igloos or pagodas with cliff dwellings. Noted architects such as Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, I.M. Pei, Zaha Hadid, and Jeanne Gang are acclaimed not only for the striking aesthetics of their designs but also for the way in which their work reflected cultural themes and values. Although architecture is commonly associated first and foremost with the design and construction of buildings, landscape architects may work with gardens, parks, and other planned outdoor areas, aiding in the development and decorative planning of such spaces.
Articles
subcategory placeholder Arts Awards
Awards such as the Praemium Imperiale and the Pritzker Prize honor artists for a job well done.
Articles
Egyptian Book of the Dead Decorative Art
People appreciate the usefulness of things like glassware and furniture, but they appreciate such objects even more when they’re aesthetically pleasing, too. That’s where decorative art comes in. Explore the world of basketry, metalwork, pottery, interior design, tapestry, and more.
Articles
subcategory placeholder Fashion Design
Looking to make a statement without even saying a word? Fashion designers know that clothing and accessories can speak volumes about the wearer, affecting both how the wearer is perceived by others and how the wearer perceives of him- or herself. The fashion industry has become a multibillion-dollar global enterprise devoted to the business of making and selling clothes; it thrives by being diverse and flexible enough to gratify any consumer's desire to embrace or even to reject fashionability, however that term might be defined.
Articles
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: Jane Avril Graphic Art
Calligraphy, graffiti, engraving, caricature: graphic art's domain stretches as far as the eye can see. Take a look at some of the other types of graphic art, and learn more about the artists working within this category of fine arts.
Articles
subcategory placeholder Installation & Performance Art
Learn about the artists who create installation art, which can incorporate a variety of different materials and artistic forms, such as sculptures, videos, and music, all with the purpose of transforming a given space. Performance artists may also make use of videos and music—as well as such varied elements as acting, poetry, dance, and painting—to create a live presentation for an audience; here, the "audience" could simply consist of onlookers on the street or patrons browsing the halls of a museum, among countless other possibilities.
Articles
St. George Painting
Need help distinguishing your Picassos from your Monets? Learn about history’s celebrated painters and the different styles, techniques, mediums, and forms that have been used to create such unique visual images as Salvador Dalí’s melting clock and the ever-shifting eyes of Leonardo da Vinci’s enigmatic Mona Lisa.
Articles
Becher, Bernd; Becher, Hilla Photography
Photography’s history began long before we were snapping pictures on camera phones. Learn about the masters of the craft and explore the development of photographic technology as it progressed through daguerreotypes and tintypes on the way to modern day’s increasingly sophisticated digital cameras.
Articles
Lorenzo Bernini: Apollo and Daphne Sculpture
Looking to find a use for that extra clay, stone, plaster, or metal that you have lying around? Consider sculpture, in which artists employ these materials and others to create three-dimensional art. Perhaps you’ll join the ranks of noted sculptors such as Michelangelo, Auguste Rodin, and Donatello.
Articles
Ring in the new year with a Britannica Membership - Now 30% off.
Learn More!