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, July 11, 2021

Walt Disney’s First Cartoon Critter Was Not Mickey Mouse
Before Mickey Mouse, there was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
#WTFact / Visual Arts
Oswald The Lucky Rabbit, 1935.
Who Was the Woman Behind the Statue of Liberty?
Read about the woman who inspired the Statue of Liberty.
Companion / Visual Arts
Statue of Liberty in front of the skyline of Manhattan, New York City, New York.
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
East Asian arts
East Asian arts, the visual arts, performing arts, and music of China, Korea (North Korea and South Korea), and Japan. (The...
Encyclopedia / Visual Arts
Liangzhu ceremonial cong
Art
Art, a visual object or experience consciously created through an expression of skill or imagination. The term art encompasses...
Encyclopedia / Visual Arts
Leonardo da Vinci: Mona Lisa
South Asian arts
South Asian arts, the literary, performing, and visual arts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Despite a history...
Encyclopedia / Visual Arts
Mridanga; in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Oceanic art and architecture
Oceanic art and architecture, the visual art and architecture of native Oceania, including media such as sculpture, pottery,...
Encyclopedia / Visual Arts
dilly bag; Aboriginal Australian art, Northern Territory, Australia

Visual Arts Quizzes

"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...
Torii gate at entrance to a Shinto shrine on Mount Hakone, east-central Honshu, Japan. (gateways)
Everything in Art and Design (Part Four) 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...
Kathakali dancer performing on stage in Kerala, India. (dancing, performing arts)
Another Dance Quiz
Who pioneered the serious presentation of dance on film? What is the bedaja? Use this quiz to test what you know...
Isadora Duncan, ink on paper by Edmond van Saanen Algi, 1917; in the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.
All About Dance Quiz
You might be able to dance well, but can you answer well a few questions about dance? Figure out what you know with this...
Artist paint brushes and watercolor paintbox on wooden palette. Instruments and tools for creative leisure. Creative background. Paintings art concept. Painting hobby. Back to school. Top view.
Quick Quiz: Can You Name the Artists of These Paintings from a Description?
Can you tell a Picasso from a Gauguin? What if you can’t see the paintings? Match these paintings with their creators using...
Encyclopaedia Britannica thistle graphic to be used with a Mendel/Consumer quiz in place of a photograph.
63 Questions from Britannica’s Most Popular Visual Arts Quizzes
How much do you know about the visual arts? You’ll need to know your Monet from your Manet—and a whole lot more—to make it...
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

Ryue Nishizawa (left) and Kazuyo Sejima with their Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, London, 2009. 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
Teatro Olimpico, designed by Andrea Palladio and completed by Vincenzo Scamozzi, 1585, Vicenza, Italy. 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
shoe 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
William Blake 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
Turrell, James 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
Vincent van Gogh: A Wheatfield, with Cypresses 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
Dada exhibit 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
subcategory placeholder 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
Learn More!