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.
Featured content, January 02, 2021
What’s Inside the Great Pyramid?
Are there mummies inside the Great Pyramid? Hieroglyphs? Hidden treasure? Ghosts? Find out!
Demystified / Visual Arts
The Most Stolen Work of Art
Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece has been stolen by Napoleon and Hitler, among others.
#WTFact / Visual Arts
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
Iranian art and architecture
Iranian art and architecture, the art and architecture of ancient Iranian civilizations. Any reservation about attributing...
Encyclopedia / Visual Arts
Egyptian art and architecture
Egyptian art and architecture, the ancient architectural monuments, sculptures, paintings, and applied crafts produced mainly...
Encyclopedia / Visual Arts
Abstract art, painting, sculpture, or graphic art in which the portrayal of things from the visible world plays no part....
Encyclopedia / Visual Arts
Visual Arts Quizzes
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 at Random Quiz
Test your knowledge of the deepest nooks and crannies of art history with this quiz.
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...
Which Artist? Part Two Quiz
Which artist painted Guernica? Who coped with arthritis by attaching a paintbrush to his hand? Test what you know...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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!
Visual Arts Videos
Visual Arts Subcategories
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.
Awards such as the Praemium Imperiale and the Pritzker Prize honor artists for a job well done.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.