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art. The major general surveys on topics in the fine arts are painting; sculpture; drawing; photography, and architecture.


See also articles on specific artists, periods, styles, regions, genres, and graphic media.

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Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



one of the forms of social consciousness, a component of the spiritual culture of mankind, a particular way of perceiving the world in both physical and spiritual terms. In this sense, various human activities are classified as art, including painting, music, the theater, and literature (which is sometimes classified separately, as in the expression “literature and art”). These artistic activities are all figurative reproductions of reality. In a broader sense, art refers to any useful activity that is performed skillfully not only in terms of technique but also in terms of aesthetic expression.

Throughout history there has been strong disagreement concerning the definition of art and its role in human life. Art has been defined as the imitation of nature, the free creation of forms, the reproduction of reality, the self-knowledge of the Absolute, the artist’s self-expression, and the language of feelings. Art has also been described as a special kind of game or prayer. These differences of opinion result from the dissimilar philosophical positions of theorists (materialistic or idealistic) and from differences in their ideological principles. The differences also occur because the theorists’ views are influenced by the particular art medium (for example, literature or architecture) and style (for example, classicism or realism) with which they are concerned. A major factor giving rise to conflicting definitions of art and its role is the objective structural complexity of art itself.

Some theorists, who are not aware of the complex and many-sided nature of art’s structure, define the essence of art as gnoseological, ideological, aesthetic, or inventive. Dissatisfied with these and other one-sided definitions, some art scholars assert that art encompasses dissimilar yet organically related elements, such as the cognition and evaluation of reality, the reflection and creation of reality, or the reproduction and symbolic representation of reality. These two-sided interpretations also fail to fully describe the complicated structure of art.

Scholarship has turned to systemic analysis in its study of the nature of art, which makes it possible to approach the problem from several different angles. Through this method of analysis, scholars wish to reveal those qualities and functions of art that are necessary and sufficient for the description of its intrinsic structure and to show that the union of these qualities and functions results not in a simple sum or mechanical conglomerate but in an organic entity that generates specific artistic effects. Scholars also strive to reveal the structural capacity of art to become modified, forming different genres and various historical types (for example, creative techniques, styles, currents, and schools). Although Marxist aesthetics is still far from a final solution of these problems, some of their specific aspects may be explained with sufficient definitiveness.

As a result of the historical development of the division of labor, diverse branches of material and spiritual production, as well as various forms of human associations, have emerged from the originally integrated and syncretic activities of man. Unlike science, language, and other specialized forms of social activity called upon to satisfy various human needs, art proved necessary to mankind as a means of the integral social upbringing of an individual, assisting in his emotional and intellectual development. Art also serves to preserve an individual’s contact with man’s accumulated collective experiences and age-old wisdom, as well as with man’s concrete social and historical interests, aspirations, and ideals.

In order to fulfill the role of a powerful instrument for the socialization of the individual, art must resemble real life by re-creating (modeling) reality in all its integrity and structural complexity. Art must duplicate the experience of man and serve as its imaginary continuation and supplement. Art thereby expands man’s experiences, making it possible for him to live many illusory lives in worlds created by writers, musicians, and painters. Art is both similar to and different from real life (this is the most important aspect of its dialectical nature). Inventive and illusory, like the play of the imagination, art is a creation of human hands. As L. Feuerbach has noted, man’s awareness of art as a handiwork is the principal difference from his attitude toward religion. V. I. Lenin expressed full agreement with Feuerbach on this issue (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 29, pp. 53–54). A work of art arouses profound emotions similar to those resulting from real experiences. At the same time, aesthetic enjoyment is invoked, stemming from the appreciation of a work of art as a model of life created by man. This contradictory nature can exist only if art is isomorphic to man’s real experiences. In other words, art must not copy life but reproduce life’s structure.

Man’s activities, which are organically integral, are made up of four primary interacting components—labor, cognition, value orientation, and communication. Correspondingly, works of art, which are in their own way organically whole, imitate the structure of man’s activities. Primarily a specific means of apprehending reality, art also serves as a figurative method for the evaluation of reality and the assertion of a definite system of values. Works of art are created on the basis of the reflection and apprehension of the real world. However, man’s consciousness of reality, in the words of V. I. Lenin, “not only reflects the objective world but creates it” (ibid., p. 194), by creating that which has not existed in reality, does not exist, and, at times, cannot exist (for example, fantastic and grotesque images). Thus, art creates imaginary worlds that more or less resemble the real world and more or less differ from it. In other words, it represents, in the words of Marx, a mode of “practical and intellectual assimilation” of reality, which differs from purely intellectual assimilation (typical of theoretical knowledge) and from purely material assimilation (K. Marx and F. Engels, Sock, 2nd ed., vol. 12, p. 728).

A work of art is always both a spiritual image of reality and a material structure, constructed from sounds, forms, colors, or words. An artist’s final product is determined by the inherent properties of the medium with which he is involved. The structure itself serves a double role. It gives an artistic concept a material embodiment outside of which it, like any other model, cannot exist. In addition, it is a special artistic and figurative system of symbols, or a specific artistic language (for example, the language of music, choreography, painting, architecture, or cinematography), called upon to instill the artistic message that it contains in man’s consciousness.

Thus, art as a specific social phenomenon is a complex system of qualities with a structure characterized by a combination of cognitive, evaluative, creative (spiritual and material), and symbolically communicative elements (or subsystems). As a result, art serves as a means of communication among people and as a tool for enriching their knowledge of the world and of themselves. Art is a means of instilling in an individual a specific system of values and also provides great aesthetic enjoyment. Despite the fact that all these functions are but unified aspects of the single aim of artistic influence upon man, their relationships among themselves often vary greatly. Sometimes one function comes to the foreground and assumes primary significance.

The artistic and creative activity of man develops in many forms, which are known as types (vidy), aspects (rody), and genres (zhanry). The abundance and diversity of these forms may seem to be a chaotic conglomeration, but, in fact, they constitute an orderly and organized, that is, a historically self-organized, system. Theorists of aesthetics have established that depending upon the materials with which artistic works are constructed, three types of art objectively evolve. The spatial, or plastic, arts—painting, sculpture, graphic art, photography, architecture, and applied art and design—develop images in space. The temporal arts, including literature and music, construct images that unfold in time but not in real space. The spatial and temporal arts, such as dance and acting (including all the arts based on acting—for example, the theater, the cinema, television, variety shows, and the circus), contain images that have extent, duration, materiality, and dynamics.

Each of these three types of art may use various kinds of symbols. They use representational symbols, which presuppose a resemblance of images with sensually apprehended reality. Representational symbols appear in the so-called fine arts (painting, sculpture, and graphic art), in literature, and in the theater. Nonrepresentational symbols, which do not suggest visually any real objects, phenomena, or actions, are also employed. These symbols, as seen in architecture, applied art, music, and dance, appeal directly to the associative mechanisms of perception. The combination of representational and nonrepresentational images is typical of synthetic forms of art. Architecture or applied arts are often combined with the fine arts. Words and music combine to form song, and acting and dancing combine to form pantomime.

Each of the three types of art is directly characterized by the particular method and by the type of image-bearing symbols used. Within the framework of these methods there are variations, which are determined by distinctive properties of the materials used and the resulting characteristics of the artistic language. Thus, variations of verbal art are oration and written literature. Music consists of both vocal and instrumental music. The theatrical arts comprise dramatic, musical, and puppet theaters, as well as shadow plays, vaudeville, and the circus. Variations of dance include social, classical, acrobatic, and gymnastic dances, as well as dancing on ice.

Each type of art is broken down further into aspects and genres. The criteria of these divisions have been defined by scholars in various ways. However, it is evident that various aspects of literature are epic, lyrical, and dramatic literature. Aspects of the fine arts include easel painting, monumental painting, and miniature painting. The various genres of painting include portraiture, landscape painting, and still life painting. Among the aspects of the theatrical arts are tragedy, drama, comedy, and vaudeville.

Art, when viewed as a whole, is a historically evolved system of various concrete and artistic methods of apprehending the world. Each of these methods shares common features with others. At the same time, each has individual and distinctive characteristics.

Art originated during the Stone Age. Primitive man’s earliest forms of artistic activity included the creation of myths, songs, and dances; the depiction of animals on cave walls; and the ornamentation of tools, weapons, clothing, and the human body. These activities were of enormous importance. They contributed to the strengthening of human collective life, developing primitive man spiritually and helping him to understand his social nature and his differences from animals. In other words, man’s artistic activities served as an important historical agent of his humanization.

At this early stage of development, art was not an independent form of human activity. All intellectual production at this time was “directly interwoven” with material production (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., vol. 3, p. 24), and the various spheres of spiritual culture had not yet become differentiated. Correspondingly, art was inseparable from practical activities, religion, games, and other forms of human associations. Each of these activities was of an applied character.

As culture developed, art gradually became a specific area of activity; it became “artistic production as such” (K. Marx, Soch., vol. 12, p. 736). Nevertheless, many branches of artistic activity remained subordinated to religion for a long time. Some, to this day, have preserved indissoluble ties to different types of utilitarian activity. Architecture, design, and decorative applied art essentially fulfill technical roles. Essays and newspapers perform journalistic and informational functions. Oratory, posters, advertising, and decorative design are artistic forms of agitation and propaganda. Arts such as gymnastics and figure skating are forms of athletics. In all these cases, art enables the practical activity of which it is an integral part to have an emotional and psychological influence upon an individual. Having acquired its own formal distinction as an autonomous sphere of human activity, art did not lose its social character as far as its content, function, and laws of development are concerned.

Art will always appear in some system of culture. The historical development of art reflects the influence of a complicated combination of external impetuses, including the evolution of material production, the economic order of society and technology, and the evolution of social consciousness in its ideological and subtle sociological and psychological manifestations. However, at the same time, the artistic development of man is relatively independent and its coordination with determining social factors is contradictory. As a result, the historical process of art is subordinated to the changes and struggles among various creative methods. Each of these methods expresses a particular aspect of the many-sided structure of art, giving prominence to one or another element. For example, realist methods sought, above all, an understanding of reality, whereas classicism considered the principal role of art to be the representation of an ideal world, in which an established system of values is presented. No matter how closely the fundamental elements of art’s structure are connected to a particular creative method, the method characterizes first and foremost the content of the work of art and the interpretation of reality as seen through the eyes of the artist; it also characterizes the means by which the content is given form, that is, the features of the style. The process of mankind’s artistic development unfolds in two dimensions. One of its coordinates is the concept of method; the other is the concept of style.

Expressing the needs of society and social development, art invariably attracts the attention of all social forces which are interested in influencing people—the state, classes, parties, and religious organizations. As a result, art is drawn into the orbit of class struggle, expressing the desires of either the people or the exploiting classes and espousing either social progress or reaction. It often embodies the most profound paradoxes and conflicts of social development. F. Engels illustrated this by referring to the works of J. W. von Goethe and H. Balzac; and V. I. Lenin, by citing the works of L. N. Tolstoy. Art also reflects the process of mankind’s historical development and helps society to find direction and perspective in its movement toward freedom and toward forms of social life appropriate for man.

Different economic and social formations support the development of art to varying degrees. According to K. Marx, “capitalist production is hostile to certain branches of spiritual production, for example, art and poetry” (Soch., vol. 6, part 1, p. 280). Under the conditions of a developed bourgeois society, art is degraded to the level of merchandise, and creative work is subordinated to the laws of market relations. Art is divided into what is known as art for the elite and art for the masses; this division has a destructive effect on all concerned. The ideology of imperialism and the psychology of individualism pervert the nature of art in terms of both content and form.

Under these conditions, only struggle against the faulty social relations of the bourgeois world can help art to overcome the pernicious influence of capitalism. It was for this reason that critical realism became the major trend in the development of art in the 19th and 20th centuries. It was also for this reason that V. I. Lenin in 1905, reflecting upon the development of proletarian art in bourgeois society, formulated the principle of communist partiinost’ (party-mindedness). This principle joined the free spiritual ties of the artist with the revolutionary struggle of the working class, thus liberating him from the economic, ideological, and psychological pressures of bourgeois society.

In socialist society the role, character, and future of art are determined by the new social conditions of artistic development and by the spiritual needs of people on the path of communist construction. The October Revolution of 1917 freed the artist from the authority of commodity-money relationships. This assured him of the opportunity to create genuinely free work, addressed to all of the people. Through his work, an artist can strive to unify the people’s feelings, thoughts, and will, as well as their spiritual and aesthetic upbringing. V. I. Lenin foresaw that under these conditions great communist art will be created in a new form corresponding to its new content (O literature i iskusstve, 1969, p. 666). The method of socialist realism, which evolved during the development of proletarian and, later, socialist art in the USSR and many other countries, is the concrete way of the realization of the Leninist program for the construction of the artistic culture of a communist society.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


On drawings, abbr. for artificial.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


A real-time functional language. It timestamps each data value when it was created.

["Applicative Real-Time Programming", M. Broy, PROC IFIP 1983, N-H].
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (


(1) Artwork. See electronic art, software art, ASCII art, Internet art and microchip art.

(2) A compressed image format from AOL. AOL browsers default to compressing JPEGs and GIFs into the .ART format to speed up graphics downloading. Internet Explorer can also render ART files.

(3) (Automated Reasoning Tool) A general expert system written in LISP that is used with various AI techniques for different applications.

(4) (Adaptive Reasoning Theory) A theory about how the human brain processes new information without forgetting the past. Developed by Stephen Grossberg and Gail Carpenter in the 1980s, ART explains the stability-plasticity conundrum, whereby people absorb new information without losing what they already know. ART has been used to describe certain neural networks.
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