The current concept of an ‘artist’

The current concept of an ‘artist’

Artist is a descriptive term applied to a person who engages in an activity deemed to be an art. An artist also may be defined unofficially as “a person who expresses himself- or herself through a medium”. The word is also used in a qualitative sense of, a person creative in, innovative in, or adept at, an artistic practice.

Most often, the term describes those who create within a context of the fine arts or ‘high culture’, activities such as drawing, painting, sculpture, acting, dancing, writing, filmmaking, new media, photography, and music—people who use imagination, talent, or skill to create works that may be judged to have an aesthetic value. Art historians and critics define artists as those who produce art within a recognized or recognizable discipline. Contrasting terms for highly skilled workers in media in the applied arts or decorative arts include artisan, craftsman, and specialized terms such as potter, goldsmith or glassblower. Fine arts artists such as painters succeeded in the Renaissance in raising their status, formerly similar to these workers, to a decisively higher level, but in the 20th century the distinction became rather less relevant.

The term may also be used loosely or metaphorically to denote highly skilled people in any non-”art” activities, as well— law, medicine, mechanics, or mathematics, for example.

Often, discussions on the subject focus on the differences among “artist” and “technician”, “entertainer” and “artisan”, “fine art” and “applied art”, or what constitutes art and what does not. The French word artiste (which in French simply means “artist”) has been imported into the English language where it means a performer (frequently in Music Hall or Vaudeville). Use of the word “artiste” can also be a pejorative term.

The English word ‘artiste’ has thus a narrower range of meaning than the word ‘artiste’ in French.

In Living with Art, Mark Getlein proposes six activities, services or functions of contemporary artists:

1. Create places for some human purpose.
2. Create extraordinary versions of ordinary objects.
3. Record and commemorate.
4. Give tangible form to the unknown.
5. Give tangible form to feelings.
6. Refresh our vision and help see the world in new ways.

Well, those were the different Dictionary definitions, a little history of the term and the current concept of ‘an artist’. But, perhaps, the word and your vision of it don’t match clearly and, consequently, the question remains. In this case, perhaps the approach, by quotations, of relevant people could be interesting. We made a choice of 100 relevant quotations of 100 different and relevant people across eras, professions, engagement and proximity to this term. From S. Thomas Aquinas to John Lennon, from Michelangelo to Jackson Pollock, from Goethe to Albert Einstein, people expose their involvement, feeling, understanding and practice in this topic. This relevant quotations express the opinion of Saints, philosophers, scientists, painters, musicians, engravers, writers, sculptors, essayists, politicians, novelists…probably, the most exciting souls in the Humanity’s history.

Your thinking could be our guides. That is, really, the question and the purpose of this choice. Have a good time reading and good thinking! And you could read the quotations here:

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