fine arts vs visual artsVarious painting equipment as background

The arts have a profound impact on people and can even result in a more connected community and increased civic engagement. Art can help relax us or inspire us to create. 

If you’re an aspiring artist or a current student, you may wonder about the differences between fine arts vs. visual arts. Today, we’ll go over the differences between them so you can improve your art knowledge. 

Fine Arts vs. Visual Arts

Fine art is a fairly broad term that includes many forms, including visual art. It was in the 20th century that fine arts were categorized into several groups, including visual arts, auditory arts, literature, and performance arts. It’s a type of creative art in which the content is appreciated for its aesthetic, imaginative, or intellectual content. 

Fine arts is the broader term or the umbrella that many art styles fall under. Additionally, it may refer to any art of a particular quality that required great skill to make. 

Visual arts are any forms of art designed to be appreciated by sight. That means that forms of art that aren’t visual in nature don’t usually fall under this category. 

Let’s break it down further. 

Types of Fine Arts Explained

Fine art includes many forms, such as the following: 

  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Photography
  • Sculpture
  • Architecture
  • Printmaking
  • Music
  • Poetry
  • Performing arts

Someone might enjoy the beauty of a gothic chapel or uniquely designed art museum as much as a landscape painting, and it would all fall under the umbrella of fine arts. 

Some examples of artists that fit into this category include: 

  • Vincent Van Gogh
  • Rembrandt
  • Raphael
  • Leonardo da Vinci

Fine Arts degrees typically focus on traditional forms of the fine arts, though there are many specialties. Fine arts also doesn’t include artwork with functional value as it focuses on aesthetics, beauty, etc. This is probably the easiest way to differentiate it from other art categories. 

Types of Visual Arts Explained

Visual arts, as you might expect from the name, refer to art styles designed to be appreciated by sight. It includes: 

  • Painting
  • Ceramics
  • Sculpture
  • Photography
  • Architecture
  • Film-making

There is certainly a lot of crossover between the two terms, which can make categorizing a particular artwork difficult at times. 

The major difference, despite the lines often turning blurry, is that visual arts refer to art appreciated primarily by viewing it. It doesn’t include music or poetry, for instance. 

Visual arts also include decorative crafts, interior design, and industrial design. 

What About Applied Arts? 

Applied arts refers to taking principles of design and aesthetics and applying them to utilitarian objects seen in everyday use. 

Examples of some forms of applied art include: 

  • Fashion design
  • Ceramics and pottery
  • Graphic design

Applied arts are different from fine arts. However, there is some confusion regarding crossovers. For instance, architecture is considered a type of fine art as well as a type of applied art. 

Generally, applied arts are considered a type of visual art. 

Controversy Over Categorization

It wasn’t too long ago that Maurizio Cattelan created Comedian, a banana duct taped to a wall,which stirred up controversy among artists, critics, and the general public. 

It’s conceptual art and designed to evoke a sense of ridiculousness, but is it truly art? That seems to be the argument that no one can agree on. Art is subjective, after all. 

Another recent example involves Jason M. Allen, a game designer that won an emerging artist competition in a digital arts/digitally manipulated photography category. Many found his use of an artificial intelligence system that produces detailed images simply by typing in a prompt unfair. 

Would Cattelan’s Comedian or Allen’s AI-generated artwork be considered fine art, visual art, or defy categorization altogether? 

Often, it depends on who you ask, as the lines continue to blur. 

Not All Visual Art Is Fine Art

Another important difference to note is that not all visual art is considered fine art. Skill level is an important consideration. 

Consider artwork displayed in a museum for a moment. It’s categorized as fine art by most due to being museum-quality. After all, only a small percentage of artwork is considered good enough to display in galleries or museums.

So, how do artists know when their artwork is good enough to be considered fine art? There is no standard for judgment since art is so varied and highly subjective. Generally, it takes talent, a fine arts education, and many years of practice to fall into this category. 

Many artists spend their entire lives learning, practicing, and studying the masters, hoping to eventually achieve this goal. 

Visual art is constantly evolving and incorporating new forms of art. Just check out the latest visual art trends. As such, you can expect many more categories to fall under this umbrella in the future. 

Arts Degree Categorizations at Universities and Art Schools

Some universities separate their art degrees further into fine arts, visual arts, theater and dance, music, film and photography, and creative writing. 

Depending on where you go to obtain your degree, you may need to do further research into the area of specialty you want to pursue. 

Still, understanding the difference between fine arts degrees and visual arts degrees will help to inform your decision. 

The Differences Between Fine Arts and Visual Arts Explained

We hope this fine arts guide helped explain the different art categorizations. Now you know more about fine arts vs. visual arts, and you can confidently go forth and apply this knowledge in real life. You also should have some good information to pursue a degree that interests you. 

To learn more about art, hobbies, technology, and more read some of our other content. We cover all the tips you need to make the most of your life. 

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