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Art And Craft

  Recognition of certain kinds of activity as ‘artistic’, and of the practitioner of those activities as an ‘artist’, is historically a relatively late development. It began in Europe during the Renaissance, when architects, musicians, painters, poets and sculptors were said by pundits to be practitioners of the ‘fine arts’, somehow creative in a different way from (for instance) actors, potters, prose writers, stonemasons and so on. The distinction became an article of faith in the 17th century with the founding of the Academies, and was finally transformed into a doctrine by Romanticism, when it became permissible for ‘fine artists’ to be people of genius, but the same appellation was seldom, or only ironically, applied to creative talents in other fields. 19th-century critics began an enthusiastic programme of revisionism, working out which of the artists of the ancient Greek and Roman past—Apelles? Homer? Praxiteles? Vitruvius?—was admissible to the pantheon of genius, a ‘Gentleman’ rather than a ‘Player’. The notion tends to divorce ‘artists’ from any kind of ritual and social function, and would have baffled the ancient Greeks, just as it would be alien to the vast majority of artistic creators in the world, throughout history, for whom work is all and creative categories are irrelevant. Nonetheless, the notion of ‘arts’ and ‘crafts’, and the view that some useful distinction can be made between them, still persists in academic and critical circles, not entirely to the benefit of the arts themselves. CMcD JM KMcL

See also art(s), visual; connoisseurship; creativity; criticism; folk art; religious art.Further reading A. Martindale, the Rise of the Artist in the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance.



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