- 1a : art (as painting, sculpture, or music) concerned primarily with the creation of beautiful objects —usually used in plural
- b : objects of fine art
- 2: an activity requiring a fine skill
Fine art or the fine arts, from the 17th century on, denote art forms developed primarily for aesthetics and/or concept, distinguishing them from applied arts that also have to serve some practical function.
Historically, the five greater fine arts were painting, sculpture, architecture, music and poetry, with minor arts including drama and dancing. Today, the fine arts commonly include the visual art and performing art forms, such as painting, sculpture, collage, decollage, assemblage, installation, calligraphy, music, dance, theatre, architecture, film, photography, conceptual art, and printmaking. However, in some institutes of learning or in museums fine art, and frequently the term fine arts (pl.) as well, are associated exclusively with visual art forms.
One definition of fine art is "a visual art considered to have been created primarily for aesthetic purposes and judged for its beauty and meaningfulness, specifically, painting, sculpture, drawing, watercolor, graphics, and architecture."
The word "fine" does not so much denote the quality of the artwork in question, but the purity of the discipline. This definition tends to exclude visual art forms that could be considered craftwork or applied art, such as textiles. The visual arts has been described as a more inclusive and descriptive phrase for current art practice. Also, today there is an escalation of media in which high art is more recognized to occur.
The term is still often used outside of the arts to denote when someone has perfected an activity to a very high level of skill. For example, one might metaphorically say that "Pelé took football to the level of a fine art."
In that sense, there are conceptual differences between the Fine Arts and the Applied Arts. That distinction is largely the result of an issue raised in Britain by the conflict between the followers of the Arts and Crafts Movement, including William Morris, and the early modernists, including Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group. The former sought to bring socialist principles to bear on the arts by including the more commonplace crafts of the masses within the realm of the arts, while the modernists sought to keep artistic endeavor as exclusive and esoteric.