What Is Fine Art? Definition & Examples

Posted by Robert Lange on

What is fine art? This term refers to art that was created purely for its aesthetics or/and for artistic expression, not to serve a practical purpose. It is also known as high art or “art for art’s sake.” The most common examples of fine arts are sculptures and paintings. In this article, we discuss fine art in more detail – we invite you to read on.

What Is Fine Art? Definitions

To begin with, let’s take a brief glance at several definitions of fine art, as this is the best way to understand this concept.

“drawings, paintings, and sculptures that are admired for their beauty and have no practical use” – Cambridge Dictionary (2024)

“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.” – Dictionary.com (2021)

“an art form practised mainly for its aesthetic value and its beauty ("art for art's sake") rather than its functional value. Fine art is rooted in drawing and design-based works such as painting, printmaking, and sculpture.” – Visual Arts Cork (n.d.)

This brief overview provides us with clear information on what fine art is: any art created just for its beauty not for practical uses. This is why high art is often contrasted with commercial art or applied art – pieces created to serve a certain practical purpose, for instance, to convince the viewer to purchase a product.

what is fine art

Getting a Sneak Peek - 24" x 48" oil + acrylic on panel - Nathan Durfee, Megan Aline + Robert Lange

What Are the Seven Fine Arts?

As you probably noticed, all of the definitions of what fine art is came with examples of such art. This is for a reason – the history of modern art brought new disciplines into the artistic realm, but before, when art was created for art’s sake, there were just seven disciplines that were considered art.

These disciplines became so recognizable that even now, they are called the seven fine arts. Let’s take a look at what those traditional fine arts are.


Music is one of the oldest fine arts, dating back somewhat to the Paleolithic period. While it is unclear when exactly music started, archeologists have found numerous relics of simple instruments that date back to this period; hence, it should not be surprising that music made the list of the seven fine arts.


Sculpture is yet another of the great seven fine arts. While it’s a bit younger than music, it still dates back to as far as 32,000 BC. At that time, sculptures were quite simple and, typically, represented animals.

Sculpting evolved quickly. The Bust of Nefertiti (1345 BC), the Terracotta Army (210-209 BC), the Laocoön and His Sons (circa 200 BC), and later David (1501-1504) – all of these sculptures became famous and still evoke awe nowadays, so it’s natural that they are considered one of the seven fine arts.


While discussing what fine arts are, we mustn’t forget painting. After all, for many people, paintings are the first thing that comes to their minds when they hear the word “art.”

The first paintings were discovered approximately 40,000 years ago in the caverns inhabited by prehistoric humans. Since then, they have evolved, with each of the art movements in history affecting this discipline in one way or another.

One could argue that not all paintings can be considered high art – take, for instance, portraits created to show the later generations what a person looked like. Nevertheless, they are still one of the most prominent of the 7 fine arts.


When thinking about art, we usually associate it with visual arts. However, if we do so, we forget literature – one of the most important artistic disciplines in history.

The history of literature started with the history of writing, which began at different times depending on the region. Though, one could argue that it started even earlier on, through oral tradition. Nevertheless, it’s an important part of the world's history and works like the Odyssey and the Iliad are still inspiring new generations nowadays.


Architecture is also considered one of the seven fine arts. After all, children still learn about the magnificent Greek columns, and historic architecture is what attracts tourists from all over the world to cities like Paris, Cracow, Athens or Berlin.


Performing arts, like dance and drama, also make the great seven. Take, for instance, the famous Greek plays – they are admired even now, while they were written between the 6th and 4th century BC.


Although it’s the youngest in the group, film is also considered one of the seven fine arts. We must remember here that this term does not refer to movies we know nowadays only – it considers any art that includes images and motion.

The Takeaway

We hope that you now know what fine art is. Explore the different disciplines and find beautiful masterpieces in our gallery – we are sure that you will find something truly inspiring.

You might also read: What Is Geometry in Art?


Fine Art: definition, meaning, history. (n.d.). http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/definitions/fine-art.htm

fine art. (2024). https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/fine-art

Dictionary.com | Meanings & Definitions of English Words. (2021). In Dictionary.com. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/fine-art

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