In western culture, fine art has consistently referred to the art of architecture, sculpture, music, and, in some views, poetry too. Some definitions include drama, and literature (such as the short story or the novel) as members of the fine arts, but others demand that these have no rightful place among the fine arts. They may be included among the “humanities”, but certainly not among the fine arts. Is this correct?
If we just consider those arts that all can agree are “fine art”, we will see that each of them, perhaps with the exception of architecture, is produced to express feelings. We can clearly see in ancient Greek sculptures, for instance, the feelings these golden people had for the human body, for its measured, objective beauty.
Feelings are certainly explicit in works of poetry, which, like sculpture, interweave both feelings and images to express the attitude of the artist, and ultimately, the culture of the artist, towards his or her world and all that is found in it.
Music, most can agree, is fundamentally about feelings, but less about image as we find them in sculpture and poetry. This deficiency in the fine art of music in fact allows us to more precisely define the fine arts as something which is used to express feelings, and allows us to drop the notion that the fine arts must intermix feelings with images.
Now that the fine arts are confined to the expression of feelings, the fine art of architecture can be re-admitted to the fine arts. Unlike all the other arts, architecture is polluted with a purpose other than that of expression.
It has, of its essence, a practical utility and that utility is necessary if it is to be considered architecture at all. No less can be said of a Grecian vase, which has a purpose, and yet stands as well, in its shape and delicacy, as an expression of human feeling.
Considered without purpose, the vase becomes a sculpture. The same can be said of architecture. Considered apart from its purpose, the building can be appreciated for what it expresses of the human spirit. To the degree that a building does express anything, to that degree we may consider it a production of fine art.
It is undeniable that there are emotive differences evoked by a Greek or Roman temple and a Gothic cathedral, between a modern skyscraper and a Renaissance palace. Being image shaped by feeling, as poetry and sculpture, architecture does indeed have a place among the fine arts.
Now, returning to the place of drama and literature, the short story and the novel, in the fine arts, if we apply the essential agreement we have found among all the other fine arts to these activities and products, we must conclude that drama, the short story, and the novel do indeed satisfy the requirement that the fine arts express feeling.
Drama, even the cinema, combines image, sound, and feeling to ultimately express a spirit’s feelings about its subject. The short story and the novel, non-poetic, but prose, nevertheless does the same.
Nor can we say that measure, proportion, balance, objective, mathematical or geometrical distinctions exist between the short story, for instance, and poetry, such that the short story lacks what poetry, music, architecture and sculpture all contain. There are certainly these requirements in any short story or novel composition.
The short story, the drama the novel, just as painting, music, sculpture, and architecture, are arts. It becomes clear that if we will not include them among the “fine arts”, these not lacking in anything the other fine arts possess, that we are being merely arbitrary. Either each is a fine art, or each is art. Perhaps we need to do is drop the “fine” and settle that all of these arts are indeed, art. The fine point has been drawn!