My photo for me, art and photography.

Monday, 9 March 2009


I had one of those days today where I'm doing something, and a random word, or name or question pops into my head - absolutely for no reason, and I'm not content until I've looked it up. I blame my grandfather and my dad for this - "look it up" is the mantra - usually involving dropping everything they're doing to look it up instantly. So. Here's the question.

What is Art? as in what does it actually mean - where does it come from? is it Greek for something totally unrelated to what we now connect with art?

I sat in on an open lecture at university once - I can't remember the name of it, or the guest lecturer, but he was talking about the word 'clue' - we associate it with detectives - a tangible thing to link one thing to another. If my memory serves, 'clue' goes back to ancient times, the Greeks, and the myth of the minotaur - remember that one? where the princess stands outside the labyrinth holding a ball of string, while her lover goes in to take on the half-man half bull? well the word for string, in those days was 'clue'. Follow the clue to find 'X' follow the string to find the answer. So there you go. Bit of classical etymology for you.

Now for art: here's what the online dictionary of etymology has to say:

art (n.)
c.1225, "skill as a result of learning or practice," from O.Fr. art, from L. artem, (nom. ars) "art, skill, craft," from PIE *ar-ti- (cf. Skt. rtih "manner, mode;" Gk. arti "just," artios "complete;" Armenian arnam "make," Ger. art "manner, mode"), from base *ar- "fit together, join" (see arm (1)). In M.E. usually with sense of "skill in scholarship and learning" (c.1305), especially in the seven sciences, or liberal arts (divided into the trivium -- grammar, logic, rhetoric -- and the quadrivium --arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy). This sense remains in Bachelor of Arts, etc. Meaning "human workmanship" (as opposed to nature) is from 1386. Sense of "cunning and trickery" first attested c.1600. Meaning "skill in creative arts" is first recorded 1620; esp. of painting, sculpture, etc., from 1668. Broader sense of the word remains in artless (1589). As an adj. meaning "produced with conscious artistry (as opposed to popular or folk) it is attested from 1890, possibly from infl. of Ger. kunstlied "art song" (cf. art film, 1960; art rock, c.1970). Fine arts, "those which appeal to the mind and the imagination" first recorded 1767. Art brut "art done by prisoners, lunatics, etc.," is 1955, from Fr., lit. "raw art." Artsy "pretentiously artistic" is from 1902. Expression art for art's sake (1836) translates Fr. l'art pour l'art. First record of art critic is from 1865. Arts and crafts "decorative design and handcraft" first attested in the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, founded in London, 1888.
"Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truths, passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius, but never abandoned. The revolt of individualism came because the tradition had become degraded, or rather because a spurious copy had been accepted in its stead." [William Butler Yeats]

so basically, underneath all those 'from the noun' 'cf. skt.rtih' magical code words that don't really mean anything to us mere mortals without a doctorate in etymology, The gist is:

ART = To Make

Sounds about right.

Make art, not war.
Make art, not money

Going to pop to Kingston to stock up on some proper drawing pencils and drawing paper in a bit - will hopefully have something to show for it by tonight.

As I side note, looking up photos of classic stars to draw, and came across this photo of Cary Grant... I've had a mild crush for years, but really... this is full blown love now! This is definitely on the list of 'things to draw'

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