Art, Man and Society

Purpose of Art

  • Beauty, Ugliness, and Truth
  • Immortality, Glory and Religion
  • Ideology and Fantasy
  • Intellect and Emotion
  • Order, Harmony, and Chaos
  • Experience and Memory
  • Social and Cultural Context
  • Popular Culture and Decoration



Qualities of Art

Artistic crafts, as one of the fields of humanities, can be judged based on one’s personal and subjective way of thinking. The arts require personal, reflective, and interpretative level of thinking as oppose to the sciences which heavily require objectivity, facts, and evidences. In this regard, there are various aspects to consider in critiquing and judging any work of art.

– SPCRUZML and Jun Pedrena


  • Has aesthetic sense and value. 
  • Is Universal
  • Is Timeless
  • Is Unique
  • Impacts the mind and soul
  • Has human intervention
  • Has creative intention

Art should…

  • Be appreciated
  • Challenge the creative mind and spirit of man
  • Convey and express
  • Heal

See Functions of Art

Art and Man

The qualities and functions of art contribute to the inconceivable influence it has in human behavior, belief and lifestyle. It’s as good as saying that if water comprises sixty percent of the human body, art occupies more than fifty percent of our mind. See


Art and Society



Traditionally, we have believed that art imitates life. The painter translates what he or she sees by producing a scene on a canvas. The sculptor does the same with bronze or stone. A photographer or filmmaker does it even more directly. A writer describes life in his or her books. This simple concept is known as mimesis.


But some have questioned the one-way nature of mimesis by arguing that art also changes the way we view the world, and in fact, life sometimes imitates art rather than the other way around. The person who first articulated this belief effectively was Oscar Wilde, best known for his work The Picture of Dorian Grey (See Ugly Writers). Speaking about the foggy conditions in London in the late 19th century, he wrote that the way we perceive them changed because of art. Referring to the “wonderful brown fogs that come creeping down our streets, blurring the gas lamps and turning houses into shadows” he argued that “poets and painters have taught [people] the loveliness of such effects”. According to Wilde, “They did not exist till Art had invented them.”

And you don’t have to look too far to see anti-mimesis in our lives. To what extent is our outlook on life altered by ideas we read in books? The portrayal of people in films? The styles we see in fashion photography? One great example of this is the TV series The Sopranos, and how it affected both the Mafia in the USA and the FBI.

Art’s influence on society: propaganda and censorship

Throughout history, it has always been the case that art has the power to change society, especially when new media are used to express an idea. During the First World War, for example, movie cameras were used for the first time to record trench warfare – when the film was shown in cinemas in Britain, audiences ran out screaming. This led to the government censoring further such use of such a powerful medium. And in government censorship, and use of art as propaganda, we see how seriously governments take the effect of art.


All of the major dictators of the C20th understood the power of art to influence the population. In Nazi Germany, Hitler set up the Ministry of Propaganda and National Enlightenment. It was headed by Goebbels, who made sure that nothing was published, performed, or exhibited without his approval.

And what Goebbels approved, of course, only fit in with Nazi ideology and ideas. In terms of art, this meant no modern and abstract art, certainly nothing hostile to the regime, and nothing that featured images other than the stereotypical blonde-haired, blue eyed set in idyllic pastoral scenes of blissful happiness.


In Stalinist Russia, there was also a keen understanding of the power of art. Art portrayed contented peasants, industrious workers, and Stalin himself. In fact, Stalin was shown god-like in many paintings, a phenomenon known as the Cult of Stalin. Just as in Germany, gigantic architectural projects expressed the power of the state.

However, there is no doubt that in Russia there were greater artistic achievements than in Nazi Germany. Composers worked with fewer hindrances – as seen in the works by Prokoviev and Shostakovich, and film-makers such as Eisenstein emerged.



Arnheim, Rudolf. Toward a Psychology of Art. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966.

Read more: Beauty and Ugliness – The Function Of Beauty – Art, Nature, University, and Aesthetics – JRank Articles