Art for Art and Art for Life: the Trouble with the Term Art

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Art can be considered as anything that calms the soul and gives joy to the heart. There is no proper definition for art according to me. The beauty of art is that we can find it everywhere and in anything. The term “art for art’s sake” arises from the early 19th century French slogan, “l’ art pour l’ art”.

To the people who follow the “art for art’s sake” doctrine, art had a purpose in itself and that is to appeal to the eyes and the heart and not be forced to express things like spirituality or patriotism and followed the concept that art needs no justification. The people who followed “Art for Life’s sake” doctrine, claims that art has to benefit a larger audience, and not just the state or church.

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It has always been a debate whether or not art should be only for art’s sake, which means should art just be accepted for what it is or, whether art should be for life’s sake. I personally believe it should be for both. Art does not always need to have a meaning or serve any other purpose than just be beautiful as it is. This does not mean that a beautiful piece of poetry or a book about the Greek history is not art. A serious book or a poem about the relevant topic in society through literature is also art. There should not be limits as to what a person perceives as art. Beauty always lies in the eye of the beholder.

There is a lot of criticism concerning both of these doctrines. Art has always been a form of expressing one’s emotions and feeling and the freedom to do that should always remain while it is also important that people write and express the various issues in the society through their art. We are not in a position to belittle one form of art while uplifting the other.

Several great artists believed art should only be for art’s sake and not have any purpose of moral preaching or improving man, while several others believed that every artistic piece should have a purpose. I believe that the people should have the liberty to choose what they like. Art can be a way of expressing their deepest feelings and desires in a way that’s accepted by the society. Nobody should draw the line or try to define art for someone else. Each one of us deserve to have a completely different and original definition of art.

Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that, somewhere in between Art for Art and Art for Life, we can understand the true meaning of art. Maybe it is alright if we do not. Not all things in this world were meant to be understood anyways.

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