The oldest documented forms of art are visual arts, which include creation of images or objects in fields including today painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and other visual media.
Architecture is often included as one of the visual arts; however, like the decorative arts, or advertising, it involves the creation of objects where the practical considerations of use are essential—in a way that they usually are not in a painting, for example.
Panorama of a section of A Thousand Li of Mountains and Rivers, a 12th-century painting by Song dynasty artist Wang Ximeng.
artistic works have existed for almost as long as humankind: from early pre-historic art to contemporary art; however, some theories restrict the concept of "artistic works" to modern Western societies.
In modern usage after the 17th century, where aesthetic considerations are paramount, the fine arts are separated and distinguished from acquired skills in general, such as the decorative or applied arts.
Art may be characterized in terms of mimesis (its representation of reality), narrative (storytelling), expression, communication of emotion, or other qualities.
During the Romantic period, art came to be seen as "a special faculty of the human mind to be classified with religion and science".
Works of art can tell stories or simply express an aesthetic truth or feeling.Art has been defined as a vehicle for the expression or communication of emotions and ideas, a means for exploring and appreciating formal elements for their own sake, and as mimesis or representation.Art as mimesis has deep roots in the philosophy of Aristotle.Works of art can be explicitly made for this purpose or interpreted on the basis of images or objects.For some scholars, such as Kant, the sciences and the arts could be distinguished by taking science as representing the domain of knowledge and the arts as representing the domain of the freedom of artistic expression.Often, if the skill is being used in a common or practical way, people will consider it a craft instead of art.