5 Philosophies of Art You Must Know About

Mimesis or Realism

According to the Mimetic or Realism philosophy, art’s primary function is to imitate or represent reality faithfully. The value of art lies in its ability to capture the truth and beauty of the natural world.


Expressivism emphasizes the artist’s emotional or psychological expression as the primary purpose of art. Art serves as a means for artists to convey their inner feelings, thoughts, and experiences. The viewers must connect with the artist on an emotional level.


Formalists believe that art should be analyzed and appreciated based solely on its visual or structural aspects. It focuses on the formal qualities of art - composition, colour, line, shape, and texture. The aesthetic value of art is derived from these elements and their arrangement, irrespective of its content or context.

Institutional Theory

According to the Institutional Theory, the context and the role of the art world are paramount in determining what qualifies as art. Something becomes art when it is designated as such by the institutions (museums, galleries) and practices (critics).


Postmodernism emerged in the late 20th century. It challenges traditional art conventions and questions the existence of a single, objective meaning in art. It emphasizes the multiplicity of interpretations, incorporating elements of past styles, and recontextualizing them to blur the boundaries between high and low culture.