History of the Artist as a Concept in Art


Throughout the history of art, the concept of the artist has continuously evolved and been redefined. It is a concept that has been shaped and influenced by various societal, cultural, and political factors, as well as the evolution of art itself. From the earliest cave paintings to contemporary installations, the role of the artist and their position in society has undergone significant transformations. In this article, we will delve into the history of the artist as a concept in art, examining its origins and evolution, and the impact it has had on the art world.

The origins of the artist can be traced back to the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia, where art and craftsmanship were closely connected. During this time, artists were often regarded as skilled workers who created objects for utilitarian or religious purposes. The idea of individual creativity and expression was not yet associated with art, as the emphasis was on producing functional and aesthetically pleasing objects. Despite this, there were a few exceptional individuals, such as Imhotep, the architect of the Great Pyramid of Giza, who were highly revered for their artistic abilities.

The concept of the artist as a distinct and respected figure began to emerge during the Renaissance period in Europe. The revival of classical art and the humanist movement brought about a shift towards recognizing the individual talent and creativity of artists. This newfound appreciation for artistic genius was influenced by the rise of the merchant class, who commissioned works of art and provided the means for artists to support themselves financially. Artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo rose to fame during this period, solidifying the idea of the artist as a figure of importance in society.

However, it was not until the 18th and 19th centuries that the romantic notion of the artist as a tortured genius and societal outsider took hold. This was a time of great political and social upheaval, and art became a powerful tool for expressing individual and societal struggles. Artists were now seen as visionaries, challenging traditional beliefs and pushing the boundaries of what was considered acceptable. This shift in perception can be seen in the works of artists such as Francisco Goya and Vincent van Gogh, who captured the tumultuous spirit of the times through their art.

The modernist movement of the early 20th century further altered the concept of the artist. With the rejection of traditional forms and techniques, artists began to challenge the very definition of art itself. The avant-garde movements of Surrealism and Dada were driven by the desire to break free from societal constraints and question the role of the artist in the modern world. This paved the way for the emergence of conceptual art, where the idea or concept behind a work of art was considered more important than its physical manifestation.

Today, the concept of the artist continues to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of art. With the rise of digital and installation art, the boundaries of traditional art forms have been blurred, and the role of the artist has become more interdisciplinary. Moreover, the democratization of art has allowed for a wider range of voices and perspectives to be heard, challenging the idea of the artist as a singular, dominant figure.

In conclusion, the history of the artist as a concept in art is a testament to the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of the art world. From skilled craftsmen to revered geniuses, tortured souls, and boundary-pushers, the role of the artist has been constantly shifting and redefined throughout history. As society and art continue to evolve, so too will the concept of the artist, and it will be exciting to see how it evolves in the future.