Art is an innately human act. No other species produce art in the respect of what we as humans consider art. With that being said, humans are the makers of art in its various forms. This includes art in the form of music, sculptures, paintings, drawings, writings, metalwork, and so much more.
In my personal opinion, I believe that certain traits are present innately in artists that are then refined to produce a certain amount of skill necessary to produce art that is both pleasing to the viewer as well as to the audience. For example, a child may have the innate ability to apply paint in a way that an animal may be seen however with practice the skill of applying that paint in a way in which the animal is more life-like. See the figures below (the original artist and title could not be found however the images were found on Pinterest).
The roles of an artist no doubt will change depending on the culture the artist is a part of and what the artist has been employed or is expected to do. From as early as the cave-dwellers, there have been humans creating art. The cave-dwellers often created works of art of the walls of caves that either acted as reminders that the hunting was good in this area or that there were many dangers in this area or even to tell stories about their environments. The artist’s role in this time may have been that of storyteller to other humans.
Serra da Capivara, Piauí, Brazil. Dated to: 28,000 to 6,000 B.C. | In this national park, paintings of jaguar, tapir and red deer (shown here, c. 10,000 B.C.) interact with human figures in scenes that include dancing and hunting. (Niède Guidon / Bradshaw Foundation):
In the Middle Ages, art often depicted religious symbols such as that of Christ or the Virgin Mary. Artists were often employed by the Church or other religious leaders to produce art that could be displayed in the church or used to bring others to Christianity. One such piece is that of the “Madonna and Child” by the Italian artist Berlinghiero in the 1230s. The role of the artist here is that of religious portrayer. See the image below of Berlinghiero:
In the Victorian era, wallpaper became a modern luxury that the growing middle class could finally afford. Artists developed very ornate designs most often of floral designs that included bright greens, reds, and darker hues as well. These colors and ornate designs were to portray the middle class as that of status and no longer poor peasants as they had been before. In this role, the artist was that of encourager because people could finally afford to have things that had previously been a luxury only the wealthy could afford.
Over the course of thousands of years, art has changed in the style, form, medium, and moveability. One example of art that is moveable and that resonates with so many people of the time is that of the Vietnam War Memorial Wall. The wall is moveable and people are able to view the wall, find the names of their loved ones, and share emotions with people who have also been affected by the Vietnam War. The role of the artist in this sense is that of unifier by unifying the emotions of so many who were affected by this war.
All in all, the importance of the artist cannot be overstated with how much the artist has contributed to each society and each culture over the course of humanity. The roles of the artist may change but the importance of the artist as one who highlights the cultures he or she is inspired by will never change.
Lords and Ladies. (2017). Middle ages art. Lords and Ladies, 1-2.
Marchant, J. (2016). A journey to the oldest cave paintings in the world: The discovery in a remote part of Indonesia has scholars rethinking the origins of art-and of humanity. Smithsonian, 1-10.
Metropolitan Museum of Art. (2018). Madonna and child. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1.
Victorian Era. (2018). Victorian era wallpapers images, design patterns. Victorian Era, 1-3.
Westlake High School. (2018). Westlake high school’s virtual Vietnam project. Westlake High School, 1.