Art is an extremely private experience, yet, it is meant to be shared with the public. Society, as a whole, examines the art produced and has the right to approve, disapprove, acknowledge, ignore, praise and abuse it. The public or society has not remained constant over the years. In the time of the Renaissance, for example, only a select few were "society." They commissioned art, were patrons of the arts and their artists. Today, almost anyone can share in the experience of art. They can attempt to create, view and act as a critic.
Does art make the world a better place, or is it quite useless? This is a very ancient riddle, and no one has solved it yet. A similar question - has art truly had any impact upon society? Has it fashioned or molded minds? Has it shaped opinions and altered how people feel or think? Is it practicable in or relevant to society and its individuals' daily lives?
Art reflects life. It is a portrait of history, whether it is history of the current moment or an event in the past or something of the imagination. Art has captured an event, clarifying its existence and representation to society. The portraits of the French Revolution by David, Benjamin West's portrayal of the death of General Wolfe and Poussin's recreation of the Rape of the Sabine Women all strive to provide a version of historical events. Society, in turn, can accept or reject these portrayals of true events. Sometimes, as in the case of Goya's depiction of the French behavior during their conquest of Spain, art inspires a deep hatred of a certain nationality.
Art encapsulate a country's culture during that time period. Rembrandt, Rousseau, Monet, Hogarth, Whistler, Jan Steen, Frans Hal and Breughel depict for their generation the world as they see it. They affect future society by providing concise, if sometimes imaginative, depictions of daily life. Brughel the Elder paints peasants, Jean Baptiste depicts lower-class life and Daumier's subjects in "The Third...
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