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Portal:Arts

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The Arts Portal


The Parthenon

The Parthenon on top of the Acropolis, Athens, Greece

The arts is a vast subdivision of culture, composed of many creative endeavors and disciplines. It is a broader term than "art", which, as a description of a field, usually means only the visual arts. The arts encompass the visual arts, the literary arts and the performing artsmusic, theatre, dance and film, among others. This list is by no means comprehensive, but only meant to introduce the concept of the arts. For all intents and purposes, the history of the arts begins with the history of art. The arts might have origins in early human evolutionary prehistory.

Ancient Greek art saw the veneration of the animal form and the development of equivalent skills to show musculature, poise, beauty and anatomically correct proportions. Ancient Roman art depicted gods as idealized humans, shown with characteristic distinguishing features (e.g. Jupiter's thunderbolt). In Byzantine and Gothic art of the Middle Ages, the dominance of the church insisted on the expression of biblical and not material truths. Eastern art has generally worked in a style akin to Western medieval art, namely a concentration on surface patterning and local colour (meaning the plain colour of an object, such as basic red for a red robe, rather than the modulations of that colour brought about by light, shade and reflection). A characteristic of this style is that the local colour is often defined by an outline (a contemporary equivalent is the cartoon). This is evident in, for example, the art of India, Tibet and Japan. Religious Islamic art forbids iconography, and expresses religious ideas through geometry instead. The physical and rational certainties depicted by the 19th-century Enlightenment were shattered not only by new discoveries of relativity by Einstein and of unseen psychology by Freud, but also by unprecedented technological development. Paradoxically the expressions of new technologies were greatly influenced by the ancient tribal arts of Africa and Oceania, through the works of Paul Gauguin and the Post-Impressionists, Pablo Picasso and the Cubists, as well as the Futurists and others.

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Hieroglyphs from the tomb of Seti I
Ancient Egyptian literature was written in the Egyptian language from Ancient Egypt's pharaonic period until the end of Roman domination. Along with Sumerian literature, it is considered the world's earliest literature. Writing in Ancient Egypt first appeared in the late 4th millennium BC. By the Old Kingdom, literary works included funerary texts, epistles and letters, religious hymns and poems, and commemorative autobiographical texts. It was not until the early Middle Kingdom that a narrative Egyptian literature was created. Middle Egyptian, the spoken language of the Middle Kingdom, became a classical language during the New Kingdom, when the vernacular language known as Late Egyptian first appeared in writing. Scribes of the New Kingdom canonized and copied many literary texts written in Middle Egyptian, which remained the language used for oral readings of sacred hieroglyphic texts. Ancient Egyptian literature has been preserved on a wide variety of media, including papyrus scrolls and packets, limestone or ceramic ostraca, wooden writing boards, monumental stone edifices and coffins. Hidden caches of literature, buried for thousands of years, have been discovered in settlements on the dry desert margins of Egyptian civilization.

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Hohenzollern Bridge
Credit: Photo: Thomas Wolf

The Hohenzollern Bridge crossing the Rhine in Cologne, Germany, with the Cologne Cathedral in the background. The bridge is a tied-arch railway bridge, as well as a pedestrian bridge. Originally built in 1911, it survived numerous Allied bombings in World War II, only to be destroyed by German engineers as the war drew to a close. Reconstruction began soon after and the bridge was opened to pedestrian traffic in 1948 then completely opened in 1959.

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painting of coach and horses

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Photo of Sylvanus G. Morley, circa 1912
Sylvanus Morley was an American archaeologist, epigrapher and Mayanist scholar who made significant contributions towards the study of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization in the early 20th century. He is particularly noted for his extensive excavations of the Maya site of Chichen Itza. He also published several large compilations and treatises on Maya hieroglyphic writing, and wrote popular accounts on the Maya for a general audience. To his contemporaries he was one of the leading Mesoamerican archaeologists of his day; although more recent developments in the field have resulted in a re-evaluation of his theories and works, his publications (particularly on calendric inscriptions) are still cited. Overall, his commitment and enthusiasm for Maya studies would generate the interest and win the necessary sponsorship and backing to finance projects which would ultimately reveal much about the Maya of former times. His involvement in clandestine espionage activities at the behest of the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence was another, surprising, aspect of his career, which came to light only well after his death.

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The toccata from L'Orfeo, composed by Claudio Monteverdi in 1607. Performed by Trisdee and the Bangkok Baroque Ensemble.

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