Meaning Behind Art and Architecture

Updated on May 15, 2016

The Meaning of Art

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The Relationship Between Art and Architecture

Art and architecture have a deep connection that unites them through their design, their designer, and their individual meanings. Both are created using the same organizing principles, the same visual elements, and the same engagement of the senses. Art and architecture both have meaning. They are simultaneously expressive and communicative. The artist "shapes" an object to visually express a complex set of ideas, and the audience receives that expression. Architects create livable or usable spaces, but their architectural structures are also significant beyond their functionality.

The Meaning of Architecture

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Formal Analysis of Art and Architecture

Formal analysis is an integrated study of all the formal qualities of an art object to see how they all work together. We can then see how they add to the overall meaning of that piece of art. Formal qualities add to an artwork because they are aesthetically satisfying. Looking at art is a different experience from looking at the general environment, which is visually disjointed and disorganized. The formal qualities of artworks make them satisfying visual experiences, which adds considerable power to art. Size, scale, texture and value are all formal elements in art that contribute to a works meaning. Size, scale and value are formal elements in architecture that enhance the meaning of a building.

Reading the Content of Art and Architecture

Content is an artwork's theme or message. Some aspects of content may be obvious just by looking at a piece, while other aspects must be learned. Content is conveyed primarily in three ways:

  1. Through the artwork's subject matter
  2. Through interpreting or reading its symbolic or iconographic references that go beyond the subject matter
  3. By studying the art writings and cultural background that explain or expand the content of the work

Subject matter is the most obvious factor in the content of an artwork. What is the piece about? Through observation, you can grasp much about the subject matter of a piece by studying it's tones, textures and content.

Subtexts are underlying themes or messages associated with a piece of art. Subtexts at the content of a piece.

Iconography is the use of metaphors and/or symbols in a piece of art or architecture. Iconography is a form of picture writing that uses images or symbols to express complex ideas. It can be embedded in architecture and in art as a way to express political, religious or genealogical messages.

Iconography in Art and Architecture

Artists often use iconography to express religious beliefs in their work.
Artists often use iconography to express religious beliefs in their work. | Source

Feminist Criticism as a Way to Critique Art

In the late twentieth century, art critics used the philosophical position of feminist criticism to critique art and architecture.
In the late twentieth century, art critics used the philosophical position of feminist criticism to critique art and architecture. | Source

The Writings of Professionals Pertaining to Art and Architecture

What else adds to the content of art and architecture? The various people who write about art and architecture as a profession, such as art critics, historians and academics contribute to the content of a work or a building.

Content is not fixed and permanent in artworks from the moment they are made. Rather, content is formed over and over gain, as each period reexamines and assess the work. Writers from different periods may have different interpretations of the same piece of art.

Some art critics and writers base their work on their personal or subjective reactions to art. Most influential critics however write from particular philosophical positions. The twentieth century saw a rise of five major positions from which most critics wrote.

Formalist criticism, popular in the min-twentieth century, emphasized the importance of formal qualities in art and architecture. Ideological criticism, popular in the late twentieth century, was rooted in the writings of Karl Marx, and dealt with political implications of art. Structuralist-based criticism, also known as structuralism, studied the social and cultural structure of a work. Deconstruction holds that there is a multitude of meanings in any text, image or structure. Psychoanalytic criticism looks at art as the product of individuals who have been influenced by their own personal pasts, unconscious urges and social histories. Feminist criticism focused on the oppression of groups of people in a given society.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Where we view art affects how we interpret art. The museum setting encourages us to appreciate the formal qualities of a piece that we may not be likely to notice in a different setting.
Where we view art affects how we interpret art. The museum setting encourages us to appreciate the formal qualities of a piece that we may not be likely to notice in a different setting. | Source

The Influence of Context in Art and Architecture

Context consists of the interrelated social and political conditions that surround a work or building. Context includes a host of factors, such as historical events, economic trends, contemporary cultural developments, religious attitudes, other artworks at the time and so on and so forth.

We encounter art in all kinds of ways, and the nature our encounter add meaning to the piece. The way we encounter art even changes how the art looks. Art can appear in museums, in galleries, on the street, at family gatherings, at malls, at shows, and more. In each case, the venue affects the value and meaning of the piece.

Synopsis of How to Derive Meaning from Art and Architecture

Art communicates complex ideas and emotions. It does so because of its formal qualities, its content, its context, and the ways we encounter it.

Formal qualities are the structure and composition of a work of art or architecture. Formal qualities organize our visual perception, emphasize certain areas of an artwork, communicate general emotional moods and add to our aesthetic pleasure in a work.

An artwork has content, sometimes in many complex layers. We "read' content through subject matter and iconography. We also rely on the writings by professionals to add to our understanding of a piece or a building.

Every work of art was created in a specific historical, political, social or religious context. Knowing about that context broadens and deepens our knowledge, understanding and appreciation for a particular work of art.

The Relationship Between Art and Architecture

The interior of Grand Central Station in New York City is an architectural marvel for people all over the globe.
The interior of Grand Central Station in New York City is an architectural marvel for people all over the globe. | Source

Art and Architecture Poll

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Questions & Answers

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      • oceansnsunsets profile image

        Paula 

        4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

        Hello Kathleen, this is a very interesting hub, and I love art and architecture. I find myself taking photos of different kinds of architecture because it is so beautiful. As for sculptures like you share here, I truly enjoy seeing it whenever I do. I enjoy seeing it in gardens especially it seems, but I also like to see it wherever it is.

        On a side note, I had never seen the inside of Grand Central Station, and that is a neat photo. Thank you for sharing the photos and information!

      • Kathleen Odenthal profile imageAUTHOR

        Kathleen Odenthal 

        4 years ago from Bridgewater

        Thanks so much MsDora, I couldn't wipe the smile off of my face when I opened the email telling me I was the HOTB!

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        4 years ago from The Caribbean

        Congratulations on winning the HOTD accolade for this impressive article.

      • Dbro profile image

        Dbro 

        4 years ago from Texas, USA

        Fantastic hub, Kathleen! I am an artist, and I always appreciate an informative, thoughtful article about the arts. It seems in our fast-paced, technologically driven world the arts seem to be all but ignored.

        I agree that art and architecture can be analyzed and studied, but one can't ignore the emotional impact objects of beauty can have even for those who are untrained in its subtleties.

      • profile image

        Ben 

        4 years ago

        Magnific art and photos

        http://www.juegogratisde.com/

      • lmoyer92 profile image

        Leon Moyer 

        4 years ago

        Excellent hub, and I absolutely loved reading it. Art is a wonderful topic to write about. Keep the great hubs coming, and I'll be sure to read them :)

        Oh, and congratulations on the hub of the day!

      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 

        4 years ago from the short journey

        Congrats on your Hub of the Day award!

      • KimberlyLake profile image

        Kimberly Lake 

        4 years ago from California

        Very informative and detailed Hub. I enjoyed reading it very much. Voted up and interesting and pinned.

      • mikeswan profile image

        Mike Swan 

        4 years ago from Rochester

        Superb imagination of words.

      • raymondphilippe profile image

        Raymond Philippe 

        4 years ago from The Netherlands

        Fascinating to read a hub about two topics i enjoy. Excellent choice for hotd.

      • Kathleen Odenthal profile imageAUTHOR

        Kathleen Odenthal 

        4 years ago from Bridgewater

        Thank you so much for your post! Im a photographer full-time so I greatly appreciate your kind words

      • profile image

        swilliams 

        4 years ago

        Welcome Kathleen! Congrats on HOTD! Very intriguing article. You have a gift for capturing still art! The lighting is beautiful. Voted up!

      • Kathleen Odenthal profile imageAUTHOR

        Kathleen Odenthal 

        4 years ago from Bridgewater

        Thanks Eddy!

      • Eiddwen profile image

        Eiddwen 

        4 years ago from Wales

        Very interesting and useful.

        Thanks for sharing. and voted up.

        Eddy.

      • Kathleen Odenthal profile imageAUTHOR

        Kathleen Odenthal 

        4 years ago from Bridgewater

        Thanks Billy! I use to write for Suite101, not sure if you know that site. Its an old site that used to be rev share but not any more, so now that I found HP, I am very excited to be part of the community. Everyone here is very welcoming and I really like how the site is managed.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        4 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Very informative and nicely done! You are doing much better than I did when I started out. :)

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