The Nine Forms Of Art – All Art Forms Explained

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Art is part of what makes us human. Humans love to show off their creative skills and are impressed by the artistic skills of others. They love to create stories, written works, images, and songs, and they love to experience other people’s artworks.

Key Takeaways

  • There are a total of nine different art forms.
  • Pig paintings in ochre were found to be the oldest known examples of figurative art, dating back 45,500 years.
  • Cinema, created a century ago, is the newest of the nine art forms and has quickly become one of the most popular.
  • The oldest engravings (by Neanderthals) have been found in France, dating back 57,000 years.

All human cultures have always been interested in art and music – no one has ever been able to find a culture with little or no interest. The ability to appreciate art and music is built into the human psyche and exists everywhere, regardless of culture.


Archaeologists have discovered a life-sized painting of a wild pig in Indonesia’s Leang Tedongnge cave, which is at least 45,500 years old and is considered the world’s oldest known cave painting, providing evidence of the earliest human settlement in the region.

Humans may have been painting caves for as long as humans could create and appreciate art. Once humans could create and marvel at painted pictures, they may not have taken long to invent paintings.

Some figurines and petroglyphs are said to be hundreds of thousands of years old, but these dates are disputed. There might not be any real examples of flutes or figurines that are older than the oldest cave art.

The first paints were made from simple natural materials – ochre was a good source of color, and people also used animal fats, charcoal, and water to make paints. The paint worked so well on these cave walls that many of these paintings are still around today.

In later times, western art became much more realistic. A painting from 1600 looks far more realistic than a painting from 1300, as artists gradually became better at techniques for creating realism.

In the 19th century, photography was invented and seemed to threaten the purpose of painting. A photograph was more realistic than any painting could be and took much less time and effort to create.

Western artists reacted to photography by turning away from realism and towards stylistic and abstract art. New painting styles such as impressionism, cubism, and Dadaism allowed painters to create images that no photographer could do and that awed people in a way that had nothing to do with realism.

Different types of paint are used to create different styles of painting. Artists can use oil-based paint, watercolors, pastels, acrylic, or ink painting to create images.

There are even more genres of painting than there are types of paint. Modernism, abstract art, impressionism, photorealism, and surrealism are just a few styles. Dozens of new styles were invented in the twentieth century alone.

There are also many East Asian, Indian, African, and Islamic painting styles, including recently created styles. You can also categorize paintings by subject – portrait, landscape, etc. Countless old styles are still used, and many more will be invented.

Most popular paintings of all time:

  • Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci
  • The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci
  • The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh
  • The Scream by Edvard Munch
  • Guernica by Pablo Picasso

Sculpture and Installation

Sculpture is an art form that involves creating three-dimensional objects or forms using various materials such as stone, wood, metal, and clay.

Sculptors use techniques such as carving, modeling, and casting to create their works, which can range from realistic depictions of people or animals to abstract forms that explore texture, shape, and space.

Sculpture has been used for artistic, cultural, and religious purposes throughout history and can be found in a variety of public and private spaces.

The ancient Egyptians created human sculptures far more realistic than those from prehistory, and these techniques were improved upon by the ancient Greeks. There were also Babylonian and Mesopotamian master sculptors.

While we associate great classical paintings mostly with the Renaissance period, we associate great sculptures mostly with the ancient world. The realistic Greek and Roman statues are among the world’s best-known and most respected works of art.

There is also a tradition of realistic sculpture in West Africa, with the Benin bronzes being the best known. There are many ancient sculpture styles in the Americas and in Asia.

Sculptors work with different materials, such as clay, marble, wood, and bronze. Since bronze could be melted down and sold, many of the bronze statues of the past were lost to people who stole them and sold them for scrap. Statues and figurines made of precious metals have even more trouble lasting for many centuries.

Contemporary sculpture differs from ancient sculpture because it is less likely to represent an object. An ancient sculpture represents a person, a bird, a lion, an inanimate object, and so on; a modern sculpture might not represent anything.

Modern sculptors also make kinetic sculptures or sculptures that can move; these were rare in the ancient world. One thing that remains constant from one century to another is that sculpture is three-dimensional art. A sculptor needs a different way of thinking from a painter to create art in three dimensions.

The sculpture is made of mass and space. Sometimes, sculpture emphasizes space and not mass. A modern sculpture might be made of thin metal rods, not a solid object but one that you can mostly see through.

Another difference between sculpture and painting is that you usually cannot see all of a sculpture at once. A painting is two-dimensional, so it usually looks the same from any angle. With a sculpture, you usually have to walk around it and look at it from different angles to appreciate it fully.

Another form of modern sculpture is installation. Installation art is about building interior spaces for viewers to walk around in. Some outdoor sculptures are also considered installation art but tend to be indoors.

An example of a piece of installation art is Rachel Whiteread’s embankment, a large room decorated with structures made of white cubes.

An artist might decorate more than one room, and there could be people or objects for you to interact with within these rooms. An example of outdoor installation art is a giant crab made out of environmentally hazardous plastics.

Most popular sculptures of all time:

  • Venus de Milo
  • David by Michelangelo
  • The Thinker by Auguste Rodin
  • The Winged Victory of Samothrace
  • The Great Sphinx of Giza


The oldest play may not be nearly as old as the oldest painting or figurine, but theater still has a long history. Western plays existed long before the time of Shakespeare, going back as far as ancient Greece and some of these plays are still performed today.

Every theatrical performance is unique and requires a skilled director and good actors to impress the audience.

While someone who loves a movie might only watch it a few times, you can watch the same play many times. Every performance is unique. The two performances of Hamlet can be very different.

Of course, a bad play can fail because it has a poor script, which a good director and good actors might not be able to make a good performance out of. The script, the sets, the costumes, and the actors must all work together to create an outstanding performance.

Modern plays are influenced by non-western traditions as well. Japanese Noh theatre and Chinese Peking Opera influence play produced in the West and elsewhere today.

Most popular theater plays of all time:

  • Les Misérables by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  • The Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber
  • A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
  • Cats by Andrew Lloyd Webber


Architecture is the art of building. Architecture is everywhere – our houses, apartments, stores, and bridges are all partly artistic and not purely functional. Some buildings are more decorative, and others are more functional.

Göbekli Tepe in Southeastern Turkey is an archaeological site dating back to 9500-8000 BCE and is considered the oldest structure on earth discovered through carbon dating of old tools found during excavations.

Buildings have always had artistic merit. The Egyptian pyramids were originally white-colored, and covered in casing stones, so they would shine in the sun and be visible from a long way away.

When we think of an ancient civilization, one of the first things we think of is its architecture. Some of the most famous pieces of ancient architecture are the Taj Mahal in India, the pyramids in Egypt, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and the Coliseum in Rome. Cathedrals and Mosques are among the most famous medieval and early modern structures.

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is a great example of modern architecture. It is as modern and futuristic as possible and a work of art. The Sydney opera house in Australia is another wonder of the modern world. The design of the opera house’s roof is ingenious and like nothing built before then.

Most popular architectural buildings of all time:

  • The Colosseum in Rome, Italy
  • The Taj Mahal in Agra, India
  • The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt
  • The Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia
  • The Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates


Music is an art form that uses sound and rhythm to express emotions, ideas, and moods. It combines instruments, vocals, and other musical elements such as melody, harmony, and rhythm.

Music is often used for entertainment, cultural expression, and communication, and it can significantly impact individuals and societies.

Music ranges from simple to complex, from an orchestra with dozens of instruments to a vocal song with only one singer and no instruments.

Music is used to enhance many other art forms. Stage plays, movies, and other live and recorded performances include music. Music has accompanied dance for as long as anyone can remember.

Music can be thought of as a universal language. Words in one language mean nothing to speakers of a very different language. However, a piece of music that conveys an emotion can have the same effect on people everywhere in the world.

New forms of music appear every year on every continent of the world. While interest in theatre may have decreased, interest in music is just as high as ever.

Many parts of the world have complex classical music traditions and countless new and old forms of popular music. Electric guitars, synthesizers, and computer technology have helped people make new forms of music in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Scientists have studied how music affects the brain more than how other art forms affect the brain. By using brain imaging technology, scientists are learning how music affects people’s emotions and psychological states.

Most popular music songs of all time:

  • Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
  • Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin
  • Imagine by John Lennon
  • Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana


Like all forms of art, dance is about expressing emotions and about culture and tradition. Usually, dancers move their bodies in time with the music, though there are exceptions.

Different dances have different time signatures. Every song has a tempo: the number of beats per minute. People training with dance instructors learn about terms like time signatures and measures.

Dance can be a more emotional experience than other art forms because you participate in it and not merely observe. The music, the movement, and the skill and effort it takes give dance its emotional power.

Dance is also a live performance art like theatre is. There is a script, a director, and performers. Sometimes, a dance performance even tells a story.

Many sports are also inspired by dance acts. Figure skating is similar to a dance act, and so is synchronized swimming or gymnastics. Even some martial arts have a lot in common with dance.

Most popular dance performances of all time:

  • Swan Lake by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  • The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  • West Side Story choreographed by Jerome Robbins
  • Revelations choreographed by Alvin Ailey
  • The Rite of Spring choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky


Literature refers to written works, including poetry, prose, and drama, that have artistic or intellectual value and convey ideas, emotions, and experiences through language. It is a form of creative expression that reflects a society or community’s cultural and social values, beliefs, and history.

One of the world’s oldest and most famous pieces of literature is the epic of Gilgamesh, a Sumerian epic that predates the Greek and even the Ancient Egyptian classics. It may be the oldest piece of great literature one can find anywhere.

While literature is thousands of years old, one could argue that novels are only a few hundred. The oldest modern novels may have been written in the 18th century. One could argue that many earlier works, such as the Japanese Tale of Genji or the Roman Satirycon, are novels, but others disagree.

Some later candidates for the first novel include Robinson Crusoe (1719), Moll Flanders (1722), or Don Quixote (1605). Earlier literature usually claimed to be true rather than fiction, even if it was full of magical events and fictional places that people, even at the time, would not believe.

The novels of the 18th century did not dwell on magical events the way earlier romances did. They often included magical or implausible events but were also about the state of society at the time.

Many people were strongly critical of the new novels in the 18th century, but they soon became the most important form of literature in the West and the world.

Many people become rich or famous from their novels, and countless literary awards are given to novelists, with the Nobel Prize for Literature probably being the most prestigious.

Most popular literature of all time:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger


Moving pictures are one of the newest art forms. While crude ways of projecting images are older than the 19th century, there were no movies before the late 1800s and no feature-length films before the 20th century.

At first, films were very simple – a few minutes’ worths of workers leaving a factory, for example – because the new technology would excite people. It didn’t matter if some of the first films publicly exhibited in the 1890s had essentially no story – people would want to see them as an exciting demonstration of new technology.

In the twentieth century, it quickly became necessary for films to have stories, characters, humor, and action. Feature-length films soon became much more important than short films.

Before long, shooting a successful film usually required a large budget, and Hollywood became the world’s movie capital. Much later, VHS tapes, DVDs, Blu-Ray, and streaming turned movies from something seen primarily in public to something seen mostly at home.

Some of the most popular movies of all time:

  • The Godfather
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • The Dark Knight
  • The Godfather: Part II
  • Pulp Fiction


Comics are another new art form, with no clear decade at which they appeared. People think first of superhero comics. The first superhero comics were created in the United States in the 1930s, with Superman being one of the first and still the most famous superheroes.

However, there is far more to comics than superhero comics. The art form has gone in countless directions over the decades.

Graphic novels are very different from shorter and cheaper comics. Graphic novels are longer, have a huge range of subject matter, and are aimed more at adults than regular comics.

Japanese comics, or Manga, are one of the most popular forms of comics. Manga arguably existed already in the 12th century, and artworks similar to comics long before. It is a separate tradition that did not branch off from the American comics of the first half of the 20th century.

China, Korea, Belgium, France, Britain, Spain, and Italy all have their own styles of comics. While comic fans prefer physical copies, digital distribution is also popular.

Most popular comics and manga of all time:

  • One Piece (manga)
  • Naruto (manga)
  • Batman (Western comic)
  • Dragon Ball (manga)
  • Spider-Man (Western comic)

Fetaue image credits.



Digital Artist

I’m a digital artist who is passionate about anime and manga art. My true artist journey pretty much started with CTRL+Z. When I experienced that and the limitless color choices and the number of tools I could use with art software, I was sold. Drawing digital anime art is the thing that makes me happy among eating cheeseburgers in between veggie meals.

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