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The classified arts of France

Louvre Museum view of the building set around a grand square

Every now and again, when chatting to French friends they’ll drop in a sentence that contains the words “the 7th Art” or maybe “the 9th Art” and recently there was talk about the “10th Art”. You, like me, might be wondering what on earth they’re going on about…

Well in France, the arts are classified. The 7th Art refers to cinema. The 9th Art refers to comics. And the 10th Art to video games! So what are the others and why are the arts classified?

It’s all down to a German philosopher by the name of Georg Wilhelm Freidrich Hegel (170-1831). It’s a pretty complex topic and he wrote heaps of notes the subject but what it boils down to is that art is defined as being a uniquely human activity. That the product of this activity or the idea that one has of it, deliberately addresses the senses, the emotions and the intellect.

His thesis was that art is unique to man. It distinguishes him in nature, and that this activity has no clearly defined functions. And while he was writing lecture notes for his students, the idea of classifying arts was born, though the origins of categorising art go back to Greek antiquity and the nine muses. They were the daughters of Zeus and their arts were: eloquence and epic poetry, history, lyrical and choral poetry, music, tragedy, rhetoric, dance and choral singing, comedy and astronomy.

After Hegel’s death, his notes were collected in a book, “Aesthetics”, which explains his vision of the link between art and the world. His classifications of the 5 major arts caught on in France but since then its been an evolving list and five more arts have been added.

The French Arts

1st Art: Architecture

2nd Art: Sculpture

3rd Art: Visual arts – painting and drawing

4th Art: Music

5th Art: Literature and poetry, writing in general

6th Art: Performing Arts, dance, theatre, mime and circus

7th Art: Cinema

8th Art: Media arts – radio, television, photography

9th Art: Comics. They’re a respected art form in  France which boasts the world-famous La Cité Internationale de la Bande Dessinée et de l’Image in Angouleme, and hosts an annual huge comic festival. (Read more about it in what to see and do in Angouleme).

10th Art: Video games or digital art forms…

So next time you hear the expression the 7th Art, you’ll be able to drop in a few comments on the other arts too!

More on the arts in France

History of the Louvre – the world’s most visited museum
La Piscine Museum, Roubaix – an art deco wonder with a world class collection
If you like your art weird and wonderful – check out the Fondation du Doute in Blois, Loire Valley
Carrieres de Lumieres, Provence

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