Fine Art or Decorative Art? What`s the Difference?

My goal in this post is to explore some of the differences between Fine Art and Decorative Art. Helping you make informed decisions when choosing.
Reading Time: 10 minutes


  • Fine art is created for aesthetic expression and emotional response, while decorative art is primarily made for aesthetic purposes and to enhance the surroundings.
  • The value of fine art lies in its unique concept, creativity, and personal expression, whereas decorative art is valued for its craftsmanship, materials used, and appeal to a wider audience.
  • Understanding the difference between fine art and decorative art helps individuals appreciate the artistic intent behind each form and enables them to make informed choices when collecting or appreciating art.

Introduction: Fine Art or Decorative Art

One of the most frequently asked questions by artists is whether their work qualifies as fine art or decorative art. Art historians will tell you that there are only so many ways to make beautiful works, but no one knows for sure what constitutes “fine art.” It can, however, be just as prestigious as traditional forms of art if done correctly.

Painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and poetry were historically the five main fine arts, with theatre and dance being examples of performing arts. Outside of education, the concept is usually only applied to the visual arts.

The process of selecting an artwork can be difficult at times, especially when dealing with fine or decorative art. What are these two terms, and how do they differ? It can be difficult to decide which is better due to the subtle differences between both equally valid types.

You know what? You should not be perplexed any longer, because the differences will be clarified in this post. Continue reading to discover the true meaning of fine art vs decorative art or decorative art vs fine art.

What Is The Difference Between Fine Art and Decorative Art?

Fine art and decorative art have something in common: they are both profound acts of creativity. Knowing the difference can be difficult, but we will break everything down for you and help you make the distinction in this post.

Before I go any further, I’d like to avoid any condescending overtones or portray any kind of patronising superiority toward either fine or decorative works. These are, in my opinion, always in the eye of the beholder and, at times, interchangeable terms. Let us start by looking at the ways they are made.

What Is Fine Art?

So, could you show me some examples of fine art? For decades, the fine arts have been increasingly viewed as part of a constantly evolving cultural world. With new forms of work constantly being produced, debated, and consumed, it is easy to see why the definition of fine art is changing.

Some define fine art as simply painting, drawing, sculpture, film, architecture, music, poetry, photography, theatre, dance, or any other art form that aims to convey an artist’s creative vision.

Fine art is a one-of-a-kind special piece created by an artist that is unavailable anywhere else.

The goal of an artist is to communicate their interpretation of external or internal reality, regardless of whether it is appealing or not. It is objective, ‘true,’ and inaccessible to the viewer.

A human heart cannot exist in an artwork created by an android or machine! It has to be genuine. This is why we talk about the ‘human touch’ in the fine arts. It will never compare to the human touch, whether it can now be created by an algorithm or robots! For some people, fine art is a religion.

The History and Origins of Decorative Art

Decorative art can be traced back to ancient civilizations. Decorative art was an important part of many cultures, and pieces from this time are still treasured today. This type of art was created for its visual appeal rather than for its cultural or historical significance. It frequently included sculptures, paintings, pottery, jewellery, and other objects designed to be visually appealing.

Decorative art was also used to ornament homes and buildings and to express wealth and status. This style of art has existed since the dawn of time, with examples found in Ancient Greece, Rome, China, and Egypt. 

Islamic art, for instance, is entirely composed of decorative arts from different eras and regions. Islamic ornament is made up of four main elements: calligraphy, botanical patterns, geometric patterns, and figurative representation.

Decorative objects have evolved in recent years and can now be found in a variety of forms and styles, ranging from modern abstract art to traditional folk art. It is used aesthetic purposes in homes and buildings today, adding a unique and eye-catching touch to any space. 

It provides people with an easy and affordable way to appreciate the beauty of art while also learning about its history and origins. Decorative art is an important part of many cultures, and generations of people around the world appreciate it.

What Is Decorative Art?

As we compare fine and applied art, you may be wondering how to differentiate between the two. It depends on who you ask. Many people will be under the impression that it is a form that serves no purpose.

This could imply that a painting on a wall is not decorative art, as it may serve a functional purpose by reducing sound in a room. But what about a curtain? Some may argue that a curtain rod is not decorative art because it serves the functional purpose of holding up the curtains.

Decorative art is frequently mass-produced for broad consumption and is simple to reproduce in huge quantities. Objects are typically designed with both beauty and functionality in mind. It can also be argued that decorative objects make a certain lifestyle more accessible to those who want to project and emulate it.

The goal of decorative art is to create aesthetically pleasing objects of high quality.

Craft to Commercialism 

Terence Conran, who died in September 2020, seems appropriate to mention. Conran was a well-known English designer, restaurateur, retailer, and author. In 1964, he founded Habitat for Humanity in London. Ikea and the British Arts and Crafts Movement are likely to have influenced him (in vogue between 1880 and 1920). In 1992, Habitat became part of the Ikano Group, which is now owned by the Kamprad family.

Many of Coran’s works were inspired by William Morris‘ desire to bring “intelligently designed products to the mass markets.”

To accompany this post, I created a composite portrait of Morris – by Frederick Hollyer in 1888.  I have combined this with one of William Morris’s patterns `Strawberry Thief`, a popular repeating textile design, with its floral motifs.

The William Morris Gallery is a museum dedicated to the life and works of William Morris. It is housed at Water House in Walthamstow, a tremendous Grade II listed Georgian mansion. Lloyd Park, the museum’s extensive grounds, also serves as a public park

"Home is the heart of life. Home is where we feel at ease, where we belong, where we can create surroundings that reflect our tastes and pleasure. Making a home is a form of creativity open to everyone."

Emotions of Art

Another unique point about fine arts is that they spark emotions, making them ideal for personalised or unique gift ideas. On the other hand, decorative art is just to decorate and make your home or office space beautiful; and although it does the job, it doesn’t quite have the same impressive effect of fine works.

Fine artworks generally have a greater meaning, appealing to our emotions. When decorating your home or office, don’t you want to have that strong feeling, that emotional connection and vibe coming from paintings on your wall? I guess you do, and this can easily be achieved through fine art. If you want your office to simply look attractive, you can go for decorative pieces.

But, if you want something more than decoration, something that connects deeply to the emotions, a thought-provoking design, then fine art is a better alternative and your surest way to go.

When you see an art piece, what comes to your mind? There might be a certain way you could interpret the work. Since it evokes emotions, others will likely interpret the same art piece in a different manner. This is because fine art is carefully crafted, with several factors put into consideration all with the capacity to stimulate the intellect of the viewer. 

When making a piece of art the artist, no matter what the discipline, puts into consideration factors like context, medium, form and also the subject. But, this isn’t the same with decorative art. Decorative art can be considered somewhat more simple and straightforward, without the same level of attention to detail and meaning added. This is because decorative arts’ purpose is primarily focused on decoration, function, or aesthetics.

Differences in Materials Used in Fine and Decorative Art

The materials used are another important distinction between fine art and decorative art. It is critical for me, as with other fine artists, to select and use high-quality materials when creating my artwork.

Quality materials contribute to the artwork’s longevity and long-term value. I prefer to work with high-quality deep-edge canvases. I am particularly picky about how the canvas is folded at the corners, and some brands are better finished than others.

I use high-quality acrylic paint that has a high pigment content, is permanent, and has excellent lightfastness. I finish my artwork with a clear coat. This is important with an acrylic medium, not only to protect the artwork from dust, ultraviolet (UV) rays, and yellowing but to bring out the gorgeous vibrancy of the colours.

This can be Matt, Satin, Gloss clear acrylic varnish or high gloss Art Resin, depending on the desired finish. UV light stabilisers are used in the finishing coats I use to protect against the damaging effects of UV light over time.

Have you ever had a favourite piece of mass-produced “decorative art” fade in the sun? This was most likely due to the low levels of lightfastness and UV protection provided by the cheap materials used in its manufacture.

These materials are chosen based on the messages the artists are attempting to convey, which may necessitate the use of very expensive materials to convey the message more effectively. Cheaper materials, on the other hand, are mostly used for decorative art. Materials for decorative art are chosen for their ease of use in creating the ‘art’ and speeding up the manufacturing process.

This is why fine art strikes a greater impression and leaves viewers in awe, whereas mass-produced decorative art cannot be compared in the same way.

Machine or Handcrafted Creations?

Let us continue our discussion of the differences between the two art forms by looking at the methods used to create them. Decorative arts are produced much more quickly, with economies of scale in mind, and without a lot of stress or time-consuming processes. To produce as many works as possible as quickly as possible, decorative artists or industries producing the same may sacrifice quality and details, resulting in a bland final product.

It is different in the case of fine art. A fine artist is devoted to the arts and their chosen discipline, giving everything they have to intuitively create a work of art that is highly detailed and of high quality. You gain access to the artist’s years of training and experience, which no machine can match in terms of human touch and insight. This is yet another reason why fine art elicits strong emotions and draws your attention.

If you simply want to decorate the walls of your office or home, decorative art is a good choice because that is the primary purpose of their creation. Fine art, on the other hand, is used for more than just decoration. Fine art is primarily created to be admired and to elicit emotions. With that said, the goal of creating fine art differs from the goal of creating decorative objects.

Do You Produce Fine Art or Decorative Art?

A few decisions must be made to become a fine or decorative artist. You must create things that can inspire and change viewers in some way. It is not always easy to tell the difference between fine art and decorative art. Both forms are stunning and have the ability to transform.

Decorative pieces enhance common spaces like homes and offices, whereas fine work often has deeper meanings that carry far more weight than simple aesthetics.

For aspiring professional artists, deciding whether to work in the fine art market or the decorative market can be difficult. Even though there may be some overlap between the two markets, most artists are more likely to be committed to one over the other.

As you strive to become a professional artist, consider the following questions: Will the art you create serve a specific purpose, or will it convey a meaningful message expressed through your choice of colours and brush strokes? What type of artist do you want to be?

Collectors are no longer required to work with art dealers or galleries. They can now buy paintings directly from their favourite artists, and internet access gives them access to artists all over the world, regardless of where they live.

Fine Art or Decorative Art? Blog Post by Adrian Reynolds

Conclusion: Choosing Fine Art or Decorative Art

You’re probably aware of the major distinctions between fine art or decorative art if you’ve read this far. We can safely conclude from the comparison that decorative art is typically used to beautify a space or environment.

Fine art, on the other hand, serves a higher purpose by leaving an indelible imprint on the minds of those who see it. It is up to you to determine which one best meets your needs.

Deep down, you don’t just want your office or business space to look nice; you want visitors to be impressed and hold your office in high regard.

You want your visitors to leave your home with something to talk about, something that shows how classy your home is, or even how artistically savvy you are!

Yes, we may not express it verbally, but we always want to be revered and respected where we work or live. All of this adds to our appreciation of life and fosters emotional connections with our surroundings.

There are numerous reasons why someone might decide to purchase a work of art. With this in mind, it is strongly advised that you invest in fine art to make your home, office, or business a more appealing and admirable space.

I have custom artworks available for immediate purchase that will send a strong message to visitors. However, you may become overwhelmed with admiration and wonder which one to select, but this should not be the case.

Just so you know, you can always buy my paintings online, with Free Worldwide Shipping, from the comfort and security of your own home, with the click of a button.

Allow your walls to speak for you; choose a fine painting that speaks volumes about your space. Ren Creative Works is the best option no matter where that space is.

If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe to my mailing list and share it with your friends, family, and business associates if you think they would be interested. As an independent artist, this kind of support is invaluable.

The time you spent reading this blog is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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