DECORATIVE ART. The generic name for all the arts which have for their purpose the embellishment or beautifying of buildings or other objects. Since the decorative arts, as such, make their appeal to the msthetic sense in serving primarily the end of beauty rather than of utility, even though applied to objects of use, they are properly classed among the fine arts. (See FINE ARTS). Yet inasmuch as their opera tions do not produce independent creations but are applied to, or executed upon, buildings and objects of utility, the decorative arts form a class by themselves, midway between the useful arts and the independent or "pure" fine arts, whose works are produced for their own sake, or rather for the sake of the msthetic enjoy ment which they in themselves afford—such as painting, sculpture, architecture or music. The higher forms of decorative art do, however, approach closely to the rank of independent art. Since architectural decoration employs both painting and sculpture for the embellishment of buildings, the sculptor or mural painter may produce for this purpose works of such beauty in themselves, apart from their function of decorating the building, as to rank with the finest works of independent sculpture or paint ing. The pediment sculptures of the Parthenon are superb as statues, though deposed from the pediments for which they were designed. The world's museums are full of paintings originally designed as decorations of altars, ceilings or even furniture, but which, separated from their original settings, are admired as paintings, that is, as pure fine art. No absolute fine can there fore be drawn between decorative art on the one hand, and pure fine art on the other. Architecture, which ranks as one of the major fine arts, is itself the greatest of the decorative arts, its function being to make beautiful the utilitarian structures it designs for the shelter of man and of his varied activities. But by reason of its superior importance and its recog nized place among the major fine arts, as well as its employment of many of the decorative arts in subordination to itself, it is rarely ranked with the latter.
The decorative arts are divided into two main classes: those which serve architecture, that is, which are employed for the adornment of buildings or fixed struc tures ; and those which are applied to movable objects. The first are the major decorative
arts, or the arts allied to architecture; the sec ond are commonly called the industrial decora tive arts, or the minor arts. The major decora tive arts include mural painting, architectural sculpture and carving, mosaic, inlay, stained glass and architectural woodwork, metalwork and plasterwork. The industrial decorative arts include furniture, textile art (tapestries, rugs, carpets, embroidery, needlework, laces, brocades and printed fabrics), wall-papers, decorative ceramics and pottery, jewelry, goldsmith's and silversmith's work, bookbinding, typographical ornament, manuscript illumination and many other arts and industries. Some of the minor arts in their highest phases approach the pure fine arts, as in the case of cameos, medals and jewelry; others trench upon the domain of architectural decoration, as in the more monu mental forms of church furniture. Here, again, absolute lines of demarcation cannot always be drawn.
For the discussion of sculpture applied to decoration see the article SCULPTURE; for that of decorative painting see INTERIOR DECORATION; MURAL PAINTING and PAINTING. See also DEcoaaTrvE ARTS, MINOR, of which a number are treated under separate titles, e.g., Boox BINDING, EMBROIDERY, FURNITURE, JEWELRY, LACE, POTTERY, TAPESTRY, etc.
Methods and Technic.— A volume would be required even to summarize the immense amount and variety of the processes and manip ulations of the decorative arts, and the books and manuals treating of them would fill a large library. In a brief article it is only possible to notice a few of the more general considera tions involved. Decoration is effected by modi fications of the form apd surface of an object, or by the use of color, or by both combined. All the arts which manipulate form alone are called the plastic arts; these include all kinds of modeling, carving, embossing, forging, cast ing and all relief and incised work. The arts of decoration by color are the chromatic arts, such as painting, mosaic, inlay, stained glass, enamel, all textile work in color, damascening and niello-work in or on metal, and manuscript illumination. There are also many arts which combine plastic and chromatic manipulations.