Despite being presented as fine art and often sold for large sums, modern art has frequently faced scrutiny from the general public due to its perceived ease of execution. To shed light on the matter, a recent YouGov survey presented Americans with seven renowned works of art from various periods, spanning from realistic to abstract, to understand what Americans consider to be art and whether they think they could re-create these works themselves.
Majorities of Americans consider six of the seven images polled about to be art, and almost half (46%) consider the other one, Sam Gilliam's 1980 work "Coffee Thyme I," to be art. The work among the seven polled about that is most likely to be considered art by Americans is Johannes Vermeer's "The Milkmaid", a highly realistic painting from the mid-17th century.
Respondents were shown an image of each work but not its name — though questions earlier in the survey identified one of the seven works: Michelangelo's statue of David.
Regardless of whether they consider a work to be art, do Americans think they themselves could re-create it? For some of the images polled about, many Americans are confident that they could.
About one-third of Americans say they definitely could replicate "Composition in Red, Blue, and Yellow" by Piet Mondrian, while only 8% say they definitely could not. An even higher percentage of Americans who consider themselves to be somewhat or very artistic (46%) say they definitely could replicate the painting, along with 27% of Americans who say they are not very or not at all artistic. One-quarter (25%) of Americans say they definitely could replicate "Coffee Thyme I," and 40% say they probably could. Even a modest share of Americans who consider themselves not very or not at all artistic say (19%) they could definitely replicate Gilliam’s work. One in 10 Americans also say they definitely could replicate "Movements" by Marsden Hartley, including 5% of Americans who don’t consider themselves to be very or at all artistic.
Although the share of Americans who think they could replicate works of art is generally smaller for art that is more realistic, 11% of Americans say they could probably or definitely replicate Michelangelo’s statue of David, and 18% say the same about "The Milkmaid." Almost one-quarter (23%) of Americans say they could probably or definitely replicate "Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat" by Vincent Van Gogh, including 10% of Americans who don’t consider themselves to be very or at all artistic, and 34% of those who consider themselves to be somewhat or very artistic.
— Linley Sanders and Carl Bialik contributed to this article.
Sources for the images used for each work:
- Movements by Marsden Hartley
- The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer
- Coffee Thyme I by Sam Gilliam
- Composition with Red, Yellow, and Blue by Piet Mondrian
- Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat by Vincent Van Gogh
- The Basket of Apples by Paul Cezanne
- Statue of David by Michelangelo
Image: Pexels (RODNAE Productions)