The Oxford English Dictionary defines the older broad meanings of the term "artist,"
A definition of Artist from Princeton.edu: creative person (a person whose creative work shows sensitivity and imagination).
In Greek culture each of the nine Muses oversaw a different field of human creation:
No muse was identified with the visual arts of painting and sculpture. In ancient Greece sculptors and painters were held in low regard, somewhere between freemen and slaves, their work regarded as mere manual labour.
The word art is derived from the Latin "ars", which, although literally defined means, "skill method" or "technique", holds a connotation of beauty.
During the Middle Ages the word artist already existed in some countries such as Italy, but the meaning was something resembling craftsman, while the word artesan was still unknown. An artist was someone able to do a work better than others, so the skilled excellency was underlined, rather than the activity field. In this period some "artisanal" products (such as textiles) were much more precious and expensive than paintings or sculptures.
The first division into major and minor arts dates back to Leon Battista Alberti's works (De re aedificatoria, De statua, De pictura), focusing the importance of intellectual skills of the artist rather than the manual skills (even if in other forms of art there was a project behind).
With the Academies in Europe (second half of XVI century) the gap between fine and applied arts was definitely set.
Many contemporary definitions of "artist" and "art" are highly contingent on culture, resisting aesthetic prescription, in much the same way that the features constituting beauty and the beautiful, cannot be standardized easily without corruption into kitsch.
Most often, the term describes those who create within a context of 'high culture', activities such as drawing, painting, sculpture, acting, dancing, writing, filmmaking, photography, and music—people who use imagination, talent, or skill to create works that may be judged to have an aesthetic value. Art historians and critics will define as artists, those who produce art within a recognized or recognizable discipline.
The term also is used to denote highly skilled people in non-"arts" activities, as well—crafts, law, medicine, alchemy, mechanics, mathematics, defense (martial arts), and architecture, for example. The designation is applied to high skill in illegal activities, such as "scam artist" (a person very adept at deceiving others, often profiting (semi-illegally) from other people) or "con artist" (a person very adept at committing fraud).
Often, discussions on the subject focus on the differences among "artist" and "technician", "entertainer" and "artisan," "fine art" and "applied art," or what constitutes art and what does not. The French word artiste (which in French, simply means "artist") has been imported into the English language where it means a performer (frequently in Music Hall or Vaudeville). Use of the word "artiste" can also be a pejorative term.
The English word 'artist' has thus, a narrower range of meanings than the word 'artiste' in French.