Examples of aesthetic theories of art include imitationalism, formalism, emotionalism and instrumentalism. These four theories are commonly used to set the criteria that is used to evaluate a work of art.
Imitationalism is applied when art looks realistic. The goal of imitationalism is to make a work of art look as realistic as possible. Sometimes known as "representational art," imitationalism strives to represent what people see in the real world.
Formalism in art stresses the visual qualities of the work. Formalism focuses on elements of art, such as lines, values and shapes, as well as principles of design and balance emphasis. If an artist has created a visually interesting design, the work is considered a success. Abstract art often utilizes strong formalism values.
The goal of emotionalism is to vividly communicate moods, feelings and ideas to the viewer. Emotionalist art emphasizes expressive qualities in a piece of artwork. Emotionalism's subjects often feature troubling social issues or shocking or grotesque imagery to evoke a viewer's emotions. Art that depicts subjects showing emotion is not considered emotionalism unless the expressed goal is to make the viewer feel emotion as well.
Instrumentalist art often features a message or purpose, as the goal of instrumentalism is to influence society. Instrumental art is often highly visible and functional.