Religions communicate not only through their scripture and theological writings, their institutions, movements and ethical practices but also through their rites, poetry, architecture, music, paintings and sculptures. In a concrete way, the arts provide a vivid and accurate sense of religion as it is lived, imagined and felt by its adherents.
Throughout history, the arts have been used as vehicles for personal expression and communication. Artists represent their world as they see it, and their work reflects their time and point of view. Their statues, pictures, poems, musical compositions offer indications of how members of that society felt, imagined, dreamed, thought and communicated.
During the Baroque and Classical periods, a time of artistic patronage, musicians and artists were ‘owned' either by the church or the court, created works on demand and had little time, opportunity or funds to create works for personal satisfaction. This, however, was to change dramatically during the Romantic period when artists were freed from patronage because markets for individual works were developed. Partially as a consequence of this, the arts of the nineteenth century demonstrated a newfound freedom: Form was subordinated and theme or passion became the focus of creative activity. During this period, a cross-fertilization of the arts began: Music, poetry, philosophy and painting strongly influenced each other while political movements like nationalism also had an impact on the arts. Where once the arts had been valued for the effect they had on an audience, bourgeois art became an instrument of self-understanding or self-expression. Ultimately, the shift in control from the church and courts to the bourgeoisie was significant. The bourgeoisie erected theatres, libraries, opera houses, concert halls, museums and art galleries in order to see themselves represented artistically. The institutionalisation of the arts began in these public places and for the first time the arts were seen as consumable goods. The separation of the arts from the practices of life led to the specialisation of their function.