In literature, it's the reader. In music, it's the listener. In performing arts it's the audience, and in visual arts it's the viewer. What word combines these terms?

To say audience would be close, except it has a connotation of being very public, and thus it's not singular.

Very broadly, I would call the person an artist, but artist implies one who creates art.

I might call the person the consumer, as in "the consumer of media." This connotes art as an industry, and implies passivity.

For example, how do I complete the sentence:

Kitsch is created by the insincere artist, but the [word] is responsible for finding value in it.

I'm looking for 1) the analogous receiver, where "If sender is to receiver, artist is to ___" and 2) a word that references the active skill of consuming art (reading, listening, etc), rather than the active skill of making art, or the passive activity of receiving without engaging and interpreting.

  • In your sample sentence I would use public, but like audience is not singular in meaning.
    – Jacinto
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 19:56
  • 2
    Why not beholder or observer? Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 19:59
  • This isn't an answer since I don't consider it specific enough. However I think Patron is very close to what you describe and is often associated with art: " 5. An advocate; a defender; one that specially countenances and supports, or lends aid to advance; as patrons of the arts; a patron of useful undertakings; the patrons of virtue." The American Dictionary of the English Language by Noah Webster 1828
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 20:03
  • Art lover, Art connoisseur. "Art collector" fits your sentence but not necessarily your intent since a collector may only be in it for the money- or they may not.
    – Jim
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 20:06
  • 2
    @HotLicks- I think of patron as someone who subsidizes the arts in some way. They make charitable donations to arts foundations etc. They aren't just art lovers who, for example, can spend hours on a bench in a museum contemplating.
    – Jim
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 1:51

4 Answers 4


Consider art-lover. It is listed in OED also and the earliest citation is from 1847:

Last year was a surprise to every art lover for the crowd of excellence it produced.

Fine Arts' Jrnl. 8 May 422/2

The painter Renoir once said: (mentioned in the book The Hidden Renoir)

The art lover is the one to whom the medals should be given.

Dilettante originally meant art-lover but it has negative connotations today. Vocabulary.com explains as below:

The meaning of dilettante has changed since it was borrowed from the Italian in the mid 1700s. Originally, it meant "lover of the arts," but began to take on a negative slant as the idea of doing something as a professional took hold strongly during the 18th century. A dilettante was a mere lover of art as opposed to one who did it professionally. Today, the word implies you're pretending to be more of an artist than you're interested in or capable of being, so if you call your friend who likes to paint a dilettante, it's like you're calling him or her a poser.

  • "Art-lover" is the answer, IMO. (And amateur is another "original" term for it, though it was not limited to the arts.)
    – Drew
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 2:28

Patron of the arts

Unfortunately, I can't find a decent definition, as the all seem to devolve to patron, whereas patron of the arts is an idiom with a meaning different from it's component words.

A patron of the arts is a person who takes significant interest in one or more areas of art (music, painting, theater, etc) and who, particularly important for the graphic artist, is apt to purchase works of various artists. (He/she is also apt to attend many musical presentations, theater events, etc.) He/she may also contribute to various art-supporting organizations, but to do so is not necessary to be considered worthy of the title.

  • 2
    To me, patron nearly always has the connotation of a sponsor, with an economic connection. It can be an investor, a collector, or a backer. And yes, it is often someone who also appreciates art not only for its monetary value - but not always. And I would say that the monetary connection is pretty much always there. Hardly the term I would use for someone who appreciates, understands, or loves art. More the term I would use for someone who thinks s?he does those things and who is in some way interested in the $ value of art. (Not to mention that "patron" originally means boss/owner.)
    – Drew
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 2:23
  • Yes @Drew, that was my initial reaction. However, in consideration, patron also means customer, as in, the one who receives the service. It still feels less active than what I would like (we rarely consider skill or practice when we think of patronizing), but if we can brush aside the connotation you mentioned, this would be the correct term.
    – Cameron
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 9:30
  • @Cameron: You're right that it can also mean customer, or even client. Still, the money association is never far. IMHO, patron does not mean art-lover, and vice versa.
    – Drew
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 14:59
  • I'm not looking for simply art-lover. I want 1) the analogous receiver, where "If sender is to receiver, artist is to ___" and 2) a word which references the active skill of consuming art (reading, listening, etc), rather than the active skill of making art. Should I put this in the original question?
    – Cameron
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 3:50

I'll go with connoisseur.

1: expert; especially : one who understands the details, technique, or principles of an art and is competent to act as a critical judge

2: one who enjoys with discrimination and appreciation of subtleties a connoisseur of fine wines M-W

  • 1
    Connoisseur is more like an expert art-lover rather than a regular one. What is the connotation in French? How do you differentiate an expert and a regular art-lover? Are there specific words or do you use phrases?
    – ermanen
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 23:43

Perceiver is a sense-neutral alternative.

You could also consider enthusiast, though you'd be edging toward tautology there.

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