Art critics generally criticize art in the context of aesthetics or the theory of beauty. One of criticism''s aims is the pursuit of a rational basis for art appreciation.
The range of artistic movements has resulted in a division of art criticism into dissimilar disciplines, each using vastly different criteria for their judgements. The most common division in the field of criticism is among the historical criticism and evaluation, a type of art history, and contemporary criticism of work by living artists.
In spite of perceptions that art criticism is a much lower risk activity than making art, opinions of current art are all the time liable to drastic corrections with the passage of time. Critics of the past are often ridiculed for either favoring artists now derided (such as the academic painters of the late 19th Century) or dismissing artists now venerated (such as the early work of the Impressionists). Few art movements themselves were named disparagingly by critics, with the name later adopted like a sort of badge of honor by the artists of the style (for example Impressionism, Cubism), the original negative meaning forgotten.
Nocturne in Black and Gold, The Falling Rocket by James McNeill Whistler
John Ruskin famously as compared one of James McNeill Whistler''s paintings, Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket, to "flinging a pot of paint in the public''s face".
Artists have frequently had an uneasy relationship with their critics. Artists generally need positive opinions from critics for their work to be viewed and purchased; unfortunately for the artists, only later generations may understand it.