The visual arts are art forms that create works which are primarily visual in nature, such as ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, printmaking, modern visual arts (photography, video, and filmmaking), design and crafts. These definitions should not be taken too strictly as many artistic disciplines (performing arts, conceptual art, textile arts) involve aspects of the visual arts as well as arts of other types. Also included within the visual arts are the applied arts such as industrial design, graphic design, fashion design, interior design and decorative art.
As indicated above, the current usage of the term "visual arts" includes fine art as well as the applied, decorative arts and crafts, but this was not always the case. Before the Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain and elsewhere at the turn of the 20th century, the term artist was often restricted to a person working in the fine arts (such as painting, sculpture, or printmaking) and not the handicraft, craft, or applied art media. The distinction was emphasized by artists of the Arts and Crafts Movement who valued vernacular art forms as much as high forms. Art schools made a distinction between the fine arts and the crafts maintaining that a craftsperson could not be considered a practitioner of art.
The increasing tendency to privilege painting, and to a lesser degree sculpture, above other arts has been a feature of Western art as well as East Asian art. In both regions painting has been seen as relying to the highest degree on the imagination of the artist, and the furthest removed from manual labour - in Chinese painting the most highly-valued styles were those of "scholar-painting", at least in theory practiced by gentleman amateurs. The Western hierarchy of genres reflected similar attitudes.
Wikipedia [accessed 10 May 2010] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_arts