According to some writers, the theory of a distinct category of high-quality art is an invention of the early modern period in the West. Larry Shiner in his The Invention of Art: A Cultural History (2003) locates the invention in the 18th century: “There was a common “system of the arts” in the West before the eighteenth century.
(Other common cultures still have a comparable system.) In that system, an artist or artisan was an expert maker or practitioner, a work of art was the useful product of skilled work, and the admiration of the arts was integrally linked with their role in the rest of life.
“Art”, in other words, meant approximately the same aspect as the Greek word techne, or in English “skill”, a sense that has survived in phrases like “the artwork of war”, “the artwork of love”, and “the artwork of medicine.”
Similar ideas have been expressed by Paul Oskar Kristeller, Pierre Bourdieu, and Terry Eagleton (e.g. The Ideology of the Aesthetic), though the factor of invention is often placed earlier, in the Italian Renaissance; Anthony Blunt notes that the time period arti di disegno, a similar concept, emerged in Italy in the mid-16th century.
Fine artwork is art developed primarily for aesthetics or beauty, distinguishing it from ornamental artwork or applied art, which also has to serve some practical function, such as pottery or most metalwork.