Popular usage has it that art is a language. For example music is a language, the language of love, or the universal language. In reply to this bit of folk wisdom some philosophers have pointed out that a language is made up of symbols. A symbol is something carrying a meaning, and as such it exists to be understood, to impart information whether conceptual or factual. If a work of art is a symbol, then its value is either cognitive or practical and its purpose is to carry information. Almost with one accord, though, aestheticians deny that art is either cognitive or practical in its proper function. Consequently most of them reject the theory that a work of art is a symbol as a visciously intellectualistic theory which misses the whole meaning of fine art.
Still the rumor persists that art does have a meaning. A testimony to the persuasiveness of this conviction are the several theories which maintain that art is expressive: E. F. Carritt's theory, for example, and Croce's. For expressing is the making of an object in such a fashion that it conveys a meaning, and works of art are so made. Then art, if it has a meaning, must also be symbolic; it must in some sense be a language.
Edward G. Ballard, "Art and Analysis: An Essay toward a Theory in Aesthetics" (Chapter IV).