Fantastic art is a broad and loosely defined artgenre. It is not restricted to a specific school of artists, geographical location or historical period. It can be characterised by subject matter – which portrays non-realistic, mystical, mythical or folkloric subjects or events – and style, which is representational and naturalistic, rather than abstract – or in the case of magazine illustrations and similar, in the style of graphic novel art such as manga.
The subject matter of Fantastic Art may resemble the product of hallucinations, and Fantastic artist Richard Dadd spent much of his life in mental institutions. Salvador Dalí famously said: "the only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad". Some recent Fantastic Art draws on the artist's experience, or purported experience, of hallucinogenic drugs.
The term Fantasy Art is closely related, and is applied primarily to recent art (typically 20th century onwards) inspired by, or illustrating, fantasy literature. The term has acquired some pejorative overtones.
Fantastic art has traditionally been largely confined to painting and illustration, but since the 1970s has increasingly been found also in photography. Fantastic art explores fantasy, imagination, the dream state, the grotesque, visions and the uncanny, as well as so-called "Goth" art.
Genres which may also be considered as Fantastic Art include the Symbolism of the Victorian era, and Surrealism. Works based on classical mythology, which have been a staple of European art from the Renaissance period, also arguably meet the definition of Fantastic Art, as art based on modern mythology such as JRR Tolkien's Middle Earth mythos unquestionably does. Religious art also depicts supernatural or miraculous subjects in a naturalistic way, but is not generally regarded as Fantastic Art.