There is no consensus about the meaning of the what it means to be an artist.
In the recent past, the most common way of defining the artist was as someone who skillfully produces physical objects.
Artists were people with regular professions, like a skillful shoemaker or jeweler.
At the time of the French revolution, the idea of the artist as a special, extraordinary person was born.
Around the turn of the 20th century, modernist artists like Van Gogh further developed this idea.
Artists like Malevich and Beuys believed that art can be made by anyone, that everyone should be an artist and philosopher, fully realizing their world view.
The contemporary art industry is based on the understanding of the artist as a special person. Not everybody can be an artist. To be an artist, you have to graduate from an academic institute or be successful on the market. The amount of people who succeed in making a living as an artist is very small, despite the fact that an increasing amount of people would like to be considered artists. Instead of being considered artists, many people are seen as members of creative class, which means that they’re not allowed to express their own worldview and so can only support the existing social order. This creative class could be seen as the new proletariat.