Art history, also called art historiography, historical study of the visual arts, being concerned with identifying, classifying, describing, evaluating, interpreting, and understanding the art products and historic development of the fields of painting, sculpture, architecture, the decorative arts, drawing, printmaking, photography, interior design, etc.
Art historical research has two primary concerns. The first is to discover who made a particular art object (attribution), to authenticate an art object, determining whether it was indeed made by the artist to whom it is traditionally attributed, to determine at what stage in a culture’s development or in an artist’s career the object in question was made, to assay the influence of one artist on succeeding ones in the historical past, and to gather biographical data on artists and documentation (provenance) on the previous whereabouts and ownership of particular works of art.
The second primary concern of art historical research is to understand the stylistic and formal development of artistic traditions on a large scale and within a broad historical perspective; this chiefly involves the enumeration and analysis of the various artistic styles, periods, movements, and schools of the past.
Art history also involves iconography, which is the analysis of symbols, themes, and subject matter in the visual arts, particularly the meaning of religious symbolism in Christian art.
Art both reflects and helps to create a culture’s vision of itself. Studying the art of the past teaches us how people have seen themselves and their world, and how they want to show this to others.
Art history provides a means by which we can understand our human past and its relationship to our present, because the act of making art is one of humanity’s most ubiquitous activities.
As an art historian you will learn about this rich and fundamental strand of human culture. You will learn to talk and write about works of art from different periods and places, in the same way that other students learn to write about literature or history.
But you will also learn skills unique to art historians. You will learn to make visual arguments and, above all, you will train your eyes and brain in the skills of critical looking. Don't take our word for it! Neuroscientists have shown that trained art historians see the world differently.
Art history teaches students to analyse the visual, sensual evidence to be found in diverse works of art, architecture, and design in combination with textual evidence. By honing skills of close looking, description, and the judicious use of historical sources, art history offers tools and vocabulary for interpreting the wealth of visual culture that surrounds us, as well as building a historically grounded understanding of artistic production in varied social and cultural contexts.
Art history is an interdisciplinary practice that analyses the various factors—cultural, political, religious, economic or artistic—which contribute to the visual appearance of a work of art.
Art teachers will help you to be able to examine work in the context of its time. The teacher will guide you through every aspect of art history and tell you about the different periods and symbols in most popular pieces of art.