Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Viewers of artwork can react to what they see, interpret the work in the light of their own
experience, and judge it a success or a failure
Throughout history, most artists created the paintings, sculptures, and other objects exhibited in
museums today for specific patrons and settings and to fulfill a specific purpose.
does not require knowledge of the historical context of an artwork (or a
does require knowledge of the historical context of an artwork (or a building).
Thus, a central aim of art history is to determine the original context of artworks
Art historians seek to achieve a full understanding not only of why these "persisting events"
of human history look the way they do
but also of why the artistic events happened at all
The study of history is vital to art history and art history is often very important to the study
Art historians study the visual and tangible objects humans make and the structures humans build.
"Art" studied by historians includes architecture, sculpture, the pictorial arts (painting, drawing,
printmaking, and photography), and the craft arts, or arts of design.
The range or objects art historians study is constantly expanding and now includes, for
example, computer-generated images, whereas in the past almost anything produced using a
machine would not have been regarded as art.
Most people still consider the performing arts (music, drama, and dance) as outside the art
history's realm because these arts are fleeting, impermanent media. But recently even this
distinction between "fine art" and performance art has become blurred.
Questions Art Historians Ask:
How old is it?
An indispensable subject of art historical inquiry is chronology
, the dating of art
objects and buildings.
The material used for a statue or painting may not have been invented
before a certain time
Artist's may have ceased using certain materials (type of ink, paper, etc.
The material (or the manufacturing technique) of an object or a building
can establish a very precise date of production or construction (ex: tree rings of
wood statue or timber roof beam)
Can help pinpoint the date of an object or building when a dated written
document mentions the work
A painter might have depicted an identifiable person or a kind of
hairstyle, clothing, or furniture fashionable only at a certain time
The analysis of style
(an artist's distinctive manner of producing an
abject, the way a work looks) is the art historian's special sphere
Because it is a subjective assessment, stylistic evidence is by far the most
unreliable chronological criterion.