Art Principles and History


What is art history?

Art history is the academic study of visual art. Scholars of art history, often professors, writers, and museum or gallery professionals, are interested in the historical significance of art objects, as well as the meaning of both specific works, and the art produced by a particular culture or artist.

Art history is traditionally presented as a “survey,” which is Western in focus and explains art history in a narrative form, with a beginning, middle, and end. Canonical art history texts such as E.H. Gombrich’s The Story of Art and Janson’s History of Art carry on this long-standing tradition. While still greatly valued, this narrative presentation of art history is coming under increasing scholarly scrutiny. Some colleges and universities no longer teach art history, and now offer programs in “Visual Studies” or “Visual Culture” with the goal of offering insights into the visual arts less constrained by the limitations of the Western-focused survey.


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