Art history is the study of human culture and history through the visual arts. It is a constantly expanding discipline whose objects of study include all forms of artistic expression; painting, drawing, ceramics, prints, photography, film, sculpture, architecture, and performance arts.
The objective of art history is to examine works of art in terms of both historical relevance and aesthetic; it is chiefly concerned with definitions of style, materials and modes of execution, and with the economic, social, and political factors that shape the production and understanding of visual culture.
Art history is fundamentally different from art criticism, which is concerned with establishing value judgements upon individual works with respect to others of comparable style. In contrast, art history uses historical methods – collection of techniques such as primary, secondary sources and material evidence used by historians to construct an accurate and reliable picture of past events – to answer questions such as; How did the artist come to create the work?
What social, economical, religious, and/or political forces shaped the artists work? Who were their teachers? What were the artists motivations in creating this art? What is the art a reflection of? How culturally significant is it? Did it play a role in shaping culture at the time?
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 has existed since the creation of man and long before the beginnings of formal education. Ancient humans used art to appease the gods, frighten enemies, compel people, and distinguish between various cultures.
Cave paintings in different regions across the world showcase the colorful environments and lifestyles of various cultures. In the dry arid Libyan desert, there stands a huge natural rough shelter which features Neolithic rock paintings that
are more than 7,000 years old and over 5,000 figures. The paintings include wild animals
such as elephants, ostriches, gazelles, and giraffes which have not been seen in the area for more than three centuries. The fact that ancient humans were observing these animals in the area is proof that the Sahara’s climate used to be humid and hosted a wide range of flaura and fauna, most of which no longer inhabit the area. Thus, 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 mentioned earlier, art is a reflection of humanity and incorporates fields like social
history, politics, economics, anthropology, psychology, and aesthetics. Studying historical art is important because it provides you with exposure to the other humanities subjects, interweaving them to draw conclusions and critical evaluations of different artworks. It is also imperative in helping you learn about crucial times in history and gives you an exhilarating experience in how it felt like to be alive at the time.
Art history will help you gain a very rich insight into various world cultures and traditions.
Thanks for reading!
THE BLOCK BARD
Culture & Humanities Writer | Blogger