Art history
Overview
Art history has historically been understood as the academic study of objects of art in their historical development and stylistic contexts, i.e. genre
Genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...

, design
Design
Design as a noun informally refers to a plan or convention for the construction of an object or a system while “to design” refers to making this plan...

, format
Format
Format may refer to:* File format, layout for electronic files* Text formatting, typesetting of text elements* Format , a command-line utility in many computer operating systems* Format , a computer command to prepare hard disks...

, and style. This includes the "major" arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture as well as the "minor" arts of ceramics, furniture, and other decorative objects.

As a term, art history (also history of art
History of art
The History of art refers to visual art which may be defined as any activity or product made by humans in a visual form for aesthetical or communicative purposes, expressing ideas, emotions or, in general, a worldview...

) encompasses several methods of studying the visual arts
Visual arts
The visual arts are art forms that create works which are primarily visual in nature, such as ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, design, crafts, and often modern visual arts and architecture...

; in common usage referring to works of art and architecture.
Encyclopedia
Art history has historically been understood as the academic study of objects of art in their historical development and stylistic contexts, i.e. genre
Genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...

, design
Design
Design as a noun informally refers to a plan or convention for the construction of an object or a system while “to design” refers to making this plan...

, format
Format
Format may refer to:* File format, layout for electronic files* Text formatting, typesetting of text elements* Format , a command-line utility in many computer operating systems* Format , a computer command to prepare hard disks...

, and style. This includes the "major" arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture as well as the "minor" arts of ceramics, furniture, and other decorative objects.

As a term, art history (also history of art
History of art
The History of art refers to visual art which may be defined as any activity or product made by humans in a visual form for aesthetical or communicative purposes, expressing ideas, emotions or, in general, a worldview...

) encompasses several methods of studying the visual arts
Visual arts
The visual arts are art forms that create works which are primarily visual in nature, such as ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, design, crafts, and often modern visual arts and architecture...

; in common usage referring to works of art and architecture. Aspects of the discipline overlap. As the art historian Ernst Gombrich
Ernst Gombrich
Sir Ernst Hans Josef Gombrich, OM, CBE was an Austrian-born art historian who became naturalized British citizen in 1947. He spent most of his working life in the United Kingdom...

 once observed, "the field of art history [is] much like Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

's Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

, divided in three parts inhabited by three different, though not necessarily hostile tribes: (i) the connoisseurs, (ii) the critics
Art criticism
Art criticism is the discussion or evaluation of visual art.Art critics usually criticize art in the context of aesthetics or the theory of beauty...

, and (iii) the academic art historians".

As a discipline, art history is distinguished from art criticism, which is concerned with establishing a relative artistic value upon individual works with respect to others of comparable style, or sanctioning an entire style or movement; and art theory or "philosophy of art", which is concerned with the fundamental nature of art. One branch of this area of study is aesthetics
Aesthetics
Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste, and with the creation and appreciation of beauty. It is more scientifically defined as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste...

, which includes investigating the enigma of the sublime
Sublime (philosophy)
In aesthetics, the sublime is the quality of greatness, whether physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical, aesthetic, spiritual or artistic...

 and determining the essence of beauty. Technically, art history is not these things, because the art historian uses historical method
Historical method
Historical method comprises the techniques and guidelines by which historians use primary sources and other evidence to research and then to write histories in the form of accounts of the past. The question of the nature, and even the possibility, of a sound historical method is raised in the...

 to answer the questions: How did the artist come to create the work?, Who were the patrons?, Who were his or her teachers?, Who was the audience?, Who were his or her disciples?, What historical forces shaped the artist's oeuvre, and How did he or she and the creation, in turn, affect the course of artistic, political, and social events? It is, however, questionable whether many questions of this kind can be answered satisfactorily without also considering basic questions about the nature of art. Unfortunately the current disciplinary gap between art history and the philosophy of art (aesthetics) often hinders this.

Art history is not only a biographical
Biography
A biography is a detailed description or account of someone's life. More than a list of basic facts , biography also portrays the subject's experience of those events...

 endeavor. Art historians often root their studies in the close scrutiny of individual objects. They thus attempt to answer in historically specific ways, questions such as: What are key features of this style?, What meaning did this object convey?, How does it function visually?, Did the artist meet their goals well?, What symbols are involved?, and Does it function discursively?

The historical backbone of the discipline is a celebratory chronology of beautiful creations commissioned by public or religious bodies or wealthy individuals in western Europe. Such a "canon
Western canon
The term Western canon denotes a canon of books and, more broadly, music and art that have been the most important and influential in shaping Western culture. As such, it includes the "greatest works of artistic merit." Such a canon is important to the theory of educational perennialism and the...

" remains prominent, as indicated by the selection of objects present in art history textbooks. Nonetheless, since the 20th century there has been an effort to re-define the discipline to be more inclusive of non-Western art, art made by women, and vernacular creativity.

Definition

Art history as we know it in the 21st century began in the 19th century but has precedents dating to the ancient world. Like the analysis of historical trends in politics, literature, and the sciences, the discipline benefits from the clarity and portability of the written word, but art historians also rely on formal analysis
Formal analysis
A formal analysis is an established method for analyzing works of art. First introduced by Roger de Piles , in his book the Principles of Painting, the technique of formal analysis is more fully developed by Roger Fry in Vision and Design .For a particular work of art, a formal analysis consists of...

, semiotics
Semiotics
Semiotics, also called semiotic studies or semiology, is the study of signs and sign processes , indication, designation, likeness, analogy, metaphor, symbolism, signification, and communication...

, psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis has expanded, been criticized and developed in different directions, mostly by some of Freud's former students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav...

 and iconography
Iconography
Iconography is the branch of art history which studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images. The word iconography literally means "image writing", and comes from the Greek "image" and "to write". A secondary meaning is the painting of icons in the...

. Advances in photographic reproduction and printing techniques after World War II increased the ability of reproductions of artworks. Such technologies have helped to advance the discipline in profound ways, as they have enabled easy comparisons of objects. The study of visual art thus described, can be a practice that involves understanding context
Contextualism
Contextualism describes a collection of views in philosophy which emphasize the context in which an action, utterance, or expression occurs, and argues that, in some important respect, the action, utterance, or expression can only be understood relative to that context...

, form
Formalism (art)
In art theory, formalism is the concept that a work's artistic value is entirely determined by its form--the way it is made, its purely visual aspects, and its medium. Formalism emphasizes compositional elements such as color, line, shape and texture rather than realism, context, and content...

, and social significance.

Methodologies

Art historians employ a number of methods
Methodology
Methodology is generally a guideline for solving a problem, with specificcomponents such as phases, tasks, methods, techniques and tools . It can be defined also as follows:...

 in their research into the qualities, nature and history of objects.

Art historians often examine work in the context of its time. At best, this is done in a manner which respects its creator's motivations and imperatives; with consideration of the desires and prejudices of its patrons and sponsors; with a comparative analysis of themes and approaches of the creator's colleagues and teachers; and with consideration of iconography and symbol
Symbol
A symbol is something which represents an idea, a physical entity or a process but is distinct from it. The purpose of a symbol is to communicate meaning. For example, a red octagon may be a symbol for "STOP". On a map, a picture of a tent might represent a campsite. Numerals are symbols for...

ism. In short, this approach examines the work of art in the context of the world within which it was created.

Art historians also often examine work through an analysis of form; that is, the creator's use of line, shape
Shape
The shape of an object located in some space is a geometrical description of the part of that space occupied by the object, as determined by its external boundary – abstracting from location and orientation in space, size, and other properties such as colour, content, and material...

, color
Color
Color or colour is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans to the categories called red, green, blue and others. Color derives from the spectrum of light interacting in the eye with the spectral sensitivities of the light receptors...

, texture, and composition. This approach examines how the artist uses a two-dimensional picture plane or the three dimensions
Three-dimensional space
Three-dimensional space is a geometric 3-parameters model of the physical universe in which we live. These three dimensions are commonly called length, width, and depth , although any three directions can be chosen, provided that they do not lie in the same plane.In physics and mathematics, a...

 of sculptural
Sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

 or architectural
Architecture
Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...

 space to create his or her art. The way these individual elements are employed results in representational
Representation (arts)
Representation is the use of signs that stand in for and take the place of something else. It is through representation that people organize the world and reality through the act of naming its elements...

 or non-representational
Abstraction
Abstraction is a process by which higher concepts are derived from the usage and classification of literal concepts, first principles, or other methods....

 art. Is the artist imitating an object or image found in nature? If so, it is representational. The closer the art hews to perfect imitation, the more the art is realistic. Is the artist not imitating, but instead relying on symbolism, or in an important way striving to capture nature's essence, rather than copy it directly? If so the art is non-representational—also called abstract
Abstract art
Abstract art uses a visual language of form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world. Western art had been, from the Renaissance up to the middle of the 19th century, underpinned by the logic of perspective and an...

. Realism and abstraction exist on a continuum. Impressionism
Impressionism
Impressionism was a 19th-century art movement that originated with a group of Paris-based artists whose independent exhibitions brought them to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s...

 is an example of a representational style that was not directly imitative, but strove to create an "impression" of nature. If the work is not representational and is an expression of the artist's feelings, longings and aspirations, or is a search for ideals of beauty and form, the work is non-representational or a work of expressionism
Expressionism
Expressionism was a modernist movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas...

.

An iconographical
Iconography
Iconography is the branch of art history which studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images. The word iconography literally means "image writing", and comes from the Greek "image" and "to write". A secondary meaning is the painting of icons in the...

 analysis is one which focuses on particular design elements of an object. Through a close reading of such elements, it is possible to trace their lineage, and with it draw conclusions regarding the origins and trajectory of these motifs. In turn, it is possible to make any number of observations regarding the social, cultural, economic, and aesthetic values of those responsible for producing the object.

Many art historians use critical theory
Critical theory
Critical theory is an examination and critique of society and culture, drawing from knowledge across the social sciences and humanities. The term has two different meanings with different origins and histories: one originating in sociology and the other in literary criticism...

 to frame their inquiries into objects. Theory is most often used when dealing with more recent objects, those from the late 19th century onward. Critical theory in art history is often borrowed from literary scholars
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

, and it involves the application of a non-artistic analytical framework to the study of art objects. Feminist
Feminism
Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women. Its concepts overlap with those of women's rights...

, Marxist
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

, critical race
Critical race theory
Critical Race Theory is an academic discipline focused upon the intersection of race, law and power.Although no set of canonical doctrines or methodologies defines CRT, the movement is loosely unified by two common areas of inquiry...

, queer
Queer theory
Queer theory is a field of critical theory that emerged in the early 1990s out of the fields of LGBT studies and feminist studies. Queer theory includes both queer readings of texts and the theorisation of 'queerness' itself...

, and postcolonial theories are all well-established in the discipline. As in literary studies, there is an interest among scholars in nature and the environment, but the direction that this will take in the discipline has yet to be determined.

Pliny the Elder and ancient precedents

The earliest surviving writing on art that can be classified as art history are the passages in Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

's Natural History (c. AD 77-79), concerning the development of Greek sculpture and painting. From them it is possible to trace the ideas of Xenokrates of Sicyon
Xenokrates of Sicyon
Xenokrates of Sicyon was an ancient Greek sculptor and writer, and one of the world's first art historians. Three signed statue bases are all that survive of his work. Pliny the Elder described him as a pupil of either Euthykrates or Teisikrates, and states that he surpassed both in his career,...

 (c. 280 BC), a Greek sculptor who was perhaps the first art historian. Pliny's work, while mainly an encyclopaedia of the sciences, has thus been influential from the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 onwards. (Passages about techniques used by the painter Apelles
Apelles
Apelles of Kos was a renowned painter of ancient Greece. Pliny the Elder, to whom we owe much of our knowledge of this artist rated him superior to preceding and subsequent artists...

 c. (332-329 BC), have been especially well-known.) Similar, though independent, developments occurred in the 6th century China, where a canon of worthy artists was established by writers in the scholar-official class. These writers, being necessarily proficient in calligraphy, were artists themselves. The artists are described in the Six Principles of Painting
Six principles of Chinese painting
The Six principles of Chinese painting were established by Xie He , a writer, art historian and critic in 6th century China. He is most famous for his "Six points to consider when judging a painting" , taken from the preface to his book "The Record of the Classification of Old Painters"...

formulated by Xie He.

Vasari and artists' biographies

While personal reminiscences of art and artists have long been written and read (see Lorenzo Ghiberti
Lorenzo Ghiberti
Lorenzo Ghiberti , born Lorenzo di Bartolo, was an Italian artist of the early Renaissance best known for works in sculpture and metalworking.-Early life:...

 Commentarii, for the best early example), it was Giorgio Vasari, the Tuscan painter, sculptor and author of the Lives of the Painters, who wrote the first true history of art. He emphasized art's progression and development, which was a milestone in this field. His was a personal and a historical account, featuring biographies of individual Italian artists, many of whom were his contemporaries and personal acquaintances. The most renowned of these was Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

, and Vasari's account is enlightening, though biased in places. Vasari's ideas about art held sway until the 18th century, when criticism was leveled at his biographical account of history.

Winckelmann and art criticism

Scholars such as Johann Joachim Winckelmann
Johann Joachim Winckelmann
Johann Joachim Winckelmann was a German art historian and archaeologist. He was a pioneering Hellenist who first articulated the difference between Greek, Greco-Roman and Roman art...

 (1717–1768), criticised Vasari's "cult" of artistic personality, and they argued that the real emphasis in the study of art should be the views of the learned beholder and not the unique viewpoint of the charismatic artist. Winckelmann's writings thus were the beginnings of art criticism. Winckelmann critiqued the artistic excesses of Baroque
Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 and Rococo
Rococo
Rococo , also referred to as "Late Baroque", is an 18th-century style which developed as Baroque artists gave up their symmetry and became increasingly ornate, florid, and playful...

 forms, and was instrumental in reforming taste in favor of the more sober Neoclassicism
Neoclassicism
Neoclassicism is the name given to Western movements in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that draw inspiration from the "classical" art and culture of Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome...

. Jacob Burckhardt
Jacob Burckhardt
Carl Jacob Christoph Burckhardt was a historian of art and culture, and an influential figure in the historiography of each field. He is known as one of the major progenitors of cultural history, albeit in a form very different from how cultural history is conceived and studied in academia today...

 (1818–1897), one of the founders of art history, noted that Winckelmann was 'the first to distinguish between the periods of ancient art and to link the history of style with world history'. From Winckelmann until the mid-20th century, the field of art history was dominated by German-speaking academics. Winckelmann's work thus marked the entry of art history into the high-philosophical discourse of German culture.

Winckelmann was read avidly by Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Friedrich Schiller
Friedrich Schiller
Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller was a German poet, philosopher, historian, and playwright. During the last seventeen years of his life , Schiller struck up a productive, if complicated, friendship with already famous and influential Johann Wolfgang von Goethe...

, both of whom began to write on the history of art, and his account of the Laocoon
Laocoön
Laocoön the son of Acoetes is a figure in Greek and Roman mythology.-History:Laocoön is a Trojan priest of Poseidon , whose rules he had defied, either by marrying and having sons, or by having committed an impiety by making love with his wife in the presence of a cult image in a sanctuary...

 occasioned a response by Lessing
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was a German writer, philosopher, dramatist, publicist, and art critic, and one of the most outstanding representatives of the Enlightenment era. His plays and theoretical writings substantially influenced the development of German literature...

. The emergence of art as a major subject of philosophical speculation was solidified by the appearance of Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

's Critique of Judgment in 1790, and was furthered by Hegel's Lectures on Aesthetics. Hegel's philosophy served as the direct inspiration for Karl Schnaase
Karl Schnaase
Karl Schnaase was a distinguished German art historian and jurist. He was one of the founders of modern art history, and the author of one of the first surveys of the history of art.- Life :...

's work. Schnaase's Niederländische Briefe established the theoretical foundations for art history as an autonomous discipline, and his Geschichte der bildenden Künste, one of the first historical surveys of the history of art from antiquity to the Renaissance, facilitated the teaching of art history in German-speaking universities. Schnaase's survey was published contemporaneously with a similar work by Franz Theodor Kugler.

Wölfflin and stylistic analysis

See: Formal analysis.

Heinrich Wölfflin
Heinrich Wölfflin
Heinrich Wölfflin was a famous Swiss art critic, whose objective classifying principles were influential in the development of formal analysis in the history of art during the 20th century. He taught at Basel, Berlin and Munich in the generation that raised German art history to pre-eminence...

 (1864–1945), who studied under Burckhardt in Basel, is the "father" of modern art history. Wölfflin taught at the universities of Berlin, Basel, Munich, and Zurich. A number of students went on to distinguished careers in art history, including Jakob Rosenberg and Frida Schottmuller. He introduced a scientific approach to the history of art, focusing on three concepts. Firstly, he attempted to study art using psychology, particularly by applying the work of Wilhelm Wundt
Wilhelm Wundt
Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt was a German physician, psychologist, physiologist, philosopher, and professor, known today as one of the founding figures of modern psychology. He is widely regarded as the "father of experimental psychology"...

. He argued, among other things, that art and architecture are good if they resemble the human body. For example, houses were good if their façades
Facade
A facade or façade is generally one exterior side of a building, usually, but not always, the front. The word comes from the French language, literally meaning "frontage" or "face"....

 looked like faces. Secondly, he introduced the idea of studying art through comparison. By comparing individual paintings to each other, he was able to make distinctions of style. His book Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 and Baroque
Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

developed this idea, and was the first to show how these stylistic periods differed from one another. In contrast to Giorgio Vasari
Giorgio Vasari
Giorgio Vasari was an Italian painter, writer, historian, and architect, who is famous today for his biographies of Italian artists, considered the ideological foundation of art-historical writing.-Biography:...

, Wölfflin was uninterested in the biographies of artists. In fact he proposed the creation of an "art history without names." Finally, he studied art based on ideas of nationhood. He was particularly interested in whether there was an inherently "Italian" and an inherently "German
Culture of Germany
German culture began long before the rise of Germany as a nation-state and spanned the entire German-speaking world. From its roots, culture in Germany has been shaped by major intellectual and popular currents in Europe, both religious and secular...

" style. This last interest was most fully articulated in his monograph on the German artist Albrecht Dürer
Albrecht Dürer
Albrecht Dürer was a German painter, printmaker, engraver, mathematician, and theorist from Nuremberg. His prints established his reputation across Europe when he was still in his twenties, and he has been conventionally regarded as the greatest artist of the Northern Renaissance ever since...

.

Riegl, Wickhoff, and the Vienna School

Contemporaneous with Wölfflin's career, a major school of art-historical thought developed at the University of Vienna
University of Vienna
The University of Vienna is a public university located in Vienna, Austria. It was founded by Duke Rudolph IV in 1365 and is the oldest university in the German-speaking world...

. The first generation of the Vienna School was dominated by Alois Riegl
Alois Riegl
Alois Riegl was an Austrian art historian, and is considered a member of the Vienna School of Art History...

 and Franz Wickhoff
Franz Wickhoff
Franz Wickhoff was an Austrian art historian, and is considered a member of the Vienna School of Art History. Wickhoff studied at the University of Vienna under Alexander Conze and Moritz Thausing. In 1879 he received a position at the k.k...

, both students of Moritz Thausing
Moritz Thausing
Moritz Thausing was an Austrian art historian, and counts among the founders of the Vienna School of Art History.- Life :...

, and was characterized by a tendency to reassess neglected or disparaged periods in the history of art. Riegl and Wickhoff both wrote extensively on the art of late antiquity
Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

, which before them had been considered as a period of decline from the classical ideal. Riegl also contributed to the revaluation of the Baroque.

The next generation of professors at Vienna included Max Dvořák
Max Dvorák
Max Dvořák was a Czech-born Austrian art historian...

, Julius von Schlosser, Hans Tietze, Karl Maria Swoboda, and Josef Strzygowski
Josef Strzygowski
Josef Strzygowski was a German art historian known for his theory on the influence of Early Christian Armenian architecture on the early Medieval architecture of Europe, outlined in his book, Die Baukunst der Armenier und Europa...

. A number of the most important twentieth-century art historians, including Ernst Gombrich
Ernst Gombrich
Sir Ernst Hans Josef Gombrich, OM, CBE was an Austrian-born art historian who became naturalized British citizen in 1947. He spent most of his working life in the United Kingdom...

, received their degrees at Vienna at this time. The term "Second Vienna School" (or "New Vienna School") usually refers to the following generation of Viennese scholars, including Hans Sedlmayr
Hans Sedlmayr
Hans Sedlmayr was an Austrian art historian. Sedlmayr was University Professor of Art History in Vienna from 1936 until 1945, then in Munich from 1951 until 1964, and finally at the University of Salzburg from 1965-69, where he established the art history curriculum...

, Otto Pächt, and Guido Kaschnitz von Weinberg. These scholars began in the 1930s to return to the work of the first generation, particularly to Riegl and his concept of Kunstwollen, and attempted to develop it into a full-blown art-historical methodology. Sedlmayr, in particular, rejected the minute study of iconography, patronage, and other approaches grounded in historical context, preferring instead to concentrate on the aesthetic qualities of a work of art. As a result, the Second Vienna School gained a reputation for unrestrained and irresponsible formalism
Formalism (art)
In art theory, formalism is the concept that a work's artistic value is entirely determined by its form--the way it is made, its purely visual aspects, and its medium. Formalism emphasizes compositional elements such as color, line, shape and texture rather than realism, context, and content...

, and was furthermore colored by Sedlmayr's overt racism and membership in the Nazi party. This latter tendency was, however, by no means shared by all members of the school; Pächt, for example, was himself Jewish, and was forced to leave Vienna in the 1930s.

Panofsky and iconography

Our 21st century understanding of the symbolic content of art comes from a group of scholars who gathered in Hamburg
Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

 in the 1920s. The most prominent among them were Erwin Panofsky
Erwin Panofsky
Erwin Panofsky was a German art historian, whose academic career was pursued mostly in the U.S. after the rise of the Nazi regime. Panofsky's work remains highly influential in the modern academic study of iconography...

, Aby Warburg
Aby Warburg
Abraham Moritz Warburg, known as Aby Warburg, was a German art historian and cultural theorist who founded a private Library for Cultural Studies, the Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg, later Warburg Institute...

, and Fritz Saxl
Fritz Saxl
Friedrich "Fritz" Saxl was the art historian who was the guiding light of the Warburg Institute, especially during the long mental breakdown of its founder, Aby Warburg, whom he succeeded as director.Saxl was instrumental in moving the Warburg Institute to safety in London at the outset of the...

. Together they developed much of the vocabulary that continues to be used in the 21st century by art historians. "Iconography"--with roots meaning "symbols from writing" refers to subject matter of art derived from written sources—especially scripture and mythology. "Iconology" is a broader term that referred to all symbolism, whether derived from a specific text or not. Today art historians sometimes use these terms interchangeably.

Panofsky, in his early work, also developed the theories of Riegl, but became eventually more preoccupied with iconography, and in particular with the transmission of themes related to classical antiquity in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. In this respect his interests coincided with those of Warburg, the son of a wealthy family who had assembled an impressive library in Hamburg devoted to the study of the classical tradition in later art and culture. Under Saxl's auspices, this library was developed into a research institute, affiliated with the University of Hamburg
University of Hamburg
The University of Hamburg is a university in Hamburg, Germany. It was founded on 28 March 1919 by Wilhelm Stern and others. It grew out of the previous Allgemeines Vorlesungswesen and the Kolonialinstitut as well as the Akademisches Gymnasium. There are around 38,000 students as of the start of...

, where Panofsky taught.

Warburg died in 1929, and in the 1930s Saxl and Panofsky, both Jewish, were forced to leave Hamburg. Saxl settled in London, bringing Warburg's library with him and establishing the Warburg Institute
Warburg Institute
The Warburg Institute is a research institution associated with the University of London in central London, England. A member of the School of Advanced Study, its focus is the study of the influence of classical antiquity on all aspects of European civilisation.-History:The Institute was founded by...

. Panofsky settled in Princeton at the Institute for Advanced Study
Institute for Advanced Study
The Institute for Advanced Study, located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States, is an independent postgraduate center for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. It was founded in 1930 by Abraham Flexner...

. In this respect they were part of an extraordinary influx of German art historians into the English-speaking academy in the 1930s. These scholars were largely responsible for establishing art history as a legitimate field of study in the English-speaking world, and the influence of Panofsky's methodology, in particular, determined the course of American art history for a generation.

Freud and psychoanalysis

Heinrich Wölfflin was not the only scholar to invoke psychological theories in the study of art. Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

 wrote a book on the artist Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

, in which he used Leonardo's paintings to interrogate the artist's psyche
Psyche (psychology)
The word psyche has a long history of use in psychology and philosophy, dating back to ancient times, and has been one of the fundamental concepts for understanding human nature from a scientific point of view. The English word soul is sometimes used synonymously, especially in older...

 and sexual orientation. Freud inferred from his analysis that Leonardo was probably homosexual.
Though the use of posthumous material to perform psychoanalysis is controversial among art historians, especially since the sexual mores of Leonardo's time and Freud's are different, it is often attempted. One of the best-known psychoanalytic scholars is Laurie Schneider Adams, who wrote a popular textbook, Art Across Time, and a book Art and Psychoanalysis.

An unsuspecting turn for the history of art criticism came in 1914 when Sigmund Freud published a psychoanalytical interpretation of Michelangelo’s Moses titled Der Moses des Michelangelo as one of the first psychology based analyses on a work of art. Freud first published this work shortly after reading Vasari’s Lives. For unknown purposes, Freud originally untitled his work when it was published in a psychological journal.

Jung and archetypes

Carl Jung
Carl Jung
Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of Analytical Psychology. Jung is considered the first modern psychiatrist to view the human psyche as "by nature religious" and make it the focus of exploration. Jung is one of the best known researchers in the field of dream analysis and...

 also applied psychoanalytic theory to art. C.G. Jung
Carl Jung
Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of Analytical Psychology. Jung is considered the first modern psychiatrist to view the human psyche as "by nature religious" and make it the focus of exploration. Jung is one of the best known researchers in the field of dream analysis and...

 was a Swiss psychiatrist
Psychiatrist
A psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. All psychiatrists are trained in diagnostic evaluation and in psychotherapy...

, an influential thinker, and founder of analytical psychology
Analytical psychology
Analytical psychology is the school of psychology originating from the ideas of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. His theoretical orientation has been advanced by his students and other thinkers who followed in his tradition. Though they share similarities, analytical psychology is distinct from...

. Jung's approach to psychology emphasized understanding the psyche
Psyche (psychology)
The word psyche has a long history of use in psychology and philosophy, dating back to ancient times, and has been one of the fundamental concepts for understanding human nature from a scientific point of view. The English word soul is sometimes used synonymously, especially in older...

 through exploring the worlds of dream
Dream
Dreams are successions of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep. The content and purpose of dreams are not definitively understood, though they have been a topic of scientific speculation, philosophical intrigue and religious...

s, art, mythology
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

, world religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 and philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

. Much of his life's work was spent exploring Eastern and Western philosophy, alchemy
Alchemy
Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose early practitioners’ claims to profound powers were known from antiquity. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base...

, astrology
Astrology
Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

, sociology
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

, as well as literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 and the arts. His most notable contributions include his concept of the psychological archetype
Archetype
An archetype is a universally understood symbol or term or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated...

, the collective unconscious
Collective unconscious
Collective unconscious is a term of analytical psychology, coined by Carl Jung. It is proposed to be a part of the unconscious mind, expressed in humanity and all life forms with nervous systems, and describes how the structure of the psyche autonomously organizes experience...

, and his theory of synchronicity
Synchronicity
Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance and that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner...

. Jung believed that many experiences perceived as coincidence
Coincidence
A coincidence is an event notable for its occurring in conjunction with other conditions, e.g. another event. As such, a coincidence occurs when something uncanny, accidental and unexpected happens under conditions named, but not under a defined relationship...

 were not merely due to chance
Randomness
Randomness has somewhat differing meanings as used in various fields. It also has common meanings which are connected to the notion of predictability of events....

 but, instead, suggested the manifestation of parallel events or circumstances reflecting this governing dynamic. He argued that a collective unconscious
Collective unconscious
Collective unconscious is a term of analytical psychology, coined by Carl Jung. It is proposed to be a part of the unconscious mind, expressed in humanity and all life forms with nervous systems, and describes how the structure of the psyche autonomously organizes experience...

 and archetypal imagery were detectable in art. His ideas were particularly popular among American Abstract expressionists in the 1940s and 1950s. His work inspired the surrealist concept of drawing imagery from dreams and the unconscious.

Jung emphasized the importance of balance and harmony. He cautioned that modern humans rely too heavily on science and logic and would benefit from integrating spirituality and appreciation of the unconscious realm. His work not only triggered analytical work by art historians, but it became an integral part of art-making. Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock
Paul Jackson Pollock , known as Jackson Pollock, was an influential American painter and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement. During his lifetime, Pollock enjoyed considerable fame and notoriety. He was regarded as a mostly reclusive artist. He had a volatile personality, and...

, for example, famously created a series of drawings to accompany his psychoanalytic sessions with his Jungian psychoanalyst, Dr. Joseph Henderson. Henderson who later published the drawings in a text devoted to Pollock's sessions realized how powerful the drawings were as a therapeutic tool.

The legacy of psychoanalysis in art history has been profound, and extends beyone Freud and Jung. The prominent feminist art historian Griselda Pollock, for example, draws upon psychoanalysis both in her reading into contemporary art and in her rereading of modernist art. With Griselda Pollock
Griselda Pollock
Griselda Pollock is a prominent art historian and cultural analyst, and a world-renowned scholar of international, post-colonial feminist studies in the visual arts. She is best known for her theoretical and methodological innovation, combined with deeply engaged readings of historical and...

's reading of French feminist psychoanalysis and in particular the writings of Julia Kristeva
Julia Kristeva
Julia Kristeva is a Bulgarian-French philosopher, literary critic, psychoanalyst, sociologist, feminist, and, most recently, novelist, who has lived in France since the mid-1960s. She is now a Professor at the University Paris Diderot...

 and Bracha L. Ettinger
Bracha L. Ettinger
Bracha L. Ettinger also known as Bracha Ettinger, Bracha Lichtenberg Ettinger, Hebrew: ברכה אטינגר, ברכה ליכטנברג-אטינגר, is an artist, painter, photographer, theorist and psychoanalyst. Bracha L. Ettinger is a Professor at European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland...

, as with Rosalind Krauss readings of Jacques Lacan
Jacques Lacan
Jacques Marie Émile Lacan was a French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who made prominent contributions to psychoanalysis and philosophy, and has been called "the most controversial psycho-analyst since Freud". Giving yearly seminars in Paris from 1953 to 1981, Lacan influenced France's...

 and Jean-François Lyotard
Jean-François Lyotard
Jean-François Lyotard was a French philosopher and literary theorist. He is well known for his articulation of postmodernism after the late 1970s and the analysis of the impact of postmodernity on the human condition...

 and Catherine de Zegher's curatorial rereading of art, Feminist theory
Feminist theory
Feminist theory is the extension of feminism into theoretical, or philosophical discourse, it aims to understand the nature of gender inequality...

 written in the fields of French feminism and Psychoanalysis has strongly informed the reframing of both men and women artists in art history.

Marx and ideology

During the mid-20th century, art historians embraced social history
Social history
Social history, often called the new social history, is a branch of History that includes history of ordinary people and their strategies of coping with life. In its "golden age" it was a major growth field in the 1960s and 1970s among scholars, and still is well represented in history departments...

 by using critical approaches. The goal was to show how art interacts with power structures in society. One critical approach that art historians used was Marxism. Marxist art history attempted to show how art was tied to specific classes, how images contain information about the economy, and how images can make the status quo seem natural (ideology
Ideology
An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

).

Perhaps the best-known Marxist was Clement Greenberg
Clement Greenberg
Clement Greenberg was an American essayist known mainly as an influential visual art critic closely associated with American Modern art of the mid-20th century...

, who came to prominence during the late 1930s with his essay "Avant-Garde and Kitsch
Avant-Garde and Kitsch
Avant-Garde and Kitsch is the title of a 1939 essay by Clement Greenberg, first published in the Partisan Review, in which he claimed that avant-garde and modernist art was a means to resist the 'dumbing down' of culture caused by consumerism...

". In the essay Greenberg claimed that the avant-garde
Avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

 arose in order to defend aesthetic standards from the decline of taste involved in consumer society
Consumerism
Consumerism is a social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts. The term is often associated with criticisms of consumption starting with Thorstein Veblen...

, and seeing kitsch and art as opposites. Greenberg further claimed that avant-garde
Avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

 and Modernist
Modernism
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...

 art was a means to resist the leveling of culture produced by capitalist
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

. Greenberg appropriated the German word 'kitsch
Kitsch
Kitsch is a form of art that is considered an inferior, tasteless copy of an extant style of art or a worthless imitation of art of recognized value. The concept is associated with the deliberate use of elements that may be thought of as cultural icons while making cheap mass-produced objects that...

' to describe this consumerism, although its connotation
Connotation
A connotation is a commonly understood subjective cultural or emotional association that some word or phrase carries, in addition to the word's or phrase's explicit or literal meaning, which is its denotation....

s have since changed to a more affirmative notion of leftover materials of capitalist culture. Greenberg later became well known for examining the formal properties of modern art.

Meyer Schapiro
Meyer Schapiro
Meyer Schapiro was a Lithuanian-born American art historian known for forging new art historical methodologies that incorporated an interdisciplinary approach to the study of works of art...

 is one of the best-remembered Marxist art historians of the mid-20th century. Although he wrote about numerous time periods and themes in art, he is best remembered for his commentary on sculpture from the late Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 and early Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

, at which time he saw evidence of capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 emerging and feudalism
Feudalism
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

 declining.

Arnold Hauser
Arnold Hauser (art historian)
Arnold Hauser was an Hungarian art historian who wrote on the influence of change in social structures on art...

 wrote the first Marxist survey of Western Art, entitled The Social History of Art. He attempted to show how class consciousness was reflected in major art periods. The book was controversial when published during the [1950s]] since it makes generalizations about entire eras, a strategy now called "vulgar Marxism".

T.J. Clark
T. J. Clark (historian)
Timothy James Clark often known as T.J. Clark, is an art historian and writer, born in 1943 in Bristol, England.-Life and work:Clark attended Bristol Grammar School. He completed his undergraduate studies at St. John's College, Cambridge University, he obtained a first-class honours degree in 1964....

 was the first art historian writing from a Marxist perspective to abandon vulgar Marxism. He wrote Marxist art histories of several impressionist and realist
Realism (visual arts)
Realism in the visual arts is a style that depicts the actuality of what the eyes can see. The term is used in different senses in art history; it may mean the same as illusionism, the representation of subjects with visual mimesis or verisimilitude, or may mean an emphasis on the actuality of...

 artists, including Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet
Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet was a French painter who led the Realist movement in 19th-century French painting. The Realist movement bridged the Romantic movement , with the Barbizon School and the Impressionists...

 and Édouard Manet
Édouard Manet
Édouard Manet was a French painter. One of the first 19th-century artists to approach modern-life subjects, he was a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism....

. These books focused closely on the political and economic climates in which the art was created.

Nochlin and feminism

Linda Nochlin
Linda Nochlin
Linda Nochlin is an American art historian, university professor and writer. She is considered to be a leader in feminist art history studies. She is best known as a proponent of the question "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?"...

's essay "Why have there been no great women artists?" helped to ignite feminist art history during the 1970s and remains one of the most widely read essays about female artists. In it she applies a feminist critical framework to show systematic exclusion of women from art training. Griselda Pollock
Griselda Pollock
Griselda Pollock is a prominent art historian and cultural analyst, and a world-renowned scholar of international, post-colonial feminist studies in the visual arts. She is best known for her theoretical and methodological innovation, combined with deeply engaged readings of historical and...

 is another prominent feminist art historian, whose use of psychoanalytic theory is described above. While feminist art history can focus on any time period and location, much attention has been given to the Modern era. Some of this scholarship centers on the feminist art movement
Feminist art movement
The feminist art movement refers to the efforts and accomplishments of feminists internationally to make art that reflects women's lives and experiences, as well as to change the foundation for the production and reception of contemporary art. It also sought to bring more visibility to women within...

, which referred specifically to the experience of women.

Other recent developments

Aspects of the subject which have come to the fore in recent decades include interest in the patronage and consumption of art, including the economics of the art market, the role of collectors, the intentions and aspirations of those commissioning works, and the reactions of contemporary and later viewers and owners. Museum studies, including the history of museum collecting and display, is now a specialized field of study, as is the history of collecting. Scientific advances have made possible much more accurate investigation of the materials and techniques used to create works, especially infra-red and x-ray
X-ray
X-radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation. X-rays have a wavelength in the range of 0.01 to 10 nanometers, corresponding to frequencies in the range 30 petahertz to 30 exahertz and energies in the range 120 eV to 120 keV. They are shorter in wavelength than UV rays and longer than gamma...

 photographic techniques which have allowed many underdrawings of paintings to be seen again. Proper analysis of pigment
Pigment
A pigment is a material that changes the color of reflected or transmitted light as the result of wavelength-selective absorption. This physical process differs from fluorescence, phosphorescence, and other forms of luminescence, in which a material emits light.Many materials selectively absorb...

s used in paint is now possible, which has upset many attributions. Dendrochronology
Dendrochronology
Dendrochronology or tree-ring dating is the scientific method of dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree-rings. Dendrochronology can date the time at which tree rings were formed, in many types of wood, to the exact calendar year...

 for panel painting
Panel painting
A panel painting is a painting made on a flat panel made of wood, either a single piece, or a number of pieces joined together. Until canvas became the more popular support medium in the 16th century, it was the normal form of support for a painting not on a wall or vellum, which was used for...

s and radio-carbon dating for old objects in organic materials have allowed scientific methods of dating objects to confirm or upset dates derived from stylistic analysis or documentary evidence. The development of good colour photography, now held digitally and available on the internet or by other means, has transformed the study of many types of art, especially those covering objects existing in large numbers which are widely dispersed among collections, such as illuminated manuscript
Illuminated manuscript
An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration, such as decorated initials, borders and miniature illustrations...

s and Persian miniature
Persian miniature
A Persian miniature is a small painting on paper, whether a book illustration or a separate work of art intended to be kept in an album of such works called a muraqqa. The techniques are broadly comparable to the Western and Byzantine traditions of miniatures in illuminated manuscripts...

s, and many types of archaeological artworks.

Barthes and semiotics

As opposed to iconography which seeks to identify meaning, semiotics
Semiotics
Semiotics, also called semiotic studies or semiology, is the study of signs and sign processes , indication, designation, likeness, analogy, metaphor, symbolism, signification, and communication...

 is concerned with how meaning is created. Roland Barthes
Roland Barthes
Roland Gérard Barthes was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician. Barthes' ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, social theory, Marxism, anthropology and...

’s connoted and denoted meanings are paramount to this examination. In any particular work of art, an interpretation depends on the identification of denoted meaning—the recognition of a visual sign, and the connoted meaning—the instant cultural associations that come with recognition. The main concern of the semiotic art historian is to come up with ways to navigate and interpret connoted meaning.

Semiotic art history seeks to uncover the codified meaning or meanings in an aesthetic object by examining its connectedness to a collective consciousness
Collective consciousness
Collective consciousness was a term coined by the French sociologist Émile Durkheim to refer to the shared beliefs and moral attitudes which operate as a unifying force within society...

. Art historians do not commonly commit to any one particular brand of semiotics but rather construct an amalgamated version which they incorporate into their collection of analytical tools. For example, Meyer Shapiro
Meyer Shapiro
Meyer Shapiro may refer to:*Meir Shapiro, dean of Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva, and founder of the Daf Yomi Talmud folio cycle*Meyer Shapiro, one of the Shapiro Brothers, New York City labor racketeer*Meyer Schapiro, art historian...

 borrowed Saussure
Saussure
People of the surname Saussure or de Saussure include* Horace-Bénédict de Saussure , Swiss physicist and Alpine traveller** Nicolas-Théodore de Saussure , chemist, son of Horace-Bénédict, and brother of Albertine...

’s differential meaning in effort to read signs as they exist within a system. According to Schapiro, to understand the meaning of frontality in a specific pictorial context, it must be differentiated from, or viewed in relation to, alternate possibilities such as a profile
Profile
- Computing and technology :* Profile , a concept in Unified Modeling Language* Apple ProFile, a hard drive* User profile refers to the computer representation of user information...

, or a three-quarter view. Schapiro combined this method with the work of Charles Sanders Peirce whose object, sign, and interpretant provided a structure for his approach. Alex Potts demonstrates the application of Peirce’s concepts to visual representation by examining them in relation to the Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa is a portrait by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci. It is a painting in oil on a poplar panel, completed circa 1503–1519...

. By seeing the Mona Lisa, for example, as something beyond its materiality is to identify it as a sign. It is then recognized as referring to an object outside of itself, a woman, or Mona Lisa. The image does not seem to denote religious meaning and can therefore be assumed to be a portrait. This interpretation leads to a chain of possible interpretations: who was the sitter in relation to Leonardo
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

? What significance did she have to him? Or, maybe she is an icon for all of womankind. This chain of interpretation, or “unlimited semiosis” is endless; the art historian’s job is to place boundaries on possible interpretations as much as it is to reveal new possibilities.

Semiotics operates under the theory that an image can only be understood from the viewer’s perspective. The artist is supplanted by the viewer as the purveyor of meaning, even to the extent that an interpretation is still valid regardless of whether the creator had intended it. Rosalind Krauss espoused this concept in her essay “In the Name of Picasso.” She denounced the artist’s monopoly on meaning and insisted that meaning can only be derived after the work has been removed from its historical and social context. Mieke Bal argued similarly that meaning does not even exist until the image is observed by the viewer. It is only after acknowledging this that meaning can become opened up to other possibilities such as feminism or psychoanalysis.

Divisions by period

The field of Art History is traditionally divided into specializations or concentrations based on eras and regions, with further sub-division based on media. Thus, someone might specialize in "19th century German architecture
Architecture
Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...

" or in "16th century Tuscan
Tuscany
Tuscany is a region in Italy. It has an area of about 23,000 square kilometres and a population of about 3.75 million inhabitants. The regional capital is Florence ....

 sculpture." Sub-fields are often included under a specialization. For example, the Ancient Near East
Near East
The Near East is a geographical term that covers different countries for geographers, archeologists, and historians, on the one hand, and for political scientists, economists, and journalists, on the other...

, Greece, Rome, and Egypt are all typically considered special concentrations of Ancient art
Ancient art
Arts of the ancient world refer to the many types of art that were in the cultures of ancient societies, such as those of ancient China, India, Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, Greece and Rome.-Egypt:...

. In some cases, these specializations may be closely allied (as Greece and Rome, for example), while in others such alliances are far less natural (Indian art versus Korea
Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

n art, for example).

Non-Western art
History of art
The History of art refers to visual art which may be defined as any activity or product made by humans in a visual form for aesthetical or communicative purposes, expressing ideas, emotions or, in general, a worldview...

 is a relative newcomer to the Art Historical canon. Recent revisions of the semantic division between art and artifact have recast objects created in non-Western cultures in more aesthetic terms. Relative to those studying Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 or the Italian Renaissance
Italian Renaissance
The Italian Renaissance began the opening phase of the Renaissance, a period of great cultural change and achievement in Europe that spanned the period from the end of the 13th century to about 1600, marking the transition between Medieval and Early Modern Europe...

, scholars specializing in Africa, the Ancient Americas and Asia are a growing minority.

Professional organizations

In the United States, the most important art history organization is the College Art Association
College Art Association
The College Art Association of America is the principal professional association in the United States for practitioners and scholars of art, art history, and art criticism...

. It organizes an annual conference and publishes the Art Bulletin and Art Journal
Art Journal
Art Journal may refer to:* Art Journal , 1941–present, published by College Art Association of America* The Art Journal, 1839–1912, London* Art diary, art journal or visual journal, a daily journal kept by artists...

. Similar organizations exist in other parts of the world, as well as for specializations, such as architectural history
Architectural History
Architectural History is the main journal of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain .The journal is published each autumn. The architecture of the British Isles is a major theme of the journal, although it includes more general papers on the history of architecture. Member of...

 and Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 art history. In the UK, for example, the Association of Art Historians
Association of Art Historians
The Association of Art Historians was formed in 1974 to support and promote the study of art history. It is based in London and is a registered charity .-Membership:...

 is the premiere organization, and it publishes a journal titled Art History
Art History (Journal)
Art History is a peer-reviewed academic journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the Association of Art Historians. The journal was established in 1978. Art History provides an international forum for research relating to all aspects of the historical and theological study of painting,...

.

Further reading

Listed by date
  • Pollock, Griselda (ed.) (2006). Psychoanalysis and the Image. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 1-4051-3461-5
  • Mansfield, Elizabeth (2002). Art History and Its Institutions: Foundations of a Discipline. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-22868-9
  • Harrison, Charles, and Paul Wood. (2003). Art in Theory, 1900-2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas. 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  • Murray, Chris. (2003). Key Writers on Art. 2 vols, Routledge Key Guides. London: Routledge.
  • Harrison, Charles, Paul Wood, and Jason Gaiger. (2000). Art in Theory 1648-1815: An Anthology of Changing Ideas. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  • Harrison, Charles, Paul Wood, and Jason Gaiger. (2001). Art in theory, 1815-1900: an anthology of changing ideas. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  • Buchloh, Benjamin. (2001). Neo-Avantgarde and Culture Industry. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Clark, T.J. (2001). Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Robinson, Hilary. (2001). Feminism-Art-Theory: An Anthology, 1968-2000. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  • Minor, Vernon Hyde. (2001). Art history's history. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Pollock, G., (1999). Differencing the Canon. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-06700-6
  • Frazier, N. (1999). The Penguin concise dictionary of art history. New York: Penguin Reference.
  • Adams, L. (1996). The methodologies of art: an introduction. New York, NY: IconEditions.
  • Nelson, R. S., & Shiff, R. (1996). Critical terms for art history. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Minor, Vernon Hyde. (1994). Critical Theory of Art History. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Fitzpatrick, V. L. N. V. D. (1992). Art history: a contextual inquiry course. Point of view series. Reston, VA: National Art Education Association.
  • Kemal, Salim, and Ivan Gaskell (1991). The Language of Art History. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 052144598
  • Carrier, D. (1991). Principles of art history writing. University Park, Pa: Pennsylvania State University Press.
  • Johnson, W. M. (1988). Art history: its use and abuse. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  • Holly, M. A. (1984). Panofsky and the foundations of art history. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
  • Arntzen, E., & Rainwater, R. (1980). Guide to the literature of art history. Chicago: American Library Association.
  • Hauser, A. (1959). The philosophy of art history. New York: Knopf.
  • Wölfflin, H. (1915, trans. 1932). Principles of art history; the problem of the development of style in later art. [New York]: Dover Publications.

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