What Is Historicism in Art History?

Art|Art History

Historicism in art history is a term used to describe the study of art that is rooted in its historical context. Art historians have traditionally looked at the works of art in terms of their own time and place, but Historicism also takes into account the social, political, economic, and cultural aspects of a particular period or era. This type of art history often examines how different societies created and interacted with art, as well as how it has changed over time.

Historicism studies the artwork within its specific context and considers how it reflects and interacts with the culture and society it was produced within. This type of analysis helps us to understand not just what a particular work of art looks like but also what it meant for its creator, audience, and society at that time. It can also provide insight into how certain societies related to certain themes or forms in their artwork.

Historicism has been used by many different disciplines including archaeology, anthropology, sociology, and literary criticism. It has been especially useful in art history due to its ability to examine artwork as part of a larger social context. By examining works within their own historical period, Historicism enables us to better understand not just what a particular artist was trying to convey through their work but also how it relates to wider trends in society at the time.

Historicism can be particularly useful when examining works from different periods or regions that share certain characteristics or themes. For example, if an artist from Ancient Greece was creating work that included certain motifs or symbols that are also found in works from other cultures from around the same period then this could suggest something about how those societies interacted with one another at the time.


In conclusion, Historicism is an important method for studying artwork as part of its social context in order to gain a better understanding of what it meant for its creator and audience at the time it was created. By looking at artwork through this lens we can gain insight into wider trends within society over time and across different cultures.