What Is the Definition of Art History?

Art|Art History

Art history is a discipline that studies the development of art over time and its impact on society. It is a branch of history that focuses on the study of visual arts such as painting, sculpture, architecture, and photography. Art historians analyze works of art, their context, and their meaning. They use tools such as archival evidence, primary sources, and technical analysis to uncover the story behind a work of art.

The definition of art history can be broadened to include other forms of visual culture such as film, performance art, and video games. Art historians examine how artists have used different media to express themselves throughout history. They consider how different societies have used various forms of art to communicate ideas or create identity.

Art historians also explore the impact of technology on artistic production and its role in creating new forms of expression.

Art historians often employ a variety of methods in their research including formal analysis (the study of form), iconography (the study of symbols), and semiotics (the study of meaning). They also consider broader cultural contexts such as politics, religion, economics, race/ethnicity, gender/sexuality, and climate/geography when researching a work or artist. The study of art history is an invaluable tool for understanding different cultures and for exploring shared values across time periods and geographical locations.

The field of art history has grown significantly since its inception in the 19th century with contributions from fields such as anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, literature, economics and other disciplines. It has also been shaped by changing trends in aesthetic values throughout time ranging from the classical world to modernity. Art history continues to evolve with new technologies allowing us to explore works in unprecedented ways while also raising questions about our relationship with images in an increasingly digital age.


In conclusion, the definition of art history is multifaceted but can generally be understood as the study of visual arts – painting, sculpture architecture – over time with consideration given to their context within society and their impact on culture.