What Is the History of Art History?

Art|Art History

The history of art history is a fascinating and complex field that has been researched and studied for centuries. It is an area of study that has evolved over time and continues to shape the way we view and understand art. In its simplest form, art history is the study of works of art, their creators, their context, and the impact they have had on society.

The earliest known examples of art history were written by ancient Greeks such as Aristotle and Plato, who wrote about how to make sense of visual works. They wrote about aesthetics—the principles governing the creation of beautiful works—and the relationship between form, line, color, and content. This was the beginning of what we now call formal analysis, a cornerstone in the field today.

As technology advanced throughout history, so did our ability to record our observations on works of art in more detail and with greater accuracy. Renaissance scholars such as Giorgio Vasari wrote biographies on artists and their artwork while also exploring broader themes like patronage and artistic theory. This period saw great advancements in our understanding of perspective, anatomy, and color theory which opened up new possibilities for painters.

In the 19th century came a shift from traditional modes of thinking about art to a more systematic approach which began with Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s The History Of Ancient Art (1764). He was one of the first to use empirical methods to analyze works with an eye towards understanding their cultural significance as well as their stylistic characteristics. This ushered in a new era where scholars could look at works from different periods in order to compare them across time, allowing them to trace stylistic developments or establish connections between disparate pieces.

Today’s art historians are still looking at works through multiple lenses—from formal analysis to economic analysis—and drawing connections between past eras that can help us better understand our present circumstances. Additionally, modern technology has opened up new ways for us to engage with artwork through virtual reality experiences or interactive installations at museums.


The history of art history is one that spans centuries but remains ever-evolving with each new discovery or technological advancement. From ancient Greek philosophers discussing aesthetics to modern scholars using technology-driven tools – it is an area that continues to expand our knowledge base around visual arts appreciation and interpretation.