Why Is History of Art Criticism Important?

Art|Art History

The history of art criticism is a long and varied one, with opinions and interpretations spanning from Ancient Greece to the contemporary art world. It is a complex discourse, with debates around aesthetics, the value of individual pieces of artwork, and the place of art in society. Art criticism has been used as an instrument of social critique, an analytical tool to assess artistic productions, and a form of entertainment.

Ancient Greece is often seen as the birthplace of art criticism. In ancient Greece, art was highly valued and respected; it was seen as an expression of divine inspiration.

The two most famous ancient Greek critics were Aristotle and Plato. Aristotle wrote extensively on aesthetics, focusing on the importance of unity in artwork and how it should evoke emotion in its viewers. Plato argued that art should be judged based on its moral content and its ability to improve society.

Renaissance saw the emergence of more formalized art criticism, with writers such as Giorgio Vasari developing theories about how artwork should be judged based on its technical skill and composition. This period also saw the rise of connoisseurship – an appreciation for artwork based on knowledge rather than emotional reactions – which eventually led to the development of modern art museums.

Modern Art Criticism began in the 19th century with writers such as John Ruskin who argued that artists should be judged by their creativity rather than their technical skill. This view was echoed by other early modernists such as Walter Pater who sought out beauty in unconventional places and advocated for a more subjective approach to judging artwork.

Contemporary Criticism has become even more diverse with critics such as Clement Greenberg arguing for formalism – i.e., judging artwork based on its formal qualities – while others have taken a more social or political approach to critiquing works of art. Contemporary critics are also increasingly interested in issues such as race, gender and identity politics which have become key topics in many debates around artwork today.


History of art criticism is important because it provides insight into how people have understood and evaluated works of art throughout history. By examining different eras and approaches to evaluating artwork we can gain deeper insight into how our culture views beauty, creativity, morality, skill level, etc., which can help us create better criteria when it comes to judging artwork today. Furthermore, understanding how different cultures have interpreted works throughout history can help us appreciate them better today – both aesthetically and critically!