Art History

Art History

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The Failed Soviet Rival to the Flapper Dress

In post-revolutionary Russia, as the country’s thinkers attempted to work out a new way of life for citizens of the Soviet Union, a small number of artists grappled with a different problem: the clothes of the future. Soviet clothing, they reasoned, should be “rational,” more

Da Vinci notebook sells for over $5M

On December 12, 1980, American oil tycoon Armand Hammer pays $5,126,000 at auction for a notebook containing writings by the legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci. The manuscript, written around 1508, was one of some 30 similar books da Vinci produced during his lifetime on a more

Stolen “Mona Lisa” recovered in Florence

Two years after it was stolen from the Louvre Museum in Paris, Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece The Mona Lisa is recovered inside Italian waiter Vincenzo Peruggia’s hotel room in Florence. Peruggia had previously worked at the Louvre and had participated in the heist with a group more

7 Images That Changed Royal History

Throughout history, royal families have carefully crafted their images, using artists and photographers to portray them in a majestic and iconic light. Sometimes these images had serious consequences—whether they were the ones intended or not. Here are the stories of some of the more

Undercover Ink: How Spies Use Tattoos

Tattoos are more common in the workplace than ever before, but they can still be an occupational hazard. Particularly when your profession happens to be spy. Spycraft often involves moving between legal and criminal worlds—and few things are as risky as being discovered while more

Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines are a collection of giant geoglyphs—designs or motifs etched into the ground—located in the Peruvian coastal plain about 250 miles (400 kilometers) south of Lima, Peru. Created by the ancient Nazca culture in South America, and depicting various plants, animals, more

Surrealism History

Surrealism is an artistic movement that has had a lasting impact on painting, sculpture, literature, photography and film. Surrealists—inspired by Sigmund Freud’s theories of dreams and the unconscious—believed insanity was the breaking of the chains of logic, and they more

Artists of the New Deal

The New Deal was one of President Roosevelt’s efforts to end the Great Depression. Art projects were a major part of this series of federal relief programs, like the Public Works of Art Project, the Treasury Section of Painting and Sculpture and the Treasury Relief Art Project. more

Art Nouveau and Art Deco History

Art Nouveau was an art and design movement that grew out of the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th Century. Art Nouveau highlighted curvaceous lines, often inspired by plants and flowers, as well as geometric patterns. Art Deco was a sprawling design sensibility that more

Modernism and Post-Modernism History

Modernism in the arts refers to the rejection of the Victorian era’s traditions and the exploration of industrial-age, real-life issues, and combines a rejection of the past with experimentation, sometimes for political purposes. Stretching from the late 19th century to the more


Bauhaus was an influential art and design movement that began in 1919 in Weimar, Germany. The movement encouraged teachers and students to pursue their crafts together in design studios and workshops. The school moved to Dessau in 1925 and then to Berlin in 1932, after which more


Impressionism was a radical art movement that began in the late 1800s, centered primarily around Parisian painters. Impressionists rebelled against classical subject matter and embraced modernity, desiring to create works that reflected the world in which they lived. Uniting more

Cubism History

Cubism is an artistic movement, created by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, which employs geometric shapes in depictions of human and other forms. Over time, the geometric touches grew so intense that they sometimes overtook the represented forms, creating a more pure level of more

The Heist that Made the Mona Lisa Famous

The theft of the Mona Lisa has been called the “art heist of the century,” but the caper itself was fairly rudimentary. On the evening of Sunday, August 20, 1911, a small, mustachioed man entered the Louvre museum in Paris and made his way to the Salon Carré, where the Da Vinci more

7 Things You May Not Know About Vincent Van Gogh

1. He failed at multiple jobs before becoming an artist. The son of a minister, van Gogh started working at age 16, when his uncle got him a job as a trainee with an art dealership in The Hague. He went on to do stints in the firm’s London and Paris offices before he was fired in more

History’s Biggest Art Heist

The buzzer rang at 1:24 a.m. While the last of Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day revelers downed their final drinks before turning in on March 18, 1990, night watchman Richard Abath looked up from his security desk to see two men in police uniforms and caps at the door of the Isabella more

9 Things You May Not Know About Michelangelo

1. A jealous rival broke his nose when he was a teenager.As a teen, Michelangelo was sent to live and study in the home of Lorenzo de’ Medici, then one of the most important art patrons in all of Europe. His steady hand with a chisel and paintbrush soon made him the envy of all more

World Art History, c. 15th century to the present

This syllabus is a college-level survey course of world art and architecture from approximately the 15th century through the present.

* Syllabus generously contributed by Dr. Lauren Kilroy-Ewbank, with the following notes: This syllabus is the accumulation of 10-years of teaching different iterations of this class, and which was (in the past 7 years) run as a flipped class—students mainly watched “lecture” and completed readings outside of class so that during class time they could apply, discuss, or create materials. Mini-lectures during class filled in gaps as well. This model can be adapted for face-to-face or online course formats.

This class is designed for a 15-week semester, with each of the listed topics covering a single-class period (of roughly 75 minutes). Placeholders have been included for exams, museum visits, projects, and other opportunities, and we’ve left a few days “off” to account for holidays, etc. Each class period includes more art examples than are needed for students still rather than remove them, they are included to give everyone the option to decide which themes or specific examples best suit their students’ needs. The works chosen for each topic are by no means comprehensive, but have been chosen for some of the important stories they can tell.

With each topic you will find a list of videos and essays, as well as important terms to know and use. For some topics you will also see additional essays or videos to provide more background information.

1. Course introduction: what is art history and what is world art history

This topic introduces the students to the basics of art history as a discipline, including how to do a visual analysis. It also introduces them to the concept of world art history (as an approach).

Bartolomé Bermejo, Pietà with Canon Lluís Desplà, 1490, tempera on wood (Barcelona Cathedral)

Art history

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

Art history, also called art historiography, historical study of the visual arts, being concerned with identifying, classifying, describing, evaluating, interpreting, and understanding the art products and historic development of the fields of painting, sculpture, architecture, the decorative arts, drawing, printmaking, photography, interior design, etc.

Art historical research has two primary concerns. The first is (1) to discover who made a particular art object (attribution), (2) to authenticate an art object, determining whether it was indeed made by the artist to whom it is traditionally attributed, (3) to determine at what stage in a culture’s development or in an artist’s career the object in question was made, (4) to assay the influence of one artist on succeeding ones in the historical past, and (5) to gather biographical data on artists and documentation (provenance) on the previous whereabouts and ownership of particular works of art. The second primary concern of art historical research is to understand the stylistic and formal development of artistic traditions on a large scale and within a broad historical perspective this chiefly involves the enumeration and analysis of the various artistic styles, periods, movements, and schools of the past. Art history also involves iconography (q.v.), which is the analysis of symbols, themes, and subject matter in the visual arts, particularly the meaning of religious symbolism in Christian art.

Art historical scholarship depends greatly on the broad experience, intuitive judgment, and critical sensitivity of the scholar in making correct attributions. An extensive knowledge of the historical context in which the artist lived and worked is also necessary, as well as empathy with and understanding of a particular artist’s ideas, experiences, and insights. Attribution plays a key role in art historical research, because when one art object can be conclusively authenticated (by a signature, contemporary accounts, or other forms of provenance), other works of a similar or closely related character can be grouped around it and assigned to that particular artist or period. This and other methods have been used to build up modern scholars’ detailed and comprehensive understanding of art products and traditions extending into the remote past.

Edited by David Freedberg and Jan de Vries


Art in History/History in Art considers the potential for a reciprocally illuminating relationship between art history and history in light of recent methodological developments in both fields. The volume opens with contributions from a historian and an art historian they examine the weaknesses of an art history without a social or economic history and lay the groundwork for the ensuing discussions of how the procedures and methods of each discipline may serve the aims of the other. A wide critique of approaches to the interpretation of realism in Dutch pictures forms the second section of the book. Included are critical views of recent iconographic developments, as well as contributions by a plant taxidermist and a marine historian. In the volume’s third section, new statistical and numerical models for the study of Dutch art in Dutch society are presented by three economic historians. The concluding essay provides a constructive critique of existing methodologies within each field. The volume offers the most secure basis to date for future work on the interaction between the two disciplines and between the content of pictures and the cultures that produce them.

Los Angeles is a city on the Pacific Rim where things appear on edge, for they lack a permanent footing even while occupying a specific locale. The city’s genius loci produce this dual vision of fixed place in a state of constant dislocation.

It is only appropriate for the edge-bound Getty Center to initiate a series of publications that aim to expose the historical study of artifacts to the oscillation of rigorous debate. Each of these books proceeds from a specific body of historical material, not because that material is in itself inherently imbued with controversy but because its exposure to different disciplinary approaches raises new questions of interpretation. In the realm of historical studies, issues often emerge at the intersection of the various perspectives scholars have constructed for the examination of their subjects. As their debate refracts and refocuses the material under scrutiny, it also invites reflection upon itself and thereby exposes the assumptions and tendencies of scholarship to no less assiduous criticism than it does the underpinnings of its subjects.

Volumes in the Issues & Debates series will result from symposia and lecture series, as well as from commissioned writings. Their scholarly editors are invited to frame highly focused essays with introductions, commentaries and/or sources, documents, and illustrations that further contribute to their usefulness.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
    • Introduction
      Jan de Vries
    • Art in History
      Gary Schwartz
    • History in Art
      J. W. Smit
    • Market Scenes As Viewed by an Art Historian
      Linda Stone-Ferrier
    • Market Scenes As Viewed by a Plant Biologist
      Willem A. Brandenburg
    • Marine Paintings and the History of Shipbuilding
      Richard W. Unger
    • Skies and Reality in Dutch Landscape
      John Walsh
    • Some Notes on Interpretation
      E. de Jongh
    • Are These Girls Really So Neat? On Kitchen Scenes and Method
      Jochen Becker
    • Didactic and Disguised Meanings? Several Seventeenth-Century Texts on Painting and the Iconological Approach to Northern Dutch Paintings of This Period
      Eric J. Sluijter
    • The Changing Face of Realism
      Lyckle de Vries
    • Art History
      Jan de Vries
    • The Volume and Value of Paintings in Holland at the Time of the Dutch Republic
      Ad van der Woude
    • Works of Art in Seventeenth-Century Amsterdam: An Analysis of Subjects and Attributions
      John Michael Montias
    • Science, Commerce, and Art: Neglected Topics at the Junction of History and Art History
      David Freedberg

    About the Authors

    Jochen Becker focuses his research on the interrelation of art and literature, iconology, art theory, and emblematics. He teaches iconology and art theory at the Rijksuniversiteit, Utrecht.

    Willem A. Brandenburg studies the backgrounds of cultivated plants and their mechanisms of domestication. He pursues his research as a plant systematist at the Centre for Variety Research and Seed Technology (CRZ), Wageningen.

    David Freedberg focuses his research on art theory and the history of Dutch, Flemish, and Italian art. He is a professor of art history at Columbia University, New York.

    E. de Jongh specializes in iconology and art theory. From 1976 until his retirement in 1990, he was a professor of art history at the Rijksuniversiteit, Utrecht.

    John Michael Montias engages in research ranging from trade in art goods in seventeenth-century Holland to industrial policy in contemporary Eastern Europe. He is a professor of economics at Yale University, New Haven.

    Gary Schwartz focuses his studies on Dutch art history. He is the publisher of Gary Schwartz/SDU, an imprint of SDU, the former Dutch Government Publishing Office.

    Eric J. Sluijter specializes in Dutch art history. He is an associate professor at the Rijksuniversiteit, Leiden.

    J. W. Smit studies the social structure and cultural history of the Dutch Republic. He is Queen Wilhelmina Professor of History and Literature of the Low Countries at Columbia University, New York.

    Linda Stone-Ferrier focuses her research on Dutch art history. She is an associate professor of art history at the University of Kansas, Lawrence.

    Richard W. Unger studies marine history. He is a professor of history at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

    Jan de Vries studies European preindustrial economies and the historical process of Europe’s urbanization. He is a professor of history and economics at the University of California, Berkeley.

    Lyckle de Vries researches problems of periodization and classification in Dutch art. He teaches art history at the Rijksuniversiteit, Groningen.

    John Walsh specializes in the study of seventeenth-century Dutch painting. He is the former director of the J. Paul Getty Museum.

    Ad van der Woude researches issues in Dutch economic history. He is a professor in the Department of Rural History at Wageningen Agricultural University.

    Top 24 Best Art History Books of All Time Review 2021

    Art history could be intimidating. Composed of innumerable movements, artists, mediums, and fashions, diving into the analysis might appear daunting. But with the outstanding book collection, you will realize that comprehension of art history isn’t just possible but amazingly attainable. After all, as Ralph Waldo Emerson famously maintained, “every artist was first an amateur.”

    Therefore, whether you are considering a career in arts management, an artist seeking to find out more about your clinic’s narrative, or just interested in art’s development, these must-have publications for budding art historians rely on your shelf!

    Why is art history important?

    "Why study art history when there are many other careers to pursue?" Well, if we consider the discipline differently from a career standpoint, we realize that it serves fundamental purposes.

    Understanding cultures

    Visual art recounts stories of our past, it gives an account of past events. Art history allows us to look back and understand how our civilization evolved over the centuries. It is a way to know ourselves better. Why do we have certain values? What shaped the way we think and our vision of the world?

    Develop critical thinking

    Studying art history is really not about memorizing dates, artists’ names, art movements, etc. Instead, it drives you to analyze paintings, photographs, sculptures, etc. To support your analysis, you must build rational and convincing arguments, hence developing your critical thinking.

    Cambridge Rindge and Latin (CRLS) students are building a special connection to the Harvard Art Museums with the museums’ Graduate Student Teacher program, which the students say has changed the way they experience art and history.

    “In history class, we usually look at the pictures and talk about the context, but here we get to really experience it,” said Beminet Desalegn, whose Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. history class recently visited the museums to study images of presidents and the history of African-American oppression in the U.S. “You get to make up your own mind about these events.”

    AP history student Nusrat Jahan agreed: “It’s not very interesting to just read about past events. But when you come here and see the art made by people actually living in that time, when you think about it and talk about it or even re-create a work by drawing it, you get a more in-depth understanding of that time and what people were going through. We get to see the context, and really experience it ourselves.”

    The partnership program brings about 120 students into the Harvard Art Museums each semester. Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) student teachers work with CRLS teachers to design and teach classes that incorporate the museums’ art with classroom curriculum.

    “We create tours that connect back to what they’re learning in class,” said HGSE student teacher Jessica Paik. “We encourage them to make connections between the work of art and the concepts they’re studying — to make those connections analytically. It’s very helpful to master that skill. Just knowing the facts is not enough: History is not just facts it’s a story. It has a lot to do with our perspectives and our analysis.”

    AP U.S. history teacher Marlin Kann, who is in his first year with the partnership program, said the program “has really increased the sophistication of the students’ understanding of history. They not only look forward to it as a wonderful event, but it’s raised their understanding of what history is.”

    Students examine materials from different eras of American history. Jessica Paik, a student at HGSE, talks to students about John Singleton Copley's portrait of U.S. President John Adams.

    Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

    As an example, Kann recalled the students examining art works collectively titled “Medals of Dishonor,” featuring several cast-metal narrative reliefs made by American artist David Smith in the 1930s. Funded by the federal government’s New Deal program, each item bears a unique anti-war theme.

    “The medals also speak to the rise of fascism, using medicine as a weapon, civilian bombings, and so on,” he said. “They’re not only connected to history, but the context is also within the prism of the 1930s. It helps make these things very real to the students, and it challenges you to analyze images as an historian, rather than solely as an artistic audience.”

    “School visits to museums can feel like field trips, but our student teachers are trying to create real-world connections,” said David Odo, the museums’ director of student programs and research curator for University collections initiatives, who oversees the program. “We want to help CRLS teachers reach the high goals they have set for themselves and their students, and we want to give the students a strong entry point to challenge their assumptions about the world. Harvard Art Museums is a place for these students to think, and grow — and belong.”

    Art History

    Art History operates at the intersection of the visual and the verbal, and it deploys knowledge from an exceptional range of disciplines to engage and interpret the objects of art and visual culture. It is thus a particularly powerful tool for the understanding of human culture and creativity. The Division of Art History is dedicated to the study of visual art and culture as distinctive instruments of knowledge and methods of human expression that offer fundamental insights into diverse historical and contemporary human cultures, insights often unavailable to other modes of analysis. We provide students with the opportunity to work in a vibrant community of scholars and peers to explore the social, historical, ethical, and aesthetic significance of the visual realm that is our present environment and the heritage of numerous diverse cultures and civilizations.

    We offer a BA major with an honors option as well as a minor in Art History for those pursing other undergraduate majors. At the graduate level, an MA degree and a PhD degree are available.


    From its founding in 1879 to the present, the Art Institute of Chicago has shared its singular collections with our city and the world.

    The Art Institute of Chicago was founded as both a museum and school for the fine arts in 1879, a critical era in the history of Chicago as civic energies were devoted to rebuilding the metropolis that had been destroyed by the Great Fire of 1871. The Art Institute found its permanent home in 1893, when it moved into a building constructed on what is recognized today as the traditional homelands of the Council of Three Fires—the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi peoples. Built jointly with the city of Chicago for the World’s Columbian Exposition at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street, that building—its entry flanked by the two famous bronze lions—remains the “front door” of the museum even today.

    In keeping with the academic origins of the institution, a research library was constructed in 1901 eight major expansions for gallery and administrative space have followed, with the latest being the Modern Wing, which opened in 2009. The permanent collection has grown from plaster casts to nearly 300,000 works of art in fields ranging from Chinese bronzes to contemporary design and from textiles to installation art. Together, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the museum of the Art Institute of Chicago are now internationally recognized as two of the leading fine-arts institutions in the United States.

    1879–1913: The Formative Years

    The Art Institute was founded as the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts in 1879. The name was changed in 1882, and shortly after, the institution was already in need of a new home for its expanding collection and growing student body.

    As the city prepared to dazzle the country as host of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, the Art Institute’s trustees negotiated with the city’s civic bodies for a new structure located on a park site at Michigan Avenue and Adams Street. The design of the classical Beaux-Arts building by the Boston firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge allowed for the institution’s ambitious goals. The new building was the site of the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions where Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda gave his famous “Sisters and brothers of America” speech. The Art Institute officially opened on December 8, 1893.

    Within a year, the Art Institute had received its first major gift, a collection of French paintings presented by Mrs. Henry Field. Two significant improvements to the building followed: Fullerton Auditorium (1898) and Ryerson Library (1901). In 1913 the museum startled the city by hosting the Armory Show, a sprawling exhibition of avant-garde European painting and sculpture. Exceptional purchases from that controversial exhibition launched the museum’s collection of modern art.

    1916–1939: Bridging the Tracks

    Expansion of the museum was again required to suitably display a collection that now included nearly every artistic medium. The bold solution was to build over the Illinois Central Railroad tracks that bordered the Art Institute’s east wall.

    Additions for both the school and museum were added and included memorials to two young men who died in World War I: the George Alexander McKinlock Jr. Memorial Court (in 1924) and the Kenneth Sawyer Goodman Theater (in 1925). The Art Institute’s holdings of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings were immeasurably enhanced by the bequest of 52 paintings from Bertha Honoré Palmer in 1924 and the 1925 gift of the Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, which contained the famous Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte—1884, (1884–86). In the depths of the Great Depression, the museum received the single most comprehensive gift of art in its history, the bequest of Martin A. Ryerson. This donation contained masterpieces ranging from American and European paintings dating to the 15th century to textiles, prints and drawings, Asian art, and European decorative arts.

    The exhibition A Century of Progress, held in conjunction with the 1933 World’s Fair, attracted 1.5 million visitors in five months, making it the highest attended show in the Art Institute’s history.

    1955–1977: Expansion at Mid-Century

    The material shortages that followed World War II brought a halt to the Art Institute’s building additions. Changes began modestly in the 1950s with interior reconstructions, creating spaces to accommodate new curatorial departments.

    The growth of the professional staff led to the completion of the first major new structure in more than 20 years in 1958: the B. F. Ferguson Memorial Building. This addition is situated to the north of the original structure, which was named in 1968 after long-time trustee Robert Allerton. The Morton Wing, erected in 1962 to the south of the Allerton Building, was designed to house the expanding modern art collection and restore symmetry to the complex. Mrs. Stanley McCormick’s gift of gardens in front of both the Ferguson and Morton additions linked the Art Institute to surrounding parks.

    The 1970s saw a sharp increase in both the number of art students and the number of visitors to the museum. The Art Institute responded to this trend with an entirely new east side expansion that included new studios, classrooms, and a film center for the School as well as new public spaces for the museum. This addition also housed the reconstruction of Louis Sullivan’s original Chicago Stock Exchange Trading Room, which had been slated for demolition.

    1985–2000: At Century’s End

    Over many decades, the museum’s 1893 Allerton Building had been radically altered to accommodate a growing collection and new methods of presentation. A two-year renovation and restoration program of the second floor renewed the space’s symmetry, improved lighting, and created optimum viewing conditions.

    The dramatic increase of the contemporary art collection and the popularity of large traveling exhibitions led, in the 1980s, to the construction of the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Building, which opened in 1988. This wing still houses the museum’s largest special exhibition space, Regenstein Hall, as well as the American art collection. In the 1990s, the Art Institute built a new suite of galleries to house its Asian collection. Here, famed architect Tadao Ando designed his first American space, a gallery for Japanese screens. In 1993, a totally reconstructed Kraft Education Center opened to serve students, teachers, and families. Restoration of the Art Institute’s earliest educational spaces became a priority: the Ryerson Library was renovated in 1994 with restored interiors and new underground stacks, and work on Fullerton Auditorium began in 1999. As the century closed, a new exterior ramp and interior elevator were under construction to provide universal access to the Art Institute.

    2000–2009: The Era of Greatest Growth

    Throughout the first decade of the 21st century, the Art Institute would embark on the largest expansion in its history, the Modern Wing. Designed by Renzo Piano, this addition, at 264,000 square feet, rivaled only the original Allerton Building of 1893 in size.

    Spurred by the ever-growing permanent collection, the Art Institute began planning another major expansion at the turn of the 20th century. Originally intended as an addition to Gunsaulus Hall sitting over the railroad tracks on the south side of the museum, those plans were abandoned as construction began on Millennium Park, Chicago’s great urban centerpiece to the north of the museum. Working with the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, the museum broke ground on the site of the Goodman Theater in 2005 to build the Modern Wing, directly facing Millennium Park. This addition holds the museum’s collections of 20th- and 21st-century art, architecture, design, and photography as well as the Ryan Learning Center, two restaurants, the Bluhm Family Terrace for commissioned installations of contemporary sculpture, and the Nichols Bridgeway, which links the third floor of the Modern Wing to Millennium Park.

    In concert with the Modern Wing, the former home of the museum’s collection of arms and armor was transformed into a sculpture court for Indian and Southeast Asian art, also designed by Renzo Piano.

    2010–Present: Continuous Evolution

    The opening of the Modern Wing in 2009 not only expanded the museum’s space but also enabled the museum to reconsider how we present our collection, affording a rare opportunity to step back from, examine, and reshape the narratives we offer. With its 264,000 square feet, the addition increased the museum’s total size by nearly 35 percent, allowing each of our curatorial departments to display more of their permanent holdings. In the summer of 2010, space formerly devoted to contemporary art became the new home of galleries dedicated to Native American and pre-Columbian art, as well as galleries focusing on art from across the continent of Africa, presenting the rich diversity of these superb collections in substantially larger spaces. In the fall of 2010, the Roger L. and Pamela Weston Wing and Japanese Art Galleries opened, elegantly reconceptualizing the display of ancient through contemporary works of Japanese art. Fall 2012 brought the Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries of Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Art, a suite of galleries that encircle McKinlock Court with artworks that trace the development of Western art from the dawn of the third millennium BC to the time of the great Byzantine Empire. And in spring 2017, the Deering Family Galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Art, Arms, and Armor opened, offering an immersive experience of this period through more than 700 objects in various media.

    Throughout the museum’s history, our rich holdings of modern and contemporary art have largely been the result of the generosity, vision, and unwavering advocacy of private collectors and other benefactors. Among the most eminent of these supporters today are Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson, whose 2015 donation of 44 iconic paintings, sculptures, and photographs—one of the truly transformative gifts in the Art Institute’s history—allows the museum to claim the most important collection of modern and contemporary art in any encyclopedic institution in the world. The arrival of the Edlis Neeson Collection—including works by Jasper Johns, Takashi Murakami, Robert Rauschenberg, Cindy Sherman, and Andy Warhol—testifies to the ongoing vitality of Chicago’s distinguished history of patronage in this area.

    In recent years, the museum has continued to collect and exhibit modern and contemporary art, including works that represent art’s broader history. Our galleries introduce new stories to our audiences, showcasing recently acquired contemporary art by artists from countries including Brazil, China, India, Japan, Korea, South Africa, the former Sudan, and Thailand. These works expand the range of stories we see, hear, and share in the galleries, adding new dimensions and richness to our institution. Alongside our gallery-based projects, we have engaged in deep and multifaceted research on our collections, resulting in numerous rediscoveries and groundbreaking publications, both print and digital. The result is a truly global museum—one that strives to be ever more accessible—and both our collections and our approaches to interpreting them represent a broad cultural awareness.

    A History of Art History

    In this wide-ranging and authoritative book, the first of its kind in English, Christopher Wood tracks the evolution of the historical study of art from the late middle ages through the rise of the modern scholarly discipline of art history. Synthesizing and assessing a vast array of writings, episodes, and personalities, this original account of the development of art-historical thinking will appeal to readers both inside and outside the discipline.

    The book shows that the pioneering chroniclers of the Italian Renaissance—Lorenzo Ghiberti and Giorgio Vasari—measured every epoch against fixed standards of quality. Only in the Romantic era did art historians discover the virtues of medieval art, anticipating the relativism of the later nineteenth century, when art history learned to admire the art of all societies and to value every work as an index of its times. The major art historians of the modern era, however—Jacob Burckhardt, Aby Warburg, Heinrich Wölfflin, Erwin Panofsky, Meyer Schapiro, and Ernst Gombrich—struggled to adapt their work to the rupture of artistic modernism, leading to the current predicaments of the discipline.

    Combining erudition with clarity, this book makes a landmark contribution to the understanding of art history.

    Awards and Recognition

    "Wood’s history is one of only a handful of book-length attempts to offer a synthetic treatment of the history of art history. . . . Owing to its extraordinary range and original insights, it is destined to become the standard work for many years to come."—Sam Rose, Apollo Magazine

    "This substantial volume is more than just a chronicle of half-forgotten scholarship or a thrashing out of methodological issues of little import. In fact, A History of Art History will be eye-opening for anyone who cares about art."—Barry Schwabsky, Hyperallergic

    "Wood’s account of what art historians do – and how they have done it over the centuries – is a typically learned and polemical work that challenges the reader with its many approaches and arguments."Apollo Magazine

    "The research compiled here does not stumbled into abstractions that the topic invites, but really delivers an accurate history of the changes in this culture-defining field . . . this book is really needed."—Anna Faktorovich, Pennsylvania Literary Review

    "Well informed and extremely personal, this is a brilliant overview of writings on art, from responses to the recovery of art representing ancient gods c. 800 CE through to the anti-formalist revolution of the present day. The amount of carefully considered information packed into this compact volume is breathtaking. Wood (NYU) takes on not only professional writers on art but also practitioners such as Piranesi and William Blake—whose emotional critiques of the past made them, in effect, historians of art. Writing in a rather leisurely narrative style, Wood places selected authors within a precise historical moment. Original perceptions are scattered like bonbons—for example, an analysis of Aby Warburg and Alois Riegl locates them as very different but very much related classifiers of the image within late 19th and early 20th century devotion to formalism. There is a fascinating chapter on the foundation of the Louvre in the context of the French Revolution. . . . The book stands as a much-needed contribution at a time when the discipline badly needs an appreciative, even-handed view of the past."—Debra Pincus, Choice

    "Wood’s intimacy with the material is self-evident. He offers any number of remarkably lucid exegeses of complex and easily misunderstood concepts (Riegl’s Kunstwollen) and texts (Hegel’s Lectures on Aesthetics), and brings in numerous lesser-known thinkers."—Rachel Wetzler, Art in America

    "[A History of Art History] by Christopher Wood will live constantly on my priority bookshelf. Wood’s welcome synthesis of the essential sources from which art history created itself as a discipline is revelatory on many levels, not least because it clarifies the extent to which such a historiography can never be totally comprehensive nor totally consensual. . . . Every informed reader will come away from the book with some startling new coalescence of insight."—Sally Hickson, Renaissance and Reformation

    "Magisterial . . . [A History of Art History] includes little-known factual gems, eloquent witticisms, or unexpected insights. . . . Undoubtedly, Wood has set the bar high for any future overview in terms of the diversity of his interests and analytic depth."—Thijs Weststeijn, History of Humanities

    "Christopher Wood cares for the idea that art history could consist in what he calls a ‘biography of form’. This is one of the chief sympathies underpinning his huge and hugely impressive chronological narrative A History of Art History."—Julian Bell, London Review of Books

    "[A History of Art History] by Christopher Wood will live constantly on my priority bookshelf. Wood’s welcome synthesis of the essential sources from which art history created itself as a discipline is revelatory on many levels, not least because it clarifies the extent to which such a historiography can never be totally comprehensive nor totally consensual. . . . Every informed reader will come away from the book with some startling new coalescence of insight."—Sally Hickson, Renaissance and Reformation

    "Christopher S. Wood’s A History of Art History is a robust volume that traces and critically examines the evolution of art history as a discipline, beginning with the late middle ages and leading up to the emergence of contemporary art history. . . . It is . . . [the] close re-examination of the role of the art historian, of individuals and their writing, that Wood offers a rethinking of art’s history."—Jenna Dufour, ARLIS/NA

    "A History of Art History is the obvious result of considerable labour and learning. It offers innumerable individual observations of interest. . . . [I]t is of inestimable value in prompting renewed reflection on what might be gained from exploring the past of the discipline and how one might define it."—Matthew Rampley, Estetika

    "A tour de force. I can't think of another book that even comes close to this one in the way it encourages art historians to understand their own disciplinary history."—Michael Ann Holly, author of The Melancholy Art

    "In this exemplary and engaging book, Christopher Wood offers a bird's-eye perspective on the history of art history that few scholars could match."—Whitney Davis, author of Visuality and Virtuality

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