Introduction to the History of Art

This website explores the history of art. It is not a list of artists and their works but a guided tour of the art history. But what is art history? It is not art appreciation but concerns itself with the history of the period when the artwork was made or performed, the artist or artists, the social norms of the period,the physical attributes of the work itself and its reception and associations at the time and over the intervening period.

As well as thinking about art, this website is also about seeing and feeling. Is seeing the easiest thing in the world or the hardest thing. How are we meant to look at a work of art? How are we meant to feel? Does it leave us cold or draw us in?

The first lesson is to realise that a work of art is not like a crossword puzzle—something to be solved. The artist does not think of a meaning and then encode it into the work. Therefore, there is no point asking the artists what it means. The artist is in the same position as us. Some works of art have no meaning and some have contradictory meanings and multiple levels of meaning.

As art history is concerned with objects produced by people we also need to look at all the ways such objects have been produced. This determines the form of the object and the ways in which the production method and materials used limit the artist or artists. It may seem a strange place to start but each method opens up opportunities and introduces limitations.

Visual Analysis

Materials and Techniques