A PhD in Art History is the highest credential an art historian can earn, and it qualifies you to teach at universities or run historical institutions. This degree can also make you eligible for other high-level positions like the director of a historical trust or museum.
Art historians examine works of art through a combination of analytical and contextual methods. They study a work’s form by looking at how it uses line, shape, color, texture and composition to create an overall effect. The goal is to explain how the formal elements in a work of art are working together to convey an idea or emotion to the viewer.
They also study a work’s context to help determine the meaning and purpose of a piece of art. In some cases, this means a close reading of the written words that accompany an artwork or a related text, such as a book or poem. For example, a close read of the words surrounding an painting or sculpture can reveal how it may have been perceived by its creator, as well as its audience.
Lastly, art historians study a work’s meaning and interpretation to gain an understanding of how it was understood by its creator and the audience at the time of its creation. This is a crucial element of a complete understanding of an artwork’s impact on the art world and culture, as well as its ability to inspire new ideas and movements.
From cave paintings to modern abstract, art has always been a way for humans to communicate ideas and emotions. Some art was meant to be enjoyed, while other pieces were used as tools to guide spiritual journeys. For example, Native American art often served as a way for tribes to remember people, places and journeys in the past by creating symbols or images that reminded them of those experiences in the present. Art could also serve as a way to honor certain events, such as the death of a loved one or a victory at sacred games like bull leaping on Crete or ritual ball playing in South America.
In more recent times, some forms of art have been perceived as a kind of mirror that reflects a higher spiritual beauty. For example, the ancient philosopher Plotinus believed that by intellectually contemplating beautiful art, we can understand and even commune–mystically merge–with the higher beauty reflected in the work.
A great way to connect students with art is by allowing them to make their own artwork. Incorporate the use of clay, acrylic paint, watercolour, oil paint and drawings into your lessons to get students interested in different mediums and the history behind them. It’s also a good idea to introduce them to artwork made by artists using each medium, as this will help students learn about different artists throughout the history of art.