The History of Art


Art has the power to communicate all the complexities and emotions that make us human. It can capture our ideas and thoughts in physical form for others to see and interpret, allowing us to experience our lives in a more meaningful way. It can make the mundane more aesthetically pleasing and the everyday more interesting.

Art is an expression of the human spirit that has been cultivated for thousands of years. It can be used to glorify God, to tell a story, or just to add beauty and interest to our lives. Art can be found everywhere from the walls of a home to a sculpture on display in a museum. It can even be an everyday object like a plate or a book cover.

It is important to learn about the history of art so that we can better understand how it has evolved over time. While personal reminiscences of individual artists have existed for centuries, it was Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects that provided the first true history of art. His work emphasized art’s progression and development, which gave it more of an academic focus than the previous personal recollections.

Sigmund Freud also made an impact on the history of art when he published his psychoanalytical interpretations of paintings. His 1914 study of Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings was one of the earliest psychologically based analyses of a work of art and inferred that the artist may have been homosexual. During the 1920s and 30s, scholars in Hamburg began to develop many of the concepts that we now use for studying the meaning of art. These scholars, including Erwin Panofsky, Aby Warburg and Fritz Saxl, created much of the vocabulary that we now use to describe art. This vocabulary includes terms such as iconography and symbolism which describe the subject matter of a piece of art.

With the rise of industrialization, many new materials became available to artists which allowed them to express their wealth and status through art. Gold and marble became prized for sculptures. Opposites such as light and dark, warm and cool colors, were accentuated in paintings and other forms of art. The Baroque period gave way to the Rococo period, characterized by soft, airy forms and the depiction of desire and love.

The world’s art repositories are now accessible online through virtual tours. Art ed teachers can use this technology to bring the art of the past to their students. It is also helpful to teach about the history of art through hands-on activities that allow students to interact with the artwork and its meaning.

Developing a solid foundation in the art of the past can lead to more creative and independent thinking about modern art. This can help to create more empathy and understanding between cultures. Bringing in contemporary, living artists can also be a great way to engage students with the art of the present. By having students compare and contrast past and present artists, they can make the art relevant to their own lives.