Defining the Discipline of Art History

by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

In Art History: A Very Short Introduction (public library), Dana Arnold explains that the discipline of art history goes far beyond putting together an informed description of a work of art.  After discussing several images in her first chapter, entitled "What is art history?" she concludes:
My four images have set up much of what follows in this book.  All of them demonstrate in different ways that art history is not just about describing images that represent the world we think we see.  The subject is far more complex and rich.  It is a way of looking at the culture and society of different epochs and seeing how we think about these periods and how attitudes have changed across time.  The huge range of subject matter enables us to use art history to think about these issues in relation to themes such as personal and public life, religious and secular art and practices, political activism and cultural domination (28).

The cover of Art History: A Very Short Introduction with Sister Hilda's bone black color swatch.

Incarnate Beauty also includes posts from Beauty: A Very Short Introduction (public library) that discuss judging beauty, human beauty, natural beauty, and artistic beauty.  The Very Short Introduction series is published by Oxford University Press.