Art history

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Portrait by Giorgio Vasari , 1571–74

The art history or art history , even outdated art history , is the science of the historical development of the visual arts and their iconographic , iconological as well as substantive provision. It also examines and describes the cultural function of art in terms of its artistic and illustrative conditions as well as the creative process of artists .

Objects and goals

The history of the visual arts takes place through the change in the social function and position of art , the theoretical understanding of it and the development of art forms and styles . The aim of the subject of art history is to question the artistic objects about their content ( iconography ), to determine their formal design, to classify the works in space and time and to investigate their reception ; on the one hand, stylistic contexts are discussed, on the other hand, an attempt is made to understand the historical context as a prerequisite for a work of art or to include it in understanding the work.

In contrast to art criticism , art history usually chooses historical objects or at least tries to approach contemporary topics with a scientifically proven, methodically defined approach. It is recognized that (scientific) reception and interpretation are themselves time-bound actions.

The classic objects of investigation in art history are European and Near Eastern works of painting and graphics , sculpture and architecture from the early Middle Ages to the present . Since around the second half of the 19th century, objects from church treasures , so-called cabaret , have also been analyzed. The Prehistory and Early History treated (also) the artistic development before the emergence of writing . The archeology and Egyptology treat (also) the artistic development of the early civilizations of the Mediterranean. Art history is dedicated to research into the historical development of European art from the point in time when Christianity became the state religion in the Roman Empire in the 4th century . At the present time, the area under investigation is expanding to include the cultural zones of influence of the so-called western hemisphere, including America or the contemporary artists worldwide who participate in the art market . The history of architecture is not infrequently affected by the history of art, although today it is essentially part of the cultural sciences . However, there is hardly any general writing of art history without mentioning the history of architecture.

The art of non-European cultures and countries is researched outside of these countries in the respective country clients ( Sinology , Arabic Studies , African Studies etc.) or in overarching disciplines such as ethnology . Since the first half of the 20th century (see Carl Einstein , Leo Frobenius ), art history has also opened up to other cultures, such as African or Asian art history. In addition, new forms of representation such as photography , media art and genres, applied arts , design are examined. The most recent developments in art history also see an image science that - regardless of the artistic character of an image - analyzes functions and developments (cf. e.g. also game studies ).

History of Art History

John Ruskin, photographed by
Lewis Carroll in 1874
Aby Warburg around 1900

The terms art history or art history are a creation of the 19th century and go back to Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1768), who for the first time undertook detailed stylistic studies in his works on the art of antiquity . The first German art historian who also painted can be named Joachim von Sandrart , who first wrote about German artists and art styles in his main theoretical work on the Teutsche Academie der Edel Bau- Bild und Mahlerey-Künste published in 1679 . At the end of the 18th century, Fiorillo laid the foundations for art history as an academic subject at the University of Göttingen . The second stimulus came from art theory, above all Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Johann Gottfried Herder, as well as Romanticism .

Karl Friedrich von Rumohr and Gustav Friedrich Waagen laid the foundations for art history . As a specialist science , it was founded on the one hand by historians such as Jacob Burckhardt , Herman Grimm and Carl Justi , who included art in the general framework of cultural history . Secondly, through the beginning of the antiquarian sifting and ordering of the traditional works of art, which was closely connected with art collecting . From it arose the positivist and connoisseur art history ( Giovanni Morelli , Gottfried Semper ). A third root in art history came from philosophy and aesthetics , represented by Heinrich Gustav Hotho and Karl Schnaase ; many later art historians also studied art history and philosophy ( Heinrich Wölfflin ).

Viewing art in antiquity

It has only been possible to speak of an independent discipline of art history since the 19th century. Previous writings were mostly about art contemplation and biographical descriptions. The development towards this point was prepared by artists , art writers , philosophers and art critics who wrote and wrote treatises . Texts about art were already written in antiquity , but as with Lukian they describe works of art in synaesthetic form of ecphrases , or, as with Pliny the Elder, treat art history as part of a general overall work (Pliny the Elder: Naturalis historia (history of nature)) .

Similarly, as part of a larger work on another subject (architecture), Vitruvius occupied himself in his between 33 and 22 BC. Chr. Created 10 books on architecture that architecture had a primacy over the genres of visual art with the art, in which he concludes.

While the work attracted little attention in his time and in the centuries that followed, that changed in the Renaissance, when Vitruvius's theories inspired important artists such as Albrecht Dürer and Leonardo Da Vinci to create sketches. His illustration " The Vitruvian Man " is one of the most famous works of art and founded Vitruvius' late fame.

Viewing Art in the Renaissance

This practice was only taken up again in the Renaissance by an author who shared an extraordinary range of scientific and artistic fields of activity with Leonardo da Vinci : Giorgio Vasari . The architect , court painter of the Medici and at the same time active as a biographer of contemporary Florentine artists , the architect , born in 1511 († 1574) , was one of the first systematic art historians. He also proved the creativity of his other professions as an author: With the " Gothic ", which he felt as a supporter of ancient art as barbaric (Italian: gotico ) and the "Renaissance" he invented key terms that still shape art history today. His work "Le Vite de 'più eccellenti Architetti, Pittori et Scultori italiani, da Cimabue insino a' tempi nostri" ( The biographies of the most outstanding Italian architects, painters and sculptors, from Cimabue to our time ) appeared in 1550. A second, strong Changed edition with further artist descriptions by Leon Battista Alberti , Albrecht Dürer , Andrea Palladio a . a. appeared in 1568. In these editions, the most important artists of an era were summarized in one work for the first time, described - in some cases comparatively - and classified according to their importance.

The Dutch Karel van Mander continued this tradition in the Schilder-Boeck work published in 1604 . Van Mander, too, was a painter and teacher of such well-known artists as Frans Hals before he started to write art historical writings. His three-part “Painter's Book” was the first art theoretical work to be published north of the Alps and dealt in the first part with the fundamentals of art, in the second with the biographies of various ancient painters and well-known Italian painters and in the third with mythological text sources related to Dutch painting .

Viewing art in modern times (from 1700)

In 1755 Johann Joachim Winckelmann , who later became the first foreigner to oversee the antiquities in Rome, published his first work in Dresden : Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture , to which he added further texts in later editions . This already contains the new, momentous thoughts that he presented in detail in his main work, The History of Ancient Art in 2 Volumes, published in 1764 . Winckelmann describes not only the chronological sequence of an ancient art history, but also a system of Greek art. He developed criteria for an aesthetic of the beautiful and identified a classical style, which he raised to the standard of his assessment. Although this search for the beautiful is still the focus, the attempt at a style history gives the ideal, noble simplicity and quiet grandeur a first context. Winckelmann was in contact with contemporary artists ( Anton Raphael Mengs ) and constantly made references from the artistic past to the present. One of the things that makes him the “first art historian” is the fact that, as an archaeologist and excavation manager, he assumed the material knowledge of his research objects; that he used precise descriptions as a method of knowledge; that he was interested in the systematization of his research subjects.

The emergence of art history as a science

The first professorship for art history was established in Göttingen in 1799. The drawing teacher Johann Dominik Fiorillo looked after the art collection and taught the first students.

The development of the scientific discipline of art history has made progress again and again through the discourse on exemplary case studies of the subject in the 19th century. A special role played u. a. the Laocoon group or the Dresden Holbein dispute . The Basel historian Jacob Burckhardt (1818–1897) devoted himself for the first time to the consideration of an entire cultural landscape from the point of view of its artistic production at a specific epoch. At this point in time, the history of style , i.e. the stylistic analysis of works of art, the question of the artistic how , to which the historical and auxiliary scientific research of a work of art - i.e. the question of what - came as a further means of knowledge, was of fundamental importance for university art history . This relationship was later to be reversed.

Like hardly any other science, art history was shaped by German scholars and teaching at German universities until the seizure of power in 1933. Important German-speaking schools of art history before the Second World War were:

The Berlin School

With Karl Friedrich von Rumohr , Franz Theodor Kugler , Gustav Friedrich Waagen , Heinrich Gustav Hotho , Heinrich Wölfflin and Carl Schnaase .

The Vienna School or Documentation

The representatives of the Vienna School include Franz Wickhoff , Alois Riegl , Julius von Schlosser , Moritz Thausing , Rudolf Eitelberger , Max Dvořák , Otto Pächt and Hans Sedlmayr . Fritz Saxl, Ernst Kris , Ernst Gombrich . They were all trained in Vienna. Max Dvořák coined the term art history as a history of ideas , Alois Riegl researched the will of art and coined the term of the late Roman art industry .

The Munich School or Formalism

With Heinrich Wölfflin , Hans Jantzen , Wilhelm Pinder . In the first half of the 20th century, Wölfflin shaped art history through his formalistic concept of style .

The Hamburg School and Iconography

Aby Warburg , Gertrud Bing , Fritz Saxl , Erwin Panofsky , William S. Heckscher, Edgar Wind , after Warburg's death Ernst H. Gombrich . The oldest Warburg brother founded his library in Hamburg to research the afterlife of antiquity in modern times, with Saxl and Bing as close collaborators. Panofsky and Wind studied in Hamburg with Ernst Cassirer , who used the Warburg cultural studies library for his research into symbolic forms. Panofsky founded the art-historical research branch of iconology in a non-Christian understanding.

Art history during National Socialism

Due to the law to restore the civil service , many Jewish art historians lost their teaching license after 1933 and were forced to emigrate . Among the best known were Erwin Panofsky (Princeton), Walter Friedlaender (New York University), Julius Held , Ernst H. Gombrich , in London at the Warburg Institute, of which he was director from 1959 to 1976, Ernst Kris , Nikolaus Pevsner and Ernst Cohn- Viennese .

Their positions were also filled by art historians who emphatically agreed to the goals of National Socialism . Under the aspect of their relationship to the “Third Reich” , objects of art-historical research were already: u. a. Wilhelm Pinder (Munich, Berlin), Hans Sedlmayr (Vienna) and Percy Ernst Schramm (Göttingen).

The expulsion of important scholars by the National Socialists gave rise to important centers of art historical research abroad: in Great Britain the Warburg Institute , Courtauld Institute and Oxford, and in the United States at the Universities of Princeton , Columbia , Berkeley and Stanford .

Art history in non-German speaking countries

The most important representatives of the subject were in:

Art history and art history today

Today the subject of art history is shaped less by schools than by outstanding personalities and certain research focuses. It is difficult to draw a precise distinction between the two terms, but the latter generally refers to neighboring disciplines from psychology, sociology or cultural history, etc. a. who deal with art.

Central positions

Some art historians no longer see the most important fields of research in recent art history as securing the existence, dating and assignment of individual works of art, but rather in investigating the functions, structures and sociological significance of works of art and art in general. These art historians take up the developments in other humanities disciplines. Nonetheless, building research and an object-related approach to art history should not be neglected either, since even theoretical works only appear credible if - as is often not the case - they can be based on concrete, verifiable findings.

Important research institutions

German institutions
British bodies
U.S. facilities
French institutions

University institutes and professorships




Professional associations

The following professional associations represent the interests of art historians:

Association of Austrian Art Historians
Association of art historians in Switzerland

See also

Portal: Fine Arts  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of fine arts

Magazines and periodicals


  • RDK Labor emerged from the Reallexikon zur Deutschen Kunstgeschichte
  • Ulrich Pfisterer (Hrsg.): Lexicon art history. Ideas. Methods. Terms . Scientific Book Society , Darmstadt 2003.
  • B. Reudenbach (Hrsg.): History of the fine arts in Germany - Carolingian and Ottonian art . Prestel Verlag , Munich 2009.
  • B. Klein (Hrsg.): History of the fine arts in Germany - Gothic . Prestel Verlag, Munich 2007.
  • K. Krause (Hrsg.): History of the fine arts in Germany - late Gothic and Renaissance . Prestel Verlag, Munich 2007.
  • A. Beyer (Hrsg.): History of the fine arts in Germany - Classic and Romantic . Prestel Verlag, Munich 2006.
  • H. Coal (Hrsg.): History of the fine arts in Germany - From Biedermeier to Impressionism . Prestel Verlag, Munich 2008.
  • B. Lange (Hrsg.): History of the fine arts in Germany - From expressionism to today . Prestel Verlag, Munich 2006.
Introductions and Methods
  • Marcel Baumgartner: Introduction to the Study of Art History . König, Cologne 1998.
  • Hans Belting , Heinrich Dilly , Wolfgang Kemp , Willibald Sauerländer , Martin Warnke (eds.): Art history - an introduction . 7. revised and expanded Ed., Reimer, Berlin 2008, 440 pp., ISBN 978-3-496-01387-7 ; Standard work and introduction to the methodology of art history .
  • Lorenz Dittmann (Ed.): Categories and methods of German art history 1900–1930. An introduction . Berlin 1986.
  • Jutta Held , Norbert Schneider : Grundzüge der Kunstwissenschaft , UTB, Böhlau 2007, 603 pages, ISBN 978-3-8252-2775-3 .
  • Thomas Zaunschirm: Art History. Kind of a textbook. Klartext, Essen 2002.
  • Anja Zimmermann (Ed.): Art History and Gender: An Introduction Reimer, Berlin 2006.
  • Michael Hatt, Charlotte Klonk: Art history. A critical introduction to its methods. Manchester University Press, Manchester 2006, ISBN 0-7190-6959-9 , review .
  • José Pijoan (Ed.): Arte. The art history of the world. Grammont Verlag and Salvat Editores S.A., Lausanne 1979, ISBN 2-8270-0539-5 .
  • Oliver Grau (Ed.): MediaArtHistories , MIT-Press, Cambridge / Mass. 2007.
  • Julia Allerstorfer, Monika Leisch-Kiesl (eds.): "Global Art History". Transcultural localizations of art and art history , transcript, Bielefeld 2018, ISBN 978-3-8376-4061-8 .
  • Andreas Beyer : In which language should we speak? To the scientific point of art history. In: ders .: Art brought up for discussion. Edited by Lena Bader, Johannes Grave and Markus Rath. Verlag Klaus Wagenbach, Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-8031-2784-6 , pp. 11–36.
History of art history
  • Udo Kultermann, The History of Art History . Frankfurt Berlin Vienna 1981.
  • Donald Preziosi: The art of art history: a critical anthology . Oxford University Press, Oxford [u. a.] 1998.
  • Peter Betthausen , Peter H. Feist , Christiane Fork: Metzler-Kunsthistoriker-Lexikon : two hundred portraits of German-speaking authors from four centuries . Metzler, Stuttgart [a. a.] 1999.
  • Georg Kauffmann (author) and joint commission of the Rhenish-Westphalian Academy of Sciences and the Gerda Henkel Foundation (ed.): The emergence of art history in the 19th century . Opladen 1993.
  • Hubert Locher: Art history as a historical theory of art: 1750–1950 . Fink, Munich 2001.
  • Ulrich Pfisterer: The art literature of the Italian Renaissance: a history in sources . Reclam, Stuttgart 2002.
  • Nikola Doll, Christian Fuhrmeister and Michael H. Sprenger (eds.): Art history in National Socialism. Contributions to the history of a science between 1930 and 1950 . Publishing house and database for the humanities, Weimar 2005, ISBN 3-89739-481-2 ; Review by James A. van Dyke in: Kunstchronik Volume 60, 2007, Issue 1, pp. 27–32 exhibitions.
  • Martin Papenbrock , Norbert Schneider (Hrsg.): Art history after 1968. (= Art and Politics. Yearbook of the Guernica Society), V & R Unipress, Göttingen 2010, ISBN 3-89971-617-5 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Art history  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Art history  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Vite scelte di Giorgio Vasari. A cura di Anna Maria Brizio. Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese, Turin 1978, ISBN 88-02-02287-9 , p. 31.
  3. ^ Association of Art Historians in Switzerland