Visual Arts - Review Directory
People tend to think of history as the record and interpretation of past human actions, particularly social and political actions. Most think of art quite correctly, as something present. Something that can be seen and touched which, of course, the vanished human events that make up history are not. The fact is that a visible and tangible work of art is a kind of persisting event. It was made at a particular time and place by a particular person even if we don;t always know when, where and by whom the art was created from. It is the creation of the past, art continues to exist in the present, long surviving it's times. The ongoing events that art history chronicles are visual and tangible objects made by human hands. These can be placed in the same category as architecture, sculpture, the pictorial arts such as painting, drawing, printmaking, and photography. The crafts arts or arts of design which produce objects of utility like ceramic wares, metal wares and textiles.
Machines and machine produced objects fall outside the scope of art history, belonging rather to the history of technology. Categorized by there function the performing arts, music, drama, and dance have their own separate histories. Today the strict division of the arts, especially that which separates fine art from craft art and machine art from performance art is being blurred in practice and often denied in theory.
Just as history in general seeks to understand the past through it's documented events so does the history of arts seek to understand it through the works of arts. These works are not only persisting events but documents recording the times that produced them. Ultimately art history seeks to arrive not only as complete a picture as possible of art as it changes in time but also an explanation of those changes. Rather than attempt such an explanation and risk premature theorizing, our survey intends an introduction of material that is sufficient at this point to define categories that are essential when presenting works of art.
Art history makes great use of several basic categories to identify, describe, and classify it's objects, or works of art. For convenience these two categories can be called physical and aesthetic. The physical categories are the most elementary the kind of object, the medium or material , the dimensions, the physical condition, and so on. The aesthetic categories name the visual and tactile features of the object. The historical categories that art history uses to arrange its objects in time sequences and time frames are date, place of origin, style, subject matter, meaning, cause and context.
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