Visual Arts Directory
Visual Arts - Review Directory

The meaning of a work of art is not completed with the categories of time, place and style. All of these are the necessary materials of interpretation but they are not sufficient for it. There remains the question of cause: Why does a particular work of art look the way it does and not some other way? What are the historical causes of it's style? The iconography of a work of art should not be confused with it's meaning. The iconography can show us what a work represents, what it is about, but it's meaning depends upon the way the representation is made and it's cause of that way of representation meaning the artist's intention while creating the work of art.

Works may have the same subject matter and the same imagery but differ in style and purpose. For example, the Christian theme of the Crucifixion has been represented in different ways in different times and places. Pious Christians will reverence these for what they represent. They are not likely to be concerned about stylistic peculiarities that might reveal levels of meanings not immediately given. It would also seen at first that style is so bound up with meaning that it is impossible to separate them. Just as the iconography of what is represented does not exhaust the meaning of a work, so style alone does not disclose it. Nor are the procedures of attribution more than complementary in the explanation of meaning. Identification to artists and the attribution to them of specific works of art constituted the history of art for centuries.

The history of art style only began in the eighteenth century. Today art history finds itself more and more engaged with contextuality. The causal relationship amongst artists, art work, and the society or culture that conditions them. The history of art has been successively a history of artists and their works of styles and stylistic change of images and contexts and cultures. Art history at it's best made use of all of these. The cause of a particular work of art is the artist. The purpose of the artist , the mans used to fulfill that purpose, and the artists success in doing should be revealed in the finished work, the affect of the artist as cause. There are other factors that contribute such as the artist as a member of a society or culture that conditions them. Artist's are conditioned by there cultures styles of seeing, perceiving and thinking. This amounts to a social collaboration in the whole artistic enterprise. Context changes in historical time just as do the art styles it conditions. Great historical changes of context cause great stylistic changes as well.

One thing seems certain, the intermingling of many cultures today in the phenomenon of multiculturalism can make it possible for us to overcome the limits of the culture bound and to experience the finest features of all of them. Art made by human hands can be accessible to any human subject. Its aesthetic properties can be discriminated and enjoyed by those who respond to art wherever in the world they may encounter it.