Art Historical Questions



Art historians ask many different kinds of questions as they attempt to more fully understand artworks. They ask questions to seek information about artworks and artists, as well as about the contexts in which artworks are made.

INFORMATION ABOUT THE ARTWORK

  • REPRODUCTION: What can I learn about how this reproduction is different from the original artwork?

  • CONDITION: What can I determine about the condition of the artwork?

  • SUBJECT MATTER: What can I determine about what the artwork depicts, if anything?

  • TOOLS, MATERIALS, AND PROCESSES: What can learn out about how the artwork was made?

  • SENSORY ELEMENTS: What visual elements do I see?

  • FORMAL ORGANIZATION: How do the elements in the artwork work together?


  • INFORMATION ABOUT THE ARTMAKER


    CONTEXTUAL INFORMATION

  • NATURAL CONTEXT: What can I learn about the natural environment where the artwork was made? (not included with all artworks)

  • FUNCTIONAL CONTEXT: What can I learn about how the artwork was used?

  • CULTURAL CONTEXT: What can I determine about what people thought, believed, or did in the culture in which the artwork was made?

  • ARTWORLD CONTEXT: What can I learn about the art ideas, beliefs, and activities that were important in the culture in which the artwork was made?


  • CULTURAL/HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION

  • MAKER'S INTENTION: What can I learn about why the maker wanted the artwork to look the way it does?

  • ARTWORLD VIEWER UNDERSTANDING: What can I determine about how the viewer, patron, or user understood the artwork?

  • CULTURAL IMPACT: What can I learn about how the artwork was understood within culture in which it was made?

  • YOUR UNDERSTANDING: What does the artwork mean to you here and now?


  • EXPLANATION OF RELATIONSHIPS AMONG ARTWORKS

  • STYLE: How does the artwork look like other artworks?

  • INFLUENCE: What can I learn about how earlier artworks influenced this artwork or about whether this artwork influenced later artworks?

  • THEMES: What general ideas might help connect the artwork to other artworks?




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