Ultimate Guide to Art History

Art history is about more than just the study of art.

Art historians put great cultural works in the context of their time and within the flow of history.

Museum researchers tell us that the average visitor spends just 17 to 27 seconds in front of an artwork – yet such a short window of time won’t reveal much about the history of the artwork.

So, what should you be looking for when you stand in front of a work of art? Here, we share our top tips on visual analysis and explains why you – the viewer – are just as important as the person who created it.

“Spending time in front of an artwork, looking closely at the image, is one of the basic elements of art history”

Viewed through the lens of human creativity, art history teaches how cultures rise and fall and how societies develop. With a degree in art history, you’ll understand where we came from, how we got here, and maybe even a little bit about where we’re going.

Visitors to the Belvedere Museum, Vienna, look at Gustav Klimt’s painting ‘Der Kuss’ (The Kiss), painted between 1907–8)

Our reviews

It helps me a lot!
Even something as simple as working with a graphic designer to create a flyer or handout has been aided by my art history studies, which gave me a deeper understanding of color, light and dark shading, and spacing.
Melody Nieves
Digital Artist – CT, USA
An art history major will be able to think critically and creatively.
We need to slow down and start noticing all the elements of an artwork.
After the guide I can really see the thing.
Grace Fussell
Syracuse, NY
As a communications specialist, these lessons taught me the vital importance of using  — and sometimes not using — powerful images to affect emotions and draw attention to whatever message or feeling I am trying to convey.
Mike Stephen
Walpole, MA