Art history concerns the history of the visual arts of painting, sculpture and architecture. It is the story of one of the fine arts, others of which are performing arts and literature. It is also one of the humanities. The term sometimes includes the theory of the visual arts, including aesthetics.
Considered encyclopedically, history of art is an attempt to study art throughout human history, classifying cultures and periods for their distinctive characteristics. This is done by people and institutions with different objectives, but whose efforts are interrelated, including: academic art historians, museum curators, the staff of the auction house, private collectors and religious adherents. (Hischak, 2000)
In the nineteenth century, artists were concerned primarily with the ideas of truth and beauty. The aesthetic theorist John Ruskin, who championed what he saw as the naturalism of JMW Turner, saw the role of art as communication by artifice of an essential truth that can only be found in nature.
The definition and evaluation of art has become especially problematic since the 20th century. Richard Wollheim distinguishes three approaches: realism, whereby aesthetic quality is an absolute value independent of any human point of view, the Objectivist, whereby it is also an absolute value, but depends on human experience in general and relativist position that is not an absolute value, but depends and varies with the human experience of different humans. (Hischak, 2001)
The arrival of Modernism in the late eighteenth century created a radical rupture in the conception of the function of art and then again in the late twentieth century with the advent of post modernity. Clement Greenberg's 1960 article "Modernist Painting" defines Modern Art as "the use of characteristic methods of a discipline to criticize the discipline itself." Greenberg has asked that this idea to the Abstract Expressionist movement and used it as a way to understand and justify flat (non-illusionistic) abstract painting:
Realistic, naturalistic art had concealed the medium, using art to conceal art, modernism has used art to call attention to the art. The limitations that constitute the medium of painting - the flat surface, the form of aid, the properties of pigment - were treated by the Old Masters as negative factors that could be recognized, implicitly or indirectly. Under Modernism these same limitations came to be regarded as positive factors, and openly acknowledged. (Zarrilli, 2006)
After Greenberg, several important art theorists emerged, such as Michael Fried, TJ Clark, Rosalind Krauss, Linda Nochlin Griselda Pollock, among others. Though only originally intended as a way of understanding a specific set of artists, Greenberg's definition of modern art is important for many of the ideas of art within the art movements of the 20th century and 21st century.
Pop artists like Andy Warhol became two remarkable and influential through the work and, possibly, including criticism of popular culture and the art world. Artists of the 1980s, 1990 and 2000 extended this technique of self-criticism beyond high art to all cultural image-making, including fashion images, comics, billboards and ...