4 Tutorials that teach Art History & Art Appreciation
Take your pick:
Art History & Art Appreciation

Art History & Art Appreciation

Author: Ian McConnell

This lesson will explain the difference between art history and art appreciation.

See More

Try Sophia’s Art History Course. For Free.

Our self-paced online courses are a great way to save time and money as you earn credits eligible for transfer to over 2,000 colleges and universities.*

Begin Free Trial
No credit card required

28 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

264 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 22 of Sophia’s online courses. More than 2,000 colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.


Comparing and contrasting Art History with Art Appreciation

Source: Citations: Image of Kells Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:KellsFol032vChristEnthroned.jpg; Image by Sesshu Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SesshuShuutouTou.jpg

Video Transcription

Download PDF

Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of "Exploring Art History with Ian." My name is Ian McConnell. Today's lesson is about comparing and contrasting art history with art appreciation.

As you watch the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as many times as you feel is necessary. As soon as you're ready, we can begin

Today's objectives, or the things you're going to learn today, are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms, and compare and contrast art history with art appreciation. Short listen today.

Today's key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson.

First key term-- art history is the academic study of the history and development of the visual arts.

And art appreciation, the application basic tools of visual literacy in order to understand and appreciate works of art.

The big idea, the common theme or thread that runs throughout this lesson, is that art history is more than just critique. Art history considers the meaning the works of art in a larger social context.

So what is art appreciation? Well, like it says here, it's applying basic tools of visual literacy to understand and appreciate work of art. I like to think of it as art history lite.

So why do we care? Well, there is an advantage to it, and that's a person art appreciator can understand something about the work of art while understanding very little, or maybe nothing at all, about its history. So an art appreciator could look at a picture like the one on the right. It's a piece of cover art from the Book of Kells. And being an art appreciator, they could use concepts like composition, knowledge of color, geometry, et cetera, and they could understand and appreciate this work of art.

The disadvantage is that you'd lose a broader sense of meaning associated with the work of art. I'll give you an example of what I mean by that. I'll show you on the next slide. What ends up happening is that the work of art sort of stands alone.

So context helps. This example is a simple demonstration of the importance of context to help illustrate why art history ultimately has the advantage over art appreciation when evaluating works of art.

If you were to judge these pictures of my son individually, you may be left with a very different interpretation. They can definitely be appreciated in their own right, but the story behind the photograph is lost unless you're able to expand upon what's represented by fitting it into a broader social context. Without knowing me, you would have a hard time interpreting where the story takes place, and, at least in the second picture, my abilities to safely parent.

Well, just like the works of art, they can be appreciated as they are, alone, with nothing else to associate them with. The meaning or story behind the work of art is completely lost. In the last photograph, the entire picture is revealed. You're likely left with a very different interpretation of the story than you were with the first two pictures.

I'm using the revealing of the entire photograph as an analogy to revealing context with respect to works of art. The more information you have, the better evaluation you can make.

So when evaluating a piece of art strictly through art appreciation, you get the sense that the work, while it can be appreciated, is really standing alone. It doesn't fit within a broader social context. So that's the art appreciation approach to evaluating a work of art.

So here's where art history differs from art appreciation in that it's part of something more. We're thinking about context. Think back to the photo example that I showed you, and how the more you saw, the more context you had, even though it's just visual context there. But take it in the spirit in which it was intended. The more context you had, the better you understood the story, the better you understood the story behind the work of art.

And so if we can take a look at art and if we can fit it within a broader social context, we can see how things like war, religion, politics, and changes in technology, we can see how those things had an effect on not only the artist but on the artwork that was produced.

So let's take a look at our objectives again and see how we did. Now that you've seen the lesson, can you identify and define today's key terms? Can you compare and contrast art history with art appreciation?

And the big idea, the common thread or theme that runs throughout this lesson, is that art history is more than just critique. And the way that it differs from art appreciation is that art history considers the meaning of works of art in a larger social context. It's the history part of art history.

I'd like to thank you for joining me today, and I'll see you next time. Bye bye.

Terms to Know
Art Appreciation

The application of basic tools of visual literacy in order to understand and appreciate works of art.

Art History

The academic study of the history and development of the visual arts.