In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section History of Scholarship of Classical Art History

  • Introduction
  • Encyclopedias
  • Journals
  • Electronic Reference Resources
  • Classical Tradition
  • Collections and Museums
  • Reproductions of Works of Art

Classics History of Scholarship of Classical Art History
A.A. Donohue
  • LAST REVIEWED: 31 March 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 March 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0135


The study of classical art began in antiquity, and the remains of its critical and historical traditions continue to shape the discipline. In post-Antique times the field evolved from a subject given prominence by the dominance of ancient Greece and Rome in Western intellectual, literary, and artistic culture into one that today exists almost purely as an academic specialty. Classical art history is an inherently synthetic field that not only interprets the full range of the visual arts within their original historical and social contexts, but also takes account of their subsequent reception. Classical art in the broadest sense encompasses the formative, prehistoric stages of the classical cultures through the close of antiquity, both in their homelands and in the areas with which they interacted. The historiography of classical art deals with a broad range of issues reflecting the changing situations in which the studies were undertaken and includes both specific questions about the interpretation of individual works and more general inquiries that form part of the wider history of culture and ideas. To trace the history of scholarship accordingly requires consideration of an exceptionally wide body of evidence relating to ancient and modern practices and their historical, intellectual, and institutional frameworks.

General Overviews

Owing to the diverse and inclusive nature of the field of classical art history, surveys of the scholarship often appear in the context of considerations of classical studies, archaeology, and general art history. The later 20th century saw the rise of disciplinary self-criticism in the humanities in the wake of new directions in research that encouraged historiographic studies. The history of academic disciplines emerged as a topic approached in terms not only of intellectual content, but also of institutions and historical and social contexts as well as the contributions of individual scholars. In the history of art, increasingly self-conscious attention to methodological issues has fostered explicit reviews of practices within specific fields of study.

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