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Historical study of the visual arts for the purpose of identifying, describing, evaluating, interpreting, and understanding art objects and artistic traditions. Art-historical research involves discovering and collecting biographical data on artists to establish attribution; determining at what stage in a culture's or artist's development an object was made; weighing the influence the object or artist had on the historical past; and documenting an object's previous whereabouts or ownership (provenance). The analysis of symbols, themes, and subject matter is often of primary concern. In the 20th and 21st centuries art historians became increasingly concerned with the social and cultural context of artists and their work.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on art history, visit Britannica.com.
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