Art History: The Key Concepts

Art History: The Key Concepts

Art History: The Key Concepts

Art History: The Key Concepts


Art History: The Key Concepts is a systematic, reliable and accessible reference guide to the disciplines of art history and visual culture. Containing entries on over 200 terms integral to the historical and theoretical study of art, design and culture in general, it is an indispensable source of knowledge for all students, scholars and teachers.

Covering the development, present status and future direction of art history, entries span a wide variety of terms and concepts such as abstract expressionism, epoch, hybridity, semiology and zeitgeist.

Key features include:

  • a user-friendly A-Z format
  • fully cross-referenced entries
  • suggestions for further reading.

Engaging and insightful, as well as easy to follow and use, Art History: The Key Concepts builds a radical intellectual synthesis for understanding and teaching art, art history and visual culture.


This book is designed specifically for use by students and scholars of art history and visual culture. It is intended as a reference source for those involved in teaching and learning (on either side of the fence, as teacher or pupil) and as an aid for those carrying out research activities. These two areas overlap considerably: ‘research’ isn’t just the province of PhD students or professional academics or museum curators. Any student – of any age – trying to answer an essay question, or preparing a presentation for a seminar, or following up notes made after attending a lecture or reading a book, is engaged in a research task too. Art History: The Key Concepts, if it is to succeed as I intend and hope, will help people in all of these situations. Each entry provides: (1) the basic definition of a term; (2) an exploration of some of the complexities of its development, function, and significance; (3) some illustrative historical or contemporary examples of artworks or items of visual culture related to this concept; and (4) some bibliographic references that will enable the reader to follow up the term and the ways in which it has been used in actual research and scholarship. After consulting an entry the reader should feel confident that they could use the term appropriately themselves and have some insight into its range of meanings and contexts of application.

Each entry begins with the term (and occasionally a related term or terms) identified in bold, followed by other important forms of the word identified in italics. For example:

explanation explain, explanatory

As the example indicates, this reference book is not limited to words thought of as specifically, or uniquely, ‘art historical’. I have included many terms here which inevitably and necessarily form part of any serious pedagogic or research task. I indicate both their general and specific art historical significance. In addition, I have tried to show that art history is a changing and contested discipline, subject to . . .

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