What are some of the problems peculiar to the teaching of art history? The main tools that concern art historians are pictures of all kinds of objects. That is to say, we consider objects one step removed from the actual objects themselves, and the monuments differ a great deal. We cover the three major media of painting, sculpture, and architecture, as well as various other works that are often grouped together as the minor arts, like gems, jewelry, glass, and mosaics, and in some cases, items of clothing like belts and sandals. Further, one of my studio colleagues makes neon sculpture, so there is quite a variety of materials to consider.
For teaching purposes the field of art history is divided into areas through a variety of means. Historical division is primary, followed by geographical origin, medium, artist, and subject. In the teaching of art history, apart from the conveyance of information about works of art and their historical and social context, a major concern is teaching methods of analysis. We must teach students who come from various backgrounds, many of them never having seen a work of art before, how to deal with questions of style -- how to recognize, how to describe, how to proceed to the analysis of styles, whether styles of a broad era, a narrower historical period, or a geographical region. We want them to come out of a class, for instance, in Classical Art, excited not only about the actual monuments that they have been learning about, but about being able to visit a museum with a friend (here is a good way of using "peer
Sturgeon is Professor of Art History, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.