Programs in art history teach people the cultural and intellectual development of the arts. Students learn about styles in various cultures and periods. They also study art theory and learn methods of art history research.
Have you ever come home one day and found that someone had thrown away one of your most prized possessions? Maybe it was an old card that someone had sent you that you were saving, or a comic strip that you had drawn that you were really proud of. Someone else may have mistaken it for "junk" and carelessly tossed it out.
If you've studied history before, you know that we can sometimes see a lot more clearly in hindsight than when we're in the moment. The works of many artists such as the painter Vincent van Gogh and the writer Herman Melville were not appreciated until many years after their deaths.
Without a larger sense of perspective that can come from studying history, we don't see the value in wonderful art. You can see an example of this on "Antiques Road Show." Often, a person brings in some random item from his home, and it turns out to be a rare and culturally valuable artifact.
So studying art history not only develops your appreciation for and knowledge of art. It also broadens your perspective. Besides working for an auction house or appearing on the Road Show, you could work in any of a wide range of careers with a background in this program of study. This includes art criticism, art book publishing, research, or arts administration. With additional training, you could also work in art preservation and restoration or urban design. These are just a few examples.
In this program, you study the development of art in many different ways. You might take courses that focus on one particular artistic medium, such as sculpture. Other courses could focus on the art of a particular time period, artist, or even theme. You study art theory and criticism, which helps you understand how other art historians and critics think.
You also take courses in subjects such as anthropology and literature. Learning about subjects in different cultural fields of study often relates back to analyzing and understanding art.
Many colleges and universities offer degree programs in art history where you can earn a bachelor's, a master's, or a doctoral degree. In general, getting a bachelor's degree takes about four years of full-time study after high school and a master's degree about one to two years after that. Doctoral degree programs typically take three to five years after the master's degree.