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Art history statement

Through the study of Art History, students are able to acquire a variety of essential skills including oral and written articulation, the ability to identify, critically assess and analyse research materials, creatively problem-solve, think critically and utilise a range of technological skills that relate to visual and verbal communication, and to work independently as well as share their ideas with others.

Studying art history involves many different contexts. Firstly it is the study of art from the past. By looking at an art work’s symbolism, its subject, colour and use of materials we can learn about the culture that produced it. After decoding the significance of the imagery found in a specific art work we can learn about what was important about a culture and how it would like to be remembered. This is particularly relevant to the arts curriculum here in NZ where an understanding of Maori visual culture is achieved through studying various forms of Maori art including whakairo, tukutuku and the wharenui, as well as the response to Maori culture with the arrival of the European. Other significant cultural dimensions can also be learnt from the art historical study of Pasifika and Asian art that also exist within the Pacific basin.

Through studying art history students learn about particular styles and how these developed through the influence of a particular context. The study includes painting, sculpture, architecture, printmaking, photography, ceramics, furniture and other decorative objects. Within this study students learn to explain and discuss ideas, compare and evaluate art works. Art history is a fascinating subject in the broad range of questions and information that it can propose. The art historian initially researches to answer questions about artists and artworks – how did they come to create the work? Who were the patrons? Who were his or her teachers? Who was the audience? Who did he or she influence? What historical factors shaped the artist’s oeuvre and how did he or she and the art work affect the course of artistic, political and social events?

Art history develops students’ conceptual thinking through its study of style, meaning and context from many time frames. Art history is also linked to the visual arts through its study of art theory, which in turn informs a practical inquiry. The study of art history becomes increasingly diverse as technology and art in the digital age expands.

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