5 Characteristics of an Art Historian

Here are 5 Characteristics of an Art Historian. Possessing the right characteristics of an art historian can help anyone find success in this field. Art historians work in several different roles relating to restoration, appraisal, gallery curation and more, which provides some significant flexibility surrounding the career an art historian ultimately chooses to pursue. The following traits are useful for success no matter in what capacity a trained art historian chooses to work.

5 Traits Shared By Art Historians

  • Presentation Ability
  • Analytical Skills
  • Writing Ability
  • Broad Knowledge of Culture and History
  • Knowledge of Art Aesthetics, Techniques, and Materials

1. Presentation Ability

Like all historians, art historians generally benefit from strong presentation ability. These professionals are often required to convey their research findings in the form of presentations, which can be to academic peers, museum visitors, bosses, staff, and others. This includes the ability to incorporate visuals into a presentation effectively, which subjects involving art usually require. Visual examples should not be too big or too small and easy to see. If a piece is particularly large, consider only showing small areas of it to draw attention to certain details. Sounding natural and focusing on voice projection are also important factors when improving presentation ability.

2. Analytical Skills

Art historians must be able to accurately and efficiently analyze artworks to reach the most correct conclusions about them. To do this, they must have good analytical skills and fine attention to detail. Catching an important detail could be the difference between knowing work is an original worth a million or a replica worth little. Analytical skills are also important when looking at the history of a particular piece of art, style of art or general subject in art history to draw correct conclusions.

3. Writing Ability

Art historians must have a strong writing ability to accurately detail their research findings, inform art enthusiasts about a piece or collection, or persuade organizations for things like grant money or exhibit ideas. Art historians who work in academia are usually tasked with publishing papers on their research, which must be immaculate. They may be charged with drafting the descriptions that hang in art galleries alongside the piece in question, as well as checking them over for factual and grammatical accuracy. These descriptions both educate visitors and make a gallery appear more professional, so they are important to get right.

4. Broad Knowledge Of Culture And History

Art historians should also have a broad knowledge of culture and history outside of art. After all, historical events and cultural changes are inseparable from art produced by individuals and societies. Necessary background knowledge will depend on what kind of art an art historian specializes in. Historians who work for auction houses, appraisers or other organizations that deal in art from all around the world need to have broader knowledge than art historians working for a museum that has a particular specialization, such as East Asian or Native American art. Without this knowledge, no art historian could properly do his or her job.


5. Knowledge Of Art Aesthetics, Techniques And Materials

Knowledge of art subjects is just as important for art historians as knowledge about the best practices required to be a good historian is for historians. Knowledge about the artistic process is one of the final key characteristics of an art historian. This includes a wide range of topics from materials to techniques to the artistic placement and color usage. According to Business Insider, creativity is a final necessary trait for an art historian because they need to understand how artists produce work and the process that goes into art creation.

While art historians can work in several different capacities, all professionals in this field should display some key traits. Students should consider these characteristics of an art historian before settling on their degree path and career goals.