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Art history – the study and development of the visual arts – differs significantly from art criticism in that the former uses an objective rather than a subjective eye.

The Roman historian Pliny the Elder flirted with the discipline of art history in the first century and dedicated book 35 of his encyclopedia “Natural History” to the art and architecture of antiquity. The Italian artist and architect Georgio Vasari (baptized as the “father of art history”) published his “Lives of the Most Outstanding Painters, Sculptors and Architects” in 1550. And 200 years later, the German scholar Johan Joachim Winkelmann systematized the subject as a sequence of styles.

The invention of modern art history is attributed to Heinrich Wölfflin, whose “Principles of Art History” introduced a far more objective and analytical approach to the study of art in 1915. Germany, home of the innovative iconographers Erwin Panofsky, Aby Warburg and Fritz Saxl, remained a stronghold of art historical science in the decades that followed. Hitler’s rise, however, spurred a cultural diaspora and forced many titans in the field to seek refuge in academic institutions in England and the United States.

Stacker consulted art historical publications, leading newspapers and magazines, and online databases to curate this collection of significant moments and movements in art history of the past century.

In the second half of the 20th century, art history was an internationally recognized academic discipline, with polling courses becoming the standard at colleges and universities around the world. The discipline evolved and introduced new methods influenced by a variety of philosophies including Marxism, feminism, relativism, post-colonialism, and structuralism.

Scroll through the list to find out which Dutch masterpiece was liberated by the Nazis from an elite train of art historians. which surrealist legend showed a shocking new work after 25 years of retirement; and which social media platform revolutionized the art world.

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