The Unreliable Book of Art History – Chapter 1: Defining Art History and Answering the Question of Time.

As promised a few posts earlier, I’m here with my first post on History of Art.

I believe I must begin by disclaiming all that I’ll be writing in these history posts.


These posts aren’t meant to be educational – they merely present the view of an artist. In fact, a specific artist, that’s yours truly. This is why I request you to consider these posts as a work of fiction inspired by historical facts. I am not sure if I can keep the historical facts correct to the t, and I take no responsibility if you fail an exam because you thought you could use my posts to study.

Remember that I am not an art historian, an art critic, or even an art teacher. I am an artist – and in this book (if it becomes one,) I’ll be presenting the history of art, as an artist.

With that out of our way, let me begin by cobbling together a workable definition of Art History.

First, let us define Art and History separately.

1. ART:

Let us begin by understanding Art.

Art is a creative visual expression that is aesthetically or emotionally appealing.

This definition is quite clear if we understand the essence of the term creative.


The term Creative means original and/or imaginative.

So now can rewrite the definition of ART as:

Art is an original/imaginative visual expression that is aesthetically or emotionally appealing.

Let us now review the term History.


History is defined as the study of the past events.

Now putting together a workable definition of ART HISTORY is quite easy.

1 + 2 = ART + HISTORY:


Art History is the study of the past of aesthetically or emotionally appealing visual expression that is original or imaginative.

Now equipped with this definition, we can figure out art in our own imaginative way. Instead of focusing on the years (and the complex methodology of presenting those years) and the details of the objects and paintings found (the dimensions, the provenance, and so on…) we will quietly try to slip into the skin of the artist and feel the creation of that art work.

But before we begin, we must get some terminology right.

Tackling the Question of Time:

Let us say, you encounter “c. 35 ka” in my posts. Now what could that mean?

Note: If you are shaking your head with confusion write large upon your face, you aren’t alone.

Here’s what this cryptic term means:

“c.” is circa (used for “approximately” – often it’s difficult to be exact for the time before humans had invented the calendar and before being historian wasn’t in vogue.)


“ka” is kilo-annum or a thousand years,

so “c. 35 ka” would translate to “approximately 35 thousand years ago.”


Another Note: c. 5 ka back, in Ancient Egypt, “ka” meant the soul.

Once in a while, you’ll also encounter the term BP, which means “Before Present.” However, the present in this case isn’t right now, but 1950. We’ll stick to ka because when you are dealing with circa in thousands, a few tens of years here and there don’t matter.