The Easel

Putting the Art Back in Art History

Art history provides context. The Renaissance writer Giorgio Vasari assessed artworks against absolute standards of quality. By the nineteenth century assessments became relative – how well an artwork expressed the culture of its day. What about today’s wildly varied art? “Impossible for art history to grasp”, says one art historian. The above writer is phlegmatic – our times are “more ordinary” than we might think.