As a term, art history (its product being history of art) encompasses several methods of studying the visual arts; in common usage referring to works of art and architecture. As the art historian Ernst Gombrich once observed, "the field of art history [is] much like Caesar's Gaul, divided in three parts inhabited by three different, though not necessarily hostile tribes: (i) the connoisseurs, (ii) the critics, and (iii) the academic art historians". , What historical forces shaped the artist's oeuvre, and How did he or she and the creation, in turn, affect the course of artistic, political, and social events? Such a "canon" remains prominent, as indicated by the selection of objects present in art history textbooks.As a discipline, art history is distinguished from art criticism, which is concerned with establishing a relative artistic value upon individual works with respect to others of comparable style, or sanctioning an entire style or movement; and art theory or "philosophy of art", which is concerned with the fundamental nature of art. It is, however, questionable whether many questions of this kind can be answered satisfactorily without also considering basic questions about the nature of art. Nonetheless, since the 20th century there has been an effort to re-define the discipline to be more inclusive of non-Western art, art made by women, and vernacular creativity.
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Art historians employ a number of methods in their research into the ontology and history of objects.
Art historians often examine work in the context of its time.