Artistic Canon - What is Considered Canon in Art History and Why?

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Art history centers on the study of art over time, selecting the exemplary from the noteworthy along the way for inclusion in the 'artistic canon'. But, what exactly makes certain works and creators more important than others?

The so-called artistic canon as is defined by academic art history concerns itself almost entirely with a very limited stock of artistic creations. Thus, the topic of a true artistic canon in history is a controversial one indeed.

"American Gothic" by Grant Wood

American Gothic Artistic Canon

Academic artistic canon has famously focused on Western and European artwork alone. Works created outside of such spheres are overlooked for the most part, leading many to believe a number of regionalized 'artistic canons' ought to exist to better exemplify the world's wide and varied assortment of art styles.

"Mona Lisa" by Leonardo Da Vinci

Mona Lisa Artistic Canon

Dubbed Non-Western art, these new additions to the practice of art history help enrich the field with intriguing parallels between cultures and methods of creative expression.

"The Gulf Stream" by Winslow Homer

Gulf Stream Artistic Canon

However, it isn't merely highlighting cultural differences in art and fostering greater appreciation for these that the use of more specific artistic canons provides. Marginalized groups of artists of all stripes benefit best from such a concept.

"Femme au Chapeau" by Henri Matisse

Femme au Chapeau Artistic Canon

Traditional art history, in teaching the usual 'artistic canon,' largely overlooks the great works of women as well. Making room for such creators would greatly help in broadening the impact of the art world on contemporary society.

"Venus and Adonis" by Titian

Venus and Adonis Artistic Canon

Let us know what you think on Twitter and Instagram with #oddnugget. Should the traditional canon of art history be upheld or augmented?

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