To quote the classic and famous Gardner's Art Through the Ages,
"Except when referring to the modern academic discipline, people do not often juxtapose the words 'art' and 'history.' They tend to think of history as the record and interpretation of past human actions, particularly social and political actions. Most think of art, quite correctly, as part of the present - as something people can see and touch. Of course, people cannot see or touch history's vanished human events, but a visible, tangible artwork is a kind of persisting event. One or more artists made it at a certain time and in a specific place, even if no one today just knows who, when, where, or why. ... Art historians seek to achieve a full understanding not only of why these 'persisting events' of human history look the way they do, but also of why the artistic events happened at all."
The concept of art history is expanded upon in an article on Caravaggista. A list of recommended reading for those interested in learning more about the fundamentals of art history can be found here. Eager readers may want search Google Books for 'art history,' or read previews of commonly used art history books here (art historical methods), here (Gardner's Art Through the Ages), and here (a primary source, Vasari's Lives of the Artists).
If you are taking your first art history course and aren't sure what to expect, check out this article.
Although teaching and museum/gallery work seem to be the most popular career routes, art history majors are not limited to these paths, as an article by Charles M. Rosenberg, "Alternatives for Art Historians," discusses.
I wrote this post, Why Choose Art History?, for current art history students and prospective art history students alike to be able to get a taste of what they can expect to do with their degree (undergraduate or advanced). It's not definitive, but hopefully it will get you thinking about the different career options available to you. You can also read more Q&A from current art history students here.
I receive many questions from prospective art history graduate students wondering how to discern if graduate school is the right choice, how to apply (and what's needed to get in), what grad school entails for art history, and how an advanced degree can further their career options. I decided to design and write a small guide that addresses each of these issues in hopes that it will help anyone considering a graduate degree in art history. There's also a list of resources at the end of the guide for further reading.
The guide is free to download. You can access it here.
If you like it, please share it with your friends!
Andrew Graham-Dixon, A Life Sacred and Profane
Howard Hibbard, Caravaggio
Helen Langdon, Caravaggio: A Life
Francine Prose, Caravaggio: Painter of Miracles
Catherine Puglisi, Caravaggio
Peter Robb, M: The Man Who Became Caravaggio (this book is controversial)
Keith Sciberras & David Stone, Caravaggio and the Knights of Malta
John Varriano, Caravaggio: The Art of Realism
Genevieve Warwick (ed.), Caravaggio: realism, rebellion, reception
The following are journal articles or part of anthologies:
Joseph F. Chorpenning, Another Look at Caravaggio & Religion (Artibus et Historiae)
Philip Sohm, Caravaggio's Deaths (Art Bulletin)
John Varriano, Caravaggio & Violence
John Varriano, Caravaggio & Religion
Much more about Caravaggio exists in print. Caravaggio.com has a wonderful and extensive list of scholars have worked on Caravaggio, along with citations of their respective works.
Properly, the Caravaggisti were a group of Caravaggio-esque painters from the 16th and 17th centuries. That is, these artists painted in or were influenced by Caravaggio's brooding, dramatic, and realistic (unidealizing) style. I personally don't maintain the belief that after the 17th century, artists ceased to be Caravaggisti; the time "constraints" exist to delineate a a group of artists relatively close to Caravaggio's lifetime who could have been more easily or absolutely were influenced by Caravaggio directly.
For more information about the Caravaggisti, I recommend the following books (although this of course is not an exhaustive list):
1. Richard Spear, Caravaggio and his Followers
2. David Franklin & Sebastian Schutze, Caravaggio and his Followers in Rome
3. Linda Freeman Bauer, Moral and Choice in Some Paintings by Caravaggio and his Followers (Art Bulletin, Sep. 1991)
4. Dennis Weller, Caravaggio and his Dutch & Flemish Followers
For some fun information, feel free to read about the falling out Caravaggio had with one of his stylistic followers in the summer of 1602.