events archive

Connoisseurship in Art

Grumpy Art Historian blogger and art connoisseur, Michael Savage, will introduce a discussion on connoisseurship in art.

7:00pm, Monday 17 March 2014, London

Recording of the discussion:

Connoisseurship is a slippery concept, but in simple terms a connoisseur is an expert judge. In the field of art it means particularly the ability to distinguish the work of different artists, but can include knowledge of the physical characteristics of works of art (technique, condition, restoration), and their place in art history (period, style, school). The term was first used widely in the eighteenth century, often as a term of derision against the new experts who were usurping the traditional authority of artists to judge each other’s work. Controversy about the relevance of connoisseurship persists. Regarded by many as elitist, there is a cultural divide rather than a debate with the two sides rarely engaging directly. Museums and art galleries tell you who painted their pictures, but they rarely explain issues central to connoisseurship - such as condition and style. Academic art history has tended to reject connoisseurship, with a turn towards theory and social history. Connoisseurship only really thrives in commercial art, and many of the most sensitive connoisseurs are in the art trade.

Michael’s introduction will make the case for connoisseurship, explaining what it is, why it’s important, and how to become a connoisseur.

Some questions to think about
Do you have to have a connoisseurial ‘eye’ to appreciate art?
Who can be a connoisseur?
What makes connoisseurship a worthwhile approach to studying art?


Here are two pieces making the case for connoisseurship:

Also check Michael’s blog (, particularly his auction reviews. These two posts are relevant to issues of condition and attribution: