Education is never a passive, autonomous, or static activity. It manipulates, as much as it is manipulated, and reflects specific contexts. Education histories document continuities and changes over time, and are able to throw light on and inform contemporary practice. Prompted by perspectives on curriculum as a social and cultural construction, together with Efland's (2004) identification of the principal visions of nineteenth and twentieth century art education in the United States, the author traces the historical antecedents of art education in New Zealand. The author points out that the development of art education in New Zealand from the 1840s to the 1990s was essentially a selection from the culture--the way of life, the kinds of knowledge, and the attitudes and values of society--of a particular time. The author discusses how the current policies and practices in art education reflect the economic, social, cultural and educational changes, including curriculum reforms, promulgated in New Zealand by successive governments during the 1980s and 90s.