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post-classical Latin retrospectus, past participle of retrospicere to look back (see retrospect v.), partly after prospect



Retrospective (from Latin retrospectare, "look back") generally means to take a look back at events that already have taken place. For example, the term is used in medicine, describing a look back at a patient's medical history or lifestyle.

For lessons on the related topic of the Past, follow this link.

Visual arts

Within the visual arts, the term commonly refers to an art exhibition assembled to allow a look back at an individual artist's career, an art movement, or a certain artistic period.

In film as an art form, a retrospective is a representative selection of films of a specific actor, director, or other film crew member, or pertaining to a specific film genre or era. Retrospectives may be presented by local movie theaters or as part of film festivals.


Retrospective compilations are sometimes assembled from an artist's greatest hits.


A retrospective award is one which is created, and then awarded to all persons who would previously have received it. Alternatively, a slight change to the criteria of an existing award may result in retrospective awards being presented to persons who would have won the award under present rules. Comparatively few awards are presented retrospectively.

See also

Festschrift, an academic analog