Art History is Boring…
I need to make a confession. I didn’t start my college career as an art major. Far from it, I was majoring in marine biology originally. As part of my general education credits for my bachelor’s degree I had to take an art history course. I always liked looking at art but I did not know enough about it. I didn’t understand what it all meant or that it even had more meaning than just something to enjoy hanging on the wall. My Renaissance Art History class changed all of that. My professor taught me about how the iconography in the paintings had meaning. The composition and iconography had easily recognizable messages for people of their time. This was fascinating to me! The more I learned about art the more I fell in love with it. Which is why I ultimately changed my major when the math for science was overwhelming to me.
Art History made actual history make more sense for me. It also helped me to better understand other cultures and people. Art gave me a visual representation of what I had read about in books. For a long time art is the only visual representation we have left of a culture. More art than writing survived. It helps us form a more complete hypothesis of what a certain culture valued. I love learning and I love discovering different cultures through art.
Art has also had a huge role to play in the advancement of society. Artist tended to be the ones who were speaking out against and bringing a new light to social issues. Pablo Picasso painted his famous painting Guernica as a response to the bombing of a town in Spain, Guernica, by the Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The bombing began with the destruction of roads and bridges out of town and then proceeded to bomb the town for to hours. I have included the painting on this page for reference. Many people died in that attack, it was a slaughter. Picasso painted this painting as a way to help people remember what happened and to speak out against such terrible attacks. More about this painting can be found here.
Picasso wasn’t the first or last artist to use their art to speak out against injustices. Kehinde Wiley is a contemporary artist most well known for his official presidential portrait of Barak Obama. His paintings show people of color in positions of power and triumph. He uses renaissance paintings as inspiration for the poses his subjects take. His work is both breathtaking in its beauty and unsettling in its depictions for some people who do not fully understand his meaning behind it.
Understanding the meaning. Understanding meaning and agreeing with a message are two very different things. Being able to understand and artwork and consider the meaning intended can help you understand someone whose life experience may not be similar to your own. Studying art history does this for me and I hope it will do this for you. Looking at artwork for understanding and appreciation is an important skill. We grow as human beings by being able to empathize with people around us. We become more patient and extend grace when we understand the story behind a person’s experience. Art is transformative. We need to be willing to listen to what it is telling us as well as understand the symbols and icons within it.
- Museum – a building in which objects of historical, artistic, or cultural interest are stored and exhibited
- Iconography – a particular range or system of types of image used by an artist or group of artists to convey particular meanings
- Symbol – a solid, recognizable thing that represents something that would be hard to show in a picture or a sculpture
- Virtual tour – an online tour of a museum, exhibit, or show that gives you the ability to visit and look at artwork
- Medium – material used to create art such as paint, clay, wood, fiber, marble, graphite, ink, etc
- Collection – a collection of art works. aggregation, collection, accumulation, assemblage – several things grouped together or considered as a whole. loan collection – a number of pictures loaned by their owners for exhibition.
- Exhibition – a collection of art put on display at the museum.
- Gallery – place where art is exhibited like a room or hall for show or for sale.
- Curator – someone employed by a museum to acquire artwork, care for collections, and display exhibitions in the museum.
Watch this video about Art History and see if it sparks your interest…
This lesson is just a taste of the art in our world. A very tiny fraction of what is out there that has been thoughtfully created to convey a message the artist needed to portray. I hope this taste of art history will help ignite the spark to learn to love and appreciate art and all the ways it contributes to our society.
I would like for you to take a virtual tour of one of the following museums:
- The High, Atlanta, Georgia
- J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
- The National Gallery, London, England
- The Louvre, Paris, France
- The Vatican Museums, Vatican City, Italy
- The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York
Now choose a work of art from the museum tour you decided to take. Tell me all about it. Write what the artwork is, who created it, when they created it, what it is made out of etc. Then I want to tell me why you chose that piece out of the collection of artwork you viewed. What you liked about it and why it interested you. Include an image of the artwork in your paper. Then I want you to tell me about the artist, where did they come from? Why did they create their art? Does their story make their art more or less interesting to you? Basically write a short one page paper about it and email it to me by clicking the button below.