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Ways to Explore Art History

Buzzle Staff Mar 16, 2020
Art history is an exciting topic to study, and it can provide a great insight into creative and historical movements that have shaped this world.
Art history is a subject that is unfortunately, rarely taught in schools. In most instances, the gateway to this topic is a trip to a museum, or to a city like Rome or Florence that's renowned for its role in the history of the artistic world. For this reason, it takes a bit of initiative on the part of individuals who want to learn more about artists and their work. But rest assured, the energy and time that it takes to learn about art history is worthwhile!

Visit Museums

The best place to start when determining which artists and movements you want to study, is a museum. Take a trip to your local museum, and take notes about your favorite pieces.
You can note down the overall appearance of the object, describe its details like the composition and materials used such as acrylic or watercolor, and begin to discuss the work before moving on to the next object. If photography is allowed, take snaps of the paintings you love and the information placards hung beside them.
You can go through your photos later, to decide which artist or movement is your favorite (and which one you would want to study first).

Check Websites

The Metropolitan Museum of Art contains quality material for art students and educators. Art History Resources is another source that provides information on Prehistoric art, the evolution of art in different countries and various time periods, such as the early Christian art, Medieval art, Gothic art, Baroque art, etc.
Artcyclopedia provides a comprehensive list of links to image archives and museum websites which can be found by the titles and locations of the artists. Another site, Virtual Library for History of Art, provides links related to art history.
Smarthistory (a part of the Khan Academy since October 2011) offers over thousands of art videos and essays from around the world.

Also, various textbooks have developed websites to test your knowledge about art. There may be crossword puzzles, multiple choice questions, and more activities to engage in. So, check out for such interactive websites.

Visit Museum Gift Shops

When you get to the end of a museum tour, take a stroll around the gift shop. In most museums, the gift shop is loaded with books about the artists and paintings that are featured in the exhibits and collections.
If you had a favorite, ask the gift shop employees if there's any additional information available. If nothing else, snagging a post card of your favorite painting is a great reminder of your trip and the painting that took your breath away.

Take Up a Course

You can also take up Undergraduate, Graduate, and Postgraduate courses in art history.
There are institutes which offer research programs and short-term courses in art history including theory classes, gallery talks, site visits, workshops, and seminars. Internships at museums and cultural and community arts organizations can provide scope for professional growth and careers in art history.

Take Notes when on Vacations

Art encompasses more than just paintings; there is art all around you! When exploring a new city while on vacation (or even when getting to know your city a bit better), take notes about buildings or sculptures that you really like. You can learn more about the artists and architects who created these pieces and find out where more of their work is located.
Many art history enthusiasts plan vacations around artistic pieces. For example, art history buffs often travel to Italy to see the works of art such as paintings, sketches, and sculptures of art masters like Da Vinci, Raphael, Caravaggio, Michelangelo and other famous artists.
Paris is another place that is home to a large number of museums of varying sizes and specialties, and is a wonderful place to study art history. The vibrant Prague offers magnificent architecture and beautiful works of art. Other places to explore art are London, South America, Australia, South Africa, Austria, Hungary, Russia, Spain, and Egypt.

Seek Books about Artists and Art Movements

A Google search of your favorite paintings and artists can provide you with a lot of information. However, sometimes the best place to turn to is a bookstore. Whether you want to shop online or have your local bookstore order what you're interested in, leveraging the written word is one of the best ways to explore art history.
By learning about your favorite artists' lives, you can better understand their work and what their pieces are conveying. The same goes for overall artistic movements. For instance, a book about Impressionism can teach you how this movement started, and which artists were the most influential in its development.
A few popular art history books are 'Michelangelo, the Sistine Chapel' by Stefano Zuffi , 'Gardner's Art Through the Ages' by Christin J. Mamiya, Fred S Kleiner, and Helen Gardner, 'The Story of Art' by E.H. Gombrich, 'History of Art' by H. W. Janson and Anthony F. Janson, 'Seven Days in the Art World' by Sarah Thornton, and many more.
Art history is a fascinating subject, and it's one that you can certainly learn about on your own.