"Art from the past holds clues to life in the past. By looking at a work of art's symbolism, colors, and materials, we can learn about the culture that produced it."
This wise quote, pulled from a blog post by a student member of the Metropolitan Museum's Teen Advisory Group, perfectly sums up what I've always liked about studying art and art history. While we appreciate and admire (or criticize) a piece of artwork for its aesthetic qualities, we also use it as a way to better understand the time, society, and frame of mind of its creator.
Today's task is to study a little bit of art history. Make your way into the wide world of art by finding one important artist that you'd like to know more about. Then read about their life and become familiar with their most critical works.
Luckily, there are a host of resources online that make learning about art fun and engaging. Try one of the sites below, or fill us in about any others you know about in the comments section of this post.
Smarthistory is a free multimedia guide to artists, art styles, and eras. The site, which recently became a part of the Khan Academy, offers a plethora of easy-to-navigate essays, images, videos, and audio covering art from all over the world. If you're an artist, art historian, or photographer interested in making your photos of art in museums available to the public, drop them a line.
Art History Resources features news, commentary, and a robust directory of links to assist you in further study. The site has an active Facebook community where you can ask questions of the site's founder, art historian Christopher L.C.E. Witcombe. There's also a companion YouTube series called Art History in Just a Minute, which features short videos that offer history and insight about artworks and artists.
The University of Oxford records and posts the audio from many of its lectures online. The History of Art department's podcasts include an introduction to art history, a close look at Michelangelo, and a series on surrealism. All are available for free download.