How to Start Learning Art History

Get concrete tips on how to get started learning art history in an accessible manner that is fun and easily done at your own pace.

41 min. video

With so many centuries of artworks from cultures across the globe, how do you even know where to begin?

This video provides strategies for how to tailor your learning experience to your own needs to learn art history. Discussion by Art Prof Clara Lieu and Teaching Artist Deepti Menon.

El Anatsui
El Anatsui

Video Walkthrough

  • Art history is often seen as stuffy, boring, and academic.
  • Art history has usually had a focus on Western European art, and often blatantly skipped over art from Africa and Asia in schools.
  • Traditionally, art history is taught chronologically.
  • For people learning on their own, learning art history chronologically is too time consuming and overwhelming.
  • Customize how you learn art history to suit your art practice.
  • Studio art and art history are usually taught totally separate which makes no sense considering how related they are.
  • Learn art history by working backwards, identify artists you like and find out who inspired them.
  • Often there are art history references in films that you don’t know.
  • Find artists through themes, like the Venus, or Adam & Eve.
  • Prompt: compare & contrast
  • Prompt: sketchbook collage
  • Use our list of artists and Google names until you find artists you enjoy.
  • Do some “Instagram Sleuthing” to find new artists.
  • Search for artists on Artsy
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Prof Lieu’s Tips

Clara cartoon

My problem with art history is it is often taught totally separate from studio art, and is taught in a very dry, stuffy way because people need to feel “elevated” in academia.

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Somehow in academia, making learning fun is seen as dumbing things down. I think, hey, whatever gets you to remember something, awesome!

Still Life Crayon Drawing, banner

Artists Mentioned

  • Ernst Fuchs
  • H.R. Giger
  • Laocoön and his Sons
  • Donald Judd
  • Josiah McElheny
  • Giovanni Battista Piranesi
  • Song Kang
  • Shahzia Sikander
  • Kadir Nelson
  • Eugène Delacroix,
  • Robert Crumb
  • Lynda Barry
  • Henri Fantin-Latour
  • Julie Heffernan
  • Utagawa Kuniyoshi
  • Frida Kahlo
  • Kehinde Wiley
  • Andrew Raftery
  • Albrecht Dürer
  • Jenny Saville
  • Willem de Kooning
  • Otto Dix
  • Huma Bhabha
  • Al-Musawarat Al-Sufra
  • John Currin
  • Lucas Cranach the Elder
  • Sarah Sze
  • Félix González-Torres
  • Victo Ngai
  • Chuck Close
  • M.C. Escher
  • Jacques-Louis David
  • Jackson Pollock
  • Joan Miró
  • Caravaggio
  • Michelangelo
  • Gian Lorenzo Bernini
  • Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
  • Diego Velázquez
  • Renee Cox
  • Mickalene Thomas
  • Roz Chast
  • Sandro Botticelli
  • Masaccio
  • Robert Crumb
  • Amrita Sher-Gil

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