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I would like to learn about art

(25 Posts)
foxtong Sat 03-Aug-19 21:41:04

Ideally, I'd like to do a history of art degree....but that's not going to happen any time soon. So how else do I learn about history of art? Can anyone recommend any courses/books? Or a list of works of art I should see?

SeaSidePebbles Sat 03-Aug-19 21:47:05

Gosh, it’s such a vast subject! I studied it for 4 years! I wouldn’t know what to tell you, where to start.
Sorry, that’s not very helpful, I realise. Do you have a specific thing in mind?

timeforakinderworld Sat 03-Aug-19 21:50:58

How about starting with Sister Wendy's Story of Painting on YouTube?

foxtong Sat 03-Aug-19 21:52:35

I know it's pretty large.....!! I'm reading a book by Laura Cumming at the minute who is an art critic for the observer and it has sort of opened my eyes to what a huge subject it is and how little I know.....Dutch masters like Vermeer and Rembrandt seem like an interesting starting point!

custardlover Sat 03-Aug-19 21:53:16

Do a guided tour at a gallery? I recently did a tour from this company at the National - around an hour and it was brilliant - funny, interesting and entertaining:

SeaSidePebbles Sat 03-Aug-19 22:00:13

Vermeer and Rembrandt deserve a trip to the Rijk museum smile They don’t have much Vermeer (2 or 3), but plenty of Rembrandt smile The audio guides are really good too.

TemporaryPermanent Sat 03-Aug-19 22:07:18

I second tours of galleries, particularly tours of the permanent collection as that will be cheaper than big exhibitions.

TemporaryPermanent Sat 03-Aug-19 22:08:06

Have you got any local galleries? They might have a lot of free events you could go to?

Lweji Sat 03-Aug-19 22:13:06

Your local library is likely to have books you can use to get an idea of what to look for.
Definitely start going to relevant art galleries. They usually have relevant books. Or browse a large book shop. It's better than online because you can get a better feel of the contents and how they're presentedm

Cyberworrier Sat 03-Aug-19 22:20:38

Try Ways of Seeing by John Berger to get an insight into art history and visual culture. I would also look up talks/tours at your local museums. And possibly an A-level in art history through an adult education college? Yes permanent collections at uk national museums/gallery are free, it’s only temporary exhibitions you have to pay for. EH Gombrich story of art has long been a sort of art history bible at universities. Worth a look.

TemporaryPermanent Sat 03-Aug-19 22:23:22

Ask people about their favourite picture/artist and why they like it?

My favourite picture overall is the Birth of Venus by Botticelli. I don't know that much about it! But I spent an hour looking at it once long ago. It's a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance, the time when the focus of many artists changed from religious works (often including recording and history but in different way) to humans and the observed world. Learning about the Renaissance is a really good way in to the history of art imo.

Cyberworrier Sat 03-Aug-19 22:25:27

Ps if you’re in london places like The Mary Ward Centre do really good evening classes in many subjects including Art. Also City Lit.

TemporaryPermanent Sat 03-Aug-19 22:33:19

My Dh used to get a lot out of the Royal Academy website when he was studying Access to Art and Design. I think most major museum and gallery websites intermationally have a lot of resources now.

MsAdventures Sat 03-Aug-19 22:45:25

What a wonderful subject to explore! I studied art history years ago and have found it hugely enjoyable and enriching.

Ernst Gombrich’s book “The Story of Art” is a good starting point, a refreshingly opinionated and enthusiastic overview from cave paintings to the 20th Century (it was originally published about 50 years ago I think and Gombrich died in 2001 so you won’t find the latest contemporary art in it, but there’s a reason it’s an absolute classic, it’s a great read).

If you’re interested in the Dutch masters check out the Rijksmuseum’s excellent website, it includes many resources, all available in English afaik. They also have a YouTube channel.

And yes, I agree seeing the actual works in galleries is best if you can get there - ideally with a guided tour or an audio guide to provide some context. But also just looking...

If you’re in London (or can get there easily), Kenwood House In Hampstead Heath has one of my favourite works by Rembrandt (one of his self portraits), and also a beautiful Vermeer. All free to see.

London is blessed with so many fantastic art galleries, lots of them free if you go to see the permanent collection rather than a special exhibition.

I’m less familiar with the galleries elsewhere but it’s worth checking out what is available locally to you.

The website is a great starting point for finding out about museums and galleries all over the UK. They also have interesting stories where they explore a certain subject and link to relevant works of art from across different collections.


MsAdventures Sat 03-Aug-19 22:48:39

X-posted, I see Gombrich has already got a mention!

Wigeon Sat 03-Aug-19 22:53:46

Are you near London? [[ City Lit has a bunch of art history courses that look fab.

Go to talks at any museum or gallery anywhere near you (again, I know the London museums have lots and I assume others outside London do).

Go on guided tours pretty much anywhere, including country houses, which often have incredible collections of art (ie don't limit yourself to museums and galleries).

Enjoy - you’ll have a lot of fun!

Wigeon Sat 03-Aug-19 22:54:12

Working link: City Lit

Dirtyjellycat Sat 03-Aug-19 23:00:23

Another vote for Gombrich here!

Gregoire Sat 03-Aug-19 23:11:47

I would start with an art gallery - make a note of the particular paintings that catch your eye and start researching those, then others in their genre. The internet is an amazing resource, plus there are endless books / podcasts / tv programmes.

foxtong Sun 04-Aug-19 14:20:46

Oh thank you so much, so many great ideas here! Unfortunately it in London but in Newcastle. We do have some galleries but might have to do some trips to London and Edinburgh to see what I can see.

foxtong Sun 04-Aug-19 14:21:00


GCAcademic Sun 04-Aug-19 14:28:50

Have a look at the Coursera website, there are some online art history courses on there.

Fingerbobs Mon 09-Sep-19 07:47:21

Late to this but I did an Oxford online learning course on this, it was expensive and you really needed to work - they recommended 10 hours a week. He book they used was called Learning to Look at Paintings by Mary Acton, and it was excellent, I thought. Really clear and covering technical things like colour, composition etc in a way I’d never really thought about before.

Apolloanddaphne Mon 09-Sep-19 08:34:31

I am currently doing some Art History modules at my local uni after discovering a live of art when I retired. It has been eye opening and I love it.

Early on my DD gave me a book called Artists their lives and works. It would be a great introduction for you. What I like about it is that it takes the reader through a timeline of art with the most influential artists of that period and explains why they were important, giving commentary on their most famous works. I have studied many of the artists in the book now and the information is very much aligned with what I was taught in class.

You have to supplement any reading with visiting galleries and actually looking at the paintings. Choose a few paintings to study in detail rather than a quick glimpse at many. Take a book and write down what you can see in the painting. What you like and don't like. What the artist is trying to tell the viewer. It is a fascinating subject when you dig deeper.

ShinyMe Wed 09-Oct-19 19:17:09

I know bugger all about art, but sometimes I like it and sometimes I think it's horrendously pretentious. The times I find it most interesting is when I watch programmes with people like Andrew Graham Dixon. He has done several series on BBC4 about art, including some about art from various countries, Art of Spain, Art of Scandinavia, Art of America etc, which are on Iplayer. He's really good, very unpretentious and interesting, obviously hugely knowledgeable but without being patronising. I've learnt loads from watching his programmes and then going to art galleries and just looking around.

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