Interested in Studying Art History? Start Here

Tips on how to begin your studies into the history of art

The Angelus (1857–59) by Jean-François Millet. Oil on canvas. Image source Wikimedia Commons

Connect your first passion with a wider setting

My first piece of advice is to return to your first passion and try to understand its place in the wider context. Perhaps it was a painting by Monet, perhaps it was a Greek sculpture you saw in a museum, or perhaps it was an abstract painting from the 20th century by someone like Mark Rothko.

Structuring your study

A test of whether your study process is well-structured or not is if you actually retain the material you take in. It’s fairly easy to sweep up masses of information; it is less easy to digest it and mentally assemble it into a meaningful body of learning.

  • Renaissance
  • Baroque
  • Romanticism
  • Modern

Which do you want to be? A specialist or a generalist?

Like so many other fields of study, in art history you can become either a specialist or a generalist. A specialist will focus in on a particular area and, like a deep-sea diver, swim to the lesser-charted depths. A generalist stays closer to the surface. Since they have their eyes raised to the horizon, they have the benefit of taking in a wider view.

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Art historian, critic, novelist, artist. Author of Berlin Tales:

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