Why art history matters aka it's not just "a boring stuff"

Dec 27, 2021
4 min read

There are probably few of us who honestly loved history at school. Either we had very boring teachers or we just didn't care. They say that science is a key to our education. But what about art history?

Art history is all about knowing where we come from and where we’ve been, from the perspective of works of art. Art history is also about knowing how art has changed over time. Both of which are more relevant than you think.

Egyptian Art…
Photo by Tom Podmore / Unsplash

Every artwork has a story

Every piece of art tells a tale in one way or another. And other stories are left to feel. Sometimes we cannot see the beauty of it because we do not know the story behind it. Learning about artwork, the person who created it, the era in which the person lived, is creating a bond between us and the artwork. We can then read between the lines and understand the purpose. The diversity between the destinies is expanding our horizons as artists and having multicultural knowledge is helping to put our story in multiple backgrounds as well.

If you would take Jules Verne as an example. He was a writer who created stories about far-away lands even before visiting them. Because he was curious and fascinated by other cultures and countries. If he wouldn't study from the books and other sources, his novels wouldn't be believable and therefore not loved by so many.

Learning from the past

Art history is also your history. We are all humans, unless you are an alien secretly reading my blog because you don't have better things to do, such as taking over the planet or so. Learning about your culture and art is deepening the connection between you, your ancestors and your country. You will see how certain events affected the artist's view of the world. How incidents led them to create the masterpiece and how one artist influenced the other. If you would remove or break any of the connections, your past would look different and your present as well.

People in the past were a little extravagant for us. They sure did stuff that we could find bizarre and out of manners nowadays. Through art history, we get used to dealing with such oddities.

Boosting your imagination

Many people think of art history as just memorizing old paintings from the 15th century. There is so much more to art history than just memorizing names, dates, and images.

If you cannot imagine a horse playing a guitar and having a mead with Joseph II., then you have no imagination at all. Or do you think that artists have ever been to a heaven? How could they possibly paint it then? Art of history is here to help you improve the imagination. Artists in history have had the craziest imagination and their works are the living proof of that. Art history expands our imagination, helps us reach the impossible and make it real… or at least, closer to real.

Andrea Pozzo, The Triumph of Sant’Ignazio (detail), 1691-94

Wiping off your fears of the unknown

We as humanity fear always from the unknown. You can see it in every sci-fi movie. At the first chance meeting with aliens, we would rather kill them than taking a chance to know them. Because we fear everything we don't know or don't understand. Learning about the history of art or history is forcing us to know or understand and then the fear will disappear. There are many artworks out there and seeing them for the first time is not bringing pleasant feelings. But once you get to the story, to the core, you will see with totally different eyes and it will have a sudden value for you. Maybe even admiration.

The feelings you didn't know you had in you

Art is awaking feelings inside of us. Whether they are sad or happy. Of course, most people’s responses to art go far deeper than simply feeling happy or anxious. When we connect with a painting, drawing, sculpture, music or book, we’re doing so on a complex emotional level, or experiencing what some researchers have called ‘meta emotions’. Letting you go into the aesthetic experience the art represents is only possible if you accept the history as your mentor. Thanks to it, the understanding of this space gives you an outstanding pleasure from your own feelings.

“The emotions are sometimes so strong that I work without knowing it.”
– Vincent Van Gogh
Art both reflects and helps to create a culture’s vision of itself. Studying the art of the past teaches us how people have seen themselves and their world, and how they want to show this to others. - University of Bristol

Hop to the school?

Nope. It certainly doesn't mean you have to go back to school to study history of art. And it also doesn't mean you need to know it all. You can choose what applies to you or your culture and what can be beneficial for your artistic path. But it is never too late to be more curious and open about this topic. There are books out there, movies and series about artists. And as in your life, more you know, more you can talk about, more you can imagine and more you will create from scratch.

History is boring

I wouldn't agree with that. I'm also not a fan of long data biography, I'm more interested in the story. If you find the right storyteller, you are a winner. Maybe your past teacher ruined it for you, but try not to throw away a chance to experience the path of the geniuses before us.

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