Monday, March 18, 2013

all things art history

IMG_9310 When I decided to declare painting and printmaking as my major in college, I was shocked by the amount of requirements you had to take! Being 18, totally naïve (and a little dumb),  I thought my passion for making art would carry me through my studies. Boy was I wrong! All those requirements: color theory, figure drawing, design, etc, put a damper on my passion for making art. Those years filled with strict artistic requirements were tough and included more moments of failure than I sometimes care to remember (yup, I got a D in color theory).  However, over time I found that all those classes brought discipline and a better understanding of art to my evolution as an artist.

About half way through my college career, I became smitten by art history classes.  So much that I almost pulled a 180 and changed my major to art history! What started out as just another bone-dry requirement, slowly turned into fuel for my artistic inspiration. When I was in college, the internet was still pretty new (precious few blogs and no pinterest or instagram) and wasn’t exactly the resource for inspiration it is today. Books, museums, galleries and classes were the means of seeking inspiration and engaging with the artistic communities. Art history unlocked something important in my spirit and became the source of my interest and drive to make art.


Hendrick ter Brugghen, Melancholia

Somewhere between The History of Western Art and The History of Flemish Painting, I fell in love with sitting in the dark classroom, gazing at slides, and mesmerized by tales of the life and times of the artists. I was captivated and enriched by the process of learning about those who came before us and changed the world with their gifts, passions and courage. Hearing their stories, investigating their visions and techniques; it was a deeply important experience of love, respect, and humility.

thats me in 1996 at the Musee d'Orsay (please ignore my striped pants and fanny pack!)

Those classes are the reason why I cried when I saw Van Gogh's Starry Night at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris when I was 21 years old. They are the reason why I get butterflies when I walk into a museum. They are the reason I stand as close as possible to view a painting when I’m at a gallery or museum (seeing the brushstrokes makes me feel a connection to the artist). Those classes are the reason that while the internet is at my finger tips for ideas, I choose to revisit history and it's stories when I am looking for inspiration.

Lately I have found myself craving the feelings I had back in those classes. I really want to nourish those old wonderful feelings and have decided that once in a while I will share some art history in this space. I will highlight an artist, an idea or a powerful moment in time that’s made an impact. My hope is to inspire you, my readers, and perhaps we can all meet some new, unexpected friends in the colorful chronicles of history. To begin, I have put together a list of my favorite books (new and old) with the hope to ignite and inspire a little interest in all things art history. Stay tuned for more!



36 comments:

Stacey said...

I was an Art History major before I had to drop out of college. I kept my books though. Despite the fact that part of the reason I dropped out was financially related, and selling back those books could have gotten me a lot of money, I couldn't part with them

Nesrin said...

Great idea.
Can't wait to see those posts!

Peaceful said...

a great lesson ! and I know art books are quite expensive, but don't forget public libraries have some even in small places !

Christell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loco Lindy said...

Great idea, I look forward to your lessons!

Leah said...

I'm looking forward to your art history posts Alisa. I love going to look at art in museums, though I have learned to keep my hands in my pockets or clasped behind my back. I almost got thrown out of an art museum in Los Angeles because I keep touching the paintings! The security guard didn't like that too much and pretty much followed me until I left the building!

DebP said...

Love this idea! Looking forward to your posts.

Valerie Brown said...

Great idea, Alisa! I love art history and am always interested in learning about books I may have missed (!) and who an artist's (meaning you) influences are.

As well, it's nice to hear about museums/galleries that may fly under the radar. Although seeing the ceiling of the Orsay as I scrolled down made me happy (and nostalgic).

FloridaLady46 said...

An afternoon in the stacks of art books feels like a guilty pleasure. An insatiable thirst for everything art has turned me into a long time daily reader of everything Alisa. Your posts are always fresh and inspiring. Thank you, thank you. Donna

jeckabee said...

Totally get it! Art school stifled many artists I know or graduated with. I also know artists who are successful and self taught and didn't get to go to college or better yet, art college. I've learned a lot from them and enjoy my journey as an artist again without having to conform to art school standards.

Your striped pants and fanny pack pic cracked me up. When I graduated in 1996 I backpacked in Europe and visited all the museums I could...I barely packed any clothes so I could fit my huge camera, lenses and a gazillon rolls of film!!! Great minds think alike.

Annuk said...

What a wonderful and inspiring post! Museums, books and art-you-can-touch are an endless source of inspiration, and so are artists who have lived and breathed Art throughout their whole lives. Thank you for sharing!

studioGypsy said...

lovethis. thankyou! xo

Cynthia said...

Wonderful. Look forward to these posts. I was awed by the art history courses as well. So much I had never seen. Our art school took a trip to NYC and at Museum of Modern Art, I remember seeing a Barnett Neuman painting and gasped. It was so gorgeous. This continued to happen at each painting/sculpture as I toured the museum. Although the slides were beautiful, nothing compared to being in front of the actual work, brushstrokes, color OMG!

doingittheopenway said...

I felt exactly the same when I saw the Cezanne exhibition in the Musee d'Orsay... his paintings used to be ones I'd flip past in books but after seeingthem in real life it's impossible not to be captivated by the colours and texture... I miss art history!

Madeline Rains said...

I too cried when I saw Van Gogh's Starry night (at MOMA) and I loved art history in college - I wish I'd majored in art instead of theater but oh well. I am so excited that you want to share some art history inspiration here! I'm going to buy the book on Matisse. I had a wonderful art history text that was stolen so I'm glad to get something new.

Oh! I heard a podcast on NPR - the show is "On Being" and it was an interview with an expert on fairy tales. Think you might like it. You can find it on the npr site or in itunes, I think.

Jeni said...

YAY! Please add in some art history to your posts... I would love to re-learn and re-ignite that passion for what came before us and inspires you!

Amanda T. said...

Thank you for yet another inspiring post. It made me remember the first time I saw a real van Gogh painting and the Boston Museum of Art - such an amazing feeling! I am so looking forward to your art history posts.

JGG said...

I slept through Art History in college!! Now - so many years later I wish I could have a "do over". I look forward to your posts.

Jacqueline said...

I read both Hilary Spurling's Matisse biographies two years ago when we were in the midst of our remodel project after moving back to So Cal. I'd not long read about Matisse receiving lessons from William-Adolphe Bouguereau when we hired a local company to refinish our wooden floor whose owner was one of Bouguereau's descendants! Recently we were down at the San Diego Museum of Art and enjoyed seeing the Bouguereau they have there.

Janet Wilson said...

This is going to make me love reading your blog even more! I got the Art History bug when I joined an Art Trading Card group that did monthly challenges around a specific artist. I think it was called Art History 101. I found myself obsessed and motivated to learn as much as I could about each artist to help me create each mini piece. Maybe you would consider doing something like this to connect with your followers??? Anyway, I'm very excited about this!

Consie @ AtopSerenityHill.com said...

I visited the Philly Museum last week and stuck my face as close as I could to a Monet! That is my favorite part. To get up close and personal to see the brushstrokes.

Raine said...

I'm very excited about the idea of learning some art history from you. Your blog is one of my faves and I check it every day. I didn't get really turned onto art until my 40s so I have a lot of catching up to do! If I ever decide to be totally brave and take some college classes, I've always been interested in Art History and that's surely what I'd take. Thank you for making this such an interesting, diverse and fun blog.

Roosnans said...

I'm curious for your follow up! Good to see all the Dutch artists!!
Grtz,

KarenT said...

Isn't the Musee d'Orsay fantastic, I spent the whole day there, I almost couldn't get past Rodin's Gates of Hell!

I'm writing my thesis on Theory of Art and Design as we speak (well I should be instead of being on the Internet!), my field is lettering, specifically an Austrian lettering artist from the Wiener Werkstätte era, and I'm loving reading about the history of letters. I also love reading about the artists stories; their passion and their desire to experiment and push the boundaries.

Thanks for the list of books and I look forward to reading more on art history in the future.

Karen

teri said...

Yes, yes and YES. I love those brushstrokes, too! Have you been to see Les Nympheas at Musee de l'Orangerie. I felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach, so visceral was my response to being in the beauty and power of those oval rooms of light and water.

Annette, Kent, Signe & Anni said...

I LOVE Musee d'Orsay. So said that I had a limited amount of time. How I wished for more.

Cynthia Myers said...

I'm so EXCITED!
:)

loverofnewfs said...

I too discovered art history while in college. I had a wonderful instructor who would stand on the stage and interact with the slides. I was not thrilled with my undergrad degree, but I would do it all again because it gave me a lasting passion for art history.

Lathelize said...

Thanks a lot for this post and for the future ones.

sue said...

Yay for Art History!
Alisa, I adore your blog and your work ethic!
I'm 43 and am currently re-enrolled in college to obtain my art teaching degree... I have three teenagers... and house with hot messes in every room! One of my goals is to teach art workshops for that focus on bringing teenage girls and adult women together... and you are one of my inspirations! This summer, I plan on taking one of your painting online classes - I can't wait! I love that you have set up the courses so they are self-paced. Brilliant! Currently, I'm taking an art history course - I'm in the middle of Renaissance and Baroque heaven!

martha brown said...

I have a degree in Art History and Criticism ( that last part cracks me up -- I made the profs fume by often stating that buying a piece of art that looked good in your living room was THE BEST reason to buy art) There were barely computers when I was in school! I typed all of my essays! And I still have all of my books. I teach Grade 1 and 2 this year, and the kids love looking through my art books.

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Stanley Workman said...

My girlfriend is a natural blue head.
A virgin, with a pierced labia.
Not so much a dog walker, as a member of their pack.
Pop rock & infinity pools.
Goose stepping backwards; rewinding history's odometer.
Selling it as new.

-Marc Breed
An Ohio Poet Laureate candidate

http://topclevelandartists.blogspot.com

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