Welcome to Art Appreciation for Beginners!
Cave paintings from the Hall of Bulls in the famous Lascaux Cave in Lascaux, France, c. 16,000-14,000 BCE. Photo by Prof saxx via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).
My name is Alexandra Kiely. I'm an art historian from the United States and your instructor for this class. Together, we'll venture into the fascinating and varied world of visual arts. I'm so glad you've decided to join me on your art-viewing journey.
I like to say that looking at art is a safer version of time travel. I know that's corny, but it's also somewhat true. I love art because it allows me to see the world through different people’s eyes. In my opinion, nothing can compare to the visual and physical immediacy of artworks in bringing the past to life, connecting me to cultures very different from my own, and illustrating different points of view (both literally and figuratively). Art reveals our shared humanity, even as it illuminates our differences. Couldn't we all use a little more of such understanding and empathy in the world? Spending time with visual art also stimulates our senses, intellects, and emotions, and it can have great mental health benefits. Plus, lots of art is really beautiful, and who doesn't like to look at beautiful things? (If you're still not convinced, I've got even more reasons for you right here.)
However, I know that art can feel inaccessible to many people. It is often shrouded in specialized terminology, a bewildering array of styles and movements, and references to obscure historical and cultural information. This can make art seem convoluted and confusing to anyone who feels like they have no way in without insider knowledge.
It doesn't have to be this way. Appreciating the beauty and meaning of visual images is a basic human impulse - one that we've been practicing since prehistoric times. You don't need a formal art history education to enjoy art. In this course, you will gain a few basic tools to help you become an active, critically-thinking art viewer without years of study.