9 reasons to study art history. Because? Among the different messages I receive on Instagram, one of the questions I am asked the most is related to why I choose to study art history. In reality this is often asked me by those who find themselves choosing the university course. But in my opinion it is one of those reflections that arise even when one approaches the history of art for passion because attracted by an artist, a work or a movement. For this reason I decided to put together 9 reasons to study art history at university or just for passion.
1. Working in the art world
The first reason that comes to my mind is absolutely practical. Anyone who is already passionate about art, if he wants to work in the art world must know its history. So whether you want to become a curator, artist or collector, having a foundation in art history is an obligatory step on the path.
However, there are two considerations that I want to make. The first is that from my personal experience of both study and work it is important to combine this knowledge of art history with a practical subject. For example, if you want to become an artist you need to know your working tools, for curators you need to know the basic notions of museology and set-up and so on. The second is that although it is necessary to specialize in a specific sector of art or in a historical period (and I always recommend it) one must also know everything that happened in art before and after that specific period to understand the causes and the consequences of certain artistic choices.
2. The passion for beauty [9 reasons to study History of art]
The second reason is closely linked to the first and makes me remain in the workplace. Not everyone who studies art history then decides to work in a gallery, museum or exhibition space. There are probably many more careers and possibilities outside of these places of art but still linked to art, design, fashion or cinema. For example, many find themselves working in private companies, in publishing, in the transport of works. There are really a thousand possibilities and each person lives his story in a unique way. However, in each of these cases, having come into contact with the history of art makes us develop a capacity: the passion for beauty.
I’ll give you a personal example. Not always in my work we only talk about furniture and / or works of art. Very often there are projections, budget analysis and cost presentation to be structured. You might think that those things are better left to those who know more about numbers than me in the team, and instead I often enjoy creating these presentations because I want to make them easier to understand, more beautiful to see, more interesting to understand. This knowledge of beauty pushes us to want to see it everywhere and allows us to apply it even where it might not be expected.
3. Understanding our history and culture
The third of the 9 reasons to study art history is related to our history and culture. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a graffiti in a cave, a medieval miniature, a Renaissance fresco or a cut. Art is the form of expression par excellence, it is a personal and unique language and at the same time universal.
Knowing how peoples before us decided to represent their culture, but also discovering our contemporary history through works brings us closer to others. And in my opinion it makes us even better. Knowing the history of art therefore means knowing history. And the history of art is not just about drawing, painting and sculpture. There are architecture, photography, film, performance art, animation, video art, landscape design, and decorative arts and furniture. If someone has created something worth seeing, art history will also offer it to us.
4. Understanding other cultures [9 reasons to study History of art]
The fourth reason is close to this but it allows us to take a step forward in reflection. Every artist, as well as every people in every historical period has expressed himself in a unique way. This means that a work of art by an Italian artist of the 16th century can never be similar to a work of art by a Chinese artist of the same period.
This is because the two in principle will have lived in different worlds and even unwillingly they will have told their time and place. Therefore, knowing not only the history of art in our Western case, for example, but also that of other populations makes us more open from a cultural and mental point of view.
It also helps us to face what may be considered by some diversities but which I would instead call the cultural uniqueness of each people. In this way it is also easier to observe and not to look at or judge cultures and art histories different from ours, which have and will always have their dignity and which must be known and respected.
5. Developing the critical eye
Another of the 9 reasons to study art history is the following. Studying art history helps in the development of another super power as I like to imagine and call it and so I come to my fifth reason. I’m talking about the critical eye. Like all super powers you have to use it to do good. Unfortunately, the very definition of the word criticism has prompted many art historians and critics of the past to use their critical eye, trained by years and years of research, to judge artists and movements, especially their contemporaries, not always positively. The critical eye, on the other hand, is our weapon.
If trained it helps us to understand if a work of art belongs to a certain period, if there are specific symbols inside it, if the artist wants to send a particular message. We therefore need to analyze the work. This is why I like to think in this case of the word critical as a synonym for analysis, the expression of a non-destructive historical judgment. Nobody forbids saying that something is not liked but you have to train your critical eye so much through the study of art history that you can also find a justification for that crippling of the nose in front of the work.
Furthermore, the world around us is becoming more and more visual and less and less textual. We move more from one nation to another, we begin to have international and not just local points of reference, therefore training the critical eye means knowing how to live in the world of images more easily.
6. Knowing our emotions [9 reasons to study History of art]
Due to the fact that we are often surrounded by various forms of art, some works sometimes arouse very strong emotions, of attraction, disgust or even fear in some ways. Art is a form of expression and therefore its purpose is mostly to convey a message, opinion or opinion. Another reason to study art history then becomes to be able to know ourselves and the emotions we feel, as well as to discover new ones. The more works we will come into contact with in any historical or cultural period, the more times we will get involved with an open mind and listen to our feelings and the more we will learn over time to know ourselves and our emotions. And this exercise will certainly help us in personal daily life as well.
7. Having your own refuge
The history of art can become a sort of refuge in some moments of our life. And this is another of the reasons why you should know it. For those who are passionate, it is undeniable that the idea of a tour in the museum of a city that we discover for the first time, of a tea with a book on women in art or a video linked to a work that arouses the most strong emotions can be not only a pastime but also a way to recharge the batteries and regenerate.
Each of us is different and rightly spends our free time and recharges our energies in a different way. But what makes us unique is the union of our passions and the way we interact with the world. For some like me, art history is and always will be the way to find some answers to situations of stress, despondency, fear, calm or happiness. And lately there has been a bit more of a need.
8. Learn to solve problems [9 reasons to study History of art]
But my philosophy is that you must never be too negative and be discouraged even in the most absurd situations and for this reason I came up with the eighth reason for to study art history. Art in all its forms throughout history has always been the response of an individual or a society to an event. And not just a form of expression, but sometimes also the solution to a problem. We think of Leonardo and his being a genius also in wanting to innovate the technique not only the contents. He had to solve a problem. Or let’s think of the first architectural constructions in steel and glass such as the Crystal Palace of the 1800s. They are all solutions born of problems or if they are not, however, the artist will certainly have had to face personal, technical, methodological or philosophical problems in the construction of the Opera. Because creating means challenging oneself and therefore solving problems. Studying art history helps you learn how to solve problems.
So I come to the last of the 9 reasons to study History of Art. What I continue to study art history for and to get curious about every new form of expression: traveling. Studying art history for me does not mean just opening a book and reading a chapter about a movement or an artist. I do not deny that there was a period especially in the university where it was mostly this. Today, however, for me studying art history means traveling and discovering the world around me. Having the opportunity to put your nose outside the home and discover a new place means to get involved and for me the best way to find out more is certainly to dedicate part of my trip to museums, fairs, exhibitions and galleries. I’m not saying it has to be for everyone, but for me it’s the unique and personal way to enjoy the journey, discover and recharge my energy. In addition to the fact that it is always nice to be available and act as a small tour guide for friends and relatives traveling with us.
These 9 are obviously just some of the reasons why in my opinion it is important to study art history. I would consider them more personal reasons, which I think may be common to many of you, than absolute ones. So let me know in the comments of the Youtube or on Instagram why you love and study the history of art and I will be happy to find out your reasons.