In college, my Art History teachers spent so much time bludgeoning us to death with dates, movements, spellings, and deducting points for failing to recall the complete title of Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening*, that there wasn’t much room left in the syllabus for
joy theory or exploration.
Thank god for Smarthistory.
The site(part of Khan Academy), created by Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker, brings the classroom to you through 400+ videos and 200+ essays, providing viewers with a “free and open art history textbook”.
Over the past few weeks, I have happily made my way through 200 or so of the short vignettes and feel as though my love of history has been reawakened. Beth and Steven’s talks are engaging and accessible, focusing on the things you wish you learned in school. Why is this piece significant? Technique? What is the symbolism? Implications? What is the greater context? And surprisingly, many of the pieces discussed can be found in museums and galleries in and around Boston like Cezanne’s The Large Bathers which comes to the MFA this February.
~500 videos can be intimidating, so I recommend getting your feet wet with their Google Art Project series which takes advantage of the site’s unique ability to zoom in on the finest details of some of the world’s greatest works. Like, paint-flaking-off-the-canvas detailed. It’s incredible.
Equipped with my new knowledge, I now have a greater appreciation for pieces I may have overlooked in the past, and a much richer understanding of works I have already come to love. Such an invaluable resource for the Arts Community.
Learn more about Smarthistory here.
Watch the videos here.