The Ultimate Instruction: How to Start Understanding Art

Art is now in fashion: exhibitions in the Tretyakov Gallery and Pushkinsky are gathering huge lines, more and more courses, lectures and books about artists are appearing. How to start an immersion in art? Olga Chuvorkina, art critic and director of educational programs for the cultural platform


, talks about seven ways to get to know the beautiful.

The study of art includes two components: rational and emotional. Better to start with the second. Choose an artist, direction or era that you like, and get to know them better (how - I'll tell you more).

Even if you don't know anything about Van Gogh, abstract expressionism or Ancient Egypt, curiosity is the first step to understanding. Do not try to keep up with professional art historians: knowledge of dates and names is important, but at the first stage, dry facts about unfamiliar artists will only ward off the desire to develop in art history.

The Ultimate Instruction: How to Start Understanding Art

When you understand what you like, you can safely go to the museum. I am often asked what is best: to read about the work before going to the exhibition or to go unprepared. Both options are correct.

If you came to the museum without preparation, it will be easier for you to listen to yourself and choose paintings that you like emotionally. And you can read more about them after the exhibition. This is especially true for contemporary art, in which the personal interpretation of the viewer plays a crucial role. Studying the catalog before going to the museum will help you better navigate, but do not let the authority of an art historian drown out your feelings about the paintings.

Sensations will not necessarily be positive, and you also need to listen to them.

It is important to understand what exactly is not like in the works - this is the key to understanding both yourself and the artist’s design. For example, many do not like Picasso’s Cubist paintings, such as “The Crying Woman” - all forms are distorted, the colors are crude and inanimate. Why does an artist write like this? He wants to convey sadness and despair - and we should not be pleased. Art, especially contemporary, is not always created in order to delight the eye.

Answer the question exactly: "what did the artist want to say?" - no one can.

But art historians have their own methodology, and ordinary viewers can also use it. Take an interview with a work of art - start with simple questions and clarifications: who is depicted, where and when the action takes place, why the characters look that way. For example, Velasquez’s painting “Menins” depicts members of the royal family and the artist himself. The action takes place in his studio, and Velazquez himself portrays the highest and most noticeable. So it turns out that the picture is not a ceremonial portrait, but a statement that the painter can rise above the kings.

The Ultimate Instruction: How to Start Understanding Art

Graduating from an art school is optional, but registering for a couple of painting workshops will be useful. It seems to many that everyone can paint on canvas like Pollock, but try to do it yourself. You will see that a balanced composition will not work right away: somewhere there will be white spots, somewhere oily blots. And if you paint on different days and in a different mood, you will notice how the nature of the work and the color scheme change. This will provide a key to understanding the emotional component of the picture.

I advise you to read scientific works of art history only if you want to seriously study the era or direction. It’s better to start with memoirs or letters from artists and their contemporaries: “Letters to Theo” by Van Gogh, “At the Peak of the Century” by Peggy Guggenheim (gallery owner who discovered Pollock to the world), “Kandinsky and I” by Nina Kandinsky and so on. If you like science, study the author’s biography before buying a book. Experience in a large museum or university is not a guarantee of quality, but this means that the author nevertheless passed a rigorous professional selection.

The Ultimate Instruction: How to Start Understanding Art

Books written by art historians are often not intended for a wide audience.

But lectures are a faster and more affordable way to learn new things. Relatively inexpensive lectures are in all museums, but they usually give narrow topics: for a specific period in the work of Archimboldo, for example. In commercial lectures, the choice is wider. At Sync, we offer several dive levels and approaches. I advise you to start with the online course "How to watch paintings", where we provide art history tools that will allow you to understand painting without the help of a teacher.

Readers of The Challenger "Synchronization" gives a 20% discount on promo code art19 for all lectures in Moscow and online courses.



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