10 Reasons Why Art History matters

by María Magdalena Ziegler 

It’s common that people say Science is the key to our education. We won’t argue against that. But, hey, Art History is also important! Why? Keep reading and you’ll see the 10 main reasons it matters so much.

Art History matters as much as Science. That is a fact! If Marie Curie would have studied Art History, she would have won four Nobel Prizes and not just two. Science is about being curious, but not always curiosity is enough. Art History goes beyond curiosity and more. Here’s a short list:

Number 1:

Art History brings you closer to the footprint of humankind along history, because it’s the story of us and our superpower to create.

Book of Kells
Book of Kells, 9th Century

No matter if we need to trace a capital letter at the beginning of a text, we tend to do the most beautiful and the most original capital letter anyone has ever done. As in the Book of Kells, during the Middle Ages, in which the monks went wild and created amazing illustrated pages. It’s never been enough to do or make things, we create them.

Number 2:

Art History helps you wipe your fears of the unknown.

Coatlicue, the mother deity of all gods of the Aztecs, between 1300 and 1500.

At first sight, the statue of Coatlicue (the ancient Aztec goddess) could seem terrifying. Her skirt made of snakes and her face configured by two facing reptiles (not to mention her skull buckle) do not give her the sweetest look. But if you get to know this marvelous piece of sculpture, the story behind it and its original use, perhaps you would to like her a little. Since our fears come from the unknown, once we get to know something, our fears disappear. That is one thing we can apply to our everyday life.

Number 3:

Art History introduces you to cultural diversity.

The Garden of Earthly Delights
Hieronymus Bosch (El Bosco), The Garden of Earthly Delights, 1515

People in the past were a little extravagant… Well, not Kardashian style, but sort of. They sure did stuff that we could find bizarre and out of manners nowadays. Through Art History we get used to dealing with such oddities (and not just us in the mirror). Different cultures become familiar and more related to us than we thought possible. Thus, cultural diversity is introduced to our lives to make us as comfortable as El Bosco’s figures in The Garden of Earthly Delights. 

Number 4:

Art History trains you to deal and manage oodles of images in little time.

TV display
Tv Display in a Tech Store

There is no such thing as an Image Gym, but Art History is close to it. We need to process tons of images every day and nobody trains us to do that successfully. Well, Art History does. It is the best personal trainer we could hire and for a very affordable price. Art History gives us the tools to process, classify, organize and understand the world of images around us. When everything is becoming more and more visual, Art History gives us superpowers around it.

Number 5:

Art History teaches you to cope with uncertainty, despair and sorrow.

the scream
Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893

If you are one of those people who wants to stop the world and scream, then welcome to the club! We all are. Not all of us do it though and that it is due to our love of Art History. It shows how to cope with the most difficult situations by presenting our own souls in front of us. Since every artwork is a reality in itself, every time we look at a painting we are looking at a vision of the most inner monsters of every human being. Looking at them in a sculpture or a painting (as Munch’s The Scream), helps us understand the difficulties of our lives. To overcome what you understand is easier than trying to overcome what you do not. 

Number 6:

Art History allows you to connect with feelings you never knew you could have.

Monet orangerie
Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1922-1925, Musée de l’Orangerie

If Art History teaches to cope with uncertainty, despair and sorrow, it certainly allows us to connect with feelings you thought were out of your scope. To be immersed in Claude Monet’s Water Lilies series made for the Musée de l’Orangerie (París), is an irreplaceable experience. Letting you go into the aesthetic experience it represents is only possible if you accept Art History as your mentor. Thanks to Art History, the understanding of this space gives you an outstanding pleasure from your own feelings.

Number 7:

Art History reminds you how very human you are.

Caravaggio Thomas
Caravaggio, Incredulity of Saint Thomas, 1602

If you think artists are superheroes, then you have been wrong all this time. Artists are human beings like you and me. Caravaggio will help you with that: an Italian painter who was in jail, had a bad temper, and liked street fights (as a hobby). Between fights -we guess- he made the most amazing paintings which scream the trials of human nature. His depiction of Saint Thomas trying to verify the veracity of Jesus Christ’s resurrection is one of the most raw exposures to human nature you’ll ever see. Whenever you forget you’re human, try looking at Caravaggio’s paintings and you’ll be (not so gently) reminded.

Number 8:

Art History teaches you how to solve problems as artists have done.

Crystal Palace
Joseph Paxton, The Crystal Palace, 1851

When Prince Albert (yes, Queen Victoria’s beloved husband) organized the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations (1850), a vast building was needed. Architect Joseph Paxton came along with the outstanding design of the famous Crystal Palace. The public acclaimed the modern and original solution this building represented. Made of steel and crystal, this was a giant leap for architecture design in the mid-19th Century. Creativity and innovation solved the problem of sheltering hundreds of stands coming from all over the world to show a wide variation of products through the arts. Art History introduces us to this and other challenges in order to develop our skills to solve the most troublesome problems in any sphere.

Number 9:

Art History boosts your imagination.

Andrea Pozzo il Jesu
Andrea Pozzo, The Triumph of Sant’Ignazio (detail), 1691-94

If you cannot imagine a horse galloping on an apple, then you have no imagination at all. Therefore, Art History is here to help you improve it. Artists along history have had the wildest imagination and their works are the living proof of that. Take, for instance, Andrea Pozzo’s view of Heaven in the vault of the Church of Sant’Ignazio (Rome). Evidently, he has never been to Heaven when he painted that fantastic vision of Saint Ignazio glamorously arriving there on a fluffy cloud, but it didn’t stop him from depicting a spectacle no one could forget. Art history boosts our imagination, helping us conceive the impossible and make it real… or at least, closer.

Number 10:

Art History has Michelangelo (and that should be enough!).

Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)

I have raised my case, your honor!

But if you are one of those rebels who are hard to convince, then enroll in this online course: The Joy of Art History.

(Maybe Cate Blanchett can do the miracle).

8 thoughts on “10 Reasons Why Art History matters

  1. Maravilloso artículo profesora, felicitaciones, una lección de historia del arte, con una perspectiva sociológica y antropológica muy profunda, reveladora de aspectos poco tratados en este tema del arte, mucha felicidad, éxito y prosperidad, que siga vivo el arte en la mente del colectivo, iluminado por voces como la tuya, reveladoras de lo oculto, como bien decía Heidegger y su famosa aleteia.

    Liked by 1 person

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