Monday, March 1, 2010

Art Education in a Surprising Place

I recently used Facebook to solicit advice from my friends on where I might buy some new art prints for my home.  One friend (thanks, THP) suggested, and I did find a lot of great prints there to choose from.

But the best thing about is that you can learn a lot about art there.  They have their prints categorized by era (pre 12th Century to 20th Century), by movement (Cubism, Art Nouveau, Impressionism, etc.), by nationality, and by subject (animals, scenic, dance, etc.).  And, because within each category there are dozens and dozens of famous works, you can scan through them and get a feel for that movement or century or whatever you're interested in.  Yes, you're just seeing a tiny image which could never capture the subtleties of the actual work of art, and this is no substitute for going to museums and seeing the masterpieces for yourself, or even for taking a course or reading a good art history book.  But this is the best overview of the world of painting that I've ever experienced.

I skimmed through a few dozen paintings in each movement from the 17th century to the present day.  I now know why Vermeer is considered such a genius, after seeing his work next to many others from his time.  I saw the difference between Impressionism (nice) and Post-Impressionism (horrifying).  I confirmed my suspicion that, although I can appreciate the skills of the Hudson River School, landscapes bore me to tears.  Not surprisingly, most of the modern movements are a total fraud and just plain ugly.  But now I know a bit more about them.  And I found a few new artists that I love - hurray!

I learned more in 3 hours on than I've learned in any one place before.  However, if I had no knowledge at all going in, I don't think I could have learned very much.  I already had some ideas of what I liked and what many of the actual pieces looked like. just helped me with categorization and filling in a lot of gaps.  (The multiple ways to filter makes shopping for prints an amazing experience as well.)  If you're like me and enjoy art, but are a relative novice, it might be worth a few hours of your time.  Let me know if you enjoy it!


  1. Fabulous! I'm glad you had such a good experience. It's funny; though I never really thought consciously about it, I've used much in the same way you describe and have learned quite a bit from it, too. My strategy is either to go in knowing what I want to buy, but to look at other pieces by that artist as well, or to go in knowing an artist or even a movement that I like and browse until I find something that works.

    My most recent purchase was a print of Luncheon of the Boating Party that I wouldn't have thought to buy if I hadn't been browsing on I enjoy Impressionism quite a bit and as I was browsing through movements, I decided to click on that one. I immediately spotted Luncheon on the page and, seeing it, remembered that my parents had a print of it hanging in my home growing up. When I was learning to read, my father helped me to sound out the title of the event that the print advertised: an exhibit entitled "Impressionism and the Modern Vision" at the High Museum of Art here in Atlanta. I remember that at the age of 5, I was pretty proud of myself for being able to read such a very long word. I bought the print and hung it above my desk--and it brings me so much joy not only because I love the work on its own merits but because of the wonderful memory of my father and my childhood that it brings to me every time I look at it.

    Whew, what a long comment--maybe I need to start a blog! ;) Anyway, I'm so pleased you enjoyed the site. Thanks for helping me identify an added use for it that I hadn't even consciously considered!