Why does a work of art look the way it does? Who made it and why? What does it mean? These questions and others like them lie at the heart of art historical inquiry.
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Whether setting the mood or celebrating the divine, artists play with light. Sometimes, they even sculpt with it.
What makes paintings feel as deep as the view from a window or as flat as a wall?
Artists use various strategies to set up a dynamic relationship between artwork, maker, and viewer.
We can approach an artwork as a physical object, a visual experience, a cultural artifact—or as all three.
Start by looking closely—really closely. Now let’s talk about scale, composition, space, form, line, color, tone…
Artists don’t just imitate the world around them—they copy each other, reworking old images and revising history.
As we look into the distance, we lose visual clarity. The specificity of color also decreases.
Renaissance artists relied upon this strategy to render the natural world. Get a tutorial at the School of Athens.
Don’t stand so straight! Relax. Shift your weight. Bend a knee. Just respond to the world, like this spear-bearer.
These decorative systems once adorned Greek temples. It’s an ancient language, but we still speak it today.
No Photoshop! Just a vanishing point, a horizon line, and some orthogonals—that’s the magic formula for reality.
This technique captures transitions from light to dark. As Titian knew, it creates the illusion of volume and mass.