10 online courses that you should take if you are interested in art history

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Learning art history is essential to understanding modern art and culture. It gives you tools to interpret the vast treasure of visual culture in our environment, and gain a deeper understanding of where it all came from. It helps us appreciate the historical, social, and political contexts in which some of the most famous and iconic works of art were created, which eventually went on to play an important role in shaping world history. Educational institutions like Harvard University, and the Oxford University are now offering online courses on art history that you can take from the comforts of your living room. Take a look at these online courses and pick one that piques your interest.

Art history and curation

If you've ever wanted to learn more about how a museum’s art collection, or a library, comes together, then this course is perfect for you. Rightly named ‘Tangible Things’, this one will help you gain an understanding of history, museum studies, and curation, by looking at, organising, and interpreting art. You will also have access to Harvard’s impressive collection of artefacts, including books, manuscripts, artworks, and much more. It will also teach you new ways of looking at things in and around your environment.

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History of graphic design

This course will help you understand the emergence of design as a recognised practice. Created by the California Institute of the Arts, it covers four key periods and themes from the history of design, including early mass marketing, the Bauhaus Movement, modernism, and graphic design radicalism. Taking you back to the 19th century where graphic design started taking a form of its own, it will also help you understand how designers approached different kinds of problems specific to their area of design. 

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Orientalism in European art history

The exotic mystery of the Orient, namely present day Turkey, Greece, the Middle East, and North Africa, was a source of fascination for early 18th century artists across Europe. When the French army invaded and occupied Egypt, the interest in exploring the culture and customs of the Orient through art began creating a unique movement in Europe. In this course, you will study the lens through which European artists represented the mysterious Orient in their paintings, and how it largely shaped the cultural stereotypes associated with it. The course delves deep into the historical and political factors that influenced the Orientalism in European art history and will also help you get a better understanding of how different cultures are perceived because of varying factors.

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Italian Renaissance art

You don’t have to be an art history buff to know that the Italian renaissance of the 15th century has given us some of the most popular and powerful works of art in the history of the world. This class will give you an opportunity to explore this period of art history through the works of the most famous artists of its time, and some more unusual and lesser known examples. Further, you will also study about the social, political, and historical factors that led to the flourishing of art during this period.

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Northern Renaissance art

While the renaissance in Italy is credited for reinventing Western art movements and culture, there was a simultaneous cultural shift happening in the Northern parts of Europe that contributed immensely towards the art of 15th and 16th century. In Flanders, Burgundy, in parts of France, Holland, England, and the Holy Roman Empire, paintings began taking radically new shapes and forms, and this distinguished the Northern renaissance from the Italian one. Take this course to study how the artists of this period revolutionised painting and paved the way for modern art of the future.

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Art Nouveau across Europe

The years around 1900 were marked by the emergence of a new generation of artists and designers who invented a new style of art. From Paris to Moscow, Art Nouveau developed as a rich and decadent form of art. It took elements from the past, and the idea of the future, and created art for art’s sake. This course will take you through the different forms the movement took, depending on the region and the artist, and explore the complex impulses, and anxieties about the future that shaped this movement in early 20th century.

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Ancient Egyptian art and architecture

This course, by Harvard University, is all you need to understand the rich and complex art history of ancient Egypt. From the mysterious wonders of the pyramids to the role of hieroglyphic inscriptions in the tombs of Giza, this experience is bound to help you develop an appreciation for Egyptian art and architecture. The course also explores how cutting-edge technology has reshaped our understanding of this period of history.

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Islamic art and architecture

The University of Oxford has created a special course for anyone who is interested in understanding the significance of Islamic art and architecture and its relationship with the Islamic faith. Islamic art and architecture is prevalent in the Middle East, and areas of Spain, West Africa, South-East Asia, and China. This is an introductory course and will help you understand the main stylistic and iconographic themes in Islamic art and the diversity of its expressions.

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Mesopotamia and Arabia

Learn more about the earliest advanced civilisations of the world through this course. The Mesopotamian civilisation, between Tigris and Euphrates rivers in modern-day Iraq, produced artwork that has had a significant impact on the history of world art, literature, legal theory and the respects of modern society. At the same time, another comparable art and history movement was unfolding in Arabia, which is not as widely known as the Mesopotamian art. This course explores the art history of this period and area in detail.

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Classic Greek sculpture

Greek cultures are a defining element of ancient Western art history. This course covers the developments in Greek sculpture which emerged during a period between the fifth and fourth century BCE, referred to as the ‘Classical Period’. It includes the Contrapposto stance, the ‘wet drapery’ effect, and the Olympian gods’ images. It also features original research that relates Classical Greek cultures to little-known monumental bronzes of ancient Arabia.

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