How to Look at and Understand Great Art

Course No. 7640
Professor Sharon Latchaw Hirsh, Ph.D.
Rosemont College
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Course No. 7640
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What Will You Learn?

  • Uncover the core principles of color in painting, and learn how art achieves power and meaning through color.
  • Learn how symbolic associations work in art - and how they've changed over time.
  • Discover why the Impressionists were so fascinated with natural light, and how this fascination appears in their work.
  • Contemplate the "anti-art" movement, and consider the focus on the subconscious found in the work of the Surrealists.

Course Overview

Great art is among the most sublime, meaningful, and redeeming creations of all civilization. Few endeavors can equal the power of great artwork to capture aesthetic beauty, to move and inspire, to change your perceptions, and to communicate the nature of human experience. Great art is also complex, mysterious, and challenging. Filled with symbolism, cultural and historical references, and often visionary imagery, great artworks oblige us—defy us, even—to reckon with their many meanings.

What does it take to truly know what you're seeing when you look at art? What technical skills and knowledge are needed to comprehend the full richness of artworks, to unpack the hidden significance of master paintings, sculptures, prints, and more?

Award-winning Professor Sharon Latchaw Hirsh of Rosemont College speaks to these and other compelling questions in How to Look at and Understand Great Art. Unlike a traditional survey of art, these 36 richly illustrated lectures take you on an in-depth exploration of the practical skill of viewing art through the lenses of line, light, perspective, composition, and other crucial elements of craft and technique. Using timeless masterpieces of Western painting, sculpture, and graphic art, as well as hands-on studio demonstrations, Professor Hirsh gives you the specific visual and interpretive knowledge you need to approach great artworks, find their deeper meanings, and reach startling new levels of appreciation.

Discovering the Artist's Visual Language

In building your viewing skills, the opening lectures give you practice with the core technical tools for understanding visual art:

  • Color: You study the essential principles of color and color schemes in painting and graphic art and the distinctive use of color in different epochs, all of which are deeply integral to an artist's work.
  • Line: You investigate the artist's use of line (the basis of art) as it describes reality, conveys expressive meaning, and gives larger structural impact to an artwork.
  • Composition: You learn how the artist constructs a work's overall composition in painting, graphic art, and sculpture. You discover compositional features such as symmetry/asymmetry, balance, and the visual framing of images, as keys to an artwork's comprehensive impact.
  • Signs and symbols: You learn how to recognize symbolism and signifiers in religious paintings, "vanitas" still lifes, canvases of royalty, and seminal works by Gauguin and Dali.

Rich and Varied Genres of Art

Traveling deeply into the artist's world, you investigate the major genres of drawing, printmaking, sculpture, and painting. You apply your technical knowledge to major works in each genre, exploring the various purposes and types of drawings, the vast spectrum of sculpture and three-dimensional art, and the important traditions within painting and printmaking, with particular attention to how works of art are made.

Here, Professor Hirsh takes you out of the classroom and into the studio, in a series of hands-on demonstrations you rarely find in an academic art course. In the lectures on painting, for example, you study the techniques of fresco and panel painting, and you see oil painting demonstrated, including the mixing of colors, the application of opaque oils and translucent glazes, and the texturing techniques of impasto and scumbling used so memorably by Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and the Expressionists.

In the complex genre of printmaking, you watch a contemporary artist create original prints, showing you the methods of woodcut, copper plate engraving, etching, lithograph, and silkscreen prints. Your understanding of the techniques of printmaking helps you identify the type of print you're looking at—often tricky even for experienced eyes—and gives you an appreciation of the craft underlying master prints by Dürer, Doré, Whistler, Degas, and others.

To deepen your insight into subject matter in art, additional lectures are devoted to the importance of landscapes, portraits, and self-portraits.

Great Eras, Visionary Movements

In the course's final section, you use your newfound skills to explore the major eras and movements in Western art, from the Renaissance to the present. In this unfolding progression, you encounter the stunning diversity of artworks from the early Renaissance to the Baroque and Rococo, from 19th-century Romanticism to Impressionism, from 20th-century Expressionism to Cubism, Surrealism, and Modernism, and finally to Postmodernism and the art of our own times.

The knowledge you've developed allows you to recognize and appreciate the dramatic evolution of art, not merely in historical terms, but through specific understanding of how artists work.

In the Limbourg brothers' Hours of the Duc de Berry (15th century), for example, you see their attempt at linear and aerial perspective; later, you see how these techniques were gloriously perfected by Masaccio, Leonardo, and other Renaissance masters. You observe how the impact of El Greco's Mannerist masterpiece Pentecost rests on an anti-Renaissance elongation of figures, unusual poses, and use of tertiary colors.

Of huge value for appreciating modern and contemporary works, you delve into the human experiences and ways of thinking that gave birth to abstract and nonrepresentational art. Here, you study influences such as the three phases of Cubism, the ideas of Kandinsky, and the penetrating imagery of Franz Marc, following the bold and thoughtful moves that freed art from imitating nature. This understanding allows you to grasp the inspiration and visions of De Kooning, Miró, Giacometti, Pollock, and other masters of the modern era.

A Visually Rich Learning Experience

Drawing on works from public and private collections, this course brings masterpieces from more than 250 of the world's greatest artists together in one place—making this thrilling course a virtual museum of art you won't be able to find anywhere else. Professor Hirsh's lectures come complete with

  • more than 950 works of art, presented in crisp high-definition that allows you to zoom in and explore their tiniest details;
  • meticulously crafted 3-D animations that reconstruct particular works;
  • on-set demonstrations that explain specific painting methods and techniques; and
  • visits to an actual artist's studio where you get a first-hand look at the secrets of printmaking.

Winner of the Charles A. Dana Award for Distinguished Teaching, Professor Hirsh combines a remarkable breadth of knowledge and a gift for demystifying both the imagery and the motives of art, leaving you with lasting insight into classic masterpieces as well as challenging contemporary works.

By teaching you the artist's visual language and how to "read" it, How to Look at and Understand Great Art gives you an extraordinary key to the full, unforgettable richness of great artworks—their ability to open you up to new ways of seeing, to bring alive the majestic unfolding of history, and to reveal human experience in all its vividness, poignancy, and dynamic life.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    The Importance of First Impressions
    Examine the contexts and environments in which we encounter art and their critical effect on our viewing experience. Consider ways of displaying and framing paintings, as well as key parameters for viewing sculpture. Then, learn the predominant genres of Western art, and the artist's media, tools, and techniques. x
  • 2
    Where Am I? Point of View and Focal Point
    Explore how point of view—the artist's positioning of the viewer with respect to the image—works in painting and sculpture, paying particular attention to differences in angle and spatial relation. Then, continue with focal point, or the artist's centering of attention on a key area of the work. x
  • 3
    Color—Description, Symbol, and More
    Uncover the core principles of color in painting, including the distinctions of value and saturation and the relationship of colors as analogous or complementary. See how major works of art achieve their power and meaning through color, as seen in celebrated canvases by Seurat, Gauguin, and Van Gogh. x
  • 4
    Line—Description and Expression
    Discover the properties of line, another essential element of art, as "descriptive" (describing reality) or "expressional" (conveying feeling). Learn about the use of geometric lines, implied lines, and directional lines within a composition. Also, study the compelling, psychological use of line in Picasso's works, Seurat's The Circus, and in key Modern and Expressionist works. x
  • 5
    Space, Shape, Shade, and Shadow
    Examine geometric and "organic" shapes in painting and sculpture and the crucial relationship of figure to ground and mass to space. Then, explore the illusionistic use of shading, shadows, and overlapping shapes in Caravaggio's and Friedrich's works, and the compositional power of shapes in paintings such as Matisse's Dance and Michelangelo's Creation of Adam. x
  • 6
    Seeing the Big Picture—Composition
    Define symmetry and asymmetry in painting and sculpture, and the key effects on the viewer of each. Also, study scale and proportion of figures, and the distinction between "open" and "closed" composition, reflecting the artist's approach to visually framing the image. x
  • 7
    The Illusion—Getting the Right Perspective
    Tracking the history of illusionism in Western art, grasp the principles of linear perspective, foreshortening, and atmospheric perspective as they replicate how the human eye perceives. See how artists, including Cézanne and Van Gogh, manipulated perspective for their own creative ends, and observe the extreme illusionism of trompe l'oeil and anamorphosis. x
  • 8
    Art That Moves Us—Time and Motion
    Explore how artists evoke motion and the passage of time, including implying motion through strong directional lines and time through narrative devices. Study approaches to implied motion in Impressionism, Abstract Expressionism, and Op art, and the use of actual motion in performance art and modern sculpture. x
  • 9
    Feeling with Our Eyes—Texture and Light
    Here, consider texture in sculpture as an aid to meaning in sculptures by Rodin, Donatello, and Bernini, and the painter's use of paint as a way to capture texture and light on canvas. Then observe the virtuoso representation of texture by master painters Ingres and Titian, and the handling of light and shadow in works by Renoir and Georges de la Tour. x
  • 10
    Drawing—Dry, Liquid, and Modern Media
    In this first lecture on genre, define the various purposes of drawings, from "croquis" drawing to capture a pose or action, to successive sketches visualizing larger works, to finished drawings as a distinct art. Study the diverse media of drawing, focusing on master drawings in metalpoint, charcoal, ink, pastel, and pencil. x
  • 11
    Printmaking—Relief and Intaglio
    The medium of prints attracted great artists from Dürer and Rembrandt to Ensor and Picasso. Using studio demonstrations, study the expressive means and contrasting techniques of relief printmaking, including woodcut, wood engraving, and linocut, and intaglio printmaking, including metal engraving, etching, mezzotint, and aquatint. x
  • 12
    Modern Printmaking—Planographic
    This lecture explores the art of planographic printmaking, which allows artists to draw or paint directly on the printing surface. In detailed demonstrations and works by Daumier, Degas, and Warhol, grasp the techniques of lithography, silkscreen, and monotype, and explore the mastery of Whistler's lithograph Nocturne: The Thames at Battersea. x
  • 13
    Sculpture—Salt Cellars to Monuments
    Sculpture, as a genre, encompasses the full spectrum of three-dimensional artworks. In this lecture, investigate the varieties and viewing contexts of relief and in-the-round sculptures—from monumental public works and religious and historical subjects to assemblage, collage, found objects, and large-scale "earth art"—noting the technical distinction between subtractive and additive works. x
  • 14
    Development of Painting—Tempera and Oils
    Trace the history and technique of painting, beginning with the methodology of panel painting on wood; fresco painting, both wet and dry; and finally, oil painting and watercolor. Learn about types of oil paint, the mixing of colors, brushwork techniques, and the 19th-century phenomenon of plein air (outdoor) painting. x
  • 15
    Modern Painting—Acrylics and Assemblages
    The lecture opens with a historical panorama of painting techniques, highlighting the diverse treatment of human faces. Then, it tracks 20th-century developments in nontraditional materials and methods of application, including the techniques of Frank Stella, Helen Frankenthaler, and Jackson Pollock, as well as the contrasting strengths and mixed use of oil and acrylics. x
  • 16
    Subject Matters
    Focusing on masterworks by Van Eyck and Rubens, define three levels of iconography (subject matter). Also study the academic codifying and ranking of subject matter in art, probing subject and deeper meaning in a variety of religious and history paintings, still lifes, landscapes, portraits, and genre works. x
  • 17
    Signs—Symbols, Icons, and Indexes in Art
    The richness of signs (signifiers) in art includes the use of symbols, icons, and indexes as they reveal layers of meaning. See how, in different historical eras, symbolic associations change over time, how icons visually represent a subject, and how indexes exhibit direct connections with the thing signified. x
  • 18
    Portraits—How Artists See Others
    In examining the diverse functions and types of portraits, study the important elements of facial presentation and the subject's position and gaze with relation to the viewer and the pictorial space. See how Rembrandt added dramatic power to his group "corporation" portraits, and how David carefully rendered Napoleon in symbolic terms. x
  • 19
    Self-Portraits—How Artists See Themselves
    Across the centuries, self-portraits fascinatingly reveal the changing role of the artist. Follow this progression, from Renaissance painters subtly placing themselves within large compositions, to self-portraiture's emergence as a major form of self-revelation, noting many dramatic and colorful traditions within the form. x
  • 20
    Landscapes—Art of the Great Outdoors
    In this lecture on landscape painting, observe the classical, balanced division into foreground, middle, and background, and how Romantic painters altered these proportions to express drama, infinite space, and the sublime. Discover proportion and composition in landscapes of the Hudson River school, Luminism, Impressionism, and also the subgenres of seascapes and cityscapes. x
  • 21
    Putting It All Together
    This lecture integrates elements including color, line, shape, composition, light, symbolism, point of view, and focal point. Using the viewing tools you've developed, look deeply at four diverse masterpieces, including a sculpture by Thorvaldsen, a "vanitas" still life by Van Oosterwyck, a lithograph by Bonnard, and a painting by Van der Weyden. x
  • 22
    Early Renaissance—Humanism Emergent
    Contemplate the Renaissance phenomena of classicism and humanism in 15th-century Italian art, which focused—even in religious art—on the human body, nature, and depictions of earthly life and the individual. Learn how to recognize Early Renaissance art in characteristic subject matter and stylistic technique. x
  • 23
    Northern Renaissance—Devil in the Details
    Flanders and Germany also witnessed an explosion of art in the 15th and early 16th centuries. Define the stylistics of great Northern Renaissance oil painting, such as the use of cool light, richness of detail, and the depiction of fabric. Conclude by charting the development of the historical "canon" of universally recognized artworks. x
  • 24
    High Renaissance—Humanism Perfected
    The Italian High Renaissance saw the full flowering of humanism and classicism. With reference to the era's thought and practice, delve into masterpieces by three of history's greatest geniuses: Raphael, Leonardo, and Michelangelo. Last, explore the composition of Raphael's School of Athens as it represents the sublime embodiment of High Renaissance ideals. x
  • 25
    Mannerism and Baroque—Distortion and Drama
    Two important artistic movements followed the High Renaissance. Beginning with late Michelangelo, Tibaldi, and El Greco, explore the hallmarks of Mannerism, including deliberate distortions of proportion and perspective and use of tertiary colors. Then, in the works of Caravaggio, Rubens, and others, define the essence of Baroque art in its dramatic, exuberant expansion of classical style. x
  • 26
    Going Baroque—North versus South
    Baroque style flowered in key regional variations. See the influence of the Counter-Reformation in southern Europe in dazzling religious images intended to excite and teach. Grasp the classical ethos of French Baroque and the Dutch diversity of subject matter and dramatic use of light and space in the North. x
  • 27
    18th-Century Reality and Decorative Rococo
    The sensuality of Rococo art mirrors 18th-century upper-class lifestyle and sensibility. Explore the evocation of intimate hedonism in Watteau, Boucher, Fragonard, and other Rococo masters, specifically through their imagery of lovers, social life, and pastoral pleasure. Then, define Rococo style in its graceful curves and characteristic use of paint and color. x
  • 28
    Revolutions—Neoclassicism and Romanticism
    The early 19th century saw the emergence of two compelling and highly contrasting styles. Referencing the art of Napoleonic painter Jacques-Louis David, discover the tenets of Neoclassicism, specifically its ordered composition and emphasis on stoicism, morality, and rational control. In works by Eugène Delacroix, find the spirit of Romanticism and its concern with dramatic proportions, emotion, and spirituality. x
  • 29
    From Realism to Impressionism
    In canvases of Millet, Courbet, and Manet, observe the Realist ideals of honesty, simplicity, and descriptive colors in revealing contemporary experience. Then, explore the phenomenon of Impressionism, highlighting Renoir, Monet, and Degas—their fascination with natural light, quest to capture the moment, and iconic subject matter of middle-class leisure life. x
  • 30
    Postimpressionism—Form and Content Re-Viewed
    The term "Postimpressionism" comprises a varied and highly innovative body of art. Here, learn how Postimpressionist painters such as Cézanne and Seurat were driven by what they perceived as a loss of form in Impressionist art. See also how Symbolists Gauguin and Munch used increasing abstraction to convey deeper psychological meanings. x
  • 31
    Expressionism—Empathy and Emotion
    In defining the bold sensibility of Expressionism, explore its use of violent colors, stylistic distortions, and sculptural application of paint. Also contemplate its influences (including contemporary philosophers as well as Freud) and its goal to provoke empathy and thus touch the viewer at the innermost level. x
  • 32
    Cubism—An Experiment in Form
    Investigate the visual elements and the three phases of this hugely influential movement, based in its geometric fracturing of forms and multiple, interlocking meanings of line and shape. Find borrowings and echoes of Braque's and Picasso's Cubism in diverse 20th-century painters and experiments in Cubist-derived sculpture. x
  • 33
    Abstraction/Modernism—New Visual Language
    Abstraction and Modernism forged a daring new definition of art, breaking dramatically with the past. Discover the philosophical and experiential underpinnings of abstraction and nonrepresentational art, now radically freed from imitating nature. Encounter art's new language in visionary works by Kandinsky, Marc, Pollock, De Kooning, and others. x
  • 34
    Dada Found Objects/Surreal Doodles and Dreams
    Contemplate the "anti-art" spirit of Dadaism, its nihilistic yet humorous indictment of civilization and bizarre use of unconventional media. In the sensibility of Surrealism, observe its compelling focus on the subconscious and two substyles—dream imagery, with its juxtaposition of objects and settings, and "automatic drawing," eliciting unplanned images from the unconscious. x
  • 35
    Postmodernism—Focus on the Viewer
    In the 1960s, Pop art, Op art, and minimalism brought yet another far-reaching redefinition of art. Learn to recognize these three distinct postmodern visions, and see how they shared a common rejection of the traditional focus on the artist, aiming instead to create works that exist only for the viewer's interpretation. x
  • 36
    Your Next Museum Visit—Do It Yourself!
    The final lecture opens with a detailed and thought-provoking guide to museum-going. Consider ways of making the most of visits to permanent collections and special exhibitions in both large and small museums. Conclude with a sumptuous review involving masterworks from the many eras, movements, and schools you've looked at. x

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Your professor

Sharon Latchaw Hirsh

About Your Professor

Sharon Latchaw Hirsh, Ph.D.
Rosemont College
Dr. Sharon Latchaw Hirsh has served as president of Rosemont College since 2006. She completed her undergraduate degree in the history of art and studio art at Rosemont and earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in the history of art from the University of Pittsburgh. Professor Hirsh's awards include the Charles A. Dana Award for Distinguished Teaching, the Ganoe Award for Inspirational Teaching, and the Lindback Award for Distinguished...
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How to Look at and Understand Great Art is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 150.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth every penny Professor did a great job bringing someone with no experience to a point where i can appreciate all styles of art
Date published: 2019-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Look at Art Differently I purchased this course and have recommended it to all of my docent friends at the Museum where I live. It has all the basics and more. So very enjoyable and informative. This will definitely make us better docents.
Date published: 2019-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating and Practical This is my favorite visual arts course. I learned so much about art that I can now apply to greater appreciation of a museum visit. When going on a trip that includes museums I often review the relevant parts of this course before going. This course is guaranteed to expand your appreciation of western art and make your visits to museums more rewarding. Take the video as the art pictures are an essential part of the course.
Date published: 2019-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An outstanding art-appreciation course I watched this course (in 2013, when I originally wrote this review) with my wife, an amateur artist. We agreed that this was as good a course as any we’d experienced to date. The professor is warm, articulate, organized, and exceedingly authoritative. It’s quite different from the other two art-appreciation courses we have taken, analyzing the style and elements of the periods and styles in some detail. For one thing, the course is more consistently organized and bracketed by specific objectives and concrete take-home points; its course booklet is also an outstanding stand-alone reference. We re-watched several of the lectures in 2018, now with about 100 courses under our belts, and all the observations above definitely still hold.
Date published: 2018-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent overview for the novice I just finished the series and found it to be very informative for the novice with no prior study of art appreciation (which applies to me). Ms Hirsh is an excellent lecturer and provides great insight into art. I learned a lot and now find myself looking at art works with a new appreciation.
Date published: 2018-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from worth every cent I am a senior citizen just now finding time to take in art in all its forms. To begin can be daunting for the previously uninitiated! This course lecturer is excellent, not a bit snooty, very, very informative throughout. To reap the full benefit of her lectures, one really needs to invest in the course workbooks (there are 2, divided equally between the 36 lectures). Workbooks are great to keep on hand to have as ready reference when heading to a gallery, etc.
Date published: 2018-11-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comprehensive understanding of visual art Started watching this course on GC Plus and just wanted to own my own copy. When it was featured on sale I took advantage of the offer and am so glad I did. I can now watch it on the big screen with friends instead of curling up with my I-Pad. With its 36 lectures, it does take time to take it all in, especially since you have to be attentive to all the visuals presented. Definitely not an audio presentation!
Date published: 2018-09-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extremely helpful! I've learned a lot from this course and got very motivated to explore more works of art at local museums. Before taking this course, I knew nothing about paintings and scultures. Prof. Hirch's instructive lectures and fun approach to (enjoy) art have helped me gaining overall understanding of Western art history and styles, and basic tools to read art. In the final lecture, I was surprised by how I was able to identify the style of manyl works of art. I really like Prof. Hirch's effective teaching method and style, and enjoyed the course as a learning journey. I strongly recommend this great course to any lay persons who want to enjoy art but can't afford a formal training.
Date published: 2018-09-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How to Look at and Understand Great Art The quality of the instruction is excellent. The pace of the lessons is sufficient to cover the theme quite adequately. The amount of information learned will make any museum visit a more interesting and educational experience.
Date published: 2018-08-25
Rated 2 out of 5 by from The color value turned me off I'm very new to art and this course has taught me a lot so far. When I got to the lesson on the value of color, I was honestly turned off. There was no reasoning behind why one color was valued higher than the other.
Date published: 2018-07-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Needs to work on pronunciation Decent course, once you've gotten a lot of the theory out of the way. Just a pity that the professor can't get the pronunciation of all the French, Italian and Spanish words or names right. It diminishes her credibility.
Date published: 2018-06-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent course Professor Hirsh communicates clearly. She defines the terms well and provides good examples of these terms. She gently challenges us to appreciate all kinds of art.
Date published: 2018-06-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Different Perspective on Art Will definitely have a different perspective viewing art in the future. I can see why some spend so long viewing a piece of art, when they consider all the aspects in this course. Just make sure anyone you are with is into it as much. LOL Also, gave me some new ideas to consider for my photography.
Date published: 2018-06-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from very informative I'm the sibling of a working artist, but am totally uneducated about art, so this course was just what I wanted and needed. The information in the lectures was clearly explained and illustrated, and was easy to follow, thanks to the low-key presentation presentation of the lectures.
Date published: 2018-05-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent initial course in art AS an introductory course this is a great way to learn more about art as well as different techniques of art.
Date published: 2018-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How to Look at and Understand Great art I had viewed some of this product that was owned by someone else and I wanted to have one of my own to delve into. I couldn't afford the regular price - but jumped at the chance with your recent sale price. Thank you.
Date published: 2018-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic course and presenter I'm about 1/3 through the videos so far and I love them. Dr. Latchaw Hirsh is an excellent teacher - poised, confident, knowledgeable. She holds my interest throughout the lectures. the subject matter is exactly what I hoped for. As for the delivery methods: I love that I can watch the videos on all my platforms, from desktop to iPad to iPhone.
Date published: 2018-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating insights into aspects of great art This is an excellent course for the complete beginner who might be overwhelmed when trying to understand great paintings. It starts from basics and works slowly but adroitly up to very complex issues. Along the way we learn techniques, we learn about the context of the art, we learn about the artists and their motivation, we learn about symbols and signs. Who knew why there was fruit in paintings or what vanatas meant? Recommended if you don’t understand all the fuss about paintings or if you want to know more about the development of great art. I’m looking forward to my next museum visit. Professor Hirsh is very engaging, very clear and extremely knowledgeable. I will look for other work of hers.
Date published: 2018-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How to Look at and Understand Great Art My wife and I were with her cousin who she had not seen for 50 years They stayed at our home for a few days and we went to Yale Art in New haven CT Her cousin and his wife were really into art and we just enjoyed how they looked at all the different art . I decided it was time to learn more and this course is doing that for me. I just love what it has brought out for me. when I go back out to the Art shows and museum's we will be looking at them a lot different. The professor teaching this is just wonderful. Super course
Date published: 2018-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I am thoroughly enjoying my first Great Course and look forward to doing more.
Date published: 2018-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Art History Am working through the course and find it very informative and helpful in my quest to better understand what I am looking at when I am looking at when i visit a gallery or museum.
Date published: 2018-01-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Rapid Overview & Yet with Repetition I just finished this course on DVD. I don't consider myself much of an art devotee, although I knew that I enjoyed certain artists and did not like certain others. I hoped to perhaps acquire some appreciation for at least a few styles or artists that I hadn't appreciated before, as well as learn a few more things about how to analyze a piece of art. The course description should make it clear that she is confining herself basically to two-dimensional and three-dimensional visual art (painting of various types, lithographs, sketching, collages, etc. and sculpture) and that she spans a period from the early Renaissance to modern art. This is also almost exclusively Western art (with a bit of Japanese as well). Essentially the first 3 discs describe the various technical aspects used in producing and appreciating art (color, line, perspective, symbols etc. etc.) and also how various types of artwork are actually produced. Here you have some brief videos of the actual creating of less-common types, such as lithographs. The latter three discs then walk through the major styles or schools of art chronologically from the Renaissance to the present. Sharon is always more stylishly dressed than the average lecturer--although not unduly so. For example she looks ready to host a reception of some sort, but not to go out to a dinner party. Her speech is clear, evenly paced, well-inflected, but not dramatic. She tries not to show her personal feelings about various styles, especially if she doesn't care much for them, but occasionally they show through anyhow. She's more free about expressing when she particularly likes something about a piece of artwork. I was disappointed that I did not see a wider range of works and of artists. Some quite famous artists are hardly mentioned, or even not at all. Yes, I did see others that were new to me-but it was very frequent for her to show the same piece over and over again in different lectures--sometimes I think as many as four times viewing the same work, and twice or three times was really common. How many other works could have been shown, if the repetition had been reduced? Since this seems to be her specialty, I should think she'd have access to a wider selection to show us. Also I would have appreciated a little deeper analysis of the work shown, including perhaps using a laser pointer or even her finger to explain some aspects of the work that would enhance appreciation of what you're seeing. Her explanations regarding an individual piece were usually confined to pointing out perhaps three to five aspects of its style, but tended to leave me wondering what made it different (better? worse?) than others in that style; what would have particularly struck a contemporary viewer at the time; whether the author had said anything interesting about the work himself or herself, or why I should care that I was looking at it now. I also think a few more interesting stories about the lives of at least a few of the most prominent artists in various styles, might have kept me more engaged with their works. Yes, she briefly discussed the cultural and artistic background of a few of the artists in order to explain what was new in their style, but not to the degree that made the artist seem real or interesting. In summary, although she's quite easy to listen to, I thought I might gain either more depth or more breadth of exposure after six DVD's. I know the history covered is pretty long; perhaps some things should have been left out in order to have a better appreciation for the rest: for example leaving out sculptures completely for a separate course, and some of the details of production technique, as well as less repetition of the same images, would have allowed a lot more coverage of paintings in Western art.
Date published: 2018-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Picture this! Hirsh is an elegant lady, poised, graceful, a perfect match for her topic. Her content is easy to follow. It is a great presentation. I thought she she could have avoided using some of the same images over and over to make a point, but she did have plenty of variety. Well organized, each half hour lesson seems to go by very fast. She has an easy flow and style. While watching her, notice her wardrobe changes. She looks fresh and new every half hour. Maybe I have a crush on her.
Date published: 2017-12-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Outstanding Content I've taken other art courses from The Great Courses and loved them all, but what I'm learning in this course ties them all together. I would even suggest to others that they take this course first before moving on the courses on European art or specific masterpieces. The only reason this didn't get five stars is because Professor Hirsch's annoying use of the word "actually", which comes up without necessity repeatedly throughout each lecture. It got to the point where I had to prevent myself from using it. How did the producer/director not catch that?
Date published: 2017-11-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It ended! :( I bought this course being totally ignorant of art in general. My background is music and textiles. I was nervous about purchasing this course but that nervousness disappeared from the first lecture. Each and every lecture was an adventure, with ties to current history and social climate helping to make sense of how this was reflected in the art world. My only negative is that it ended, but I picked Rococo in the first pop quiz painting, so I guess I am now no longer ignorant of art. I would happily pay for another series of lectures from this presenter.
Date published: 2017-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I cannot rate this course highly enough. First of all Professor Hirsch is the most highly polished presenter I have yet encountered with the Great Courses. Her smoothly engaging manner of presentation, (most importantly... the absence of distracting mannerisms), the comprehensive content, her clear and concise explanations and especially her way of engaging me, the viewer, has left me feeling as though I have completed one of her courses in person. I am extremely confident that I have an excellent overview of the history of art, with the added bonus of understanding the historical contexts of each style.
Date published: 2017-08-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Gateway to a WHOLE NEW WORLD OF ART Enjoyed this course immensely! I found that she equipped me with the tools to disseminate what make a creative piece a great work of art. I feel like a can speak the language now. I loved seeing the works (some of them familiar) and learn about them. Finding new works to admire was also great fun. I wish that I could've experienced this course sooner.
Date published: 2017-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sick on the couch, I gave in and bought Great Art. Access was immediate thru download, but the DVDs came quickly and the book is great. But that day on the couch, I watched three chapters on my phone. Professor Hirsch is a wonderful and engaging speaker with lots of art examples. This course has enhanced not only how I view art, but the beautiful natural outside world and the sunlight on my child's face. Thank you.
Date published: 2017-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Art history without the class I checked this out from the local library. For 36 lectures, there is a lot of information to absorb since we only had three weeks to view the lectures. I would recommend also reviewing the book that comes with the dvds if you have not consistently studied art history in the past. The one strength that this series provides is that she refers to previous works in a new light to show you how many different ideas can be found in a single painting. She also tries to make connections between previous art periods and show why artists may have been influenced in the past and take those ideas and put them into a new light in the present. Those were things that were missing in the art history course that I had taken, and I was glad to see that she was trying to bridge art movements and make connections to the viewer.
Date published: 2017-06-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wondeful overview of art history An excellent survey of Western art history which includes an overview of the techniques and media used in painting and sculpture from the Renaissance to the present. Very much enjoyed the way the lecturer returned to certain paintings again and again, illustrating them from many different points of view. Great examples, including many lesser-known works that deserve to be better known. A number of very interesting interactions between art history and world history are discussed.
Date published: 2017-06-26
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