Since I am a graphic designer I would like to study the subject of art. In doing so, I hope to increase my knowledge on the building blocks of creativity.

To me, an obvious first choice of study would be art history. However, art history is so vast I must narrow it down.

If you were to start studying art history, what steps would you take to narrow down your field of study?


  • Periods, styles, schools, genres, techniques, countries and regions, individual artists ... so many to pick from. Not to mention that all of these overlap as well.
    – Jongware
    Nov 24, 2016 at 18:23

4 Answers 4


If I was you, I'd take a broad approach in the first instance in order to get a proper handle on what Art History is and what you can expect to get from it. Maybe something like this Udemy course would be a good, easy and inexpensive place to start: https://www.udemy.com/art-history-survey-prehistory-to-1300/ (There is also another course which covers the more modern era).

Once you have a good overview, then you can start to specialise. Maybe concentrating on a particular time period or genre or go deep on a particular style or school of design.

As you say yourself, the subject is vast and unless you actually want to go to University and get an Art History degree then a good grounding will be essential before you start to tackle anything specific.


Some things I would not do.

Take a lok at this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNI07egoefc

Now, what to really do.

Take a posture, for example How a specific technique affects the expression, or How an ideological thrend demands a new perspective, like Futurism.

And convert that knoledge into some specific. For example the hierarchy of the character were defined by it's size in old Egyptian paintings. That is the same as when we define the character's size on a movie poster.

Note. I am not saying what "art" is good or not. I am telling that you need to develop a posture on the subject.


There are some very specific topics that you can apply directly.

For example how trhu history some symbols or colors remain or evolve in the meaning, lighting in painting, etc.

Or the most basic and direct. The style of the image, the level of abstraction; the look.


Try to find art historians in some way or another and ask them which books they'd recommend. R.Broby Johansen is one author who is known to have a very accessible style.

I can recommend BBC's series 'Civilisation'. It's a bit old-fashioned but it's a massive document. When you watch this you'll understand why art historians are so concerned with the church's influence on art and the renaissance.


I'd also recommend Andrew Graham Dixon's documentary for his playful, positive and passionate look on art from renaissance and to present day. Search him on youtube there's quite a bit lying around. The Renaissance series f.ex. are very good.

The video in link from @Rafel is a favourite of mine and I'm glad to be reminded of it. It makes a very interesting point.


If I were you, I would take a look at the art history classes offered at nearby universities or community colleges, and take the classes that seem most interesting to you.

Alternatively, you could check out (or buy) any number of books from the library, either covering art history in broad strokes, or those specific to certain places, cultures, and eras. You could also do the same with documentaries (PBS and BBC spring to mind as good sources for this).

Another fun way to learn about art history is to visit your local art museum.

And of course, you can also peruse wikipedia articles that catch your eye.

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