Essential Art History Resources

Art history is the study of the visual arts in civilization, comprised of distinct eras and mediums, including painting, sculpture, photography, architecture and film. In the late 20th and early 21st century, art history also includes the study of mass media.

For those interested in exploring the art history of Western civilization, there are a range of reliable online resources. From museums to art historians, just about everyone in today’s art world boasts a well designed site. The following is a list of helpful art history links that introduces readers to different periods of European and American art, from the Hellenic period to today.

The Classical Period (ca. 480-323 B.C.; also known as the Hellenic period)

  • “The Art of Classical Greece”: The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website the Classical period includes timelines, thematic essays, maps and index terms. It also offers photographs of pieces from the Met’s collection on Classical art, which is the most extensive art collection of its kind in the U.S.

The Middle Ages (400 A.D. to 1350 A.D.)

  • “Art and Death in the Middle Ages”: Another excellent link offered by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Art and Death in the Middle Ages” explores the Black Death’s role in shaping artwork from this period, from beautifully engraved sepulchers to somber paintings.

The Renaissance (1300 to 1600)

  • “Tour: The Early Renaissance in Florence”: The National Gallery of Art’s website on Renaissance art explores important paintings from the era and includes full screen images, artists’ information, bibliographies and inscriptions.
  • History.com: The History Channel’s multi-media website on art from the Renaissance period includes videos on Leonardo Da Vinci, St. Peter’s Basilica and Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” one of the most important paintings from this period.

The Baroque (1600 to 1725)

  • A World History of Art: This site includes an impressive online collection of images, including work by Baroque painters Francesco Albani, Morazoone and Caravaggio.
  • Artists of the Baroque Style: Baroque, which literally means “rough or imperfect pearl,” broadly encapsulated artwork that utilized exaggerated motions and easily interpreted details. This site offers links to a broad range of artists whose works were characterized by these visual descriptors.

Neoclassical (1750 to early 1800s)

  • CUNY Brooklyn College’s “Neoclassicalism”: Brooklyn College’s Department of Art history’s webpage on Neoclassical art details the social and political themes of the era, as well as how artists from this period drew inspiration from the art and culture of Ancient Greece.
  • ArtCyclopedia: ArtCyclopedia’s section on Neoclassical Art includes a chronological listing of artists from this period, as well as sample images of their work. Featured painters include Jean-Francois de Troy, Gavin Hamilton and Augustin Pajou.

Romanticism (1800 to 1840)

  • The Art History Archive’s Romanticist Art: This helpful website offers a brief historical context for Romanticist art and includes a list of painters from different schools within the era, as well as Romanticist artists from different countries.

Realism (1840 to 1890s)

  • Art History: Realism art was heavily informed by scientific and objective methods. This site offers readers information on important painters who used such methodologies, including Francisco Goya and Winslow Homer.

Impressionism (19th century)

Surrealism  (1920s to present)

  • Surrealism. org: This website is dedicated to Surrealism, a cultural and artistic movement started by the French poet, André Breton. It includes biographies on René Magritte, Salvador Dali, Joan Miro and other important painters from the period.
  • The Guggenheim’s “Movement: Surrealism”: The Guggenheim also provides an excellent section on the Surrealist movement and includes images of Jean Arp’s work, Giorgio de Chirico’s haunting paintings and Joseph Cornell’s idiosyncratic dioramas.

Expressionism (1905-1925)

  • ArtMovements: Expressionism, an art movement that began in Germany, explores human emotions and realities from a purely subjective perspective. Paintings and sculptures from the period distort the “real” vis-à-vis radical emotions, in order to evoke strong moods from viewers. This website gives a descriptive summary of work from the Expressionist era, and includes artists’ bios.
  • The ArtStory.org: This is an impressive website that offers a synopsis of Expressionist art and offers readers a timeline, artists’ bios and links to essays about Expressionism by a range of art critics.

Popular Art and Culture Blogs on Contemporary Art

  • Art Forum: Art Forum is an international monthly magazine focusing on contemporary art and one of today’s most important contemporary art publications. This site provides links to articles and updates on current art exhibits.
  • Wooster Collective: Founded in 2001, the Wooster Collective’s website explores contemporary street artwork created by international artists. It includes images of ephemeral art and podcasts of interviews featuring street artists.

Educational Materials for Art History Beginners

  • Smarthistory: Smarthistory is an informative site perfect for novice students of art history and includes 442 videos and 209 essays.
  • Best of History Websites: Art History: This website is geared towards educators who are interested in teaching art history and includes helpful lesson plans that delve into a range of topics and periods.

An Introduction to a Few Iconic Artists

  • Gustave Courbet: Gustave Courbet was one of the most important painters of Realism and lead the art movement in France. This website includes images of all of his paintings.
  • Jackson Pollack: The National Gallery of Art dedicates this website to Jackson Pollack, one of the most famous American painters of the 20th century.
  • Ana Mendieta: An iconic artist who belonged to the performance art movement of the late 20th century in the U.S., Ana Mendieta was one of its most important artists. This website includes links to her gallery reviews and a bibliography.