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Art Appreciation - Understanding Art and Artists

Art appreciation is the knowledge and understanding of the universal and timeless qualities that identify all great art. The more you appreciate and understand the art of different eras, movements, styles and techniques, the better you can develop, evaluate and improve your own artwork.

The visual elements of art are line, shape, tone, color, pattern, texture and form. A knowledge of how they are used in art will help you to understand how artworks are created. You can learn how to analyse an artwork by breaking it down to its component parts, so that you may appreciate the skill and imagination that the artist has used in composing it.

Each lesson in our series on paintings by great artists explores the life of the artist through their most famous paintings. We look at their social and historical background, the sources of their inspiration, the development of their technique, and why they deserve the recognition as one of the greatest artists of their time.

Art movements are convenient terms for classifying artists of a certain period or style. They are simply historical titles which are usually dubbed retrospectively by art critics or historians and their titles are often witty or sarcastic nicknames pulled from a review.

The Italian Renaissance was a 'rebirth' of Classical values in art, literature and philosophy. It was a period of artistic development in Western Art that stretched from the revival of Naturalism in the art of Giotto at the end of the 13th century to the expressive forms of Mannerism in the art of Michelangelo at the start of the 16th century.

Our art history timelines help you to more fully appreciate the work of any artist or art movement by understanding its position in the history of art. As most new artwork is a reaction against or development of a previous style in the timeline, it is enlightening to know the artistic context in which it was created.

Our art history slide shows illustrate famous artworks by some of the most celebrated artists associated with the major art movements and styles. Both the slide shows themselves and the artworks that appear in them are arranged in chronological order to give some sense of the development that occurred as each movement or style progressed.

Still life is the drawing and painting of items such as fruit, flowers and household objects, which are usually arranged on a table top or shelf. Over the centuries artists have chosen to paint still life objects for their symbolism, abstract qualities or simply their visual beauty.

Animals in art have always been a popular subject. They are often depicted for their natural beauty and majesty, or as mythical or symbolic beasts. Sometimes they are portrayed as the hunter's prey, prize livestock, or more sentimentally as domestic pets.

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