Why study art movements?
By understanding the context of the great masters, not only can you can knock 'em dead with your culture at the next cocktail party you attend. You discover that:
- with good, beautiful artworks, you get to look at beauty;
- with good, but less "beautiful" artworks, you get to look at things that are nevertheless honest and true.
- you train your eye to appreciate and see beauty and truth elsewhere;
- you train your mind to see the world around you in a deeper way.
Kimon Nikolaides, the celebrated New York Art Student's League drawing instructor known best for "The Natural Way to Draw" (1941), had this to say about the study of art and art movements:
"An intelligent and active
study of the great painting of all times is absolutely necessary...From a
study of the established masters of painting, try to squeeze
the sap of life … (to) study not their manners, but their motivation."
Kimon Nikolaides in the 1930s with one of one of his own paintings.
I myself went through a Medieval period, a Renaissance
period - by chronological order.
The most entertaining way, though, is by following your natural hunger. Proclaim "Romanticism Week" and go whole hog. Follow it with a Classicism. Your annoying co-worker went on about Impressionists at coffee break yesterday? Devote yourself to your own Impressionist period and smirk knowingly next time.
Bit by bit, you will be increasingly amazed at how the puzzle pieces fit together as you work through this famous artist list. You will see a Pissarro, think, gee that looks like Cezanne, and understand why that's the case.
But more than that, as you work through the art periods and schools, you will find your aesthetic sense sharpening, and you will start to seriously advance your ability to have an informed opinion on art - even the most hand-wringingly difficult modern pieces.