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Finding History in Art

Updated on January 21, 2016
RGraf profile image

Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

History Can Surprise You

When someone thinks of history, they think of long boring lectures. Granted there are some history classes in which that is the case, but in reality history is not at all boring. History can be exciting and intriguing. It all depends on how you look at it. And it can be anywhere.

There are so many angles that you can explore history. The subject can be approached through different mediums and subjects. You can go through science, literature, archaeology, geology, astronomy, and art. Each avenue provides insight and depth into the world around us. In fact, only by studying history through each window can someone see the truth of the past.

But when you look at history through art, you see something so amazing and beautiful. It's a story with aesthetic qualities.

Art Has Always Been History

Many a student has wondered what they could possibly learn about history through art. Oh, but there is so much. Take the very first art gallery. The cavemen really knew how to put on a show. The caves of Cussac and Lascaux, France show such clarity that put my stick figures to shame. You can actually see the animals and distinguish each one. These are not just scratches from ignorant beings. They show detail and a heightened sense of nature. They give a glimpse into the priorities of the culture and how the artist saw the world around him.

A View of Society

Through art you learn what is important to the culture it comes from. You get a look into a world gone by. You’ll see the fashion of the day. You’ll come to understand the religion of the period. Through some pieces you see how the judicial system worked. You’ll feel a connection with the people who left behind a visual reminder of their live for you to enjoy and experience.

Renaissance art was highly religious in nature. Religion was important in that society. Compare it to previous eras, and you can see how the view of religion shifted slightly. The heart of the society comes out in the popular art it produces.

Makes the Past Real

A person hears about Marie Antoinette’s life, but to see her painting makes her real. The experiences she went through become real. The world she lived in becomes more than a few words in a history textbook. She is more than a story. She is more than a figure that history and twist the view of. She was real enough to pose for a painting.

How do we know so much about Egyptian life? We found their art work on the walls of tombs and on monuments. We learned how they viewed life and the afterlife. Their daily lives were displayed before us in vivid colors. Because of their art work, they are still living. They didn't write us the history of their world or give us a written account of philosophies or daily life. They painted them for us. They left us a visual display.

Increases Understanding of the Past

The study of history would be missing a vital piece without looking at the art of a period. We would never understand the mind of Michelangelo or see how advanced da Vinci really was without their art. They were not so uncivilized as many once thought. They created wonderful pieces of art and images of technology that is more recent in complete development.

How did the people live? Look at their clothing in paintings. Look at their furniture. What activities does the art portray?

Don't Disregard the Art

So in your study of history do not forget to look at the art of the period. It will help bring the past to life before your very eyes and reveal worlds you never thought of. It is the lens a person of today can look back and see the past in a much clearer light. Actual visual aid is there to examine and dissect.

Study the paintings, the sculptures, the quilts, the fashions, the architecture. Look at it all to see the bigger view and the detailed view of the societies of days gone by. To disregard the art is to leave a large part of history out of the study.


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    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 2 years ago from Wisconsin

      Thank you. History is so much more than conflicts. It's everywhere and in anything.

    • Chantelle Porter profile image

      Chantelle Porter 2 years ago from Chicago

      I think much of the history books we read today focus on war. It's nice to see history viewed through a positive perspective. Shared to history board.