How to Look at and Understand Great Art

Course No. 7640
Professor Sharon Latchaw Hirsh, Ph.D.
Rosemont College
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Course No. 7640
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Uncover the core principles of color in painting, and learn how art achieves power and meaning through color.
  • numbers Learn how symbolic associations work in art - and how they've changed over time.
  • numbers Discover why the Impressionists were so fascinated with natural light, and how this fascination appears in their work.
  • numbers Contemplate the "anti-art" movement, and consider the focus on the subconscious found in the work of the Surrealists.

Course Overview

Great art is among the most sublime, meaningful, and redeeming creations of all civilization. Few endeavors can equal the power of great artwork to capture aesthetic beauty, to move and inspire, to change your perceptions, and to communicate the nature of human experience. Great art is also complex, mysterious, and challenging. Filled with symbolism, cultural and historical references, and often visionary imagery, great artworks oblige us—defy us, even—to reckon with their many meanings.

What does it take to truly know what you're seeing when you look at art? What technical skills and knowledge are needed to comprehend the full richness of artworks, to unpack the hidden significance of master paintings, sculptures, prints, and more?

Award-winning Professor Sharon Latchaw Hirsh of Rosemont College speaks to these and other compelling questions in How to Look at and Understand Great Art. Unlike a traditional survey of art, these 36 richly illustrated lectures take you on an in-depth exploration of the practical skill of viewing art through the lenses of line, light, perspective, composition, and other crucial elements of craft and technique. Using timeless masterpieces of Western painting, sculpture, and graphic art, as well as hands-on studio demonstrations, Professor Hirsh gives you the specific visual and interpretive knowledge you need to approach great artworks, find their deeper meanings, and reach startling new levels of appreciation.

Discovering the Artist's Visual Language

In building your viewing skills, the opening lectures give you practice with the core technical tools for understanding visual art:

  • Color: You study the essential principles of color and color schemes in painting and graphic art and the distinctive use of color in different epochs, all of which are deeply integral to an artist's work.
  • Line: You investigate the artist's use of line (the basis of art) as it describes reality, conveys expressive meaning, and gives larger structural impact to an artwork.
  • Composition: You learn how the artist constructs a work's overall composition in painting, graphic art, and sculpture. You discover compositional features such as symmetry/asymmetry, balance, and the visual framing of images, as keys to an artwork's comprehensive impact.
  • Signs and symbols: You learn how to recognize symbolism and signifiers in religious paintings, "vanitas" still lifes, canvases of royalty, and seminal works by Gauguin and Dali.

Rich and Varied Genres of Art

Traveling deeply into the artist's world, you investigate the major genres of drawing, printmaking, sculpture, and painting. You apply your technical knowledge to major works in each genre, exploring the various purposes and types of drawings, the vast spectrum of sculpture and three-dimensional art, and the important traditions within painting and printmaking, with particular attention to how works of art are made.

Here, Professor Hirsh takes you out of the classroom and into the studio, in a series of hands-on demonstrations you rarely find in an academic art course. In the lectures on painting, for example, you study the techniques of fresco and panel painting, and you see oil painting demonstrated, including the mixing of colors, the application of opaque oils and translucent glazes, and the texturing techniques of impasto and scumbling used so memorably by Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and the Expressionists.

In the complex genre of printmaking, you watch a contemporary artist create original prints, showing you the methods of woodcut, copper plate engraving, etching, lithograph, and silkscreen prints. Your understanding of the techniques of printmaking helps you identify the type of print you're looking at—often tricky even for experienced eyes—and gives you an appreciation of the craft underlying master prints by Dürer, Doré, Whistler, Degas, and others.

To deepen your insight into subject matter in art, additional lectures are devoted to the importance of landscapes, portraits, and self-portraits.

Great Eras, Visionary Movements

In the course's final section, you use your newfound skills to explore the major eras and movements in Western art, from the Renaissance to the present. In this unfolding progression, you encounter the stunning diversity of artworks from the early Renaissance to the Baroque and Rococo, from 19th-century Romanticism to Impressionism, from 20th-century Expressionism to Cubism, Surrealism, and Modernism, and finally to Postmodernism and the art of our own times.

The knowledge you've developed allows you to recognize and appreciate the dramatic evolution of art, not merely in historical terms, but through specific understanding of how artists work.

In the Limbourg brothers' Hours of the Duc de Berry (15th century), for example, you see their attempt at linear and aerial perspective; later, you see how these techniques were gloriously perfected by Masaccio, Leonardo, and other Renaissance masters. You observe how the impact of El Greco's Mannerist masterpiece Pentecost rests on an anti-Renaissance elongation of figures, unusual poses, and use of tertiary colors.

Of huge value for appreciating modern and contemporary works, you delve into the human experiences and ways of thinking that gave birth to abstract and nonrepresentational art. Here, you study influences such as the three phases of Cubism, the ideas of Kandinsky, and the penetrating imagery of Franz Marc, following the bold and thoughtful moves that freed art from imitating nature. This understanding allows you to grasp the inspiration and visions of De Kooning, Miró, Giacometti, Pollock, and other masters of the modern era.

A Visually Rich Learning Experience

Drawing on works from public and private collections, this course brings masterpieces from more than 250 of the world's greatest artists together in one place—making this thrilling course a virtual museum of art you won't be able to find anywhere else. Professor Hirsh's lectures come complete with

  • more than 950 works of art, presented in crisp high-definition that allows you to zoom in and explore their tiniest details;
  • meticulously crafted 3-D animations that reconstruct particular works;
  • on-set demonstrations that explain specific painting methods and techniques; and
  • visits to an actual artist's studio where you get a first-hand look at the secrets of printmaking.

Winner of the Charles A. Dana Award for Distinguished Teaching, Professor Hirsh combines a remarkable breadth of knowledge and a gift for demystifying both the imagery and the motives of art, leaving you with lasting insight into classic masterpieces as well as challenging contemporary works.

By teaching you the artist's visual language and how to "read" it, How to Look at and Understand Great Art gives you an extraordinary key to the full, unforgettable richness of great artworks—their ability to open you up to new ways of seeing, to bring alive the majestic unfolding of history, and to reveal human experience in all its vividness, poignancy, and dynamic life.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    The Importance of First Impressions
    Examine the contexts and environments in which we encounter art and their critical effect on our viewing experience. Consider ways of displaying and framing paintings, as well as key parameters for viewing sculpture. Then, learn the predominant genres of Western art, and the artist's media, tools, and techniques. x
  • 2
    Where Am I? Point of View and Focal Point
    Explore how point of view—the artist's positioning of the viewer with respect to the image—works in painting and sculpture, paying particular attention to differences in angle and spatial relation. Then, continue with focal point, or the artist's centering of attention on a key area of the work. x
  • 3
    Color—Description, Symbol, and More
    Uncover the core principles of color in painting, including the distinctions of value and saturation and the relationship of colors as analogous or complementary. See how major works of art achieve their power and meaning through color, as seen in celebrated canvases by Seurat, Gauguin, and Van Gogh. x
  • 4
    Line—Description and Expression
    Discover the properties of line, another essential element of art, as "descriptive" (describing reality) or "expressional" (conveying feeling). Learn about the use of geometric lines, implied lines, and directional lines within a composition. Also, study the compelling, psychological use of line in Picasso's works, Seurat's The Circus, and in key Modern and Expressionist works. x
  • 5
    Space, Shape, Shade, and Shadow
    Examine geometric and "organic" shapes in painting and sculpture and the crucial relationship of figure to ground and mass to space. Then, explore the illusionistic use of shading, shadows, and overlapping shapes in Caravaggio's and Friedrich's works, and the compositional power of shapes in paintings such as Matisse's Dance and Michelangelo's Creation of Adam. x
  • 6
    Seeing the Big Picture—Composition
    Define symmetry and asymmetry in painting and sculpture, and the key effects on the viewer of each. Also, study scale and proportion of figures, and the distinction between "open" and "closed" composition, reflecting the artist's approach to visually framing the image. x
  • 7
    The Illusion—Getting the Right Perspective
    Tracking the history of illusionism in Western art, grasp the principles of linear perspective, foreshortening, and atmospheric perspective as they replicate how the human eye perceives. See how artists, including Cézanne and Van Gogh, manipulated perspective for their own creative ends, and observe the extreme illusionism of trompe l'oeil and anamorphosis. x
  • 8
    Art That Moves Us—Time and Motion
    Explore how artists evoke motion and the passage of time, including implying motion through strong directional lines and time through narrative devices. Study approaches to implied motion in Impressionism, Abstract Expressionism, and Op art, and the use of actual motion in performance art and modern sculpture. x
  • 9
    Feeling with Our Eyes—Texture and Light
    Here, consider texture in sculpture as an aid to meaning in sculptures by Rodin, Donatello, and Bernini, and the painter's use of paint as a way to capture texture and light on canvas. Then observe the virtuoso representation of texture by master painters Ingres and Titian, and the handling of light and shadow in works by Renoir and Georges de la Tour. x
  • 10
    Drawing—Dry, Liquid, and Modern Media
    In this first lecture on genre, define the various purposes of drawings, from "croquis" drawing to capture a pose or action, to successive sketches visualizing larger works, to finished drawings as a distinct art. Study the diverse media of drawing, focusing on master drawings in metalpoint, charcoal, ink, pastel, and pencil. x
  • 11
    Printmaking—Relief and Intaglio
    The medium of prints attracted great artists from Dürer and Rembrandt to Ensor and Picasso. Using studio demonstrations, study the expressive means and contrasting techniques of relief printmaking, including woodcut, wood engraving, and linocut, and intaglio printmaking, including metal engraving, etching, mezzotint, and aquatint. x
  • 12
    Modern Printmaking—Planographic
    This lecture explores the art of planographic printmaking, which allows artists to draw or paint directly on the printing surface. In detailed demonstrations and works by Daumier, Degas, and Warhol, grasp the techniques of lithography, silkscreen, and monotype, and explore the mastery of Whistler's lithograph Nocturne: The Thames at Battersea. x
  • 13
    Sculpture—Salt Cellars to Monuments
    Sculpture, as a genre, encompasses the full spectrum of three-dimensional artworks. In this lecture, investigate the varieties and viewing contexts of relief and in-the-round sculptures—from monumental public works and religious and historical subjects to assemblage, collage, found objects, and large-scale "earth art"—noting the technical distinction between subtractive and additive works. x
  • 14
    Development of Painting—Tempera and Oils
    Trace the history and technique of painting, beginning with the methodology of panel painting on wood; fresco painting, both wet and dry; and finally, oil painting and watercolor. Learn about types of oil paint, the mixing of colors, brushwork techniques, and the 19th-century phenomenon of plein air (outdoor) painting. x
  • 15
    Modern Painting—Acrylics and Assemblages
    The lecture opens with a historical panorama of painting techniques, highlighting the diverse treatment of human faces. Then, it tracks 20th-century developments in nontraditional materials and methods of application, including the techniques of Frank Stella, Helen Frankenthaler, and Jackson Pollock, as well as the contrasting strengths and mixed use of oil and acrylics. x
  • 16
    Subject Matters
    Focusing on masterworks by Van Eyck and Rubens, define three levels of iconography (subject matter). Also study the academic codifying and ranking of subject matter in art, probing subject and deeper meaning in a variety of religious and history paintings, still lifes, landscapes, portraits, and genre works. x
  • 17
    Signs—Symbols, Icons, and Indexes in Art
    The richness of signs (signifiers) in art includes the use of symbols, icons, and indexes as they reveal layers of meaning. See how, in different historical eras, symbolic associations change over time, how icons visually represent a subject, and how indexes exhibit direct connections with the thing signified. x
  • 18
    Portraits—How Artists See Others
    In examining the diverse functions and types of portraits, study the important elements of facial presentation and the subject's position and gaze with relation to the viewer and the pictorial space. See how Rembrandt added dramatic power to his group "corporation" portraits, and how David carefully rendered Napoleon in symbolic terms. x
  • 19
    Self-Portraits—How Artists See Themselves
    Across the centuries, self-portraits fascinatingly reveal the changing role of the artist. Follow this progression, from Renaissance painters subtly placing themselves within large compositions, to self-portraiture's emergence as a major form of self-revelation, noting many dramatic and colorful traditions within the form. x
  • 20
    Landscapes—Art of the Great Outdoors
    In this lecture on landscape painting, observe the classical, balanced division into foreground, middle, and background, and how Romantic painters altered these proportions to express drama, infinite space, and the sublime. Discover proportion and composition in landscapes of the Hudson River school, Luminism, Impressionism, and also the subgenres of seascapes and cityscapes. x
  • 21
    Putting It All Together
    This lecture integrates elements including color, line, shape, composition, light, symbolism, point of view, and focal point. Using the viewing tools you've developed, look deeply at four diverse masterpieces, including a sculpture by Thorvaldsen, a "vanitas" still life by Van Oosterwyck, a lithograph by Bonnard, and a painting by Van der Weyden. x
  • 22
    Early Renaissance—Humanism Emergent
    Contemplate the Renaissance phenomena of classicism and humanism in 15th-century Italian art, which focused—even in religious art—on the human body, nature, and depictions of earthly life and the individual. Learn how to recognize Early Renaissance art in characteristic subject matter and stylistic technique. x
  • 23
    Northern Renaissance—Devil in the Details
    Flanders and Germany also witnessed an explosion of art in the 15th and early 16th centuries. Define the stylistics of great Northern Renaissance oil painting, such as the use of cool light, richness of detail, and the depiction of fabric. Conclude by charting the development of the historical "canon" of universally recognized artworks. x
  • 24
    High Renaissance—Humanism Perfected
    The Italian High Renaissance saw the full flowering of humanism and classicism. With reference to the era's thought and practice, delve into masterpieces by three of history's greatest geniuses: Raphael, Leonardo, and Michelangelo. Last, explore the composition of Raphael's School of Athens as it represents the sublime embodiment of High Renaissance ideals. x
  • 25
    Mannerism and Baroque—Distortion and Drama
    Two important artistic movements followed the High Renaissance. Beginning with late Michelangelo, Tibaldi, and El Greco, explore the hallmarks of Mannerism, including deliberate distortions of proportion and perspective and use of tertiary colors. Then, in the works of Caravaggio, Rubens, and others, define the essence of Baroque art in its dramatic, exuberant expansion of classical style. x
  • 26
    Going Baroque—North versus South
    Baroque style flowered in key regional variations. See the influence of the Counter-Reformation in southern Europe in dazzling religious images intended to excite and teach. Grasp the classical ethos of French Baroque and the Dutch diversity of subject matter and dramatic use of light and space in the North. x
  • 27
    18th-Century Reality and Decorative Rococo
    The sensuality of Rococo art mirrors 18th-century upper-class lifestyle and sensibility. Explore the evocation of intimate hedonism in Watteau, Boucher, Fragonard, and other Rococo masters, specifically through their imagery of lovers, social life, and pastoral pleasure. Then, define Rococo style in its graceful curves and characteristic use of paint and color. x
  • 28
    Revolutions—Neoclassicism and Romanticism
    The early 19th century saw the emergence of two compelling and highly contrasting styles. Referencing the art of Napoleonic painter Jacques-Louis David, discover the tenets of Neoclassicism, specifically its ordered composition and emphasis on stoicism, morality, and rational control. In works by Eugène Delacroix, find the spirit of Romanticism and its concern with dramatic proportions, emotion, and spirituality. x
  • 29
    From Realism to Impressionism
    In canvases of Millet, Courbet, and Manet, observe the Realist ideals of honesty, simplicity, and descriptive colors in revealing contemporary experience. Then, explore the phenomenon of Impressionism, highlighting Renoir, Monet, and Degas—their fascination with natural light, quest to capture the moment, and iconic subject matter of middle-class leisure life. x
  • 30
    Postimpressionism—Form and Content Re-Viewed
    The term "Postimpressionism" comprises a varied and highly innovative body of art. Here, learn how Postimpressionist painters such as Cézanne and Seurat were driven by what they perceived as a loss of form in Impressionist art. See also how Symbolists Gauguin and Munch used increasing abstraction to convey deeper psychological meanings. x
  • 31
    Expressionism—Empathy and Emotion
    In defining the bold sensibility of Expressionism, explore its use of violent colors, stylistic distortions, and sculptural application of paint. Also contemplate its influences (including contemporary philosophers as well as Freud) and its goal to provoke empathy and thus touch the viewer at the innermost level. x
  • 32
    Cubism—An Experiment in Form
    Investigate the visual elements and the three phases of this hugely influential movement, based in its geometric fracturing of forms and multiple, interlocking meanings of line and shape. Find borrowings and echoes of Braque's and Picasso's Cubism in diverse 20th-century painters and experiments in Cubist-derived sculpture. x
  • 33
    Abstraction/Modernism—New Visual Language
    Abstraction and Modernism forged a daring new definition of art, breaking dramatically with the past. Discover the philosophical and experiential underpinnings of abstraction and nonrepresentational art, now radically freed from imitating nature. Encounter art's new language in visionary works by Kandinsky, Marc, Pollock, De Kooning, and others. x
  • 34
    Dada Found Objects/Surreal Doodles and Dreams
    Contemplate the "anti-art" spirit of Dadaism, its nihilistic yet humorous indictment of civilization and bizarre use of unconventional media. In the sensibility of Surrealism, observe its compelling focus on the subconscious and two substyles—dream imagery, with its juxtaposition of objects and settings, and "automatic drawing," eliciting unplanned images from the unconscious. x
  • 35
    Postmodernism—Focus on the Viewer
    In the 1960s, Pop art, Op art, and minimalism brought yet another far-reaching redefinition of art. Learn to recognize these three distinct postmodern visions, and see how they shared a common rejection of the traditional focus on the artist, aiming instead to create works that exist only for the viewer's interpretation. x
  • 36
    Your Next Museum Visit—Do It Yourself!
    The final lecture opens with a detailed and thought-provoking guide to museum-going. Consider ways of making the most of visits to permanent collections and special exhibitions in both large and small museums. Conclude with a sumptuous review involving masterworks from the many eras, movements, and schools you've looked at. x

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Your professor

Sharon Latchaw Hirsh

About Your Professor

Sharon Latchaw Hirsh, Ph.D.
Rosemont College
Dr. Sharon Latchaw Hirsh has served as president of Rosemont College since 2006. She completed her undergraduate degree in the history of art and studio art at Rosemont and earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in the history of art from the University of Pittsburgh. Professor Hirsh's awards include the Charles A. Dana Award for Distinguished Teaching, the Ganoe Award for Inspirational Teaching, and the Lindback Award for Distinguished...
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How to Look at and Understand Great Art is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 186.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Illuminating The course has really helped me to understand art and what the artist was trying to convey
Date published: 2020-05-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not what I thought it would be. Was really looking forward to this course, but now that I am into it, it is not what I expected. Got it as a deal, glad I did
Date published: 2020-05-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent lecturer! Sharon is an interesting, engaging speaker with a welcoming, inclusive, (and not condescending) style. Made every minute of all 36 lectures highly enjoyable, looked forward to each one!
Date published: 2020-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyable course I am on lesson # 11 and so far I am enjoying it. The lecturer has a very pleasant and professional style, delivering the material with lots of examples and with humor. Her pace is just right for this novice.
Date published: 2020-04-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I know what I like . . . . . . and I like this course very much! Dr. Sharon Latchaw Hirsh succeeds remarkably well at meeting objectives she sets for herself at the beginning of each lecture and for the course as a whole. She entertainingly surveys the history and styles of Western fine arts from the twelfth century to the twenty-first, explains basic components of paintings and sculptures, provides a visual vocabulary to help students “read” a work of art, and actually demonstrates creative art techniques. Her manner is unfailingly pleasant and engaging. What she refers to as “tools” at the end of each lecture provide the practical skills and the confidence to recognize characteristics of different eras, intriguing symbols and illusions, and even the probable intentions of individual artists. This is an emotionally stirring course, but also a fun course. Throughout, it feels like Professor Hirsh is speaking to students directly and encouragingly, as though she were actually present in the same room. Her words are an easy-to-listen-to blend of well-planned speech and evident spontaneity. Examples displayed to accompany each lesson provide very clear illustrations of the Professor’s insights. A guidebook provided with this set of six DVDs includes extensive appendices: a glossary, a bibliography, suggested readings for further study, a list with details and collection locations for hundreds of works discussed in the course, biographical notes, a historical timeline, and a lecture-by-lecture checklist of those “tools” that enable one to observe more, to understand more, and to be able to support one’s own opinions about great art. I own over eighty of The Great Courses, and this is one of the greatest.
Date published: 2020-04-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful and engaging! If you have always wanted to take an art appreciation course but never had the chance to, this is the course for you. Professor Hirsh will take you through art history and theory with a wonderful presentation, rich knowledge and deep fondness for the subject. It's obvious she loves what she teaches about, and that is the kind of lecturer you want to watch. She inspires a greater love and appreciation for art with this series. Just understand this is best for beginners with little to no background in art. Enjoy!
Date published: 2020-04-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Understanding ART This course was not what I expected - not sure what I expected!! I like the presenter - she does very well explaining all the features of art - what makes art art. I like the 30 minute segments - they tell you plenty. I enjoy all the works of art that the presenter shows and explains. I am about 1/2 way thru the course - I can do a couple at a time.
Date published: 2020-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comprehensive Course and Wonderful Illustrations I loved the course and very much appreciated Professor Hirsch's style of presentation.
Date published: 2020-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Why TGC is the GOAT! Of the many courses I have listened to throughout the years, this is by far one of the very best. The professor speaks clearly and is articulate. The conversation is exciting without being stuffy. And the complexity of the content is simplified without being "dummed-down." This course belongs in the library of every student.
Date published: 2020-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Appreciating great art Dr. Hirsch has a wonderful teaching style. Course modules are nicely paced. Great use of important art examples to illustrate key teaching points.
Date published: 2020-02-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Whole new world. My husband is an artist and very knowledgeable on the subjects covered in the course. This course is so well done that now I have a much greater basis for real conversations with him because I now can better grasp the concepts he has been talking about for years. He is thrilled with my increase in understanding and we are planning a lot of museum visits in the near future. This gives us an additional activity we can both enjoy and has really opened a whole new dimension in our relationship.
Date published: 2020-02-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Visuals are very helpful I have just started How to Look at and Undestand Art Prof. Latchaw is very clear in her descriptions and on what to look for. I am anxious to continue Problem: My course will not come up all the time. this is very frustrating and I do not know how to correct this
Date published: 2020-02-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How to Look at and Understand Great Art At this time we've only viewed 7 lectures but each one has been a real learning experience and we're looking forward to the remaining lectures. Prof. Hirsh does an excellent job by clearly defining the scope of the topic and thru well chosen examples.
Date published: 2020-02-07
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Incredibly boring I find this video series to be incredibly boring. The host’s presentation is dry and shallow. Watching it for more than five minutes is torturous!
Date published: 2020-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from True to it's word. I bought this course to learn more, gain more knowledge and it hasn't failed me.
Date published: 2020-02-05
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Way too long to deliver. Still do not have package. Have already missed a birthday gift. How long does it take to mail three DVD’s? Obviously can’t comment on courses.
Date published: 2020-02-05
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Love the instructor This the first course I’ve gotten and I’m surprised at the fabulous quality in every way. I’m an artist and thought I knew a lot but I’m learning so much!
Date published: 2020-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very well presented. I've learn a lot. Thank you very much so much.
Date published: 2020-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Art I bought a few weeks ago. Have been going through the lessons. I is so great to understand the art you have actually see in Italy. I am really enjoying the appreciate art series.
Date published: 2020-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I am pleased with purchase. Educational and thorough. I also appreciate the convenience of home lectures
Date published: 2020-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well oranized and great course I am thoroughly enjoyin the course I bought. The instructor is clear and her style is very easy to listen to. I am learning a great deal and hope to follow up with other readings. My only thought is that I would appreciate a way to print the "tools" for each lecture. That is one thing that is missing
Date published: 2020-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative. I bought this course in spite of some negative reviews. I found it very informative and I learned a lot. There is so much to look for when viewing art. The professor explained everything very well. I learned alot.
Date published: 2020-01-17
Rated 2 out of 5 by from No definition of "great" Had this course been titled, "How to Look at and Understand Art," I would have given it five stars. It's all there: period styles, point-of-view, perspective, line, color, subject, etc. But I bought this course to try to understand why some of the stuff that's hanging on museum walls is there. What makes it "great," or even worthy of consideration? Some of the examples Professor Hirsh uses are a plain black, square canvas, a plain white square canvas, a huge red, rectangular canvas with five narrow, vertical lines, a red cube, a bottle drying rack, and the front fork and wheel from a bicycle mounted on a stool. They might be appropriate examples, but what makes them great? Indeed, there are many artists from centuries past that are considered great, but were all their works great? If not, why not? Mozart was arguably the greatest composer ever, but not everything he wrote was a masterpiece. Unfortunately, I came away from this course with the feeling that many modern works are like the emperor's new clothes, with the tailor laughing all the way to the bank. Although I suspect there will always be disagreements about what makes any work great, some attempt at defining it would have been appreciated. I call your attention to the many courses on music and composers by Professor Greenberg, where, for almost every example, he tells you why, at least in his opinion, the music is great. Perhaps a similar course for art? There's nothing to that effect in this one.
Date published: 2020-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from the title says exactly what the content is about.. I bought this as a gift for a friend who desires a deeper understanding for art but has no trading in making art.
Date published: 2019-12-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My appreciation of art had grown exponentially. I was immediately amazed at the incredible depth of additional knowledge was included in each and every lecture. The lectures are packed full of tools and techniques that have made understanding and appreciating art so much more rewarding. The professor makes the material quite accessible and interesting.
Date published: 2019-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well organized and highly informative I liked this program so much I binged watched it. I thought I had an adequate visual literacy, but I was just a neophyte. Because I enjoyed this program and learned so much, I was motivated to purchase two other courses on art.
Date published: 2019-10-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from On point! I bought this as I'd always wanted to take an art history class. I found it fascinating, with many lessons applicable to my quilting projects (color, line, perspective). I recommended it to a friend, who bought it and recommended to her friend. I also sent a copy to my sister. We all love it.
Date published: 2019-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Wonderful Expansive Survey of Western Art In this very broad survey of western art, Professor Hirsh provides lectures on a myriad of subjects and tools that an amateur art enthusiast can take as he/she visits various locales to appreciate works of art. The subjects cover many aspects of artistic creation including point of view, symbolism, shape, shade, composition, time and motion, and many other themes. She teaches the viewer what texture and light are, and various kinds of media including dry, liquid, intaglio, printmaking, tempera, oils, and on and on. In essence, the student may not know how to recreate each of these techniques at the end of her course, but he/she will have a very good idea what they are. After describing this wide range of art topics, Professor Hirsh continues her lectures by discussing each of the western art periods from Medieval Art all the way through to Post-Modernism. To say the least, if the student knew nothing or little of western art prior to the beginning of the course, he/she will have acquired a very broad and valuable knowledge of western art by its end. That said, this course is probably not for an art historian or professional artist. Notwithstanding the idea that a person can always learn something from another person, it could cause some frustration due to the cursory manner in which the lectures must be taught in order to cover so much material in such a short time. For me, I thoroughly enjoyed this course, and I learned a great deal. As someone that has always appreciated art, I even took time to take a couple of art history courses in college, but they only covered specific periods. Outside of that I admit I had little understanding, particularly as it related to modern art, and Italian Renaissance. I must say that after taking this course my knowledge of western art has expanded to cover many aspects of art which I knew little about. Consequently, for anyone that has a knowledge of a specific aspect or period of art, this course can also be helpful because of its broad scope. The potential student should, however, be aware that in an all encompassing course such as this not every artist or work of art will be covered. Consequently, some of a student's favorite artists may not be mentioned even in the glossary. A few that I noticed that were omitted were Marc Chagall, Toulouse-Lautrec, M. C. Escher, Bierstadt, Waterhouse, and others. On the other hand, the professor showed some of her favorite works several times such as Donatello's David in order to stress various points. Obviously, Professor Hirsh only had a limited number of works of art that could be included (and she showed many, almost 600 different works) in her lectures, but the potential student shouldn't feel disappointed if his/her favorite artist is not included. Finally, the scope of the course was to equip each student with the tools to enter a museum, gallery, plaza, or other art display and examine artistic works like he/she has never done in the past. In my opinion, the scope was achieved beyond measure.
Date published: 2019-04-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great course for a beginner I bought this course because I love art but had no idea how to approach it to get the most out of it. What a treat! The course content is superb, including anything you would want to know to analyze and appreciate a work of art, and the enthusiasm of the instructor always made me sorry that the class ended. Clearly she loves the subject matter and loves to teach. I'll keep going back to it to refresh my understanding. Great job!
Date published: 2019-03-20
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing Content: With all the truly great art available to us, I was disappointed in the presenter's choice of examples. Instead of works by Rembrandt or Fabritius to illustrate the use of light, we get two fluorescent light bulbs strung across the corner of a room. And why did Professor Hirsh feel the need to include a photograph of a contemporary political figure in her discussion? From millennia of art work, was that truly the best example she could find to illustrate her point? Style: The presenter's halting style of speech, darting gaze, and overuse of trite phrases ("all kinds of", "different kinds of", "kind of") really began to wear on me. She also used some words and phrases that simply didn't make sense in their given context. In addition, I found her explanations of concepts (texture is a good example) to be unnecessarily complicated. In this area, the course reminded me of a student (who may have a good grasp of her subject) that struggles with effectively communicating the material in conceptual form. Instead, she relies on stretching out her material to "fill pages" and appear authoritative, but instead comes across as somewhat affected and out of her depth. I gave up watching after lecture nine.
Date published: 2019-02-19
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