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Understanding Art: A Guide to the Basics

2 Session Daytime Lecture/Seminar

Friday, September 16, 2022 - 10:00 a.m. to Friday, September 23, 2022 - 12:15 p.m. ET
Upcoming Session:
Friday, September 16, 2022 - 10:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1H0715
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$80 - Member
$90 - Non-Member
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The visual arts enrich our lives in many ways, bringing us innovative ideas, the pleasure of beauty, and a range of emotions—while also puzzling us at times. Art historian Janetta Rebold Benton highlights the fundamentals shared by all the visual arts. Through looking at artists’ materials and techniques, such as drawing, painting, printing, photography, sculpture, and decorative arts she shares how honing our visual literacy skills enables us to understand concepts conveyed without words. To move beyond “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like” requires an understanding of why you like it, and this seminar is designed to help you re-evaluate how you look at art.

September 16

1011 a.m.  How to Look at Art: Experiencing and Appreciating

Some of the great debates in the history of art are presented. Various definitions of Art are considered.

1111:15 a.m.  Break

11:15 a.m.12:15 p.m.  Analyzing Art

Learn the basic elements used in all visual arts--such as color, line, space, composition, etc.—and aesthetic principles and styles.

September 23

1011 a.m.  Materials and Techniques

An understanding of the materials and techniques used by artists, and the advantages and disadvantages of each, makes it possible to assess what can (and cannot) be done in certain media.

1111:15 a.m.  Break

11:15 a.m.12:15 p.m.  But What Does It Mean?

Context proves to be key to understanding a scene or specific symbol’s meaning. Understanding the use of Iconography, the language of symbols.

Benton’s book How to Understand Art (Thames & Hudson, London, 2021) is available for purchase.

2 sessions

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1 credit*

Book Sale Information

Patron Information

  • If you register multiple individuals, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses so they can receive a Zoom link email. Please note that if there is a change in program schedule or a cancellation, we will notify you via email, and it will be your responsibility to notify other registrants in your group.
  • Unless otherwise noted, registration for online programs typically closes two hours prior to the start time on the date of the program.
  • Once registered, patrons should receive an automatic email confirmation from CustomerService@SmithsonianAssociates.org.
  • Separate Zoom link information will be emailed closer to the date of the program. If you do not receive your Zoom link information 24 hours prior to the start of the program, please email Customer Service for assistance.
  • View Common FAQs about our online programs presented on Zoom.

*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.

This online program is presented on Zoom.