Art History

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Fine Art: Learn, Look, and Buy

The list of topics in fine art is as long as the line to see the Mona Lisa. And while at the Louvre you have no choice but to wait, on the Web, you can explore at your own pace, whether you're a beginner or an expert. If you want to learn about art and its history, explore online museums, research galleries, read art magazines, or buy and sell artwork, the Internet has all the resources you need.

Art History

From just a glance, you know whether you think a painting is pretty, but you’re probably aware that there’s more to a work’s significance. Learning the history, context, and symbolism behind a piece or an entire oeuvre can enhance your experience and provide direction and perspective for your future pursuits, whether in art appreciation or education. Online you can learn where Picasso went to art school or find the resources to help you devise an art curriculum for fifth graders.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • If you’re using any of the material you find on a site for a research project, make sure you understand how to properly cite a source. The findingDulcinea Plagiarism Web Guide can help alleviate any confusion.
  • Most museum Web sites have an education section with learning tools and information about artwork and artists. For example, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art features a "Timeline of Art History" that includes maps, pictures, thematic essays, and links to related museum exhibits.

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Online Museums

Starved for art but short on time? Although certainly no substitute for the real thing, you can virtually “visit” almost any museum from the comfort of your own home. Not only will you avoid traffic, crowds, and the price of admission, you’ll also be privy to images that are accompanied by valuable resources and educational material. In most cases, you can search for artists, time periods, movements, or specific works. Depending on the site, you can view entire special exhibits or take audio tours.

You might also benefit from a “trip” to an online-only museum. There are some sites constructed as museums that are not affiliated with any live venue but have vast selections of easily searchable artwork. These destinations make it easy to find exactly what you're looking for, and often allow you to print or use images, and find links for further research.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • If you intend to visit a particular museum physically, you can usually find links on the museum’s homepage that will help you plan your real-world visit. Whether you're getting a preview of special exhibitions, buying tickets in advance, or just looking up hours and directions, a preliminary trip to a museum's site can save you time and enhance your trip.
  • Some museum exhibits, especially those that contain additional audio or video content, may require you to download a plug-in like Real Player. Simply follow the site’s instructions.
  • Almost every museum has a Web site. The ones featured in this guide were selected for their excellent online galleries, but if you don’t find a museum you’re looking for, search with one of the museum directories.

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Find Art Galleries

Visiting galleries is a great way to get exposure to artwork that you won't see in a museum. Galleries often feature newer artists, so following current shows keeps your perspective fresh and heightens your awareness of trends in the art market. Or if you're a serious collector, a broad knowledge of galleries can enhance your expertise and increase your chances of finding the pieces you desire.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • The sites featured in this section will help you locate a gallery that you intend to visit physically. For online purchases, check out the "Buy and Sell Art Online" section of this guide.
  • Also check the Art Magazines and News section to see information about gallery activity. Often a publication will feature a gallery, exhibition, or artist whose popularity is ascending.

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Art Magazines and News

Whether you want to know what this month's hottest exhibits are or how quickly the prices of impressionist paintings are increasing, following one or two art magazines will enhance your knowledge and appreciation of the arts. Fine arts magazines offer reviews, interviews, retrospectives, and articles that explore both the development of art itself and its place in society. Given the wealth of specific information they provide, subscriptions to these magazines can be expensive. Fortunately, many of them offer all, or some, of their content on the Web. You can surf multiple sites and choose only the articles that interest you, or create a varied reading list of magazines with different angles to get a more complete perspective on the world of fine art.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • In addition to reading magazines devoted to reviewing and reporting on the art community, you can also check out the Arts section of your local newspaper. Many major metropolitan newspapers have regular Art sections; one example is The New York Times Art section, which covers the art scene on a worldwide scale.
  • Most magazine sites allow you to search their archives for free. Although you may not always be able to get the full magazine online, you can get a list of contents and order back issues online with your credit card.

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Buy and Sell Art Online

Visit any contemporary art museum or gallery and you'll see that technology has become a part of the artistic process. So it makes sense that your options for buying and selling art are more technologically advanced as well. Some online-only galleries hold solid credentials, possess fine collections, and allow you to view and research works online before you make a purchase. But if fine art is not in your budget, or not something you feel comfortable buying online, you can also find sites that sell prints or works of unknown artists. There are plenty of sites that will help you find art for reasonable prices or, if you're an artist, promote your own work.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • As you probably know, investing in art can be a serious endeavor. For tips on how to approach the market, check out this BusinessWeek article, "The Art of Buying Art".
  • Any reputable online art gallery guarantees their artwork and has a fair return policy. Be wary of any site that won't allow you to send back unsatisfactory pieces.
  • You can read the "Find a Gallery" section of this guide to determine whether a specific gallery has a Web site or online features.

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