How To Read a Work of Art
3.6 (11 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
44 students enrolled

How To Read a Work of Art

Understanding Art Even When There's No Information Available
3.6 (11 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
44 students enrolled
Created by D Curtis
Last updated 7/2020
Current price: $13.99 Original price: $19.99 Discount: 30% off
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This course includes
  • 1.5 hours on-demand video
  • 9 downloadable resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Assignments
  • Certificate of Completion
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What you'll learn
  • This is an Introduction to How to Read a Work of Art and part one to a long process of interpreting art
  • ...even when there's no explanation to help you can evaluate modern works of art
  • The materials and lectures provided help the viewer with analyzing and understanding art
  • This is an Introduction into interpreting art - it does not replace an art history course - a full length course is much longer than 30 minutes of video
  • Great introduction to art analysis
  • A short course on how to read a work of art
  • Must be able to read the slides and listen to the audio
  • An open mind is needed
  • All levels welcome!

Whether it's abstract, non- objective or realistic, all works of art have hidden and alternative meanings. Quite often the average person with no education in art, gets frustrated with a work of art that they just don't 'get.' They can even begin to dislike all 'modern' or contemporary art because the artist's intention is not clear. This course will train your eyes and brain to search for and find answers when they are not completely clear. We will start with basic and familiar works that are easy to understand by understanding the deeper meaning behind them. Once the student becomes comfortable interpreting realism, we shall move on the the more abstract works.

Who this course is for:
  • any age group
  • artists
  • people who love art or visiting museums
  • historians
  • Art Appreciation
Course content
Expand all 15 lectures 01:22:53
+ Introduction
2 lectures 05:19

Introduction to the course

Preview 02:42
My Background
+ Form and Content
1 lecture 02:09

Use this chart as a guide for the next few lectures

Form and Content
You can download the chart and keep it on your phone for reference. Now try pulling this chart up when you are walking through an art exhibit or museum. Choose one work of that appeals to you and ask yourself some of the questions on this chart. Imagine how the artist might present this work to you
Form and Content Chart
1 question
+ Prehistoric Art
2 lectures 20:06

This is a formal analysis of prehistoric art

Prehistoric Art - Form
Prehistoric Art - Content
+ Celtic Design
1 lecture 10:13

This is a formal and contextual analysis of the famous Celtic Chi Rho monogram from the Book of Kells

The Chi Rho - Form and Content
+ Renaissance Art
2 lectures 08:26

Here are my notes for form for The Last Supper:

1. 13 figures – figure in the center (don’t say Jesus) is alone

2. His body makes the shape of a triangle

3. All the other figures are in clusters of 3

4. Four Symmetrical openings on both sides - 3 in the back behind the lone figure

5. Now look at the gestures of all the figures – many are pointing

6. Other elements

a. Symmetry

b. Tempera on panel

c. A door – this fresco is above a door

d. Colors of robes

e. Vanishing point on lone figure’s head – linear perspective

f. The faces are beautiful and look realistic

Preview 03:34

Here are my notes for the content for The Last Supper:

1. Repetition of the #3 – medieval technique for rep the trinity which Leonardo used frequently in his work

2. Jesus makes a ‘golden pyramid’

3. We know Jesus because he is in red – (think about the positive & negative meaning of red)

4. Designed to portray the passage when Jesus announces one of them will betray him

5. The figures are reacting to this announcement

6. Judas reaches for bread and has a money bag – icon form Judas

7. Leonardo was one of the first to master linear perspective and he placed the vanishing point on Jesus’ forehead – notice how your eye is always drawn to the center of his face?

Preview 04:52
+ Great Wave off Kanagawa
2 lectures 06:52

My Notes for The Great Wave off Kanagawa_by_Katsushika Hokusai_19th_century (created around 1830)


1. Woodcut Print with 3 colors and black

2. Part of a series called 36 views of Mt. Fuji

3. Asymmetrical balance

4. Objects in corners carry more weight

5. Scale – relationship of the wave to the mountain

6. Mountain is a focal point

7. Composition is in the shape of the TAO

8. Very unique original design

9. Abstract design – not realistic

The Great Wave off Kanagawa_by_Katsushika Hokusai_19th_century - Metropolitan Mu

Here are the notes I placed under content:

Content - The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Katsushika Hokusai, 19th century

A. Japanese Isolationism – no outside influence – Edo (Tokyo) Period

B. Ukiyo-e movement – 17th-19th centuries – means floating images

C. “Japanisime” – Japanese craze

D. Hokusai died before he knew how internationally famous his work would become

E. Mt. Fuji – sacred and national Japanese icon

The Great Wave - Content
+ Duchamp's Concepts and America's Reaction to Modern Art
1 lecture 20:41

How do we handle the art we do not like? Start by addressing why we don't like it. The same rules apply but now you need to figure out why the artist created the art.

Marcel Duchamp's Work & Concepts
+ The Light Inside by James Turrell, 1999, mfah
2 lectures 07:27

Here are my notes for the formal analysis:

1. The art is all around us

2. There is no representation of an object therefore it is non-representational

3. On-site installation

4. Media = light

5. Long passage around the art

6. Changing colors of light in a dark tunnel

7. Moody, mysterious feel to it

The Light Inside by James Turrell - form

Here are my notes for content:

1. James Turrell’s religious background influences his art

2. Post-minimalism

3. Functional tunnel between two buildings

4. Modern art makes you think

5. Tribute to the patrons and directors of the mfah (Museum of Fine Arts Houston)

The Light Inside by James Turrell - content
+ Thank you
1 lecture 00:50
Thank you and feedback