How does the Study of Art History Help Understand Different Cultures?
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How does the Study of Art History Help Understand Different Cultures?

Culture, they say, is the way of life of people. What better way was there to capture the ways of life in times when there were no cameras and video recorders? What better ways other than paintings, sculptures, music, carvings, and statues? Does the study of art history help understand cultures?

Michelangelo painted the frescoes of Rome’s Sistine Chapel from 1508-1512(01). He later painted yet another masterpiece on the chapel’s altar wall, the Last judgment from 1536-1541(02).

Today, to stand at the chapel’s base and gaze at the ceiling is just enough to provoke the deepest feelings of marvel, wonder, and reverence for an amazing work of art that speaks of a higher power in a way that it appears to have been made by the higher power itself. No one would have any doubts as to what the Roman Catholic culture meant in a time like that.

The greatest preserver of history

Possibly the greatest preserver of history as we know it today, art teaches us about the popular feeling in times when all people had been their hands and imaginations to create the most beautiful of scenes. If one were to attempt to view art from various timelines from different parts of the world, it would be particularly striking how it helps to shed a lot of light on what values these people held dear in their time.

When Europeans came in contact with the Benin people of Nigeria in the 1800s (03), brass was used to make plaques that covered the palace walls because brass was believed to ward away evil. Today, a study of art gives deep insight into the culture of the Benin people. Benin art was especially rich and undoubtedly fascinating because it stood out in a period when little regard was given to non-western art.

How does art help us understand cultures?

Suffice it to say that we owe a large chunk of our knowledge about different old cultures across the globe to the ingenuity of artists who could capture the pervading atmosphere of their times and make it into a message in form of art.

References for reading more about how the Study of Art History Help Understand Cultures
  1. 2020. Sistine Chapel Ceiling
  2. 2020. The Last Judgment (Michelangelo)
  3. BBC Bitesize. 2020. What Can We Learn From The Art Of Benin?