The Power of Art and Thinking Outside the Canon

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History of Art By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: History of Art
Last updated: 22/09/2016
Tags: art, art history, art history tuition, history of art, the canon

Art is evidence of human imagination, human fears, desires, anxieties and passions. Whether it is the intricate drawings on a cave wall from pre-historic times, or a huge Renaissance fresco in a church. Throughout history, the things that human beings have created tell a story about human relations and cultural movements in philosophy, religion and politics. 

Art reflects identity - that is cultural as well as individual identity. Art is a reflection of humanity as a whole.

The problem with the study of Art History is that this story of art that we speak of, has predominantly been created, observed and reported by a specific group of people, that being male Europeans. This discourse of art is known as the Art Historical Canon.

The Canon is the body of art that scholars generally accept as the most important and influential in shaping Western art and societal progression. The Canon has been central to the study and teaching of Art for centuries. However, since the 1970s, critical theory, race theory, feminism and Marxism have opened up debate surrounding the nature and status of the Canon and questioned why all of the 'Greats' and the 'Old Masters' are white men. There is no doubt that these men were talented, but it cannot be only them that were talented.

Today, Art Historians often attempt to question these rules of 'greatness' by considering issues of gender, race, class and geography when observing talent. But the traditional Canon is still the main hub of the teaching of Art History across Europe. Moreover, the Canon still hugely shapes the public perception of Art. 

What should always be noted when studying this awe inspiring subject, is the broader History of Art, and those artists who had to work even harder for recognition. It is essential that we take the time to learn about artists from all walks of life, throughout history, in order for us to gain a more accurate understanding of culture and history. It is through diversity that we gain as a people, and it is through expanding our learning paradigm that we are truly inspired.



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