Art History Tutorials

Art History Tutorials - An insight into the lives of Famous Artists

Why is Art so important?

A study of art history is important because art reflects life. Art can be wonderful, frustrating, beautiful or ugly, uplifting and challenging. Creativity, inspiration and virtuosity are used by artists to create art. We think what they produce is important enough to fill art galleries. But who are these famous artists? What motivates them? Why do they sacrifice so much for their art?

My art history tutorials are designed to answer some of these questions in an engaging and unpretentious manner that everyone can understand. I hope you enjoy them.

p.s. If you want to learn to draw and paint check out Drawing and Painting Page

Paul Priestley

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famous artists

Left to right: Edvard Munch, Paul Cézanne, Frida Kahlo, M.F. Hussain, Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky, Claude Monet, Gustav Klimt, Pablo Picasso

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Hilma af Klint

The Swedish artist Hilma af Klint was born in 1862 in Stockholm. She is now credited with producing abstract paintings five years before Kandinsky painted his first abstract painting in 1911. Find out why she never got the credit she deserved, until very recently. The reason is not the obvious assumption.

Francis Bacon

British artist Francis Bacon was born in Dublin in 1909 to English parents. His art explores adult themes and subjects in his wildly inventive and tortured paintings. Screaming Popes to triptychs of distorted figures. His work reflects a life lived to extravagant extremes. He died in 1992.

Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt depicted the 19th century New Woman from the woman’s perspective. She studied art initially in the US, but spent most of her life painting in France. In Paris she met the artist Edgar Degas who became a close friend and was one of the two female members of the Impressionist group.

Jacob Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence was one of the first black American artists to receive widespread acclaim. He was renowned for his modernist depictions of everyday life in the USA, as well as epic narratives of African American history and historical figures, which he often painted in a series of images.

Toulouse Lautrec

Toulouse Lautrec may have been small of stature but he was a giant of an artist. He captured the lives of the dancers, entertainers and singers of the Paris cabarets so eloquently through his posters and paintings, that many became internationally famous. He died aged just 36 years old.

Grant Wood

Grant Wood’s painting American Gothic is very famous, but is it a satire, or a true reflection of life in mid-west America in the 1930’s? This video discusses the issues and the inspiration for the painting which was destined to become America’s equivalent of the Mona Lisa.

Georges Seurat

This art tutorial looks at the story behind Georges Seurat’s painting, An Afternoon on the Grande Jatte. The tutorial explains the background to the painting and who the people on the river bank actually are. You’ll also find out that you have been looking at the painting incorrectly for years, Find out why?

Vincent Van Gogh

This short artist video covers 10 important incidents in the life of the artist Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh started life as a teacher, an art dealer and a preacher before beginning to paint at the age of 27. The ear cutting episode, the creation of the sunflower paintings and his mental decline, are covered in this short artist tutorial.

L. S. Lowry

L. S. Lowry was an outsider and a loner who suffered from Asperger Syndrome, a jovial, self-effacing individual, who was often depressed and very lonely. He captured the dour life of the northern England in the 1930’s and 40’s before concentrating on observing the minutiae of interaction between people. He became famous for his ‘matchstick men’ paintings.

Vincent Van Gogh

The Life of Van Gogh covers the major aspects of Vincent Van Gogh’s life. His relationship with his brother Theo, being a preacher, his move to Paris, Arles, and the sunflowers are covered. Van Gogh’s turbulent relationship with Paul Gauguin, the ear incident and his time in the asylum at Saint Remy are treated sympathetically. The film concludes with his move to Auver sur Oise and his final demise in July 1890.

Pablo Picasso

Lots of fascinating aspects of long life of Picasso are explored in this short artist tutorial. Picasso was a child prodigy who could draw and paint brilliantly before completing 5 years at art school by the age of 18. The video covers his paintings, Guernica in particular, his female companions including Olga Khokhlova, before briefly discussing his Blue Period and Cubism. Why is Picasso regarded as a genius? Watch and find out.

Henri Matisse

The French artist and painter Henri Matisse started painting late, after training to be a lawyer. After his three attempts to get into the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, he met Andre Derain and Maurice Vlaminck and together they created Fauvism. Colour was Matisse’s passion and his paintings are comfortable and easy on the eye. Later in life he produced cutouts, that we see today as amazing collages.

Wassily Kandinsky

10 important elements of the life of Wassily Kandinsky’s are covered in this short artist video. He was trained as a Law professor before becoming an artist. His meeting with Gabriele Münter, his investigations into colour, his move towards abstraction and abstract art are covered. Music was an important influence, his work with the art group the Blue Rider, together with his teaching at the Bauhaus, are all covered. He died in obscurity in 1944.

Claude Monet

This short artist tutorial explores the long and interesting life of Claude Monet, the French Impressionist painter. Important elements of Monet’s life are covered, from his early caricatures to the great Impressionist era of the 1870’s and beyond. The video concludes with his great water lily paintings produced in Giverny during the last 30 years of his life.

Henri Rousseau

The French naive painter, Henri Rousseau, was born in Laval in France and worked for a solicitor when he left school. This short artist tutorial covers his life from his time in the army in 1863, his move to Paris in 1868 before marrying Clemence Boitard. He worked as a tax collector and claimed he didn’t start painting until he was 42, but evidence shows him painting in the Louvre at least 2 years earlier. He was totally self-taught.

Andy Warhol

The art of the American Pop artist Andy Warhol is covered in this short art tutorial. He was a controversial artist, who used everyday objects such as soup cans, brillo boxes, cartoons, and comic strip characters as the basis of his work. Obsessed with Hollywood, he created lots of celebrity portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Mick Jagger and Richard Nixon amongst others. Born in Pittsburgh, he died in New York in 1987.

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo was an amazing artist whose work explores with honesty and integrity issues that affected her personally. This is why her paintings are held in such high regard. She was born in Coyoacan, Mexico City in 1907 and died in 1954 aged just 47. After contracting polio as a toddler she was involved in a major traffic accident when in her teens. Both events had a profound effect on her life and work.

Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt’s life began in Baumgarten in Austria. He was a prodigious talent who became, later in life, the first president of the Viennese Secession. Best known for his portraits of society women, his life was not without controversy. He painted women in a very decorative style combining geometric decoration with realistic depictions of hands and faces. Klimt died in Vienna in 1918 just 55 years old.

Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch art was much influenced by his upbringing resulting in paintings full of love, angst and death. His mother died when he was five and a sister when he was 14 years old. Another sister suffered mental problems and all proved a rich source for his painting. His most famous work was, ‘The Scream,’ but his greatest achievement was ‘The Frieze of Life’, watch our short artist videos to find out more.

Piet Mondrian

Piet Mondrian was a man with two conflicting traits to his temperament both had a great influence on his painting. One was a sense of feeling for rhythm, which was reflected in his interest in music, particularly jazz. The other was his love of order and balance. These two conflicting qualities ebbed and flowed throughout his career, but found resolution in his later abstract paintings, eg. Broadway Boogie Woogie

Ferdinand Hodler

Ferdinand Hodler was born into a poor family and by 18 was earning a living painting scenes of the Alps for tourists. Initially, he painted in a very realistic style, but his work was soon influenced by his own spiritual crises. His work embodies the Swiss federal identity. His best-known paintings feature characters doing everyday jobs, rather images of dignitaries.

M. F. Husain

Indian artist Maqbool Fida Husain, known as M. F. Husain was a very creative, controversial and flamboyant artist who combined Indian themes with European styles of painting. Born in Pandharpur, he worked in India most of his life, but spent his last days in Doha and London. He his best known for his series of paintings on Mother Theresa, Gandhi and the Ramayana, one of the two epic poems of India.

Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence in France in 1839. His early work was crude, but after meeting his mentor Camille Pissaro in the early 1870’s, black disappeared from his palette. Cézanne rejected the Impressionist ideas of light, his goal was to make landscape and people look permanent and solid, he achieved this by creating a balanced composition, the result of careful calculation, reflection and logic. He died in 1906.

Marc Chagall

Russian artist Marc Chagall was born in 1887 in Vitebsk. In 1915 he married Bella Rosenfeld, the love of his life, who became the subject of many of his paintings. Hence his nickname, the painter of love. He lived and worked in the USA and France and during his latter years produced stain glass windows for cathedrals in Germany, France and the USA. He died in 1985 aged 97.

Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe, the American artist known for her close-up paintings of flowers, is explored in this short artist tutorial. From humble beginnings in Wisconsin, to the remarkable paintings she produced in Abiquiu, New Mexico this short artist tutorial tracks her whole life. This indomitable woman was one of the pioneers of American Modern Art. She died in 1986 aged 98. Watch my short artist video to find out more.