Archive for February 2nd, 2018


Open Source Art History

February 2, 2018

Website information

Carol L. Douglas is a plain air painter who lives in Rockport and has a website called Watch Me Paint that explains her work very well. As part of her website she posts to a blog daily which has some very interesting topics including “how to’s” that you might find useful.

Carol offers courses in her studio and on location including these for the summer Ocean Park, ME, on the American Eagle schooner out of Rockland, and one out of Schoodic Institute, Acadia National Park. You can check out all of her summer courses offerings.

A blog post provided by Carol on January 17 called Open Source Art History was brought to my attention by a friend of Carol’s who sometimes paints on location with her. I emailed Carol and she provided me permission to re-post it. Instead of just linking to her blog, I have included it below. Within the post there are several resources that are all available online. Great examples of how so many resources that have been around for many years have found their way to the internet.

Carol returned my email quickly so I suggest you contact her directly if you have questions about her course offerings or other website information.

Open Source Art History

An easy, interesting, free site for learning art history, available to everyone.

A reader asked how she could learn more about art history. My normal answer would be to go to the library and take out a copy of Janson’s History of Art. But she can’t do that.

A while ago, another reader sent me this listing of free art-history courses online. Most of them are narrowly-focused, making them more interesting to the enthusiast than to the beginner. But the list led me to SmartHistory. It has a detailed set of syllabuses that takes you through the development of western art, from the Venus of Willendorf to Pop Art. (Those of you looking for an analysis of the last fifty years will have to wait.)

These are:

History of Western Art and Civilization: Prehistory through the Middle Ages 

History of Western Art: Late Gothic to Neoclassicism

Modern Art in the Europe and North America

A syllabus is an outline for a course, a description of where you’ll go and how you’ll get there. You get them the first day of class, put them in the front of your binder and refer back to them when you’ve forgotten something. SmartHistory’s are interactive, so they end up driving your learning. You walk through them step-by-step, just as you’d go to lectures at university. I sampled several lessons and found them complete, interesting, and thorough. And there are graded quizzes.

Smarthistory started in 2005 as an audio guide series for use at the Metropolitan Museum of Artand the Museum of Modern Art, and as a resource for college students. It has now published 1500 videos and essays on art and cultural history. While these include the art of Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Oceania, they’ve not yet written syllabuses for non-western art.

“Publishers are adding multimedia to their textbooks, but unfortunately they are doing so in proprietary, password-protected adjunct websites. These are weak because they maintain an old model of closed and protected content,” they wrote on their webpage.

That, to me, gets to the heart of the matter. Individuals and institutions may own individual paintings, but nobody owns our history or our heritage. Doling it out at $25 for a ticket to the Met or $100 for an access code to a textbook is contrary to our goal of building an educated, thinking society with common values. A person who follows these syllabuses meticulously is going to learn everything they’d study in a college survey course in art history.

Smarthistory launched its first custom-designed website in 2007. Between 2011-2015, it was supported by Khan Academy and remains its official partner for art history. And this is the first I’ve heard of it. Somedays I feel like the last one to the party.

Thank you Carol Douglas for allowing me to repost!

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