How To Talk About Art History

It's easier than it seems.

About

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I’m Ellen Oredsson, an art historian/museum worker passionate about making art and culture more accessible and letting more people have the opportunity to bore their friends with art history facts.

One of the things I don’t like about art history is that many people are excluded from it. It’s not taught thoroughly at most high schools, it’s a university degree for those who are not in need of a high-paying job, and it has a language that you can’t participate in unless you’ve been specifically educated in it.

While most people can “read” movies (that is, can recognize tropes, character clichés and genres), the ability to “read” artworks is not common knowledge like it once was. And it’s a shame, because museums and galleries are much less fun when you don’t really know what you’re looking at.

I started this blog to make art history a bit more accessible, posting updates explaining a variety of art historical topics. If I get a question about a specific topic, I’ll post about it, so if you want to ask a question, do and I will answer it on the site. Any question, even if you’re embarrassed to ask it (especially if you’re embarrassed to ask it.)

P.S. Want more of my writing? My full-time job is to create, plan, and organise the content for M+ Stories, the museum blog/publishing platform for M+ museum of visual culture in Hong Kong! When I’m not updating How To Talk About Art History, you can find me writing about fun art stuff there every week, like the history of performance art in Asia or behind-the-scenes conservation adventures.

Note: If you would like to reference one of the articles on the website, the author is always Ellen Oredsson unless otherwise noted.

Artworks in main page banner (L – R): ‘Woman holding a cat’ (1800) by Utagawa Toyokuni ; ‘At the Moulin Rouge: Two women dancing’ (1892) by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec; ‘Portrait of a young black woman’ (1890s) by Simon Willem Maris; ‘Portrait of Lady Hoja, consort of the Qing Dynasty Qianlong Emperor’ (mid-18th century) by Giuseppe Castiglione; ‘Self portrait with loose hair’ (1947) by Frida Kahlo 

14 Comments

  1. Dear Ellen,
    I was very happy to come across your blog today. I too am interested in making the art world more accessible to all. In my case, I often share my own work in progress as well as talk about other artists, genres, etc. I read your piece about the female nude and appreciated the direct quality of your writing. Keep up the good work. I’ll be following!

  2. Christine

    Hello!
    I just found this blog and love it! I’m a art enjoyer, and took a few intro to art history classes a decade ago. A very worthwhile use of my time. It opened up a world I knew nothing about. Recently I just had another huge moment of understanding. In the past few years I have been able to travel some. Art has been a big draw factor in choosing where to go. What I have learned is seeing art in a book vrs see art in person is a whole other thing. I never really got Rothko until I saw it “live”. Then whoa. It sucked me in and I had to fight to get out. My two kids and husband were also captive to it. Anyway if you had to make a list of “Art that Surprises in Person” Or “Art you Have to Be With to Believe” what would you put on there?

  3. Susanna

    Thank you!

  4. Evelina

    Hi Ellen, you are my biggest hero and idol <3

  5. Jessica Ni

    appreciate who devote more efforts to art history!

  6. Patricia

    Great work! <3

  7. vanessa

    hi!
    I happened upon your blog by (lucky) accident & have never been especially interested in art history, but I’ve spent the last hour learning from and being entertained by your thoughtful and elegant posts! just wanted to stop by and express my gratitude! you’ve gained a fan!

  8. It’s hard to find knowledgeable people in this particular topic, however, you sound
    like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  9. Yemisi Ajayi

    Yes, thank you that is the reality in art history.

  10. Mindy

    I don’t know how I landed on your blog but am so very pleased to have done so! Thank you for such interesting topics!

  11. Jairo Salazar

    Dear Ellen,

    Your work is extraordinary. I truly appreciate your effort and commitment with the discipline, and also for making art history more accessible to general audiences. You are an inspiration for many, including me.
    I came across your blog as part of my research to host a webinar this week regarding the depiction of plagues, diseases, and viruses through the history of art. How gladly surprised I was to find a very thorough and comprehensive entry on your blog! I am using many of your visual references (many of which I truly did not know anything at all!) to incorporate them into my presentation tomorrow.

    Speaking of which, I wanted to take the opportunity to invite you to the webinar tomorrow. It would truly be a pleasure if you can attend. In that case, here is the description of the event along with a registration link http://www.richmondartgallery.org/toc2/

    In case you are also interested in the first part of the webinar, here is the Youtube link for you to recap the conversation.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_V2fHhfFPs&feature=emb_title

    Kind regards and thank you again for your hard and amazing work!

    • admin

      Thanks for those kind words, Jairo! I’m so glad the post was useful for you! Thanks also for the invite to the webinar – although I won’t be able to attend due to the time difference (I’m currently in London), I’d love to watch it later on Youtube. 🙂

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