How to Understand Art

A clear and concise overview of the fundamentals shared by visual arts across the globe, enabling the reader to think carefully, inquisitively, and critically about art.

The visual arts enrich our lives in so many ways, presenting beauty, emotion, and ideas―but sometimes looking at art is confusing and challenging. This new volume in the Art Essentials series, How to Understand Art, sets out to enhance the viewer’s experience by breaking down the elements of art to provide a firm basis for simple enjoyment as well as further understanding.

With one hundred visual examples drawn from across the globe, the emphasis is on how to assess art objectively―a key skill for any art student, museum visitor, or cultural enthusiast. Art historian and museum lecturer Janetta Rebold Benton teaches the reader to reevaluate their experiences of looking at art by learning to move beyond “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like,” toward an understanding of “why I like it.”

By looking at artists’ materials and techniques, such as drawing, painting, printing, photography, sculpture, and decorative art, Benton makes it possible to assess what can (and cannot) be done in certain media. With these tools at hand, it’s possible to break down any work of art. Further framing the lesson, there is a section devoted to six key artists that have had a particularly notable and innovative influence on the history of art. Perfectly aimed at students and the general reader, this indispensable guide encourages everyone to develop confidence in experiencing, analyzing, and appreciating art.

By Janetta Rebold Benton
176 pages
Published by Thames & Hudson, 2021
5.4 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches