Art History Resources For Writers

I’ve occasionally talked about different aspects of art history here: semiotics, evolution of style, photo references, and so on. I don’t work as an art historian now, and I’m no longer pursuing a degree in that field (though I do have one and studied for another), so I’m always on the fence about how much time to devote to discussing it in this space. I think most people who read this blog are here for writing — my writing, or conversations about writing — and I’m not sure how much interest there ever was in me excitably sharing some obscure piece of history or culture that I read about this week.

But the truth is that I read non-fiction every week, in addition to fiction, and most of what I’m studying on my own is related to art history. I’ve always been a sociocultural art historian, which means I seek to understand art by  understanding the culture and context within which it was created, instead of trying to fit the art of another time and place into a framework I’m imposing. (I’m looking at you, Marxist aestheticists.) That’s part of why semiotics is an integral part of my art criticism; visual communication, including art, is an extension of linguistics, and like language, can’t be truly understood unless you know the context in which it’s spoken, and the culture of the people speaking it.

So, I think I’m going to incorporate more of that into this space. It’s a part of who I am, and that’s what you signed up for when you read my blog.

Before you go, check out these links to some previous posts that might interest you:

If you’d like me to talk about anything in particular, please leave me a comment below.

Art History Resources For Writers: 150 years of Sherman-Williams Paint Colors

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To celebrate their 150th anniversary, Sherman-Williams has created a gallery of their paint colors, sorted by decade, so that as you write, you can see exactly what shade of blue would have been available to your Jazz Age decorator, or what color of purple your mid-century modern housewife’s bathroom would be.

Color Through the Decades also offers short notes on how colors were paired, and the changes in popular colors over time. For example, that Jazz Age decorator would have known that “wall colors were generally light neutrals and greys with accessories and accents in vibrant colors like Chinese Red and Blue Peacock.” Your 50’s housewife would have known that the “exuberant post war boom was a mix of styles with mid-century modern and Scandinavian influences making the most impact. Pastels are the norm with pink and turquoise appliances adorning the kitchen and laundry room. Lilac and Chartreuse are very popular” before choosing how to paint her bathroom.

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The colors we paint our homes says something about the times we lived in. Bookmark this reference now so you’ve got it when you need it later.