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22 Best Free Online Art History Courses

Looking to learn Art History?

Then I've got the resource for you!

There is an incredible amount of high-quality resources and courses online from a variety of platforms and institutions.

So I've gone and made a shortlist of the best free courses around.

Be sure to check out the entire list as you'll find courses for all art history fundamentals for free at a high level in this article.

Happy learning!

Our Favorite Free Online Art History Course

In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting

In the studio

The course is a beginner in English with subtitles in 9 different languages.  You will learn a deep practical look at the materials, techniques, and thinking, of 7 New York school artists like Willem de Kooning, Yayoi Kusama, Agnes Martin, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock and others. You will be guided thorough studio demonstrations and galleries to develop an opinion of what Studio Practise means and how ideas develop. You will also come to appreciate a sensitivity to the qualities of paint. Readings and other resources will broaden your understanding of the cultural, intellectual and historical context about the postwar decades when these artists began. The artworks you will study may serve as a starting point to your own abstract works. Skills Acquired: Art History, Art, History and Colour theory. Duration: Approx 27 hours over 8 weeks. Rating: 49/99%

What are the Top Free Online Art History Courses

After much research on all online Business Courses on offer, we have found the top 22 Art History courses to make it easier for you to choose

22 Italian Renaissance

Italian Renaissance

This course is in video form in English. This course offers an introduction of art produced during the period of the Italian renaissance. The lectures include slides of the great paintings and stories about cover painters like Masaccio and Botticelli, Titian, Da Vinci , Raphael, Michelangelo, and more others. Each video covers an artist of the Italian Renaissance including some of the lesser know artist of that time. Included are discussion on paintings and sculpture together with a video on the characteristics of Renaissance art. Duration: 43 video lectures vary between 9 to 75 minutes

21 Introduction to Visual Studies

Introduction to Visual Studies

20 Introduction to Visual Design

Visual Design

The course is in English. You will learn how to produce and analysis printed documents like technical reports, proposals, and software documentations. You will be provided the essentials of visual communication design and typography through a series of explanations in the audio/visual mode that outlines and shows essential concepts and vocabulary, you will self assess to gauge your level of understanding, and you will be given hands-on practice with feedback to give you a chance to try out your new skills. The course seeks to introduce knowledge and skills associated with document design so the course leads you to design principals applicable to a wide array of design issues. This course also explains the fundamentals which will guide the selection of different fonts and how visual hierarchy can be created by controlling visual variables. The audio/visual explanations in each section are introduced to give basic design communication concepts, vocabulary and some practical issues delivered as oral description with visual examples.

19 Art through Time: A Global View

Art though Time

This course is in English and suitable for children and adults alike and includes videos a website with art images associated text and a course guide. The course discusses themes connecting artworks created around the world in different eras. Also you will uncover diverse cultural perspectives on shared human experiences. You will travel the globe and go back in time experiencing many cultures art throughout many historical periods. Many paintings, drawings and sculptures and photos including works in non traditional media will uncovered within the 13 themes of this course. You will be guided by various artists, scholars and curators from well know museums and collections to help the learner appreciate the though and expressions generated throughout the millennia. This series can be used to augment art history courses or for your own interest and enrichment. Sections that will be covered are converging cultures, dreams and visions, cosmology and belief, domestic life, portraits, the natural world, conflict and resistance and the body to name some. Duration: 13 Videos of 30 minutes each

18 European Paintings: From Leonardo to Rembrandt to Goya

European Paintings

The course is in English and you will learn about the foremost European artists between approximately 1400 and 1800.  Exploring the issues expressed through their art. Some of the artists that you will look at in this broad time frame include Leonardo, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Velazquez, Vermeer and Goya. The painters of this period explored themes such as the pursuit of beauty, the pleasures and pains associated with love, the demonstration of power and status, and the relationship of men and women to the divine and nature. You will find the beginnings of the modern mind set and perspectives on issues such as the roles of men and women in different types of society. What you will learn is to recognize paintings by the artiest covered and to recognize characteristics of art during this time. Also within course you will learn how to interpret art in variety of ways and get the tools to develop a critical eye and a personal perspective. Duration: 2 to 3 hours per week for 7 weeks.

17 Introduction on Digital Photography

Lectures on Digital Photography

In English this series on digital photography will instruct you on how cameras work and how to take good photos when using them. The medium of instruction is by way of video, slide presentations, readings and applets. There is also optional course work in assignments. It is advisable to buy photography 11th edition, Pearson/Prentice hall, 2011, author London,Stone and Upton. The 10th edition is better is you can find one. The other book worth having is Learning to see creatively, Watson-Guptill, 1988 or later edition, author Bryan Peterson. The course includes image formation, how to choose a camera, your lenses and apertures, practical photography lenses, auto focus and exposure metering. You will also learn about sampling and pixels, photons and censors, night photography, special effects, noise and ISO, trichromatic theory and its applications. Finally, you will learn how to use light, photographic lighting, in-camera image processing and panoramas. Duration: Approx 11 weeks

16 SmArt History

Reframing Art History

In English this course looks at giving you a guided journey through the living, breathing and meaningful side of art history. It explores meaning and movement rather than names and dates. It showcases art from the bottom up. You can navigate the table of contents in 2 ways - either as a gallery of images or as a list with chapter descriptions. Each past links in red to other supplementary materials for those wanted deeper learning. When on a chapter page each author poses 2 to 4 questions to help guide readers. In this course you will cover the Introductory chapter, about learning to look and think critically, approaches to art and gender identity and sexuality. The course is divided into art periods from prehistoric to 300 CE in which the art of the Incas and Egyptian and early China, American and ancient Greek. The second period 200 - 900 CE covers art of the Pacific, building the new Romes, South Asian, Buddhism and Islamic art. 900 - 1400 you will learn about the material culture of Crusades, art under the Mongols, the Inca Empire and multi paneled alter pieces. 1400 - 1800 covers art and architecture and 1800 - present covers modernism and Empires and their endings in Europe, Print cultures and propaganda. 

15 Teaching Critical Thinking through Art with the National Gallery of Art

Teaching Critical Thinking

This course is in English and consist of 5 units providing all you require to create critical thinking and collaborate at any level. There is no need for a background in art to successful do this course. You will learn three thinking approaches using eight routines which you can implement with STEAM content. The process begins with observing and describing using your sensors and communicating impressions of what you see in the art. The next step is reasoning with evidence so as to create a standpoint about the art and to support your argument with observations. And finally questioning and investigating will cause you to fine tune your curiosity by expressing your wonderings and creating open-ended questions. The course features over 20 videos and you will have access to interactive tools.Duration: 3 - 4 hours per week for 16 weeks.

14 The Elements of Drawing

The elements of drawing

This course in a series is in English and teaches the basic principal of drawing. Within the course is a introduction to the website (above) and links to John Ruskin’s gallery of works where he also provides additional information you can use together with the course. A brief look at what this course offers, introduction to the element of drawing, the tip of the pencil, lecture based on using lines to define spaces and things. The edge of the pencil how to use tone. Toned paper is lesson 3, and teaches how toned paper can be applied to provide mid tones in a drawing.  Lesson 4 looks at making a livelier drawing where line and tone come together. Lesson 5 is about making a drawing that is depended on mathematical accuracy for its success. Lesson 6 onwards deals with colour, field notes and creativity.

Duration: 8 lessons excluding the introduction

13 Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

The course series is in English. Initially you will look at some important writings on art and beauty in the Western traditional of philosophy and this will include philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Immanuel and Kant. The next parts looks at questions with regards to understanding about the works and the nature of art. It also looks at interpreting literature, how emotion is expressed in music and the definition of art. Some of the items you will look at in depth include Plato’s philosopher in art, Aristotle's poetics and Hume’s standard of taste. Further, you will explore Kant’s critique of judgement followed by literary interpretation, musical expressions and defining the art. Duration: 8 lectures each being around 1 hour 

12 Italic Calligraphy and Handwriting

Italic Calligraphy & writing

This course is in English and has videos. This course was a TV program in which the art of calligraphy was completed exploring the art of handwriting. ON the page are many links where you can go and see from beginners to advanced calligraphy writing techniques. You will be going though the alphabet showing different ways in which you can write.Duration: 20 videos approx 30 minutes each. Rating: 1400

11 Intentional Public Disruptions: Art, Responsibility, and Pedagogy

Intentional public disruptions

In English, there are videos, which explore topics such as, Making something from nothing, which looks at appropriate technology as internationally disruptive responsibility; intentional public disruptions, art, and social responsibilities; and finally community, water, pedagogy, and learning. Next you will look at double taking and trouble making: covering socially engaged practice enabling difficult conversations, and reflecting and disrupting. Finally, you will explore When curriculum becomes art practice: which looks at educational experience as intentionally disruptive pedagogy; art education as engagement with the world; conventional practice and conceptual explorations and performing exploration of context and meaning.Duration: 10 videos vary between 8 and 37 minutes. Rating: 13 529 views

10 Let this be a Lesson: Heroes, Heroines and Narrative in Paintings 

Let this be a lesson

This course is in English, these lectures take a look at 11 paintings from Yale University's art museum representing History, myth, scripture, or literature. The course covers an introduction to History painting and looks at the some of the following paintings:Hercules and Deianira, the conversion of St Paul, the resurrection of Lazarus, Hero and Leander, The Death of Lucretia. You will also study Landing at Brundisium with the Ashes of Germanicus, the Battle of Bunker’s Hill and the Retreat of Napoleon’s Army from Russia in 1812, to name a few.Duration: 12 videos of approx 1 hour each. Rating: 64 179 views

09 Islamic Calligraphy: An Introduction to the Art of Handwriting

Islamic Calligraphy

In English this course will teach and you will learn and practice basic Islamic lettering by completing a number of exercises in the basic writing. Also taught are the writing tools that are essential to Islamic Calligraphy. The History that you will be taught will develop a greater understanding and appreciation for this stunning art of writing. As a writing art form it actually includes calligraphy from Arabic regions. Persia, and the Ottoman Empire. The syllabus covers an introduction to calligraphy and how to know the different types of Islamic calligraphy and takes you through a gallery of art work. Following episodes will include essential tools needed and technique to prepare your own pen. As well as an activity to guide you through Riq’ah writing, which includes letter measurement and positioning of letters relative to the baseline. Final week you will be able to start your own calligraphy and writing in Riq’ah. Duration: 2 hours over 3 weeks. Rating: 4.6

08 Sexing the Canvas: Art and Gender

Sexing the Canvas: Arts and Gender

This course is in English with subtitles in 5 other languages. You will explore what paintings tell us about sex and how art is gendered. You will study some very well know and admired paintings from around the world, guided by experts and historians who go beyond the boundaries to bring an expose to the master pieces. You will learn how gender and sexuality is interwoven into the production and reception of art. It will heighten your understanding of these pieces of art through the theories of gender and sexuality. You will grow to understand key terms of these theories and learn to recognize the operation of what is know as “The Gaze”. Finally, how gender and sexuality are employed in theorizing curatorial practices and how to use these theoretical ideas about gender and sexuality to the understanding of art with appreciation. Duration: Approx 17 hours over 9 weeks. Rating: 4.6/97%

07 Effective Fundraising and Leadership in Arts and Culture

Effective Fundraising

In English this course will teach you effective fundraising and leadership. In this course you will discover why art fundraising and organizational development is essential and you will uncover the implications of a value based approach to vision and mission for art fundraising. The role of leaders managing the fundraising and the organizational development is looked at, together with the theory and application of change management. You will look at new venture creation and develop resilience by exploring the merging models and structures in the cultural and art sector. This course is for those actively involved in fundraising for non profit art and culture organizations globally, or those who want to take on a leadership role in the future.Duration: 4 hours weekly over 2 weeks. Rating: 4.7

06 What is Contemporary Art

What is Contemporary Art

The course is a beginners level in English with subtitles in 8 other languages and is predominantly through the medium of videos. The course covers the question: What is Contemporary Art?, To do this you will explore 70 art works produced between 1980 and the present with a focus on those produced in the last 10 years. Your instructors will be artists, architects and designers of world renown where they will discuss their creative process, material and inspiration. There are 5 theme which will guide you: Media, from TV to the internet, territories and transit, materials and making, agency, and power. You will look at 3D printed glass, fibre sculptures, performances in a factory and museum, painted portraits as well as those created with AI (Artificial Intelligence). All will be found from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Artists will invite you to experiment with their materials which they use so your understanding of how contemporary artists will deepen. Further, you will get to see how they approach the issues and questions of our current times. Skills Acquired: Creativity, Art, History, Museums and Art History Duration: Approx 12 hours over 6 weeks. Rating: 4.7/97%

05 Fashion as Design

Fashion and Design

In this beginner course in English with subtitles in 8 different languages, our clothing is the most universal and intimate of all objects of design. Fashion exists on tensions between items like form and function, standardization, and customization, universality and self expression, as well as automation and craftsmanship. You will, through a selection of 70 or more garments and accessories taken from around the world and ranging from kente cloth to jeans to 3D printed dresses, look at what we wear and why we wear it, how it is made, and what it means. Designers makers, historians will be your teachers and working with contemporary clothing and reinventing ranges for the future. Some of the objectives of the course will be to develop critical tools to help you appreciate fashion design and to see it in context and see it through new eyes. You will follow the History, development of different garments as well as their impact and discover ways of reinventing these garments. You will also observe garments though the magnifying glasses of politics, identity, and economics. Finally, you will understand the life cycle of clothing through design to production, marketing, distribution and consumption.Skills Acquired: Art History, Art, History and Creativity. Duration: Approx 20 hour over 7 weeks. Rating: 4.8/98%

04 Seeing through Photographs

Seeing through Photographs

This beginner levels in English with surtitles in 9 different languages. With our romance with photography and images this course will help you to dig into the deeper meaning of pictures and to reconsider photograph's role in our visual culture. The course addresses the differential between seeing and really understanding photographs. By establishing a broad reach of ideas, approaches, and technology that inform there making. You will look at a collection of photographs from the museum of modern art, delving into artists studios, looking through original films and audio interviews.You will listen to varying perspectives on how photography has been used as a means of artistic expression, a tool for science and exploration, as an instrument of documentation, as a story teller and to record history, and a means of communication and critique. This course has recently been updated with additional artist interviews, videos introductory essential ideas and a doubling in the number of photographs. Skills Acquired: Photography, Art, History, Museums and Art History. Duration: Approx 17 hours over 7 weeks. Rating: 4.8/98%

03 Modern Art & Ideas

Modern Art & Ideas

This course is in English with subtitles in 13 different languages. If your desire is to learn more about modern and contemporary art, then welcome to Modern Art and Ideas. You will learn to look at art in terms of: Places and Spaces, Art and Identity, Transforming Everyday Objects, and Art and Society. The week begins with a video from The Museum of Modern Art that connects you with the weeks theme after which you will listen to interviews with designers, artists and curators and learn more about the art in the additional readings and resources. Throughout you will learn how artists: Represent place and gain inspiration from the environment; how they create works of art to express, explore, and question identity; how they use objects to challenge assumptions about what is a work of art and how it should be made; how they respond to social, cultural, and political issues of the world.  Skills Acquired: Creativity, Art, History, Art History and Art Direction. Duration: Approx 14 hours over 5 weeks. Rating: 4.8/98%

02 Words Spun Out of Images: Visual and Literal Culture in Nineteenth Century Japan

Words Spun Out of Images

The course is in English with subtitles in 4 different languages. Striving to capture actual life lead Japanese painters, poets, novelist, and photographers of the 19th century to collaborate in ways rarely explored by Europeans. In this course you will learn and encounter and appreciate behaviour, moral standards, and some conditions surrounding these Japanese artists, to renew our thoughts about what artistic realism is, and what it meant. You will achieve a clear understanding of how the individual and society were thought of and represented during these times. Japanese visual and literary art tendered to combine producing text inspired by images, and these images would then be inscribed with poems and prose. This inadvisability is key to the interpretation and understanding of the social and psychological values infused in Japanese art. Skills Acquired: Art History, Poetry Writing, Art and History. Duration: Approx 30 hours over 4 weeks. Rating: 4.8/99%

01 In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting

In the studio
The course is a beginner in English with subtitles in 9 different languages.  You will learn a deep practical look at the materials, techniques, and thinking, of 7 New York school artists like Willem de Kooning, Yayoi Kusama, Agnes Martin, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock and others. You will be guided thorough studio demonstrations and galleries to develop an opinion of what Studio Practise means and how ideas develop. You will also come to appreciate a sensitivity to the qualities of paint. Readings and other resources will broaden your understanding of the cultural, intellectual and historical context about the postwar decades when these artists began. The artworks you will study may serve as a starting point to your own abstract works. Skills Acquired: Art History, Art, History and Colour theory. Duration: Approx 27 hours over 8 weeks. Rating: 49/99%

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