Study art by learning from the masters

Some art students think the masterpieces created hundreds of years ago hold little relevance to their work today. In some ways, that perspective is understandable; today’s art students may be using a computer screen as canvas and software as paint. It’s difficult to understand how studying yesterday’s masters could inspire or inform today’s artists.

No matter what your medium, appreciating the history of your craft can only make you a better artist in the long run, and there’s no better way to appreciate the work of the old masters than to study art where it originated. One of the most popular destinations for seeing and studying Renaissance-era artwork is France. There are many opportunities to study in France, both formally and informally.

Formal study

A formal study of the masters may include registering for a semester or longer in a university art program or studying with a private art teacher. Studying as an international student requires an extended-stay student visa and, of course, acceptance into a scholarly program. Because France is one of the most popular destinations for study abroad, you should begin the process of finding and applying to a school as soon as possible. Depending on your age and your travel experience, you may choose an immersion program where you live with a local family and enroll in group cultural activities or opt for a more independent path.

Informal study

Many students enjoy a summer abroad touring the museums and historic sites of France as a fully independent traveler. This type of study allows for more flexibility and requires only a standard passport, but no college credits or degrees are gained. However, there is a wealth of artistic understanding to be gained from visiting renowned museums such as the Louvre, the Musée D’Orsay, Marmottan Monet Museum or the Musée de l’Orangerie. Walking through the halls of these historic galleries, you’ll see the master works of Matisse, Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin and da Vinci, just to name a few.

In the days of the masters, the life of an artist was quite different than it is today. There were no schools to study at and not just any one who was interested in studying art could do it. Guilds, family traditions and cultural hierarchies decided who was allowed to study art and who wasn’t. Those who were fortunate enough to enter the art world first served as apprentices, running errands and cleaning up after their teachers.

Only after years of hard work and devotion were the best students allowed to move up in the ranks. With luck, talent and the right connections they would hopefully acquire their own patrons and apprentices one day. There’s no history lesson like walking the streets where it was made. By studying art in France, you’ll develop a deeper understanding for the life and culture of some of the world’s greatest artists.