by Joanne Shurvell, Contributor,
London Art Studies is the world’s first online arts education subscription platform and it’s absolutely brilliant. It offers a quick, fun and easy way to learn about art and the art world through a series of short online art courses. For a modest monthly or annual subscription fee, subscribers are offered a wide variety of short art videos (4-8 minutes long) that are completely jargon free. Content is intelligent and engaging and there’s certainly no tedious “art speak” that could turn off viewers. Expert lecturers explore the world’s greatest artworks from artists such as Rembrandt and Raphael to Gerhard Richter and Cindy Sherman. Want to learn about impressionism or what the difference is between Modern and Contemporary art, why the Mona Lisa is so famous or what art to see in Madrid’s galleries? London Art Studies covers all this and much more in a lighthearted, intelligent way.
London Art Studies is the brainchild of television arts producer Kate Gordon and it started offline in 2011 with short art classes offered at various London hotels and arts organisations including The Berkeley, the Bulgari Hotel, the Connaught and Phillips Auction House. In 2018, London Art Studies expanded online and already has over 100 short films on great works, modern masters, the nude in art, the art of color, women artists and more. London Art Studies already has over 2000 subscribers and won The Good Web Guide’s Award for Excellence in Education, only five months after launch. The lecturers, including Ben Street, Dr Richard Stemp and Colin Wiggins have been involved since the start and more experts like Financial Times Art Market columnist Georgina Adam, have been added for the online courses. And making subscription even more appealing, they’ve just partnered with Phaidon, who offer book recommendations to their subscribers while Phillips is their partner for the jewellery series.
A new series called Dangerous Women starts this month and features artworks by or about women who have broken boundaries. It includes a woman artist who forged an international career at a time when no other women were able to do so, an artist who has dissected the way popular culture represents women and a woman whose art career saved her life. One short film narrated by art historian Linda Smith describes two portraits of the famous 18th-century courtesan Kitty Fisher, one by Joshua Reynolds who was a close friend of Kitty’s and one by Nathaniel Hone, a lesser known artist. Kitty Fisher was as famous in the 1760s as the Kardashians are today so many portraits were made of her. Renowned portrait painter of the British aristocracy, Joshua Reynolds, was able to present courtesans like Kitty in a more risqué way than he would have been able to of his regular clients. His portrait Kitty Fisher as Cleopatra Dissolving the Pearl (1759) hangs in London’s Kenwood House and shows the courtesan making a circular shape with her fingers as she drops the pearl. This obscene gesture was one that only someone like Kitty could be portrayed doing. Viewers of Nathaniel Hone’s portrait of Kitty, in the National Portrait Gallery in London, may have wondered why there’s a cat and goldfish bowl in the painting. As it wasn’t considered proper to write the name of the lady on the portrait’s frame in the eighteenth century, in this case, the cat and the fish made it evident who the sitter was.
London Art Studies is packed with fascinating stories and insights like that. Art historian and writer Ben Street compares old artworks with contemporary pieces in the Reflections: Then and Now series. Caravaggio’s Self Portrait as Bacchus (Sick Bacchus), one of his early works, painted in 1607, was made when he was creating smaller paintings for private clients. The young man in the painting bears little resemblance to Bacchus, the god of wine. Sallow skin and eye bags make him look more like someone who’s had too much wine. American artist Cindy Sherman generally appears in her theatrical portraits and her photographic portrait #244 (1991) is based on Caravaggio’s painting. Cindy Sherman takes on the role of Bacchus and in so doing shows how a work of contemporary art can highlight things in the older piece.
More fascinating new content will launch this October with a series on the Art market, currently worth 60 billion dollars annually. Financial Times journalist Georgina Adam will provide a straightforward explanation of the complicated art market and shed light on why art is so expensive today and how artists and their work are being turned into commodities with artists churning out “product.” In November, The Art of Jewellery series in association with Phillips will launch with exclusive interviews with jewellery designers Christian Hemmerle and James de Givenchy (Taffin).
A monthly subscription to London Art Studies is £8.99 and the annual subscription is £88. There is also a “day pass” for £5 (3 video limit).