There are all kinds of classical art memes that run through the media. It is interesting, though to learn the true origins of the art and the history that they carry. Art History 102 is a good place to start and begin to understand where they come from. This class will teach you how to appropriately respond to art in a scholarly manner. In order to really learn, though, here are a few tips that should be taken into consideration throughout the course at TCNJ!

1. Go to Class!

You might think skipping a class here or there won’t hurt you, but there is so much covered in each of the three hour lectures that it is actually quite difficult to catch up on what you missed. It is also a lot easier to have questions answered when you are sitting in the class. The professors are happy to clear up confusion, as quickly as it comes so that everyone can stay on track.

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2. Take a Lot of Notes 

Though you may not need to know everything that comes from the lecture, write down as much as you can. Feel free to ask the professor what specific things they look for on exams and try to make a format on how to take the notes. Write down things that are repeated, they will come up again. Take down names, dates, locations and write a description of the work of art, this how when you study, you already have something to read that connects the different point you will be expected to know.

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3. Listen 

As important as it is to write things down, make sure that you are listening in class as well. Many of these professors are extremely knowledgeable in the topic of art history and want to simply share the knowledge. It is surprising how much information we can absorb and remember just by listening. Some students even go as far as recording the audio of a lecture to listen to again after class to ensure they did not miss anything.

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4. Copy Your Own Notes 

This is especially helpful in classes that involve a lot of memorization. The easiest way to do this is to take notes by hand in a notebook in class and scribble down everything that you feel is important. Then, a day or two later, sit down with a laptop and read over the notes you already took. Figure out a way to organize them and transcribe them into a digital document. You can now also copy and paste an image of the artwork associated with the notes and have a direct reference. By the time you are finished, you likely read and wrote the notes at least twice and are familiar. Plus, you now have clean and crisp notes that you can print and easily understand.

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5. Flash Cards 

Yes, back to old school. AS dorky as they are, flash cards are an excellent way to remember information, especially in bulk as it is in this class. It is easy to print and cut out pictures of the art and write a blurb on the back regarding its significance. You can also use apps like Quizlet to make the flashcards digitally. This can be time consuming, but if made and used properly, it will definitely pay off.

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6. Study

Studying is always going to be a part of your education. For art history though, you have to have a strategic way of studying in order to ease the material in. This is not the kind of class that you can cram for, so take time with your study habits. Just once or twice a week go over your cumulative notes and they will slowly become a part of your intellect. By the time exams come around, you won’t need to cram, just read over the notes a few more times and you will be set.

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7. Learn the Language

The way we talk about art in art history is different than the way modern art is spoken about. Use your textbook to learn certain terms that apply to art so that you can get it right and sound intelligent about it. The terminology used is more refined and specific, such as how shadow and gradient is defined by the word chiaroscuro and how the most meticulous form of this done by Da Vinci in The Mona Lisa is sfumato.

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8. Visit a Museum 

Visiting a museum with the mindset of understanding the history of art helps you to see the applications in real life practice. You get to analyze paintings and sculptures on your own and figure out what you have to say about them in the context of a museum setting. This also will help you familiarize yourself with artists outside of the course content as well as helps in making connections between ‘need to know’ artists.

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These few little tips can certainly help in this art history class. It is important to recognize that this is one of the few classes that is based on memorizing material, and hopefully a few of these tricks can help, but there are other memorization aids as well. Do what works best for you to learn the material and practice the language outside of class, this way, the language of art history can become a part of your natural vernacular.


Samantha Leigh

Studying at TCNJ as an art student of the class of 2021.


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