Opening the Ivory Tower of Art

By: Adam Marelli

Making Art Accessible to All


For thousands of years, art was held hostage in an ivory tower.

Ingres Napoleon on his Imperial throne

Guarded by guilds and academics, its lessons were off limits.  Art has been the prized possession of high culture.  It was the aspiration of monarchs and titans of industry … and rightly so.  Once we satisfy our basic needs to survive, we look for answers to our deepest questions.  Art reveals those answers. But its doors are rarely pried open.  Museums have only been opened to the public since the 1800s.  Churches allowed viewings, but not the close inspection that you would need to learn about how the art was produced.  If you wanted to see the Sistine Chapel, you needed an escort by the Vatican – not exactly like buying tickets today.


Most of the lessons I learned about art are not online and some are not even digitized yet.  In fact, a handful of the lessons aren’t even written down.  They are part of an oral tradition passed from Master to Apprentice.  As noble or pretentious as it may sound, the oral tradition of art is one of the reasons it is so hard learn.


My goal is to bring the most essential lessons of art out of universities and institutions and into your home.


“Art for Everyone” is exactly what it sounds like.


My goal is to bring the most essential lessons of art out of universities and institutions and into your home.


I will pull them out of the books (some more obscure than others) and put them into a language that photographers can easily use.


Is there a place where you can go right now and learn university grade lessons of art taught specifically for photographers?  Most of what I see online would have been laughed out of a classroom.  It is so vague and general without ever answering two critical questions:

  1. Why are certain pieces of art considered significant by other artists?
  2. How can someone extract the lessons from a work of art in one medium, like painting, and apply them to another, like photography?

Dominion of Light Rene Magritte

If you are wondering, what I mean, below are a few examples to get the conversation rolling.


  • Henri Cartier-Bresson is considered to be one of the most important photographers of the 20th century.  All of his work is considered to be Surrealist.  Surrealism was an art movement, not a photography movement.  Why did he consider himself a Surrealist?

Ansel Adams The Tetons and the Snake River

  • Ansel Adam is famous for his photography of the American West landscape.  How did the Hudson River School and landscape painters pave the way for his work?

A view of Yosemite Valley Thomas Hill

These photographers all studied art history.  Early pioneers in photography had no choice but to study painters and sculptors.

Zurich, Switzerland Copyright Adam Marelli

But why would you study art?  Because in order to make a mark on history, you need to know what came before you.  Otherwise you end up like many “self-taught” photographers who claim to have invented things that any educated artist knows were invented decades or even centuries earlier.


Artists leave lessons embedded in pictures for us to use.  They were not decorators for museums.  They summarized their philosophies on life, vision, and creativity for us in picture form.  From the picture to the screen, every piece of art benefits being translated into simple, straight forward text.  This means we can set aside the lengthy biographies, endless dates, and all the details we forget moments after we read them and examine why artists make pictures … and further more, why we want to make pictures ourselves?


This will be a place where you can learn the answers to questions we are too embarrassed to ask, like “Why is that painting such a big deal?”  All too often, we are left to rely on curators and exhibition cards to educate us on what makes art good or bad.  But the real mark of a connoisseur is whether you can take away the artist’s name, and look at just the work, and decide whether it is a significant piece of art or something a kid could have done.


Welcome to Art for Everyone, where the cost of admission is pay as you like.

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