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Allison Taylor

…Was That Painted by Monet or Manet?

November 20, 2013 —
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Was that painted by Monet or Manet? There are some people in the world who just know these things. Those walking, talking encyclopedias of artistic knowledge who can rattle off movements and time periods like I rattle off Maxwell’s equations and characters from Breaking Bad. My old college roommate, for example, was one of those brainy people. She could determine a Degas painting simply from the brush strokes. Meanwhile, I can barely remember what my own handwriting looks like.

Now if you’re still reading, it’s probably because you, like me, are not one of those knowledgeable people. And you, like me, may not be able to tell Monet and Manet apart. Well, my dear friend, there’s hope for you (and me). Wolfram|Alpha’s new databases full of fine arts knowledge provide profiles of nearly 33,000 works of art—and they are now immediately available to you, from Artemesia Gentileschi to Banksy.

The profiles are more than just a reference for your art history class (though they’re pretty useful for that, too). They also provide an instantaneous in-depth analysis: the equivalent of laying out six textbooks side-by-side for comparison, but with only the relevant information picked out for you. What time period is that work from? What artistic movement? What materials were used? How long did it take the artist to create it?

girl with pearl earring

There’s an interesting story behind each artist and each piece of artwork. Ask questions or follow your train of thought. Explore the work of a single artist or compare pieces from similar time periods. Or look for works that were made with unique materials (did you know that The Scream was painted on cardboard?).

And while you’re at it, I’m sure there’s a painting or two you hope to someday see with your own eyes. Throw the titles into Wolfram|Alpha and find out where they’re located—list them all in one query and you can map your trip (I hope you have a passport).

American Gothic, The Birth of Venus, The Persistence of Memory, The Creation of Adam location

So, maybe you’re not a walking, talking encyclopedia of artistic knowledge. But after five minutes of exploring, you’ll probably end up learning something new. Something you won’t end up forgetting a moment later. And hey, if you do forget? Wolfram|Alpha will still be here to remind you.

Oh, and for the record:

monet vs manet