My brother recently alerted me to the existence of Artfinder, an online resource one article compared to Pandora – but for paintings. I fiddled around on the site for a while, and quickly realized that it’s a great one-stop-shop for discovering new artists or just brushing up your knowledge. There are three ways to approach navigating the site, some of which I like more than others.
The big draw on Arfinder’s home page is personalized “magic tours.” The user gets three sets of four paintings, selecting their favorite each time (or skipping to the next set). The site then compiles a group of recommendations based on the user’s choices. I did the tour several times, and couldn’t help but think the database for the feature is not as comprehensive as the rest of the site. The paintings are mostly Renaissance, minor Baroque, or minor landscapes and still lifes. They have the right idea. In one tour, it noticed that I liked cool-toned landscapes and chiaroscuro pieces. The feature seems to be picking up on (and I’m not sure in what hierarchy) subject matter, color, mood, and perhaps nationality of artists. When I picked more Dutch artists, I got more Dutch artists back.
You can also search the site through “Art Guides.” These are seven run-downs on specific movements: Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Symbolism, Impressionism, and Art Nouveau. Clicking on one (I chose Art Nouveau) will give you a very well written and detailed explanation of the movement, with three seminal works to the side. Here’s where it gets fun.
Click on one of the works, like Toulose Lautrec’s Dressage des Nouvelles, par Valentin le Dessose. You now have a shortcut to a biography of the artist, other works by that artist (you can even shuffle to get a random painting), and my favorite, works by other artists that have similar qualities. I quickly found myself learning about Paul Serusier, just two clicks away from Toulouse Lautrec. It turns out Serusier was in the cabal of one of my favorites: Gauguin. You really do learn something new everyday.
A slightly different approach is to search directly by artist. There are hundreds, maybe thousands to choose from. You still get a good biography and catalog of works, but this time you can choose form similar artists as opposed to specific paintings. The site seems to choose other artists based on your chosen artist’s leading image, so you might need to search by work in some cases. For example, Klimt’s leading image is from 1890, so it’s not exactly an explosion of Byzantine influence. One of his related artists is Caillebotte: an excellent French painter, but certainly not always similar to Klimt.
Besides being a wonderful education tool and pretty fun (in my geeky opinion), it’s easy to see Artfinder’s practical uses. If you’re decorating, or curating as I like to say, a room, the site would be an excellent way to find cohesive pieces of art. Conveniently, Artfinder links to Bridgeman Art on Demand, my favorite site for print buying. Along with Google Art Project, it seems like art appreciation is gaining more and more ground online.