Monday 2nd December

| BY Holly Brookes-Smith

Ten Tips on Getting an Art History Degree (via Instagram)

Is there anything you can’t learn on Instagram? Every influencer’s skin care routine, what Gwyneth Paltrow had for breakfast, how to groom your dog or how to turn a shirt into a skirt – the choices are limitless. But if you are all clued up on those and looking for something a bit more culturally stimulating, then it’s time to turn your attention to art history. There are a multitude of accounts posting beautiful fashion imagery, collaged alongside Renaissance paintings, Baroque sculptures and Neoclassical marbles. This allows you to draw parallels in colour, pose, choice of dress and expression. As @tabloidarthistory put it in their bio: “for every pic of Lindsay Lohan falling, there’s a Bernini sculpture begging to be referenced.” An education in the history of fashion and art – for free, on your phone, now. 

“If you want to encourage people to learn a topic, you have to make it relevant first,” says Betty Quinn, the name behind @arthistoryfashion. Quinn created this platform with a goal to make art history more approachable and not something learned only through lectures and textbooks, which we can all agree, sometimes feels dry and inaccessible. It can be intimidating when faced with a subject or painting you don’t immediately understand – what does the artist mean? Would the painting have the same meaning if the Virgin Mary was wearing a pink corset? Doubtfully so. The Virgin Mary is always painted wearing blue, to symbolise her innocence, and I learned that on Instagram.

Understanding art requires two things we could all do with a bit more of: time and thought. Relating to fashion was an obvious choice for Quinn, as it’s a subject most of us are able to connect with, and it has a rich history and enduring relationship with art. Fashion has the power to bring art alive through physical embodiment, perhaps more immediately than a painting. And by experiencing the art virtually via§ Instagram, a platform with which everyone engages too much time and not enough thought, you will be able to recognise and appreciate art in its real-life history.

Accounts such as @theartgeists will make you realise that fashion today is often not so different from fashion in 1738. Instead of using Instagram to document a subject, they used paintings and sculpture. Many of these are clear sources of inspiration for fashion designers today. Breagha Campbell, the person behind the account, prefers to post comparisons which aren’t explicitly referenced. Unlike most in the same game, she steered clear of Moschino’s SS20 show, which saw Jeremy Scott taking directly from Picasso’s paintings and turning into dresses. According to Campbell, the more serendipitous moments are the ones that keep you scrolling. In case you are looking for some new ideas, Campbell says it’s “the dynamism of the Baroque era provides plenty of variation in gesture and pose.” That’s often the immediate port of call when deciding if Harry Styles was the first person to point his finger in a particular way? The answer – he’s not, a marble statue of Apollo Belvedere did it first, as the second century #influencer. 

With art school education funding constantly on the decline and a long way from the top of the government’s to-do list, social media just might be the way to learn. To help you navigate your virtual degree, we curated 10 of the best Instagram accounts that will provide you with all the information and inspiration you might need. Here at the Ten Academy, you don’t have to spend three long years sitting in class and the rest of your life paying off your student loan. And if nothing else, consider this a great excuse for spending even more time scrolling through Instagram because, well…. you’re learning. 


A successful side project for its founder Betty, this account will expose you to many different periods of art and fashion – from Bella Hadid and Picasso to Yayoi Kusama and a very dotty George Clooney; with a notable focus on portraits, headwear and hair styles. 


Drawing inspiration from more organic sources, they will have you mesmerised by how similar a painting of a flower looks to a Giambattista Valli gown, or a Phillip Tracey hat that could pass as a jellyfish if submerged in water. 


They post examples more loosely based on the broader aspects of art throughout the centuries. Picking up on specific colours and shapes in art work illustrating how these can be translated into a Valentino gown, Christopher Kane suit or a Maison Margiela trench coat.


From Kim K’s bum, James Charles having a cry and Nigel Farage being milk-shaked, each composition has a disconcerting likeness to a recognisable work of art. 


Surely you’ve seen this account gracing your feed? A whole account dedicated to Alexa Chung living her life as an artwork. It’s actually incredible how often she does this by accident.  


Zooming in on all the parts you might not notice in a gallery, without setting off the burglar alarm. From jewellery and hair accessories to cuffs, ruffs and collars. It’s how to accessorise like royal portraiture, Insta-style.

This is a page full of stylised clothes where form definitely overrides function. It’s impractical but innovative fashion, proving that a pair of tights can indeed be considered contemporary art, whilst also adopting shapes and patterns from the times gone.


One for the more mystical and abstract thinkers, the avant-garde and dystopian imagery makes the line between art and fashion near impossible to strike.


An expert when it comes to pop culture, celebrities and the Met Gala, which of course provides plenty of content. Next years “About Time: Fashion and Duration” is the perfect invitation for more dresses, suits and costumes inspired by art. 


This account has a far-ranging mix of direct comparisons and speculates on the influences of art in fashion. Some comparisons you would never predict suddenly become obvious once you see them side by side. For example, a perspex door and a Victoria Beckham dress.