Join me for this live, two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about all that happens each time we encounter a work of art – and why great art never stands apart, or alone.

An art lover’s first job is to know great art when she sees it.

But how does she know?

And how exactly does art work, anyway?

Art works when we compare. In fact, we must compare to be able to understand all we encounter in a work of art – issues of quality, formal approaches, ideas of materials, surface, narrative, and space.

For art to work, we must see more than just one thing.

That’s why, in my new, two-hour class, Five Things I’ve Learned about How Art Happens – In Six Great Works, I want to look closely with you at six landmark works – each one an immediately identifiable classic, each one great precisely because of its achievement in comparison to what came before it, and because of what suddenly became possible thereafter.

I’ll explain when we’re together: Great art doesn’t ever stand apart, or alone. Nor does art come to life already-born into the artistic movement or historical period within which we later try to understand it. In fact, art neither exists by itself nor as part of some neat historic stream. For the artist and the viewer, art is something that happens – something that is happening every time we see. And everything happening in a work of art is happening simultaneously, all the time. When we experience art now, art is also happening across time.

Join me as we look deeply – and learn how to compare – some of my favorite sculptures and paintings:

– Michelangelo: “David” 1501 and Bernini’s later sculpture of “David” 1623. We’ll begin by exploring the ideal of the Middle Renaissance and the height of Classicism, Michelangelo’s “David” – for us today the all-familiar symbol of potential strength and standing, youthful beauty. We’ll compare this earlier work to a later figure of David by Bernini. Bernini’s figure does not show David just standing but throwing the rock for which he became famous. This David is moving, and the movement Bernini captures sets the ideal of the Baroque period, announces the demise of Classism, and begins the rise of art that depicts fully human and intense psychology and physicality.

Velazquez; Portrait of Pope Innocent X; 1650 and Francis Bacon; Study after Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X; 1953. We’ll look at the spellbinding 17th century portrait of Pope Innocent X, often cited as the fullest exemplar of the ideal of High Baroque painting. We’ll compare Valazquez’s historic, unflinching portrait of this shrewd, aging man with the Francis Bacon’s distorted 20th Century variant of this work. Bacon’s is one of more than 45 similar “Screaming Popes” created almost exactly three centuries later, and an image that many today feel to be one of the main centerpieces of twentieth-century art.

Gerhart Richter’s Betty, 1977; and Henry Taylor’s Before Gerhard Richter there was Cassi, 2017. We’ll look at two very recent portraits. The first, Gerhart Richter’s portrait of his daughter Betty, a painting of a photograph of his daughter, whose face is not even visible to the viewer. We’ll compare that to Henry Taylor’s very recent “cover” of Richter’s painting, Before Gerhard Richter there was Cassi. A point-blank shot at the era of Great White Males, this replica of Richter’s picture replaces Richter’s blond, white daughter with a Black girl with an Afro, Taylor’s fellow artist Cassi Namoda.

Of course, though we’ll be talking about six works of art, but we’ll also be talking about much more. Above all, I hope that you’ll join me to help share all it means to see and experience art anew, and to celebrate the great trick and great joy of discovering all that’s actually happening when we take the time to look. And to compare!

Please join me.

-Jerry Saltz