Art Historian Goes Viral For Hilarious Tips On How To Become An ‘Art Expert’ Interview

The world of art can be very hard to navigate! I’ll openly admit that even though I’m an art lover, when it comes to the bit about recognizing which time period a piece is from, I end up completely befuddled. Luckily for me, there are plenty of friendly people on the internet to set the record straight, educate us, and help make us seem like art rockstars at dinner parties and art galleries alike.

One of these people is Melbourne art historian and video creator Mary McGillivray, who created a series of very informative and witty videos explaining what art movements a particular work of art is from and who the artist who painted it is. All so we can show off our great taste and in-depth knowledge in front of our friends (and learn something new while we’re at it!). Check out some of Mary’s full videos below, as shared on her _theiconoclass TikTok account, and be sure to follow Mary’s social media accounts for her latest updates if you enjoyed her content.

Mary was kind enough to offer me a glimpse into how she went from studying art history to creating educational videos. “The story begins back in Australia’s first COVID lockdown in 2020—ah, memories—where I found myself stuck at home with nothing to do. On a whim, I decided to put my degree in art history and my skills as a professional video editor to good use and make TikToks to entertain myself. I had no idea people would like my jokes about homoerotic frescoes as much as they did, but 10 months later, here we are!” the art historian told Bored Panda. You’ll find our full interview with her, as well as with former gallery director and art expert Shelby Bercume, below!

More info: TikTok | YouTube | Instagram | Twitter | MaryMcGillivray.com.au | Patreon

This Australian art historian is helping educate millions of people

Image credits: _theiconoclass

In some of her witty videos, she explains how we can impress our friends by learning to recognize different art movements and artists

https://www.tiktok.com/embed/v2/6936281789195504897?lang=en

#1 

“If It Looks Like You Need Your Glasses Prescription Updated, Then It’s Impressionism”

"If It Looks Like You Need Your Glasses Prescription Updated, Then It's Impressionism"

“The walk” by Claude Monet

_theiconoclass Report18POST

IlovemydogShilo6 hours ago

I suck at drawing. Really. We did art and art history at school. We would have a class learning about a particular movement and then we would all have to try and draw a picture in that movement. The ONLY time I got a good grade was when we did Impressionism. I drew the tree outside our classroom. It according to my teacher was drawn in true impressionism style. All I did was take of my glasses and drew the tree as I saw it in my myopic state. Still it was the first time I got an A in an art class.5Reply#2 

“If It Looks Like A Tupperware Drawer, Then It’s Cubism”

"If It Looks Like A Tupperware Drawer, Then It's Cubism"

“Girl with a Mandolin” by Pablo Picasso

_theiconoclass Report18POST

Nicky4 hours ago

I wish African artists would appropriate classical European Medieval art and call it “African Modernism,” to call attention to Picasso’s borrowing of traditional African artistic imagery and calling it modern Western art.3Reply

After Mary graduated from the University of Melbourne, she started on the path of making comedic and engaging video content for TikTok and YouTube about visual culture history. TikTok is a way for her to reach and educate millions of young people.

I was curious to find out what Mary thought were the main challenges keeping some people from delving into art history. “A lot of people think that art history is very serious and very important and this leads to them feeling overwhelmed—or even feeling like art history isn’t for them. This isn’t true! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, art history is just old memes. Once we start to see the humor and the humanity in art, it becomes far less intimidating,” she shared how we can change our perspective and embrace the complicated subject. Art as memes? Sign me up!#3 

“If It Looks Like The Chaos After A Blackout Where Everyone Is Stumbling Around In The Dark Under One Solitary Emergency Light, It’s A Caravaggio”

"If It Looks Like The Chaos After A Blackout Where Everyone Is Stumbling Around In The Dark Under One Solitary Emergency Light, It's A Caravaggio"

“The Taking of Christ” by Caravaggio

_theiconoclass Report18POST

Marion Connolly4 hours ago

This painting is also in the National Gallery of Ireland, it’s amazing4ReplyView More Replies…View more comments#4 

“If Its A Portrait Of Rembrandt, It’s A Rembrandt”

"If Its A Portrait Of Rembrandt, It's A Rembrandt"

“Self Portrait” by Rembrant

_theiconoclass Report18POST

JuJu6 hours ago

If it’s mostly dark and has some warm light in it, it’s a Rembrandt. He painted the light.3ReplyView more comments

Mary revealed that she’s always had a knack and a passion for art history. Her tale started in her early childhood, having been raised by an art history teacher and a museum curator. “You could say it’s ‘in my blood!'” she quipped.

“Ever since I watched John Berger’s ‘Ways of Seeing’ in high school, I knew I wanted to be able to reach people the way he did, and demystify the often stuffy and elite world of art history,” Mary shared how her passion grew from there.

Meanwhile, if she finds that she’s losing faith in her project, she simply re-watches ‘The Da Vinci Code’ movie. “The fiery rage it sparks within pushes me to go on. Nothing like pure hatred to fuel creativity,” she said.#5 

“If Its Got Rich People Frollicing Outdoors Then Its Rococo”

"If Its Got Rich People Frollicing Outdoors Then Its Rococo"

“The swing” by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

_theiconoclass Report18POST

JuJu6 hours ago

Jean-Honoré Fragonards “The Swing” (and even if you don’t see it, it’s full of erotic narratives)3ReplyView More Replies…View more comments#6 

“If It Looks Like Angsty Male Ego, Then It’s German Romanticism”

"If It Looks Like Angsty Male Ego, Then It's German Romanticism"

“Wanderer Above The Sea Of Fog” by Caspar David Friedrich

_theiconoclass Report17POST

JuJu6 hours ago

Caspar David Friedrich0ReplyView more comments

Bored Panda also reached out to talk about art history with Shelby Bercume, a former gallery director from Florida. According to Shelby, art history isn’t a subject that’s taught in all schools, so it’s often “intimidating and difficult to grasp” for those of us who don’t have a background in it. However, she pointed out, that’s true for pretty much every subject that we’re unfamiliar with!

“I don’t necessarily think art history is an inaccessible entity, but I know that people tend to feel intimidated by things they aren’t experts in. Since art is often, if not always subjective, it feels even more intimidating than a subject with a ‘right answer,’ like math for example,” Shelby shared with Bored Panda. “I think often that leads to a disconnect between the desire to dive into the subject of art and by relation art history, and the execution of it.”#7 

“If Everyone In The Painting Looks Unreasonably Jacked, Including The Women, It’s A Michelangelo”

"If Everyone In The Painting Looks Unreasonably Jacked, Including The Women, It's A Michelangelo"

“The Creation of Adam” and “Prophets And Sibyls: Libyan Sibyl” by Michelangelo

_theiconoclass Report17POST

Nicky4 hours ago

Michelangelo wanted to sculpt, not paint, and did the Sistine ceiling in the hopes of winning a commission to do a bunch of giant Vatican sculptures.4ReplyView more comments#8 

“If It Looks Like A Nightmare You Once Had About Being Stranded In The Desert Then Its Surrealism”

"If It Looks Like A Nightmare You Once Had About Being Stranded In The Desert Then Its Surrealism"

“The Temptation of Saint Anthony” by Salvador Dalí 

_theiconoclass Report17POST

Raven Sheridan5 hours ago

Those spindly legs always creeped me out!2ReplyView more comments

Former gallery director Shelby believes that the idea of educational art history TikTok videos is absolutely great. They help make difficult subjects more accessible, less lofty, and far less scary. “Art is something to be enjoyed and shouldn’t be reserved for an exclusive group,” she said.

A major part of the appeal of art, according to the art expert, is that there’s no wrong answer. “Art is aesthetics and feelings. If you love something, voice why you love it… if you can’t find the words, that’s ok! Talking about art is really discussing how the art affects your emotional state and what thoughts it provokes,” she told Bored Panda.

“And remember, it is ok to not love everything, believe it or not, certain artworks are meant to be disturbing or disliked. Just don’t be intimidated to speak up because that’s really all we’re doing when we talk about art. We’re voicing opinions.”#9 

“If It’s Got Ugly Babies, It’s Medieval”

"If It's Got Ugly Babies, It's Medieval"

“Madonna and Child” by Bernardo Daddi

_theiconoclass Report16POST

Nicky4 hours ago

Madonna, Child, and Daddi!2ReplyView more comments#10 

“If She’s Blonde And Has This Exact Face, It’s A Botticelli”

"If She's Blonde And Has This Exact Face, It's A Botticelli"

“Figure of Flora”, “Portrait of Venus” and “Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci” by Sandro Botticelli

_theiconoclass Report16POST

Lady Artemis26 minutes ago

Flora looking high, ngl.0Reply

Meanwhile, TikToker Mary isn’t just a great art historian—she also knows that humor helps people remember her lessons better. That’s because humor activates the dopamine reward system in our brains, meaning that our long-term memory gets stimulated.

If you want to become an art history buff, making humorous associations between art movements and artists is the best way to make things easier for yourself. So when Mary makes a quip about Cubism artworks looking like your Tupperware drawer, you’re quite likely to remember. In fact, this particular example stuck with me so much, I can’t wait to share it with my friends.

Pssst, that’s also one of the reasons why you’ll remember things for your exams that much better if you rephrase things to sound funny (or even a tiny bit rude). Peculiarity and weirdness also tend to stick out more in our memories.#11 

“If There’s At Least One Person Looking To The Camera Like They’re On The Office, It’s Diego Velázquez”

"If There's At Least One Person Looking To The Camera Like They're On The Office, It's Diego Velázquez"

“Las Meninas” by Diego Velázquez

_theiconoclass Report16POST

Easily Excitable Panda28 minutes ago

Who the heck are the people in the mirror? Are they supposed to represent the viewer(s)?0Reply#12 

“If There’s A Room With Some Nice Furniture, A Window, And Some Women Just Going About Here Everyday Business, It’s A Vermeer”

"If There's A Room With Some Nice Furniture, A Window, And Some Women Just Going About Here Everyday Business, It's A Vermeer"

“Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid” by Johannes Vermeer

_theiconoclass Report16POST

Nicky5 hours ago

Vermeer used a camera obscura to paint and then just did the equivalent of paint by numbers. See the documentary, “Tim’s Vermeer.”1ReplyView more comments#13 

“If It Looks Like A Really Satisfying Game Of Tetris It’s A Mondrian”

"If It Looks Like A Really Satisfying Game Of Tetris It's A Mondrian"

_theiconoclass Report16POST

“Composition with Red Blue and Yellow” by Piet Mondrian

John C1 minute ago

I don’t mean to hate, but I just don’t understand how this is considered art and has any value whatsoever.0Reply#14 

“If It Looks Like An Amateur Theatre Production, Then Its Neo-Classical”

"If It Looks Like An Amateur Theatre Production, Then Its Neo-Classical"

“Oath of the Horatii” by Jacques-Louis David

_theiconoclass Report16POST#15 

“If It’s Got Cute Babies, It’s Baroque”

"If It's Got Cute Babies, It's Baroque"

“The Virgin and Child” by Ludovico Carracci

_theiconoclass Report15POST

PrincessTheSiameseKat1 hour ago

I’m the first to comment and I think that is cuz no one want’s to admit that this baby is actually creepy lol1Reply#16 

“If It’s Got Palpable Female Rage And/Or Vengeance – It’s An Artemisia”

"If It's Got Palpable Female Rage And/Or Vengeance - It's An Artemisia"

“Judith Slaying Holofernes” by Artemisia Gentileschi

_theiconoclass Report15POST

Nicky4 hours ago

She was raped by another artist and put her assailant in this painting and in “Susanna and the Elders.”10ReplyView More Replies…View more comments#17 

“If It Looks Like … It’s An O’keeffe”

"If It Looks Like ... It's An O'keeffe"

_theiconoclass Report15POST

“Untitled” by By Georgia O’Keeffe

JuJu6 hours ago

Georgia O’Keeffe0ReplyView more comments#18 

“If It Looks Like A Cottagecore Pinup Girl, Then Its Art Nouveau”

"If It Looks Like A Cottagecore Pinup Girl, Then Its Art Nouveau"

“Moët & Chandon: Champagne White Star” by Alphonse Mucha

_theiconoclass Report15POST

Candace Fitzpatrick6 hours ago

My favourite style7ReplyView more comments#19 

“It Looks Like A School Nativity Play Where Everyone’s Made A Toga Out Of Different Colored Bedsheets It’s A Giotto”

"It Looks Like A School Nativity Play Where Everyone's Made A Toga Out Of Different Colored Bedsheets It's A Giotto"

“Lamentation (The Mourning of Christ)” by Giotto di Bondone

_theiconoclass Report14POST#20 

“If Its Unfinished, It’s Probably A Leonardo”

"If Its Unfinished, It's Probably A Leonardo"

“The Adoration of the Magi” by Leonardo da Vinci

_theiconoclass Report14POST

Nicky4 hours ago

There is another version of the Mona Lisa in private hands. Google the public broadcasting special on this.2ReplyView More Replies…View more comments#21 

“If The People Look Way Too Long, Then It’s Mannerism”

"If The People Look Way Too Long, Then It's Mannerism"

“Madonna and Child” by Parmigianino

_theiconoclass Report13POST

Nicky4 hours ago

I feel sorry for the little guy in the corner.4ReplyView More Replies…View more comments#22 

“If Its Got Sad Peasants It’s 19th Century Realism”

"If Its Got Sad Peasants It's 19th Century Realism"

“The Gleaners” by Jean-Francois Millet

_theiconoclass Report13POST#23 

“If It Looks Like A Low Res Jpeg Blown Up Its Pointillism”

"If It Looks Like A Low Res Jpeg Blown Up Its Pointillism"

Detail of “La Parade de Cirque” by Seurat

_theiconoclass Report13POST

Nicky4 hours ago

Check out “Sunday on the Pot with George” pointillism painting in Boston’s “Museum of Bad Art.” It’s online.4ReplyView More Replies…View more comments#24 

“If It Looks Like A Really Stressful Game Of Tetris It’s A George Braque”

"If It Looks Like A Really Stressful Game Of Tetris It's A George Braque"

“Bottle and Fishes” by Georges Braque

_theiconoclass Report13POST

Iggy3 hours ago

Should I be worried by the fact that I can see the bottle and fishes?3ReplyView More Replies…View more comments#25 

“If It Looks Like A Scene From Madaline, It’s A Jean Dufy”

"If It Looks Like A Scene From Madaline, It's A Jean Dufy"

“Paris, La Seine” by Jean Dufy

_theiconoclass Report13POST

Sue Grigg3 hours ago

I love this. My favorite illustrated books when I was a kid, loved Madaline.2ReplyView More Replies…View more comments#26 

“If It Looks Like The Artistic Equivalent Of A Nicotine Addiction, Its An Egon Schiele”

"If It Looks Like The Artistic Equivalent Of A Nicotine Addiction, Its An Egon Schiele"

“Self portrait” by Egon Schiele

_theiconoclass Report13POST

Nicky4 hours ago

There is an amazing Schiele at the DeYoung museum in SF.1Reply#27 

“If It’s Got More Flesh Than A Nudist Beach – It’s A Rubens”

"If It's Got More Flesh Than A Nudist Beach - It's A Rubens"

“The Feast of Venus” by Peter Paul Rubens

_theiconoclass Report12POST

Raven Sheridan5 hours ago

The term Rubenesque came from Paul Rubens the artist. As he have a love of painting fuller figured subjects, particularly women.3ReplyView more comments#28 

“If You’re Not Sure If It Is Art, Then Its Dada”

"If You're Not Sure If It Is Art, Then Its Dada"

“Fountain” by Marcel Duchamp

_theiconoclass Report12POST

Nicky4 hours ago

A woman actually gave him this idea but Duchamp got all the artistic credit.1Reply#29 

“If It’s Just Got Nice Trees, It’s A Claude Lorrain”

"If It's Just Got Nice Trees, It's A Claude Lorrain"

“Pastoral Landscape” by Claude Lorrain

_theiconoclass Report11POST#30 

“If It’s Got Nice Trees But Boring Figures, It’s A Poussin”

"If It's Got Nice Trees But Boring Figures, It's A Poussin"

“Baptism of Christ” by Nicolas Poussin

_theiconoclass Report10POST#31 

“If Its Homoerotic And Painted On A Wall Or Ceiling, Then Its High Renaissance”

"If Its Homoerotic And Painted On A Wall Or Ceiling, Then Its High Renaissance"

Sistine Chapel ceiling painted by Michelangelo

_theiconoclass Report10POST

GlassHalfWay1 hour ago

How come they censor the woman’s breasts, but not the man’s junk?2ReplyView More Replies…View more comments#32 

“If It Looks Like A Trendy Collage Artist’s Instagram Then Its Constructivism”

"If It Looks Like A Trendy Collage Artist's Instagram Then Its Constructivism"

Movie poster for the experimental avant-garde film “Man With A Movie Camera” by Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg

_theiconoclass Report10POST

Nicky4 hours ago

“Desert of Forbidden Art” is an incredible PBS documentary of the man who rescued over 40,000 modern art masterpieces and hid them in desert museum 1700 miles away during Stalin’s purges!!!2ReplyView more comments#33 

“If It’s Got A Happy Presence, It’s A Dutch Genre Painting”

"If It's Got A Happy Presence, It's A Dutch Genre Painting"

“The Way You Hear it is the Way You Sing it” by Jan Steen

_theiconoclass Report9POST

M O’Connell2 hours ago

What a ridiculous scene! Have you ever been subjected to indoor bagpipes? They’re unfathomably loud.4Reply#34 

“If It Looks Like A Gorman Puffer Jacket It’s A Matisse”

"If It Looks Like A Gorman Puffer Jacket It's A Matisse"

“The Sheaf” by Henri Matisse

_theiconoclass Report9POST

Nicky4 hours ago

Matisse was having age-related health problems at this point and started doing collages because he couldn’t paint the traditional way.1Reply#35 

“If It Looks Like The First Kid At School Who Learnt How To Draw In 3D And Would Not Shut Up About It, It’s A Massaccio”

"If It Looks Like The First Kid At School Who Learnt How To Draw In 3D And Would Not Shut Up About It, It's A Massaccio"

“Holy Trinity” by Masaccio

_theiconoclass Report8POST#36 

“If She’s Blonde And Got Thicc Thighs, It’s A Titian”

"If She's Blonde And Got Thicc Thighs, It's A Titian"

“Sacred and Profane Love” by Titian

_theiconoclass Report8POST

Lilith the Demon Panda6 hours ago

do you really censore boobs in renaissance painting???22ReplyView More Replies…View more comments

Follow Bored Panda on Google News!67 FollowJonas GrinevičiusWriter, BoredPanda staff

Jonas is a Bored Panda writer who previously worked as a world news journalist elsewhere. After getting his bachelor’s degree in Politics and International Relations at the University of Manchester, he returned home and graduated from Vilnius University with a master’s degree in Comparative Politics. Jonas enjoys writing articles ranging from serious topics like politics and social issues to more lighthearted things like art, pop culture, and nature. In his spare time, Jonas writes books and short stories and likes to draw lighthearted illustrations. A huge fan of literature, films, philosophy, and tabletop games, he also has a special place in his heart for anything related to fantasy or science fiction. Read more »

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.