Dutch painter, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669) painted scores of self-portraits, leaving us a remarkable record of his changing appearance.
These wonderful self-portraits show Rembrandt, left to right, aged 28, 46 and 49. ARTSTOR
To build an understanding of how an artist or designer fits into the development of a work of art or design (and into the history of that art form), one needs some background facts:
WHO ? Background biographical information on the life and works of an individual can be found in encyclopedias and biographies.
WHAT ? Is your subject doing wholly new work or re-imagining or "quoting" the creative efforts of others? Or her/himself?
WHERE ? In what place was the artist/creator working? Has the place a work has been created, influenced or affected the result? Does nationality or national style matter in the life (and art) of your subject?
Additionally, where can the item or work of art currently be found? Is it in a museum, gallery, private collection, etc?
WHEN ? When did the artist live? Were there major "periods" or developmental phases in their work?
WHY ? Is there a reason the work was created? Perhaps it was commissioned, or created speculatively?
One cannot always expect to find answers to all these elements -- after all, we know very little about who created pre-historic cave paintings in Europe!
Paleolithic Cave Art, Altamira, Northern Spain. Wikimedia.
Claude Monet. "Water Lilies at Giverny." (1918). ARTSTOR
French painter, Claude Monet (1840-1926), is famous for repeatedly painting water lilies in his garden at Giverny. But he painted many different subjects over and over again, including the same view of the west front of Rouen Cathedral.
Claude Monet. Rouen Cathedral, 31 December, 1893.
The same place and the same view, become different when painted at different times of the day, and at different times of the year.
Claude Monet. "Rouen Cathedral, West Facade." 1894. ARTSTOR
English artist Paul Nash (1889-1946) was commissioned by the British War Memorials Committee to create a record of the horrors he had witnessed during World War I.
Completed in 1919, his painting, "The Menin Road", records the broken and smashed landscape of the Western Front.
Graham Sutherland (1903-1980). "Christ in Glory." Tapestry measuring 75 feet by 38 feet was commissioned by Coventry Cathedral, UK. Wikimedia.