It seems that LOTS of people are asking the same question online!
You need to examine the lives of some artists. Here are a few to consider:
Giotti - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giotto_di_Bondone
Leonardo da Vinci - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Da_vinci
Michelangelo Buonarotti - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelangelo
Questions to ask yourself -- How were Medieval influences at work in Giotti's works? How did artists and their works change with the coming of the Renaissance?
Wilfred Owen - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilfred_owen
Ernest Hemingway - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Hemingway
How did wars or the lack of wars affect what writers wrote about and/or how they wrote?
Keep asking questions. Think of different time periods with identifiable social, political, and economic differences -- and explore the different artists' works who lived during those time periods.
In order to answer your own question, you not only have to know about the artists; you also need to understand the times in which they lived.
The meaning of Wagners operas has certainly been altered for me.
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