Humans have always attempted to express themselves creatively. The evidence is there in the cave paintings of Lascaux that were done by prehistoric men. If you are interested in the visual arts then you ought to start by compiling a famous painters list so that you can see their paintings. There are many great artists who you will find in this list and studying their paintings will be a highly educational and illuminating experience.
If you were to start in chronological order, the famous painters list is generally believed to start with Giotto, who lived in the Middle Ages. However, the Renaissance which spanned the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries as well as part of the 17th century was when artists first perfected the representation of human anatomy and proportion. Artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli and Titian belonged to this period. The Flemish school represented by Hans Holbein the Younger and others was also very famous. This was also when easels were developed and so were lots of different paints.