New Course 17:
Art for the Friars in Early Renaissance Italy
Dr John Renner
This course is now FULL
The cities of late-medieval Italy were transformed by the construction of churches for new religious orders, constituted of friars whose mission was not to retreat from the world, like monks, but to preach to the urban laity.
By the 1220s, when the founders of the two greatest orders, Saints Francis and Dominic, had died, their followers had spread across Europe. The need to decorate the ever-larger churches of the various mendicant orders created an unprecedented demand for artworks: images of the orders’ saints and martyrs; fresco cycles of their lives with newly naturalist portrayals of contemporaries in the real world; biblical scenes to engage the emotions of lay viewers; complex altarpieces and allegorical images that reflected the ideologies and ambitions of the orders.
This course examines the art of the mendicants from the deaths of Francis and Dominic to the late fifteenth century. During this time, artists of the stature of Cimabue, Giotto, Pietro Lorenzetti, Masaccio, Fra Angelico and Piero della Francesca found new ways of representing form, space and narrative, in response to the challenges of creating images for the friars and their lay patrons. The course includes visits to the National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
N.B. There is considerable thematic overlap between this course and one previously taught by Dr Janet Robson, entitled ‘The Art of the Friars in Early Renaissance Italy, c. 1250-1470’
Michelangelo: Art and Life in Context
Professor James Hall
Long before Vasari hailed Michelangelo in the Lives of the Artists as the greatest artist who ever lived, he had become an almost mythical figure, and Michelangelo himself took every opportunity to contribute to the stock of self-aggrandising stories. The purpose of this course is to look beyond the myths, and to see Michelangelo afresh in the context of his times, looking at the particular ways in which he drew on as well as departed from the art traditions of Florence and Rome, and of northern Europe. We will also see how he responded to as well as rejected cultural, religious and political developments, and the demands of patrons. The major paintings and sculptures will be discussed in the lectures, and the wealth of material in public collections examined at close quarters in the gallery tours. Visits will be made to the British Museum and the Royal Library to see Michelangelo’s drawings; the Victoria and Albert Museum for the superb plaster casts of his sculptures; the National Gallery to see two early panel paintings, and the Royal Academy for the Taddei Tondo. We will also consider Michelangelo’s influence on later art.
New Course 19:
Words and Images: the Power of Faith in the Age of Reformation and Counter-Reformation
Dr Matthias Vollmer
This course is now FULL
The Protestant Reformation caused unprecedented religious upheaval in the history of Western Christianity. The visual arts in particular had to take on a new role. Protestants condemned the cult of veneration through relics and images, rejecting the appeal to emotion and the senses, and promoting the faculty of reason in receiving the Word of God instead. Early on, however, Martin Luther understood that visual displays had great didactic potential for many illiterate contemporaries and he set out to develop a Reformatory iconographic programme which eventually extended to altars, pulpits, galleries, epitaphs and liturgical devices. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) formulated the Catholic Church’s response to the challenge of Protestant Reformation. Every aspect of religious and devotional practice was reviewed, including the agency of art and architecture, and the role of the senses in inciting devotion and compassion became a central issue. In its attempt to win back the faithful, the Catholic Church embraced the sensuous, emphasising that art should be compelling in its narrative.
In class sessions and visits to the British Museum and other London collections, we will track this twin development, highlighting the fundamental and far-reaching artistic and theological differences between Catholicism and Protestantism at the time.
Travelling Light: Turner, Constable and the Shape of British Art
This course will explore a fascinating aspect of British art history, the parallel careers of John Constable and J.M.W. Turner. Between them, these giants of landscape painting revolutionised the status of their genre, transforming the depiction of place through empirical experience and emotive response. However, their approaches were very different. Turner roamed throughout Britain and the Continent in search of inspirational scenery, combining observation of nature with literary and historical references. By contrast, Constable nurtured his vision at home, rooting himself in the familiar and the everyday. As well as comparing differences and similarities within their works, we will examine the wider cultural contexts pertinent to their careers: the reproductive print market, the nineteenth-century experience of travel, and particularly the role of the Royal Academy in London, the arena where their robust professional rivalry was played out. We will also look closely at their materials and techniques, particularly their innovations with oil paint, watercolour and their use of sketchbooks. The week culminates with a discussion of their respective artistic legacies and their changing reputations through the twentieth century and beyond. The course will include visits to Tate Britain and the Sir John Soane’s Museum, as well sessions in London print rooms.
The Art of the Sultans: Ottoman Art and Architecture
Dr Antonia Gatward Cevizli
The skyline of Istanbul is one of the most recognisable in the world. However, the Ottoman artistic tradition is less widely known. This course traces the most significant developments of Ottoman art and architecture from the fourteenth to the nineteenth centuries. From the Green Mosque in the former Ottoman capital of Bursa, we will progress to Edirne and then on to that great prize: Istanbul. The Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453 was a major turning point, changing the way the Ottomans saw themselves and how they were regarded by others. Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror initiated the city’s makeover, which transformed it into the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Our exploration of the art of the sultans will introduce us to patrons of the arts, such as Süleyman the Magnificent, the architect Sinan (often referred to as “the Michelangelo of the East”), and the most impressive sites of Istanbul, including the Topkapı Palace and the Süleymaniye Mosque. We will discover Ottoman carpets in the paintings of the National Gallery and explore the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum’s collections of textiles, carpets and Iznik ceramics as well as coming face-to-face with Gentile Bellini’s portrait of Sultan
Fathers of Modern Art: Manet and Cézanne
Dr Charlotte de Mille
For the French art historian and critic Louis Gonse, “Manet [was] a point of departure, the symptomatic precursor of a revolution”. For Picasso, “Cézanne was like the father of us all”. But Manet himself stated that he had “no intention of overthrowing old methods of painting, or creating new ones”, and Cézanne’s later period as a recluse in Provence removed him from direct engagement with the younger generation. This course explores the almost mythic quality with which artists and critics viewed Manet and Cézanne. It teases out points of continuity and innovation, addressing central topics of landscape, still life, materiality, and representation, as well as less obvious connections, for example the soirées of the society Le Petit Bayreuth. The course takes full advantage of the significant works by Manet, and unparalleled collection of work by Cézanne housed at The Courtauld Gallery. The course ends with an examination of the legacies of both Manet and Cézanne, paying critical attention to Clement Greenberg’s famous description of Cézanne as “the gateway to contemporary painting”.
Visions of Utopia in German Modernist Art – 1905-1925
The German art world was taken by storm with the visions of physical freedom depicted by the Brücke artists; their mission was to create a bridge to a new society. Equally revolutionary was the art of the Blaue Reiter, driven by a similarly palpable force: glowing landscapes giving onto vistas of cosmic union. The revolution also took place in black and white, from the woodcut’s raw materiality to the tightly constructed Small World lithographs by Kandinsky – possible abstractions on Thomas More’s island of Utopia. Even amidst the tranquil water meadows of Worpswede, the spirit of rural commune was exercised as a rejection of the academic tradition. And for all concerned, the daring example of the French avant-garde was to be a significant stimulus.
Revisiting a period in art noted for its ‘manic-depressive’ character, this course will trace a path from ecstatic beginnings, to the wave of revolutionary graphics that launched the Weimar Republic, and via further castles in the air to the functional Bauhaus ideal and the advent of the ‘new sobriety’. Relevant literary and philosophical developments will be discussed, and we will visit collections in London as well as the important gallery of Expressionist art at Leicester Museum.
Émigrés: Foreign Influences on English Art, Architecture and Design, 1930-1960
Dr Alan Powers
This course is now FULL
There has been increasing interest in the role of émigré artists and designers in Britain during the twentieth century, focused around the introduction of Modernism, assimilation and retention of a separate identity. The assumption that without the émigrés, English modernism would not have happened can be challenged as an over-simplification of a more complex interchange of positions and practices.
In the 1930s, German, Austrian and Czech artists in all media who came to Britain to escape the Nazi regime tended to be Social Realists and Expressionists, at odds with the understanding in their host country that Modernism was represented by Abstraction or Surrealism. The small number of prominent former Bauhaus staff in London between 1934 and 1938 – Gropius, Breuer and Moholy-Nagy – were, however, an exception to this pattern, although their work while in Britain was influenced by local factors.
We will discuss architecture, sculpture, painting, design, graphics, photography and art history through individuals and their experiences of arrival, wartime internment and post-war careers. There will be a rich and varied programme of visits including the Tate Archive, a sculptor’s studio in St. John’s Wood, the Isokon Plus furniture factory and 1930s Modernist buildings in Hampstead.