Painting and the Graphic Arts in Rome, Florence and Venice 1500-1520
Dr Michael Douglas-Scott
This course is now FULL
The first two decades of the sixteenth century, ‘the High Renaissance’, witnessed a sea change in the visual arts in Italy. Since Vasari, emphasis has always been placed on the role played by Florence and Rome in this transformation. For him the modern style originated in central Italy and was exported by Leonardo da Vinci to Venice. Michelangelo and Raphael travelled from Florence to Rome, but not on to Venice. Yet it is in this period that Giorgione and Titian remade Venetian painting in the wake of the old Giovanni Bellini. A new attitude to drawing began here and also in the handling of painted colour. Did two divergent traditions emerge, which were to be characterized by the mid-sixteenth century as the disegno/colorito divide between central Italian and Venetian art? Or did a common figurative language, a shared attitude to the antique and the category of the ‘work of art’ itself emerge at the same time in all three centres? Visits to the National Gallery, the Prints and Drawings Department at the British Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum will enable us to consider these critical issues by directly confronting products of this intensely creative twenty-year period.
True to Nature? Picturing Landscapes, Animals and Plants in Northern Europe, 1550–1750
Dr Thomas Balfe
From the verdant forests of Dürer and Albrecht Altdorfer to the elegant gardens in which Rubens portrayed himself alongside his family, the natural world is a vital presence in northern European art. ‘Truth to nature’ was a fundamental principle governing artistic practice before the advent of Modernism. Yet, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, nature increasingly yielded diverse (and sometimes conflicting) forms of truth. Empirical accuracy is a key concern in the exquisite insect miniatures by Maria Sibylla Merian, which span the modern categories of art and science. Landscapes by Rembrandt and Jacob van Ruisdael, with their focus on authentically Dutch topographical features, express a political consciousness about land which had only recently been reclaimed from foreign rule. Hunting scenes and images of Louis XIV’s Versailles menagerie proclaim the truth – widely accepted at this time – that human beings have the right to dominate, possess and study animals. This course explores the interwoven empirical, political and symbolic truths conveyed by images of nature. It does so via case studies which focus on representations of forests, gardens, seascapes, landscapes, foods, animals and insects in a variety of media. It will include study visits to several London collections.
Cabinets of Wonder: A History of Museums in Britain
Dr Jerzy Kierkuc-Bielinski
Museums are not, and never were, simple repositories of objects or histories. They are not neutral spaces, but play a central role in how we define ourselves as individuals, cultures and as nations. From the objects that they exhibit, through to their often extraordinary architecture, their formation, function and purpose have always been influenced by economic, political and social pressures. This course will look at the historical development of the modern museum or art gallery. This history will take us from the formation of cabinets of curiosities in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, to the magnificent royal collections of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the great public institutions of the modern world we are familiar with today. Using specific, historical museums as case studies, and through a series of site visits, we will examine how the architecture of the museum, and the methods of display, as much as the extraordinary objects they showcase, create a rich network of aesthetic and historical meaning. The course includes visits to Sir John Soane’s Museum, the British Museum, Tate Modern, and a day-trip to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.
“The Impossibility of Being Dull”: Architecture in London, 1715-1830
Dr Lucy Jessop
This course is now FULL
When Charles Lamb wrote to Wordsworth in 1801 of his beloved London, he was thinking of a city seething with life and variety, a setting for the lives of people of every class. During the eighteenth century, London established itself as not only the heart of the new Great Britain but also of a growing empire, and as a centre of international trade. This course will consider the building boom experienced by the city in the long eighteenth century: the vast speculative estates around the West End, Bloomsbury and their successors, the growing number of government and public buildings, the magnificent houses of the aristocracy and plutocracy in both urban and suburban London, and places of entertainment, business and worship. We will examine the development of key building types, areas and individual structures, whilst also considering the milieu of the architects and craftsmen who constructed them and the people who used them. Visits may include several walking tours, Kenwood House, the drawings collection of the RIBA and, of course, an exploration of The Courtauld’s home, Somerset House.
Dreams and Nightmares: Symbolism in an International Context, 1878-1910
Dr Rachel Sloan
Symbolism – a cultural movement that encompassed literature, the visual arts, and music – sought to peel away external realities and search for deeper meaning by exploring the imagination, the emotions and states of mind. Fixed boundaries between art forms were eroded as its proponents sought to create a new form, the Gesamtkunstwerk or ‘total work of art’. It can also be considered the first truly international artistic movement. However, because the first attempt to articulate a Symbolist aesthetic programme was made by the French poet Jean Moréas, it was long regarded as a French movement with a few foreign imitators.
This course looks at Symbolism in a truly international context, situating well-known figures such as Paul Gauguin, Odilon Redon, the Nabis (Edouard Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard and Maurice Denis), Edward Burne-Jones, Aubrey Beardsley, Edvard Munch, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Fernand Khnopff and Gustav Klimt within a vital and complex network of international exchange, be it through exhibitions, patronage, publications or personal contacts. The course will prioritise close visual analysis, and the group will visit collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Britain, the National Gallery and The Courtauld Gallery to discuss works in detail.
New Course 30:
New Beginnings: English painting between two world wars
Professor Frances Spalding
This course is now FULL.
We begin in 1918 with a farewell to war, with a set of major paintings commissioned by the British War Memorials Committee, some of which matched in size Uccello’s Battle of San Romano. One of these artists, Paul Nash, struggled to re-inhabit the recent past and afterwards had to recuperate on the Kentish coast. Others also turned their backs on the city and on the machine-age aesthetic which the Vorticists had made fashionable. “The geometrics which had interested me before”, announced Wyndham Lewis, “seemed bleak and empty. They needed filling.” Yet avant-garde innovation, if slow to reassert itself, soon diversified. This course charts the exchange of ideas between Ben and Winifred Nicholson, and Christopher Wood, and their admiration for the art of the Cornish fisherman Alfred Wallis. It follows Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious to Great Bardfield, and tracks the revival of interest in the English landscape. Meanwhile, visits to and connections with Paris foster an interest in abstraction and closer association with International Modernism. Surrealism arrives in England, as do Naum Gabo, Piet Mondrian and key figures from the Bauhaus. Finally, the emergence of Neo-Romanticism in the late 1930s revives interest in native traditions, now translated into modern terms.
New Course 31:
Dark Visions and Bright Lights: Nordic Art c. 1820 – c. 1920
The call for political independence and defined national identities marked the development of visual, literary and musical cultures in the Nordic countries during the long nineteenth century. Artists sought to articulate unique national characteristics, as in the art of painters of the so-called Danish ‘Golden Age’, but were also confronted with constant challenges from international movements – from Naturalism to Symbolism, Expressionism and early Abstraction. This course considers how the national voices both proclaimed their specific visual identities and accommodated themselves to foreign visual manifestations as artists sought to capture the northern light and the region’s expansive terrains of untrammelled nature, complementing the music of Grieg and Sibelius and the writings of Ibsen. Sometimes, this accommodation reinforced the potency of artists’ distinct national visual languages, as seen in Peder Balke’s ghostly visions of snow-covered, mist wrapped landscapes or Carl Larsson’s scenes of quintessential Swedish domestic life. In others, it elicited powerful individual syntheses, as in the work of Vilhelm Hammershøi, Nikolai Astrup, August Strindberg and Edvard Munch. All, however, were aware of the Nordic region’s peculiar qualities of the brilliant clarity and haunting beauty of the light and the brooding darkness not just of winter but also of the individual soul.
From Still-Life To Eat-Art: Food As Subject And Medium In Modern And Contemporary Art
Food and consumption have always featured in art – and, like so many other subjects, from the female figure to religious imagery, food’s familiarity has made it a theme ripe for exploration and exploitation by artistic innovators from the late nineteenth century onwards. Indeed, when in 1947 Picasso declared, “It is not necessary to paint a man with a gun; an apple can be equally revolutionary”, he captured the potency artists found in embracing and often upending these basic staples of daily life.
This course critically examines major artistic movements of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries through this lens. Beginning with the Cubist fracturing of fruit, the unpalatable ‘formulas’ in the Futurist Cookbook, and the subversive scenes of the Surrealists, we will then explore Fluxist productions, Pop Art iconography, the Eat-Art movement, and feminist art. We will discuss food as subject and also as medium, particularly in contemporary performance and installation art, and explore the viewers’ role both in art making and art consumption in this context.
Artists discussed will include canonical figures like Salvador Dalí, Juan Gris, Roy Lichtenstein and Damien Hirst, food-art pioneers such as Daniel Spoerri and Gordon Matta-Clark, and cutting-edge innovators like Jennifer Rubell and Rirkrit Tiravanija.