New Course 1:
Artistic Encounters: Italy and the Byzantine Empire, 1261-1459
Dr Livia Lupi and Dr Maria Alessia Rossi
This course is now FULL
The period from the mid-thirteenth to the mid-fifteenth century is usually described as the culmination of the rupture between Western and Eastern Christianity, a process that began with the Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople in 1204 by Western Crusader armies. Visual and documentary evidence, however, demonstrates that these years are characterised by continuous exchanges between Orthodox and Catholic Christians.
This course will explore the diverse artistic production of Italy and the Byzantine Empire, focusing on Padua, Venice, Constantinople and Mystras, and will also discuss the lesser-known but strikingly accomplished art of the southern tip of Apulia and the Kingdom of Serbia.
Pairing iconographical scrutiny with thematic discussions, the course will challenge traditional interpretations of late medieval art and highlight how Italy and Byzantium shared a contested common heritage, each side simultaneously admiring and scorning, coveting and mistrusting the distinctive features of the other. Visits include The Courtauld Gallery and a handling session at the British Museum. Students will also learn about the techniques of Italian panel painting during a behind-the-scenes visit to The Courtauld’s Conservation Studio, and an artist-led session will introduce us to Byzantine mosaic and icon-painting techniques.
Art for the Friars in Early Renaissance Italy
Dr John Renner
The cities of late medieval Italy were transformed by the growth of new orders 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 and beyond. Other mendicant orders sprang up, including the Augustinians, Carmelites and Servites, and the visual arts became a vital component of their mission.
The construction of ever-larger churches for the friars created unprecedented demand for artworks: images of the orders’ saints and martyrs; fresco cycles with newly naturalistic portrayals of the contemporary world; biblical scenes to engage the laity’s emotions; complex altarpieces and allegorical images that reflected the beliefs and ambitions of the mendicant orders.
This course examines the art of the friars in Italy from the thirteenth to the late fifteenth century. During that time, artists like Cimabue, Giotto, Pietro Lorenzetti, Masaccio, Fra Angelico, Piero della Francesca and Giovanni Bellini found new ways of representing form, light, space and narrative, in response to the challenges of creating images for the friars and their patrons. Visits include the National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
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, to their often extraordinary architecture, their formation, function and purpose have always been influenced by economic, political and social forces. 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 meanings. 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.
“A Vision of a New City”: Architecture in London, 1660-1715
Dr Lucy Jessop
This course is now FULL
In 1661, John Evelyn described London as having a “congestion of misshapen and extravagant Houses”, set in a labyrinth of narrow and busy streets, full of smoke and smell. It was not what Charles II and his court were used to, returning to London after many years of foreign exile, nor was it what his people, released from the traumas of the Civil War and the strictness of the Commonwealth, demanded. This course will examine many of the projects for making London and its environs a suitable residence for the restored Stuart monarchy, for rebuilding and developing the Cities of London and Westminster, and for creating religious and public buildings which responded to the dominant issues of the age. These projects were mostly overseen by the vision of one man, Sir Christopher Wren, with the assistance of several close colleagues, including Robert Hooke and Nicholas Hawksmoor. Through contemporary texts, drawings and visits, this course will look at some of London’s best-loved buildings – possible visits include Hampton Court Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral, some of the City Churches, and the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College.
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 course culminates with a discussion of their respective artistic legacies and their changing reputations through the twentieth century and beyond. The week will include visits to Tate Britain and Sir John Soane’s Museum, as well as sessions in London print rooms.
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”.
Living Cities: The Photography of Urban Life in Europe and America, 1920-1989
Dr Tim Satterthwaite
A central theme of twentieth-century photography was the life of the modern city. Enabled by new camera technologies and the growth of photo-illustrated media, photographers sought to capture the social realities, and the human comedy, of urban experience in a rapidly changing world. Whilst mass modernity worked to rationalise and standardise working life and the man-made environment, photographers described a humanist resistance to this alienating process, affirming the boundless variety of individuals, their social interactions and human dilemmas. Focusing on European and American urban photography, and on the dialogue between these traditions, we explore the construction of this humanist response, in images of street life and in the photography of marginal (disempowered) individuals. The course introduces the work of leading photographers – including Henri Cartier-Bresson, André Kertesz, Helen Levitt, Robert Frank, Roy DeCarava – and their contemporaries, and considers the social and cultural contexts within which their images were made and presented. It concludes with a discussion of urban photography in Britain in the post-war decades. The course is based around the visual analysis of photographs, and includes visits to the Museum of London, the national photography collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and other exhibitions.
From Still-Life to Eat-Art: Food as Subject and Medium in Modern and Contemporary Art
N.B. We regret to advise that this course has been cancelled
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.