Spanish Splendour: The Arts of Iberia 1350-1550
Dr Nicola Jennings
This course is now FULL
This course looks at the arts in the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile between 1350 and 1550, a period which saw the establishment of the new kingdom of Spain and the development of traditions of painting, architecture and sculpture which can today be seen in museums, churches and palaces around the world. With visits to the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the National Gallery, the sessions will frame this art in relation to the active part played by Spaniards in political, cultural, and commercial exchange around the Mediterranean and with the Burgundian Netherlands and Northern France. Aragon saw both the highpoint and the decline of an extensive political and commercial empire resulting in polyglot works such as the altarpiece of St George at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Castile saw taste for the Islamophile ‘Mudejar’ style give way to so-called ‘Hispano-Flemish’ art such as Bartolomé Bermejo’s Saint Michael vanquishing the Devil at the National Gallery. The arrival in Iberia of increasing numbers of superbly crafted ivories, altarpieces, metalwork and tapestries from the southern Netherlands, of paintings by the likes of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden, and of prints by Schongauer and Dürer played a key role in this process.
Merchants of Luxury and Patrons of Art: Lucca at the Dawn of the Renaissance
Dr Geoffrey Nuttall
For over 200 years, merchants from the small Tuscan city of Lucca dominated the production and sale of sumptuous silks and phenomenally expensive gold and silver brocades. These clothed the palaces, churches and courts of Europe and can still be admired in innumerable paintings and manuscript illuminations, perhaps most famously in the Wilton Diptych in London’s National Gallery. Exceptionally well-informed and cosmopolitan patrons, they commissioned some of the most famous yet enigmatic masterpieces of the early Renaissance, including Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Double Portrait, Jacopo della Quercia’s Tomb of Ilaria del Carretto, and The Boucicaut Master’s Trenta Missal.
This course focuses on these and other great works of the period associated with Lucca and its merchant colonies across Europe. It explores connections between the business and art of silk manufacture and purveying, and the Lucchese’s influential role as agents of artistic and cultural exchange across Europe, notably at the courts of France, Burgundy and England. Visits will include the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and The Tower of London.
True to Nature? Picturing Landscapes, Animals and Plants in Northern Europe, 1550-1750
Dr Thomas Balfe
From the verdant forests of Dürer and Jan Brueghel the Elder 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, Gillis van Coninxloo and Jan van Goyen, 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 gardens, seascapes, landscapes, foods, animals and insects in a variety of media. It will include study visits to several London collections.
Dreams and Nightmares: Symbolism in an International Context, 1878-1910
Dr Rachel Sloan
This course is now FULL
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 British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Britain, the National Gallery and The Courtauld Gallery to discuss works in detail.
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. Course visits will include the National Gallery and the British Museum print room.
Picasso and Matisse: Approaches to Modernism
Dr Caroline Levitt
This course is now FULL
Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse are two of the best known names in the history of twentieth-century art. This course will begin by asking why this might be the case and by thinking about what their different approaches can tell us about the nature and characteristics of ‘modern’ art or ‘Modernism’.
Through looking at their work, we will approach themes such as form and colour, the ‘primitive’ and the ‘exotic’, the sacred and the classical, genre and gender, and the decorative. We will think about the role of critics, collectors and dealers in the period and will challenge and test critical tools such as chronology, biography and artists’ statements. In discovering overlaps and contradictions in the work of these two so-called ‘modern masters’, we will aim to better understand their work in a variety of media (from sculpture and painting to illustration, ceramics and stained glass) within the context of the various ‘modern’ art movements and artists they engaged with or shunned.
Visits will include the permanent collections at The Courtauld Gallery, Tate Modern’s major exhibition Picasso 1932: Love, Fame, Tragedy, the print room at The Courtauld and the Église Notre-Dame de France near Leicester Square.
New Course 23:
Art in Britain 1939-1959
Professor Frances Spalding
This course is now FULL
Our course begins with the abrupt rejection of the purity and Utopian beliefs associated with International Modernism. Instead, ‘Neo-Romanticism’ expressed doubt, anxiety and anger. Even before bombs fell, John Minton had begun painting imaginative ruined cities, and, once the Blitz began, John Piper recorded bombed churches, while Henry Moore embarked on his ‘Shelter’ drawings. Piper sought to revive the English landscape tradition, asking also if there was such a thing as an ‘English vision’. His response was British Romantic Artists, a small book in the series Britain in Pictures. Meanwhile a German emigré, Nikolaus Pevsner, delivered the Reith lectures entitled The Englishness of English Art. However, this cultural insularity was undermined by an exhibition of work by Matisse and Picasso at the Victoria and Albert Museum during the winter of 1945-46. Neo-Romanticism was replaced with a desire for greater formal rigour and an interest in politically-engaged art. The Kitchen Sink School emerged and John Berger mounted exhibitions entitled Looking Forward which sought to encourage art that portrayed “lived experience”. David Sylvester began promoting Francis Bacon and Alberto Giacometti, and then, in 1956 and 1959 two major exhibitions of American art at Tate introduced a wide audience to Abstract Expressionism, with revolutionary implications. The course includes a day-trip to Pallant House, Chichester, and visits to Tate and other London galleries.
Imagining the Mughals: Art and Politics in South Asia from the Past to the Present
Dr Mehreen Chida-Razvi and
Dr Zehra Jumabhoy
At the stroke of midnight between the 14th and 15th August, 1947, the British Raj came to an end. The independent countries of India and Pakistan were born. Freedom, however, came at the price of a bloody partition, as millions of migrants crossed borders to join a ‘secular’ India or a ‘Muslim’ Pakistan. Despite this rupture, celebrating what the two nations have in common is as important as acknowledging how they differ.
Through the analysis of the two countries’ art and culture this course explores the political importance of what they shared: the Mughal past. Tracing their lineage from Ghengis Khan and Timur, the Mughal dynasty ruled over most of South Asia from 1526 to 1858. The course investigates how the Mughals ‘invented’ themselves as the subcontinent’s rulers – melding Hindu and Islamic influences to conjure multi-cultural miniatures and monuments. It explores how Indian and Pakistani artists continue to reference their gilded images and artefacts to make political statements today – probing notions of religious, communal and cosmopolitan identity in the context of competing nationalisms.
Co-taught by experts on Mughal art and architecture, and modern and contemporary South Asian art respectively, the course includes visits to London museums, galleries and private collections.