An Introduction to Art History
A six-week evening course
Wednesdays from 18.30 – 20.30, 9 October – 13 November and one Saturday morning Gallery visit on 9 November
Dr Anne Puetz and Clare Richardson
This intensive course has been devised for people who would like to develop their interest in works of art and the discipline of art history. It is co-taught by an art historian and a conservator to give participants insight into art from different and complementary perspectives. The course is open to everyone. The number of participants is limited to 32. N.B.: This course is a revised version of the tutos’ popular four-day short course of the same title.
This course offers an intense introduction to the discipline of art history. It is our aim to instil in our students a sense of historical contingency, an understanding of how the making and viewing of works of art, the meanings they generate, and the concept of ‘art’ itself, have changed over time and from society to society.
Teaching will consist of two-hour lectures, with a short break, on five of the Wednesday evenings. On the middle Wednesday, the group will be split in two, with one half visiting the Conservation studios with Clare, and the other half will work on an interpretation task with Anne; the groups will then swap. Prior to the last Wednesday session, we shall meet on the previous Saturday in one of London’s permanent collections for an extended visit. Time will be made at the end of each session for discussion; we hope to stimulate debate and students are invited to ask questions and discuss ideas with the two course leaders and fellow students.
Firstly, we shall take a critical look at the development of the various periods, movements and ‘isms’ by which the history of Western art is conventionally structured, and at the alleged characteristics of the art they produced.
Objects are the raw-material of art history, and while we closely consider ideas, texts and contexts, we shall also look at case studies that show how works of art in a range of media have been made and sold, what materials, techniques and compositional strategies artists have utilised and how these have affected not only their appearance, but also their meaning. In addition, we should like to initiate our students in the habit of critical reading and thinking about art. To that end, we shall examine the different methodologies that have informed the writing about art to the present day through a study of selected key texts. Throughout, we shall debate such developing notions as the persona of the artist, the ‘value’ of art, ‘genius’ and skill. Finally, as works of art are now mostly encountered in art museums and galleries, we shall pay some attention to how these institutions collect, conserve, display and interpret works of art and how their strategies inform our viewing.
At the end of the course, we aim to have given students a tool-kit of methodologies and ideas that enable them to take their art-historical studies further.
Dr Anne Puetz is responsible for The Courtauld’s extensive programme of art history short courses. She is a scholar of early modern visual culture, with a particular interest in 18th– and 19th-century British art, and in the concept of ‘modernity’ in Britain and France. She co-edited a special issue of RIHA Journal, ‘When Art History Meets Design History’ (March 2014) and was Research Curator of The Courtauld Gallery’s ground-breaking Art on the Line: The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House 1780-1836 (2001). Anne has written on various aspects of British art and her current research interests focus on eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century ideas about colour and on theories and techniques of reproduction.
Clare Richardson is a paintings conservator whose research interests include painting techniques and pigment deterioration and a Lecturer in the Department of Conservation and Technology at The Courtauld. Prior to this Clare was Head of Painting, Paper and Frames Conservation at Royal Museums Greenwich, and before that she was employed at the Victoria & Albert Museum preparing paintings for the European Galleries and working on Constable’s oil sketches, notably the six-foot Sketch of the Leaping Horse. She contributed to the exhibition catalogue of John Constable: Oil Sketches from the V&A and is working on the publication of her research on the painting techniques of Rubens, 1609-12.