Archive of 2019 Courses
Please note: the 2020 Programme will be available to view from early December. Precise details will follow nearer the time
FULL Course 25:
Sacred Treasures: The Symbolism, Function and Purpose of Medieval Christian Art
Dr Lesley Milner
Christian medieval art includes as a particularly important category the priceless ‘sacred’ treasures that were once housed in the strong-rooms of cathedrals and are now equally prized possessions of the world’s great museums. Golden chalices and crosses, finely embroidered vestments and altar-cloths, gem-encrusted reliquaries, gold-ground panel paintings and brightly illuminated liturgical books are all unified by an emphasis on intricacy, splendour and magnificence. This course investigates the medieval understanding of ‘art’ by exploring some of the world’s most stupendous medieval artefacts, such as the fourteenth-century Syon Cope, a magnificent example of English embroidery known as ‘opus anglicanum’ (V&A); the so-called ‘Suger Chalice’, a 12th-century golden vessel decorated with precious gems (National Gallery of Art, Washington), or the ‘Lothair Cross’ from about 1000 AD (Aachen Cathedral Treasury). These wondrous objects are endowed with a complex symbolism that is conveyed by material, colour, form and iconography. We shall attempt to see such works through medieval eyes and to understand what they meant to the people for whom they were first made. To do so, we shall focus particularly on how they were used and displayed, in liturgical contexts of mass and processions and in other rituals, and how they were preserved in specially constructed, exclusive strong-rooms. Course visits will include the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and Westminster Abbey.
FULL Course 26:
Might and Munificence: Court Patronage in Renaissance Ferrara, Mantua, Rimini and Urbino
Dr Michael Douglas-Scott
During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, some of the most sophisticated courts of Europe were concentrated in a few small towns in north-eastern Italy. The most significant were at Ferrara, Mantua, Rimini and Urbino, each dominated by a ruling dynasty, respectively the Este, Gonzaga, Malatesta and Montefeltro.
From these families emerged some of the most magnificent patrons of the Renaissance in the visual arts, music, literature and humanist learning: Isabella d’Este and her brother Alfonso, Lodovico Gonzaga and his pleasure-loving descendent Federico, Sigismondo Malatesta and his arch-rival Federico of Montefeltro. Their reputations have been immortalised by Piero della Francesca, Andrea Mantegna, Leonbattista Alberti, Leonardo da Vinci and Titian.
How did these rulers attract such major figures to work for them? What motivated them to spend so much on the arts? How could they compete with much larger, more powerful, and richer states in the patronage of sophisticated culture? How did their refined taste come to be adopted elsewhere in Italy and then influence much of European culture? There will be visits to the National Gallery, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the British Library and the British Museum to examine first-hand some of the finest products of these splendid courts.
FULL Course 27:
Seventeenth-century Painting in the Low Countries: The Golden Age of Dutch and Flemish Art
Dr Matthias Vollmer
As a result of the religious and political conflicts in the sixteenth century, the Low Countries were split into two territories with different theological and social developments.
In both states, the production of art was strongly determined by patrons. In Flanders, artists like Rubens and Van Dyck celebrated the Catholic Church of the Counter Reformation and the Spanish Hapsburg monarchy with grandiose themes, lively compositions, and vivid colours in portraits, altarpieces, mythological scenes and allegories. The Protestant Republic of the United Netherlands, on the other hand, was dominated mainly by austere Calvinists. Dutch painters like Rembrandt and Jan Steen conveyed moral and often religious messages through elaborate symbolism in land- and seascapes, still-life compositions, allegories and scenes of daily life.
This course will offer an introduction to the vibrant art and culture of the separated Low Countries in the seventeenth century. We shall visit the National Gallery, the Wallace Collection and the Dulwich Picture Gallery.
FULL Course 28:
Russian Art 1863-1932: Innovations, Influences and the Roots of Modernity
Dr Natalia Murray
This course examines the history of Russian art in all its diversity from the first artists’ rebellion against St. Petersburg’s almighty Art Academy in 1863, the blossoming of arts in Russia’s ‘Silver Age’, to the upsurge of avant-garde art and its subsequent disappearance after 1932, when Socialist Realism became the only artistic style permitted in the Soviet Union.
We shall look at the cultural as well as geographical boundaries of Russian art, and its contact with developments in European art as well as the shifts of cultural context, which often occurred through emigration, cultural export, exhibitions, publications, and collaborations. The complex nature of the Russian avant-garde, its origins and roots, will be examined throughout the course. We shall also look at traditional Russian art and icons and their influence on the Russian avant-garde, and will discuss the works of Repin, Serov, Benois, Bakst, Somov, Vrubel, Malevich, Tatlin, Kandinsky, Filonov, Rodchenko, Chagall, Popova, and others. Lastly, we shall examine the influence of political changes in Russia under Stalin on the development of Russian art. Visits include the Victoria & Albert Museum (Ballets Russes drawings and stage designs); the David King Collection at Tate Britain and a curator-led tour of the retrospective of Natalia Goncharova at Tate Modern.
N.b., Dr Murray will explore Franco-Russian avant-garde connections in situ during a Study Tour to Paris, from 22 – 23 May.
FULL Course 29:
Looted Art: An Introduction to Nazi Spoliation, Provenance Research and Restitution
In the context of WWII and the Holocaust, Nazi officials perpetrated a coordinated programme of art and cultural property dispossession; one of the greatest thefts in history. Hundreds of thousands of objects remain missing or unrecovered by their rightful owners.
We shall begin with an exploration of Nazi cultural ideology, the purge of modern art as ‘degenerate’, and the sponsorship of a ‘pure’ and ‘Aryan’ art that was widely used for propaganda purposes. We shall then focus on the systematic looting by the National Socialist regime across Europe, between 1933-1945, and the plunder of Jewish collections as a particular mechanism of persecution. We shall discuss military spoliation, the post-war Allied investigation and recovery efforts, including the work of ‘The Monuments Men’ and the wider ethical and legal dimensions of restitution claims faced by the art world today.
The course introduces fundamental principles and methods of researching the history of ownership, transfer and exhibition, or provenance, of an artwork, a practice as essential to Nazi-era art- historical research as it is to wider curatorial practice. Through a discussion of case studies, and object examinations in a museum setting, participants will also approach questions of contemporary display and interpretation related to these complex historic narratives. Visits may include The Imperial War Museum, The Ben Uri Gallery and The Wiener Library.
FULL Course 30:
Brand Britain: The Global Emergence of British Art in the 1960s
Dr Kate Aspinall
British art during the ‘Swinging Sixties’ became an important global brand. This course considers the rapid artistic developments throughout this exciting, rebellious and innovative decade, which culminated in London becoming one of the world’s capitals of art. Roughly chronologically we shall explore dominant trends and movements, beginning with mature artistic trends that were achieving an international audience, such as the expressive figuration of Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud (sometimes called ‘The School of London’) as well as the abstract Constructionism of Victor Pasmore and Kenneth Martin. We shall then look to art of the burgeoning youth culture, such as New Generation Sculpture, Op, Pop and the rise of conceptual art. This course will not only consider notable painters and sculptors within these groups but will also explore the expanded cultural field as well as the institutions, educators and gallerists who propelled them into the international limelight and helped British post-Second World War and contemporary art gain the prominence and international influence that continues today. Course visits may include several of the following: archives at the RCA, at Tate and Central St Martin’s; the Mayor, Saatchi or Beaux Arts Gallery; the Whitechapel or Hayward Gallery; the Design Museum; Goldsmiths; and an artist’s studio.
New Course 31:
American Art, 1971-1995: Conceptualism, Appropriation and Performance in New York and California
1971-1995 saw radical changes in American society and culture: the rise of identity politics led to the consolidation of Second Wave Feminism; neoliberalism took consumer culture to new heights of excess; an explosion in underground music and club culture was cut short by the AIDS crisis; Hollywood saw the rise and fall of a period of maverick-driven artistic freedom. Focusing on New York City and Southern California, we shall investigate these turbulent decades through three key, enduring American contemporary art practices: Conceptualism, Appropriation and Performance.
Conceptual Art will be examined in the work of Vito Acconci, Hans Hacke, Jenny Holzer and the influential exhibition ‘Projects: Pier 18’ in New York (1971). We shall investigate Appropriation through artists – like Cindy Sherman – associated with ‘The Pictures Generation’, a group unified by their use of pre-existing images and the influence of mass media on their work. Performance Art in America will be explored with special attention to Californians Chris Burden and Paul McCarthy and the New York-based David Hammons. Finally, we shall look at CalArts, an influential Californian art school many of whose alumni continued to use Conceptualism, Appropriation and Performance into the 1990s and beyond. Visits include the National Portrait Gallery’s major retrospective of Cindy Sherman; Tate Modern, including its Artist’s Room devoted to the influential Jenny Holzer, and other relevant exhibitions.
Imagining the Mughals: Art & 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 of 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 & architecture and modern & contemporary South Asian art respectively, the course includes visits to London museums, galleries and private collections.