Archive of 2019 Courses
Please note: the 2020 Programme will be available to view from early December. Precise details will follow nearer the time
Drama, Awe and Wonder: The Visual Culture of Sanctity, c. 1150-1500
Dr Mellie Naydenova-Slade
Violent murder and courtly love, boundless generosity and spiteful revenge, purity and depravity, the everyday and the supernatural: the lives of the saints have it all, and the art associated with the medieval cult of saints is highly dramatic. We shall explore this visual culture by considering a range of images, objects and buildings reflecting devotion to a variety of saints. The course will largely focus on English medieval art, but also refer to relevant material from other parts of northern Europe.
The eclectic functions of saints and their images in the lives of medieval people will be examined, as will the development of saints’ legends. We shall consider whether representations of the saints reflected particular social concerns, as well as the personal preoccupations of individual patrons. Another focus will be the medieval obsession with saints’ bodies revealed in the art and architecture of pilgrimage. Finally, we shall consider the entertainment value of saints’ stories by uncovering the links between visual narrative and medieval drama. Visits include the Victoria & Albert Museum, St Alban’s Abbey and Eton College Chapel. The course concludes with a live performance of extracts from medieval plays followed by a discussion with the actors and director.
Art for the Friars in Early Renaissance Italy
Dr John Renner
The cities of late-medieval Italy were transformed by the emergence of new orders of friars. The phenomenal response to the charismatic spirituality preached by Saints Francis and Dominic, the founders of the two largest orders, stimulated unprecedented demand for art and architecture: huge churches to house the friars and their congregrations; fresco cycles narrating the lives of contemporary saints; biblical scenes designed to engage the emotions of lay men and women; and new types of artwork from large multi-panelled altarpieces to small devotional objects for personal use.
This course examines the art of the Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites and other mendicant orders from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries, a period of around 250 years that was extraordinarily fertile in terms of artistic innovation. In response to the challenges of creating images for the friars and their patrons in Assisi, Florence, Siena and other cities of central Italy, artists such as Duccio, Giotto, Masaccio, Fra Angelico and Piero della Francesca invented new ways of representing form, narrative, light and space. The course, which includes visits to the National Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum, is devoted to discovering how and why these magnificent works of art came to be created for friars and nuns committed to lives of poverty.
Spanish Splendour: The Arts of Iberia 1350-1500
Dr Nicola Jennings
COURSE CANCELLED DUE TO UNFORESEEN CIRCUMSTANCES
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 & Albert Museum, the National Gallery, and the British Museum’s print room, 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 & 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.
FULL Course 12:
Venetian Painting in an Age of Crisis: Late Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and their Contemporaries
Dr Michael Douglas-Scott
By the 1540s Venice was undergoing revolutions occasioned by the spread of printing, and by religious dissent. In the company of the Florentine sculptor and architect Jacopo Sansovino and the critic, Pietro Aretino, Titian, who had been court painter to the Hapsburgs since the 1530s, dominated the local scene. Into this established order erupted the stupendously gifted Jacopo Tintoretto, followed by the golden boy of the Venetian elite, Paolo Veronese. As the Roman Inquisition clamped down on religious dissent, information nonetheless flourished through the press and visual ideas from the North spread beyond the Alps; Central Italy and Emilia inflected the native visual tradition towards what we now call ‘Mannerism’. Artists of the mannered grace of Andrea Schiavone competed in a city full of rival currents, some imported from the Venetian mainland, others from Islam. When the plague struck Venice catastrophically in 1576, profound responses were created by Tintoretto in the Scuola Grande of San Rocco, by Titian in his final Pietà, and by Andrea Palladio in his church of the Redentore. Emerging into a new world, Venice lost its political significance but created a final burst of visual energy that still burns brightly today. Course visits include the National Gallery and the British Museum’s print room.
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 shall 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 shall 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.
New Course 14:
The Art of Weimar Germany: Modernity in the Balance
Dr Niccola Shearman
The Weimar Republic’s startling rate of social progress was matched by a dizzying variety of cultural expressions keeping pace with perpetual change. When, crushed by economic crisis and political conflict, the era came to its chilling end in 1933, the art of cinema had become one of Germany’s most successful exports, and a refined instrument of propaganda. Fighting the opposite corner, John Heartfield’s photo-montage continued the assault on tradition first launched with paper and scissors by Berlin Dada. In this context, Hannah Hӧch’s work exemplifies the central position of women in art as much as it highlights the paradox of the ‘Neue Frau’; situated somewhere between media-construct and reality. This course revisits the era that set the standard for creative progress, a century ago: from Expressionism’s last stand to the sober gaze of New Objectivity; landmarks of Bauhaus design; architecture, painting, photography, cinematic arts, cabaret, commercial design, typography and filmic writing. Everything was in the mix of this fertile ecosystem, rife with contradictions and where all that glittered was not gold. The course will offer film screenings, along with visits to the Victoria & Albert Museum, to Tate Modern and to the British Library.
NB. You may also be interested in Dr Shearman’s study tour ‘Munich Moderns’, 10 – 12 September, when she will focus in situ on works by the German Expressionist groups Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter.
New Course 15:
Making America: Art, Politics and Identity, 1935-1975
Dr Rachel Stratton
Moving from 1930s depression America and the ‘New Deal’, through Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism and Pop Art to the rise of the grassroots Feminist and Black Arts movements in the late 1960s, this course asks how art expressed overlapping national, racial, gender and individual identities. We shall map continuities and change over the period by looking at issues such as the status of different media, ongoing debates about abstraction versus realism and the marginalization of women and minority groups.
The forty-year period between the mid 1930s and the mid 1970s was one of colossal social and political change for the USA, shaped by economic and political uncertainty, entanglement in overseas wars and the rise of grassroots activism. On the one hand, art became a tool for the promotion of ‘American ideals’ and on the other, a form of protest, its social and political function constantly redefined and repurposed by different groups. This course examines some of the major trends in twentieth-century American art between 1935 and 1975, focusing on the relationship between art, politics and notions of identity. The course includes a number of gallery visits including a tour of the Lee Krasner exhibition at the Barbican, and the major retrospective of the work of Cindy Sherman at the National Portrait Gallery.
Contemporary Chinese Art: Practices and Debates from 1989 to the Present
Dr Katie Hill
This course offers a survey of contemporary Chinese art starting with the backdrop to the first major contemporary exhibition held in Beijing in 1989, ‘China/Avant-garde’. We will discuss movements of art concurrent with rapid urbanisation and economic developments in China during the 1990s and trace China’s relationship with the international art world as it emerged during a decade of globalisation. We explore the Chinese avant-garde’s quest to find a distinct artistic voice following decades of Socialist Realism. Contemporary Chinese art is characterised by a diversification of media and by the re-emergence of classical forms in the past decade. We shall consider a wide range of artistic expression, from photography, installation and performance, to painting and new media. Finally, the course will cover the phenomenon of the new Chinese art world that emerged at the turn of the millennium and evolved rapidly with the rise of art districts, new museums, auction houses and galleries. Throughout, we will focus closely on works by a number of key artists such as Xu Bing and Ai Weiwei, examining the development of contemporary Chinese art and its relationship to the international art world in the context of the country’s rapidly developing cultural scene.