Illuminated manuscripts are among the most beautiful works of art to survive from the Middle Ages, but they are also often some of the most mysterious. They are now generally locked away in libraries or archives, and even when exhibited we can only see two pages of a volume at one time. In this course we shall use a variety of methods, including site visits, demonstrations, and digital facsimiles, to explore some of the most extraordinary examples of medieval manuscript illumination.
We shall specifically consider the history of manuscript illumination from the tenth to the fifteenth centuries, a period which saw extraordinary developments in artistic innovation across all media. We shall explore the transition of manuscripts from products of the monastic scriptorium to those of professional trade networks in cities across Europe. Another focus will be the different ways in which people engaged with their manuscripts. Finally, we shall consider the fact that illuminated manuscripts were not standalone items but were used alongside a wide array of devotional objects, from rosary beads to altarpieces.
Co-taught by specialists of late medieval French manuscripts and Anglo Saxon art respectively, the course includes visits to the British Library, the V&A, the Wellcome Library, and the Eton College Library.
The paintings of Jan van Eyck and his contemporaries in the fifteenth-century Netherlands are examined in this course in their wider context and from fresh perspectives. These works have been admired for defining a revolutionary new approach to painting but they should also be understood within the material culture of their time. They were commodities within the market for luxury goods which exported to the whole of Europe. They could act as agents of social and political meaning while also functioning as a focus for religious devotion and the liturgical celebration of the Church. Original settings will be considered when viewing key paintings seen in the National Gallery. Painting will be reconnected with tapestry, goldsmiths’ work, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts and other material objects from the period, which are now found in the Victoria and Albert Museum and other collections. Once characterised by scholars as the last gasp in a ‘waning of the Middle Ages’, the court of the dukes of Burgundy has been recast as an innovative and flourishing cultural environment. The paintings of Van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden and others offer a brilliant glimpse into this extraordinary historical moment.
Collecting has always represented a mark of distinction for Italian elites. From the late sixteenth century onwards, the desire to possess art works, no matter how modest in quality and price, also spread to less exalted social groups. Such increasing demand for art complicated the relationship between patrons and artists and fostered the creation of an art market in the modern sense. This course focuses on the development of a burgeoning Italian art market, and its repercussions, by analysing prominent case–studies. Isabella d’Este’s acquisition strategies will highlight the role played by astute merchants and trusted agents in the early sixteenth century. The cardinals Ferdinando de’ Medici and Scipione Borghese will introduce us to the rules of the Roman market for antiquities between the sixteenth and the seventeenth century, while the thorny issue of value for money will be considered in the light of Annibale Carracci’s, Guido Reni’s and Domenichino’s marketing strategies. Finally, the British King Charles I’s acquisition of the Gonzaga collection in the late 1620s will allow us to investigate the phenomenon of the sale in bulk of significant Italian collections. Visits will include the National Gallery, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and the British Museum.
Eighteenth–century Britain witnessed an extraordinary efflorescence of the visual arts, fuelled by a consumer revolution and the emergence of a ‘middling’ sector of society, whose tastes and demands helped produce a varied and innovative visual culture. By the 1780s, average attendance at the annual Royal Academy exhibition had reached 48,000 visitors, and the Academy was only one of the many new venues devoted to the display of contemporary art. London’s art world encouraged the influx of large numbers of highly–skilled foreign artists. With this heady mix of art and money, national ambition and imperial expansion in mind, the course will investigate what was distinctive about British art in the period. We shall emphasize artistic networks and cross–cultural dialogues and, above all, the dynamic relationship between paint and print. Among the individuals discussed will be Antonio Verrio, James Thornhill and William Hogarth; Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough; Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray, Jean-Étienne Liotard, Johann Zoffany, Benjamin West and John Singleton Copley. With many collections of historic importance nearby, participants will study eighteenth–century art at first hand, and sometimes in the very places for which it was intended. A final choice for the course visits will be made in the spring of 2020.
With seismic explosiveness, young artists across Europe changed the course of painting and sculpture soon after the new century began. A series of revolutionary movements erupted, beginning with Fauvism in France and Expressionism in Germany. The Italian Futurists were the most clamorous but the Cubists in Paris proved the most far-reaching. Then, in 1914, London was shocked by the advent of Vorticism and its rumbustious magazine BLAST. This course explores the rebellious momentum of an exciting period. However, it terminates in the tragedy of the First World War when many avant-garde artists found themselves caught up in a blood-bath. Visits include Tate Modern, the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art and the Imperial War Museum.
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 Höch’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 and to Tate Modern.
NB. You may also be interested in Dr Shearman’s study tour ‘Munich Moderns’,8-10 September 2020, when she will focus in situ on works by the German Expressionist groups Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter.
In the decades since the founding of the ICA as a post-war ‘workshop’ for radical artists, London’s galleries, art colleges and institutes have played an ever increasing role, both in the promotion of contemporary art and in its creation. The notorious Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1997 expressed the creativity of young British artists, but also reflected the formative influence of what was originally called Goldsmiths’ College (now Goldsmiths), and the cultural prestige and commercial acumen of the Saatchi Collection. This course explores the story of British contemporary art and the key institutions that shaped this development. In a series of lectures and gallery visits, Change-makers will consider the work of leading contemporary artists, the creative role of individual museums, galleries and art schools, and the cultural impact of annual events such as the Turner Prize and the Frieze art fair.
Alongside lectures on the key movements and landmark events, each day of the course includes a visit to a relevant current exhibition, archive, or artist’s studio, and a final choice will be made in the spring of 2020. The course will offer a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the arts establishment, with the opportunity to meet curators, artists, and other arts professionals, and share their perspectives on the achievements and controversies of contemporary art in Britain.
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 shall 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 shall 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.