This course focuses on Italian and Spanish religious paintings of the Baroque period, from c.1540 to c.1700. By looking at artists such as El Greco, Zurbarán, Velázquez, Caravaggio and Ribera, course participants will be introduced to the various ways in which these artists responded to the spiritual trends of the Catholic Counter-Reformation and will explore how their works in turn shaped the religious milieu of their time. Using specific case studies, students will engage in close iconographical analysis. Issues such as the ideology of the Catholic Church, the devotional environment, the connections between art and mysticism, and theories of artistic originality and creation will be addressed. Exploring an era in which art captured its audience with a great sensual impact that encouraged an intimate engagement with spiritual matters, this course will illuminate where body and soul, the sensual and the divine, were at once closely intertwined and in tension. Course visits will include the National Gallery, Apsley House and the Dulwich Picture Gallery.
From the verdant forests of Albrecht Altdorfer 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 Joris Hoefnagel and Robert Hooke, which span the modern categories of art and science. Landscapes by Jacob Ruisdael 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.
The French painter and draughtsman Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) was a pivotal figure in the artistic life of eighteenth-century Paris. Moving to the capital from his provincial hometown, he was accepted as a member of the Royal Academy but remained an outsider to a certain degree for his unconventional lifestyle and unorthodox artistic production. After his premature death, Watteau became a somewhat mythical figure and his elegant, elusive and witty paintings a by-word for what we often (misleadingly) refer to as ‘rococo’ Paris, during and immediately after the Regency period (1715-23).
Through the study of Watteau’s life and the focused examination of particular works, we shall explore to what extent the history of eighteenth-century French art is closely entwined with the history of Paris. Urban expansion, architectural transformation, population growth and the development of a recognisably modern society occurred in tandem with the reorganization of artistic life. Throughout the course, we shall discuss crucial art-historical themes such as the relationship between artist and patron, the hierarchy of genres, and the role of the artist at times of urban and social change. At the end, we shall devote some time to the ‘(re)invention’ of Watteau and his era by nineteenth-century Parisian writers and artists. Visits include the Wallace Collection, National Gallery and Dulwich Picture Gallery.
1848 was a year of violent reaction across the globe, of revolutions from France to Brazil, the publication of the Communist Manifesto and Chartist riots in Britain. Amid these waves of protest, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was formed in London. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais started their own rebellion against the traditions of the Royal Academy and for new means of artistic expression that were relevant to modern life.
Traditionally, Paris has been seen as the centre of the avant-garde in the nineteenth century, but this course will explore how the Pre-Raphaelites were pushing artistic boundaries in Britain and internationally. Later on in the century, artists and designers such as Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris were producing beautiful objects that embodied radical politics, while the poet Algernon Swinburne and painters such as James McNeill Whistler made daring claims for the autonomy of art.
The scope of the course will reflect current research into British nineteenth-century art, focusing on themes such as modernity, gender, and class and incorporating the global context of the British Empire. Possible visits include the Victoria & Albert Museum, Tate Britain, The Guildhall Art Gallery, The Red House and Leighton House.
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 work 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, the British Museum print room and at least one private collection.
In a cartoon published in 1855, Honoré Daumier imagined a battle between two rival aesthetic schools in France: ‘Idealism’ appears as an ageing neoclassical nude, wearing an antique helmet, with his palette as a shield, heroically raising his mahlstick as a spear, to defend himself against ‘Realism’, a scruffy figure in rustic clogs, brandishing a small square palette and clumsy paintbrush. The image perfectly encapsulates the artistic and political differences between these two entrenched aesthetic positions, but the real joke is that neither of these veteran combatants is as vigorous as he used to be: both would be vulnerable to a new avant-garde challenger. The French art world witnessed a series of battles as traditionalists grappled with the successive challenges presented by Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Symbolism. This course explores the reasons behind the profound innovations in subject matter and technique that characterised the age, and the obstacles faced by avant-garde artists in getting their work exhibited and accepted. We shall explore the work of Ingres, Delacroix, Delaroche, Courbet, Millet, Rousseau, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Cassatt, Morisot, Seurat, Cézanne, Gauguin and Van Gogh, with visits to the National Gallery, the Wallace Collection and the Royal Academy exhibition Cézanne: the rock and quarry paintings.
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 Tate Modern.
N.B. Dr Murray will explore Franco-Russian avant-garde connections in situ during a Study Tour to Paris, from 7-8 December 2020.
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.