i Honoré Daumier, ‘Battle of the Schools — Idealism and Realism’, in Fantasies (Paris: Charivari, 1855), Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

23 – Idealists, Realists and the Avant-Garde: The Battle for Nineteenth-Century French Painting

Course 23

Dr Lois Oliver

Summer School – Online
Monday 12 – Friday 16 July 2021

You can still enroll on this course by 17:00 [London], Thursday 8 July. Please email short.courses@courtauld.ac.uk

Course description

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.

Lecturer’s biography

Dr Lois Oliver studied English Literature at Cambridge University, and art history at The Courtauld, completing an MA in Venetian Renaissance Art and writing her doctoral thesis on The Image of the Artist, Paris 1815-1855. She worked at the Harvard University Art Museums before joining the curatorial team at the V&A and then the National Gallery where she co-curated the major exhibition Rebels and Martyrs: the Image of the Artist in the Nineteenth Century (2006) and a series of touring exhibitions. Currently Associate Professor in art history at the University of Notre Dame in London, she has also taught undergraduate courses at The Courtauld. Lois writes audio and multimedia tours for clients including the National Gallery, Royal Academy, Royal Collection, and Tate, and has appeared on TV programmes for the BBC and Channel 5.

Two men fight; they represent realism and idealism, and both figures are comically fat/thin, short/tall, and old.
Honoré Daumier, ‘Battle of the Schools — Idealism and Realism’, in Fantasies (Paris: Charivari, 1855), Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA