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 will 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 will 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 will consider the entertainment value of saints’ stories by uncovering the links between visual narrative and medieval drama. Visits include the Victoria and 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.
Michelangelo: Art and Life in the European Context
Professor James Hall
This course is now FULL
Long before Vasari hailed Michelangelo in his Lives of the Artists as the greatest artist who ever lived, he had become an almost mythical figure, and Michelangelo himself took every opportunity to contribute to the stock of self-aggrandising stories. The purpose of this course is to look beyond the myths, and to see Michelangelo afresh in the context of his times, looking at the particular ways in which he drew on as well as departed from the art traditions of Florence and Rome, and of northern Europe. We will also see how he responded to as well as rejected cultural, religious and political developments, and the demands of patrons. The major paintings and sculptures will be discussed in the lectures, and the wealth of material in public collections examined at close quarters in the gallery tours. Visits will be made to The Courtauld Gallery Print room and the Royal Library to see Michelangelo’s drawings; the Victoria and Albert Museum to see the superb plaster casts of his sculptures; the National Gallery to see two early panel paintings, and the Royal Academy to see the Taddei Tondo. We will also consider Michelangelo’s influence on later art.
Collections and Marketplaces: The Business of Art in Italy, 1500-1700
Dr Barbara Furlotti
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 centuries. 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 Courtauld Gallery, the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the British Museum.
Cosmopolitan Britain: Painting, Print Culture and Patronage in the Eighteenth Century
Dr Kate Grandjouan
This course investigates the rich artistic legacy of the eighteenth century when British society was radically transformed by what was, in effect, a consumer revolution. Many quintessentially modern phenomena originate in the period: mass media, seductive shops, the cult of celebrity and vibrant public spaces for the arts. As wealth increased it reached into a new, ‘middling’ sector of society whose tastes and demands helped produce a varied and innovative visual culture. The course takes a cosmopolitan approach to the art of the period, examining ‘local’ artists like Jonathan Richardson, William Hogarth, Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough and Thomas Rowlandson alongside some of the French, German, Swiss and American artists who came to Britain to work. They include Louis Laguerre, Philippe de Loutherbourg, Jean-Etienne Liotard, Johann Zoffany, Benjamin West and John Singleton Copley. Participants will have the opportunity of studying their art at first hand, and often in the very places for which their works were initially intended. Long visits will include the Foundling Museum, the National Maritime Museum and Tate Britain. Short visits will include Marlborough House, the Royal Society of Arts and Sir John Soane’s Museum. In addition, we will work closely with prints, drawings and watercolours in the Courtauld print room.
N.B. This is a revised version of the course taught in 2017 under the title Modern Britain: Painting, Print-Making and Patronage in the Eighteenth Century.
Visions of Utopia in German Modernist Art, 1905-1925
Dr Niccola Shearman
This course is now FULL
The German art world was taken by storm with the visions of physical freedom depicted by the Brücke artists; their mission was to create a bridge to a new society. Equally revolutionary was the art of the Blaue Reiter, driven by a similarly palpable force: glowing landscapes giving onto vistas of cosmic union. The revolution also took place in black and white, from the woodcut’s raw materiality to the tightly constructed Small World lithographs by Kandinsky – possible abstractions on Thomas More’s island of Utopia. Even amidst the tranquil water meadows of Worpswede, the spirit of rural commune was exercised as a rejection of the academic tradition. And for all concerned, the daring example of the French avant-garde was to be a significant stimulus.
Revisiting a period in art noted for its ‘manic-depressive’ character, this course will trace a path from ecstatic beginnings, to the wave of revolutionary graphics that launched the Weimar Republic, and via further castles in the air to the functional Bauhaus ideal and the advent of the ‘new sobriety’. Relevant literary and philosophical developments will be discussed, including a session on cinema, and we will visit collections in London and the important gallery of Expressionist art at Leicester Museum.
Idealists, Realists and the Avant-Garde: The Battle for Nineteenth-Century French Painting
Dr Lois Oliver
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. Exploring the work of Ingres, Delacroix, Delaroche, Courbet, Millet, Rousseau, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Seurat, Cézanne, Gauguin and Van Gogh, the course makes full use of the collections of The Courtauld, the National Gallery, and the Wallace Collection and includes a visit to the National Gallery exhibition Monet and Architecture.
Making it New: Modernism in the Early 20th Century
Dr Richard Cork
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 The Courtauld Gallery’s display of twentieth-century art, Tate Modern, the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art and the Imperial War Museum.
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 will 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.