The course will focus on Western Europe in the period c.1900-c.1960. Our main emphasis will be on France and Britain, but, depending on the interests and linguistic skills of the group, attention may also be given to Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.
The course title highlights major issues to be addressed: ‘art’ is itself an issue not only for Marcel Duchamp, but also for Dadaists and Surrealists in Paris and Barcelona; the personas and practices of artists become an issue which is directly confronted by, for example, Picasso’s mythology of the self and in the emergence of the studio as a representation of the artist and art as a way of life; Modernism or modernisms remain an issue with which every historian of visual art in the 20th Century has to engage.
Our starting point in addressing these issues will most often be images and objects of every kind, which have attracted the label ‘art’, rather than cultural, political or abstract categories. Building contexts for them – historical in the widest sense, but also including institutions, dealers, personal networks and critical responses – will be taken to be central to the exploration of artists’ lives and works.
We shall take on the major figures of the period, opening up new ways into what may seem over-interpreted objects and images by such artists as Matisse and Picasso, Giacometti and Bacon, Léger and Mondrian, Miró and Moore, Hepworth and Brancusi, though coverage will inevitably be selective because of the constraints of time.
We shall also, however, engage with forgotten or so-called ‘minor’ figures such as Chana Orloff, as well as Lipchitz, or Marlow Moss as well as Ben Nicholson, and we may stray outside the mainstream of modernism’s history to take in Stanley Spencer, for instance, or Derain after 1914.
The course will be structured not in terms of modern movements and their adversaries, but in terms of individual artists and their work looked at within the narrowest and the widest of contexts. Current theoretical approaches will be welcomed where they give purchase to the researching of lives, artistic practices and the exploration of meanings in particular cases, but the core concerns of the course will be historical.
After the introductory series of seminars and classes, the group itself will have a role in deciding which particular cases are singled out for close attention.
Language or other requirements
Standard entry requirements.