The union of drawing and rational design, in both artistic practice and aesthetic theory, was a fundamental tenet for an important group of seventeenth-century artists and critics. Focusing first on the careers of Annibale Carracci and Nicolas Poussin in Rome, the course will examine the practices of drawing and the attitudes toward idealization that formed common ground for artists such as Claude Lorrain, Domenichino, and Charles Le Brun.
Emulating antiquity was not the only trait that joined these artists in Italy and France. Associated with the rise of artists’ academies and with a repudiation of guild practices, classicizing art was also addressed to particular social groups. Printmaking, whether a creative practice as in the case of the Carracci or Claude Lorrain, or a workshop tool for the reproduction of paintings, further extended the audiences for classicizing arts. We will look at the polarization of a Roman public for visual arts during the 1630s by the taste for Caravaggism and the realist practices of Dutch, Flemish and Spanish painting. In France, the political and social upheaval of the 1640s was the seedbed for new, self-conscious forms of idealising art.
One aim of the course is to reframe this phenomenon of baroque classicism through the lens of a social history of art. The collecting of drawings and prints as well as the patronage of painting will be areas of interest for the course. We will also look at the rise of art criticism in this same period, with ‘lectures’ and statements by artists themselves, treatises on painting by connoisseurs, and the biographies of modern artists such as those by Giovan Pietro Bellori and André Félibien.
Close examination of paintings, drawings and prints in London will form an important part of our class meetings. We utilise The Courtauld’s own outstanding collections as well as those at the British Museum, the Royal Library at Windsor Castle and the National Gallery.
Language and other requirements
Standard entry requirements. A reading knowledge of Italian and/or French is required for this course; students are encouraged to study in language classes during the M.A. course to extend their language skills.