Paper 1. Approaches to the History of Art, with reference to works of criticism
This paper investigates the ways in which art has been written about through its history. It examines the philosophical arguments of classical antiquity; religious debates about images in the Middle Ages; approaches to art and architecture in the Renaissance; the birth of aesthetics in Europe; and the emergence of the history of art as a discipline in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The second half of the course is devoted to more recent developments: twentieth-century contributions to the discipline, such as formalism, iconography and the New Art History; the influence of broader intellectual trends, such as Marxism, Feminism, Psychoanalysis and Postmodernism; and the future of the history of art in a changing academic landscape.
Paper 2. The Display of Art
Spread over two terms, this course explores the relationship between art and its various publics through a study of the ways in which art is collected, displayed and experienced. The Michaelmas Term ('The Birth of the Museum') will focus on the evolution of the Western art museum up to the end of the 19th century. The Lent Term ('The Critique of the Museum') will focus on the 20th century, examining the avant-gardes' radical challenge to the museum and the ways in which the institution changed in response to such critique.
Paper 5/6. Gothic Art and Architecture in France 1100-1300
This special subject examines the exceptionally fertile period of French medieval art and architecture between the era of monastic reform and the end of the building boom at the end of the 13th century. Starting with Romanesque art in such areas as Normandy and Burgundy, it will examine the major sources of art comment in the 12th century including the writings of St Bernard and Abbot Suger. The Parisian art milieu c. 1150, including Saint-Denis, will act as a springboard to further consideration of the development of Gothic architecture in northern and eastern France (Notre-Dame, Paris, Laon, Soissons, Chartres, Bourges etc.). Developments in metalwork and portal sculpture will be considered, and also illumination. High Gothic (Reims, Amiens) will follow, with consideration of the portfolio of Villard d’Honnecourt. The Parisian milieu will then be returned to with examination of Gothic architecture and ‘scholasticism’, the Sainte-Chapelle and Court art under Louis IX and the emergence of Rayonnant. Issues for discussion will include Gothic sculpture, theology and ‘moralitas’, the reception of French art and architecture in Western Europe more generally, and the of the loss of authority of French architecture to the geographical ‘margins’ from 1300.
Paper 9/10. Dürer and his time
A study of Dürer as a painter, an engraver, a draughtsman, and a theorist demonstrates his prevailing place in the Northern Renaissance. His travels are studied and the impact of new ideas and forms on the development of his art. This involves a comparative analysis of Italian and Northern trends. However, the principal aim is to show the place of Dürer's production within his social and cultural environment (humanist, popular, religious etc.). This approach should allow an understanding not only of the artistic but also of the cultural aspects of Dürer's art.
Paper 11/12. Italian Art and Architecture in the Age of Giotto
Italy’s artistic culture underwent a revolution in the decades around 1300 – a seismic shift towards more naturalistic modes of representation most strongly associated with Giotto di Bondone (c.1267-1337). This course disentangles the Florentine master from Vasarian myth and modern attribution debates, reassessing his achievements within the context of his own time. We consider Giotto alongside other leading painters (his Florentine compatriot Cimabue and the Sienese Duccio, Simone Martini, and both Lorenzetti) as well as the architect-sculptor Arnolfo di Cambio, setting them against the dynamic backdrop of Tuscany’s burgeoning urban centres (Florence, Siena, Pisa). We explore links between art and literature, especially through the poetry of Dante, and the emergence of pictorial allegory capable of communicating complex philosophical and political concepts. Beyond Tuscany, the course examines several other major artistic centres where Giotto worked: Rome, where the papacy energetically renewed the eternal city’s early Christian past; Assisi, headquarters of the Franciscan Order and site of the peninsula’s most intensive concentration of fresco cycles; Padua, where the university encouraged artists to engage with classical antiquity and the new science of optics; and Naples, whose Angevin kings refashioned their southern capital with Gothic architecture imported from France.
Paper 13/14. The poetics and politics of Surrealism
This course will cover the history of the Surrealist movement from its birth in Paris in 1924 to the dissolution of ‘historical Surrealism’ in 1969. It will focus on the developments of Surrealism during this fascinating period of French history and explore its revolutionary role in art, literature and politics in France in the inter- and post-war years: from its birth in the aftermath of World War I, to its engagement with Marxism and psychoanalysis in the 1930s, to its exile in New York during World War II, to its post-war international exhibitions. Students will be encouraged to examine Surrealist art from a number of thematic perspectives - including desire, mythology, occultism and utopianism, and to generally consider the relationship between Surrealist art and politics (gender, racial and national) so that its successes and failures, and its legacy today, can be critically assessed.
Paper 15/16. Painting and Patronage in Imperial Russia
From the reign of Peter the Great (1682-1725), artistic practice in Russia underwent a period of remarkably accelerated development, complementing the long-standing tradition of icon painting with a wealth of experimentation in secular art. At the same time, the country acquired art collections of international repute, thanks to the activities of patrons as ambitious as Catherine the Great. This course examines the vibrant visual culture which resulted, from the imposing portraits of the eighteenth-century court, to the iconoclastic antics of the pre-Revolutionary avant-garde. By focusing both on painters unfamiliar in the West and on works as canonical as Malevich's Black Square, the course will challenge standard interpretations of the modernist mainstream, and consider the role which Russia played in the wider development of Western European art.
Paper 17/18. Establishing Modernist Painting: Manet, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso
This course takes a critical look at the rise and contested history of high modernism in painting, a moment that produced what remain some of the best-known and most controversial works in the art historical canon. Close attention to the art and contexts of four of the most prominent figures of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is used to examine key themes in the development of painting over the period. This is throughout set against later reassessments of the meaning and value of this tradition, from Clement Greenberg’s theorization of modernism in the mid twentieth century through to its critics and supporters in the present day. Artistic themes covered include the painting of modern life, impressionism and post-impressionism, cubism, and the move towards abstract art. More general topics include constructions of modernism, the art historical canon and its critics, and ways beyond modernist painting such as the ‘visual culture’ of modernism and modernisms outside of the West.
Paper 19/20. British Architecture in the Age of Enlightenment, Industry and Reform
The century from c.1750 to c.1850 was one of almost unprecedented development in British architecture. New relationships with the ruined buildings of the ancient Graeco-Roman world emerged in response to the effects of the Grand Tour and of the incipient science of archaeology, while an indigenous antithesis was represented by surviving or revived Gothic forms. The ideologies of the Picturesque and of Romanticism incorporated both classicism and medievalism, as well as more exotic forms of architecture inspired by Britain’s trading links with the Far East. This was also the period in which Britain emerged as the world’s first industrial nation, leading not just to new building materials and building types but also to rapid expansion of cities. In this Special Subject, the architectural effects of changing political and social imperatives in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries will be studied against the background of longstanding British traditions in building and landscape design.
Paper 21/22. Orientalism and Occidentalism: The Discourse of the Other in the Visual Arts
This course explores works of art and architecture that reveal or are informed by the long, complex, and often troubled relationship between the West and the Islamic world. Though extending in scope from the early modern period into our own time, the course focuses on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when East-West artistic interactions were arguably at their liveliest and most charged. Topics to be addressed include Ottoman Baroque architecture, academic Orientalist painting of the nineteenth century, Qajar portraiture and photography, Islamicate architecture at Western world’s fairs, and the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Students will be encouraged to consider the differences as well as commonalities between these various modes of cross-cultural representation and engagement, and to think critically about the political, cultural, and artistic conditions that gave rise to and shaped them.