The Woodgates

ART HISTORY

See also individual ARTISTS

Holbein to Hirst – a history of British art
A review of the work of the major artists working in Britain from the 16th century to the present day.

Tate Britain – 500 years of British Art
The earliest painting in Tate Britain dates from 1545 and the most recent works include the annual Turner prize displays as well as other exciting manifestations of late-20th and early-21st century British art.

Self-portraits from Dürer to Dix
The cheapest, most uncomplaining model for an artist has always been him- or herself and the resultant portraits can often tell us much about what is going on in the wider world as well as giving an insight into the artist’s character.

Challenging Tradition - Millet and the Barbizon School
Jean-François Millet, who was born on the 4th of October 1814, came from humble peasant stock, but was in at the very beginning of what we call ‘modern art’. He shocked Parisian audiences with his scenes of the backbreaking daily grind and poverty of peasant life, rather than the idealised images of country life which were expected at the time. His Social Realism (and that of Gustave Courbet, amongst others) was criticised in 1855 by Count Nieuwerkerke, the Imperial Superintendent of Fine Arts, as “the painting of democrats, of those who don’t change their linen”; he went on to say “this art displeases and disgusts me.” However, in 1857, when The Gleaners was shown in the Salon, a critic praised Millet as “a great painter who walks in clogs the road of Michelangelo.”

He worked in Barbizon, in the Forest of Fontainebleau outside Paris, along with Corot, Théodore Rousseau and others. These artists became known as the Barbizon School, and their paintings of rural life were to be an important part of the background of Impressionism. This lecture will look at Millet’s powerful paintings, including The Gleaners and The Angelus, alongside works by other members of the Barbizon School, and show how artists as varied as Monet, van Gogh, Seurat and Salvador Dali were inspired by his work.

“Fraudulence, trickery and deception” - Looking into Paintings
Edgar Degas said that “A painting requires as much fraudulence, trickery and deception as the perpetration of a crime” and, while this may be a slight exaggeration, it has a ring of truth. Artists can manipulate colour, form, composition and subject-matter (even facts!) in order to explore universal themes such as life, death, feelings, or politics, and to engage our emotional participation in the work.

In this lecture we will see how Delacroix, Matisse, Kandinsky and others use colour, composition and subject matter to engage our emotions or provoke a response. We will examine the way that modern treatments of traditional genres, by artists like Rubens or Manet, can add to, or change, our understanding of the subject and its message.

We will also explore the way in which Leonardo, Poussin and Beckmann, for example, frequently manipulate perspective, composition and reality in order to deceive us.

The ‘Wild Beasts’ of 1905 – Fauve and French Expressionist Painting
The French equivalent of German Expressionism is full of colour and a sense of joie de vivre, and artists such as Matisse and Derain caused a sensation when their works were exhibited alongside a classicised sculpture in Paris in 1905. A critic referred to the sculpture as “Donatello parmis les fauves” (Donatello among the wild beasts), giving the name to the movement.

The sensual beauty of everyday life - The art and scandalous lives of the Bloomsbury Group
The art of the three main ‘Bloomsbury’ artists (Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Roger Fry) cannot be separated from their extraordinary lives. They, along with their literary and other intellectual companions (Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey and John Maynard Keynes, amongst others) were part of a movement, the popular name for which became widely used only after the death of around half its members.

Beckmann, Dix and Grosz – German ‘Degenerates’
The paintings of these artists were included in Hitler’s Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition in Munich in 1937 and many were subsequently destroyed by the Nazis. Their works covering the First World War and the rise of Nazism were finely-painted and extremely powerful. In 1925, all three artists had exhibited in the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) exhibition, which looked back to the great German artists of the past, such as Cranach, Dürer and Holbein.

American Realism in the 1920s and '30s
This lecture looks at the art (painting and photography) of America in the period leading up to and during the Depression, in the context of some of the literature of the period. The two outstanding figures in the visual arts are Edward Hopper and Walker Evans. The lecture also includes works by painters such as the so-called Regionalists, Grant Wood (of American Gothic fame) and Thomas Hart Benton, and photographers like Charles Sheeler (who was also a painter). Particularly exciting is the linking of Walker Evans's 1930s photos of the rural poor with, for example, John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. On the purely visual front, parallels exist between Evans's photos taken surreptitiously on the New York subway in the late 30s and Hopper's paintings of the same period.

Does my bum look big in this?  Women Looking at Women
The cheapest, most uncomplaining, model for an artist has always been him- or herself. Historically, women artists frequently had little choice anyway, as life classes were generally the preserve of the male. When the Royal Academy was founded in 1768, there were only two female members, Angelika Kauffmann and Mary Moser; the next woman to be made a full Academician was Dame Laura Knight, 168 years later, in 1936! Since the second half of the 20th century, female artists have become much more prominent than at any period in the past. This lecture looks at women through other women's eyes, often through their own, although it is not just a succession of straightforward portraits. It includes sculpture, sometimes using unconventional materials, and paintings and other works which use furniture and other objects as metaphors for the (female) subject.

The War to end all Wars - the Art of World War I
The horrors of the First World War had a profound effect on the artists who fought in it, and they produced powerful images of the war and its aftermath. In the 1920s, many artists on the allied side returned to traditional subjects such as tranquil landscapes, while German artists produced powerful polemics against post-war deprivation, the treatment of war wounded and rising militarism. This lecture examines the art of both sides before, during and after the war which was expected ‘to be over by Christmas’.

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