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History of Art Tripos, 2003: Special subjects

The Faculty Board of Architecture and History of Art give notice that they have approved the following special subjects for the History of Art Tripos, 2003 (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 302):

Papers 2 and 3. Visual encounters between Europe and the Ottoman Empire

This course is designed to explore the transformation of knowledge and understanding of the 'Orient' by focusing on the historical evolution of visual representations of the Ottomans. This process of evolution is not regarded as 'progress', but as a complex cultural and political appropriation, taking into account that each generation had its own ways and methods of observing, recording, transporting, and emulating Ottoman culture. The course will introduce students to a select group of works of art and architecture elucidating the cultural, political, and economic links between Europe and the Ottoman Empire from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century. This time-span is deliberately extensive in order to show that the characteristics of cross-cultural interactions are more visible across a long period. The lectures will examine, amongst others, works by Albrecht Dürer, Gentile Bellini, Melchoir Lorich, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, William Chambers, Emmanuel Héré, François Boucher, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, William Hogarth, John Frederick Lewis, William Morris, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Eugène Delacroix, Owen Jones, and Matthew Digby Wyatt. They will be studied in their historical contexts, with special attention paid to changing ideas about the Orient and how these changes emphasize different aspects of European interaction with the Ottomans and how they reflect artistic conventions. The course will also address concepts by means of which cross-cultural works of art and architecture can be analysed and understood. By analysing the images of the Ottomans within the European visual culture, students will also learn about the art and architecture of the Ottomans.

Papers 4 and 5. English Gothic art and architecture, 1170-1350

This special subject investigates the key period in the development of English Gothic art. It will begin by considering the rebuilding and decoration of the choir of Canterbury Cathedral in response to the cult of St Thomas, before moving on to examine the role of the Church in the propagation of Gothic architecture, and especially the 'episcopal style' at such places as Wells, Salisbury, Lincoln, Ely, and York. The course will then consider the development of figurative art in sculpture, manuscript painting, wall and panel painting - notably Psalters, Apocalypses, and saints' Lives - stressing collections in Cambridge. The role of court patronage between Henry III and Edward III will be explored, at Westminster and elsewhere. Emphasis will also be given to the role of the Church in defining the function of religious art in the wake of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, particularly with respect to the parishes and to lay patronage and religious belief and practice. Doctrinal and devotional issues will thus form an important theme. Other topics covered will be the origins and development of the Decorated Style, and the emergence of 'East Anglian' illumination in the fourteenth century, again with reference to art and architecture in and around Cambridge.

Papers 6 and 7. Medieval and Renaissance architecture in Venice, 1300-1600

The evolution of the Venetian townscape depended on a range of distinctive factors. This course examines the peculiar physical problems of building on marshy lagoon islands and the reasons lying behind this choice of site. Through the chosen period, the changing nature of the respective roles of client, craftsman, and architect is investigated. We consider the nature of Venetian society, both secular and religious, and the architectural settings that evolved to accommodate it. In the context of the city's role as a great international emporium, we analyse how trading contacts influenced architectural expression. With the help of written descriptions and visual renderings of the townscape, the ideological content embodied in both private and public building is explored.

Papers 8 and 9. Dürer and his time

A study of Dürer as a painter, an engraver, a draughtsman, and a theorist will demonstrate his prevailing place in the Northern Renaissance. His travels will be studied and the impact of new ideas and forms on the development of his art. This will involve a comparative analysis of Italian and Northern trends. However, the principal aim will be 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.

Papers 10 and 11. Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) is one of the most productive and prolific artists in the history of art. Today, his oeuvre is generally regarded as embodying the 'Baroque', a common, yet controversial term designating the predominant artistic trends and ideas of the seventeenth century. This special subject will approach Rubens's success as the result of his efforts to shape and control the formation of his artistic and social identity. This entails considering the cultural conditions which both provide and constrain an individual's choices in creating a distinct, personal style. The course will follow Rubens's artistic development chronologically, introducing students to his most important works and commissions. In accordance with the theme of this course, the paintings will be discussed as reflecting Rubens's involvement in the twilight zone of seventeenth-century secret diplomacy and the highly theatrical world of contemporary European courts, as well as his cultivation of a distinct burgher identity. Emphasis will be given to Rubens's paintings held in Cambridge and London collections. The course is therefore designed to provide students with a broad knowledge of seventeenth-century visual culture which may serve as an introduction to further studies in related fields, such as Netherlandish or Italian Baroque art in particular or Early Modern European court culture in general. The course will conclude with an examination of the posthumous reception of Rubens's works in the writings of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century writers such as Roger de Piles, Jean François Michel, and others.

Papers 12 and 13. 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. We will focus on the developments of the movement during this fascinating period of French history and explore the reasons why Surrealism emerged in the aftermath of World War I; why it turned to the psychoanalytic writings of Sigmund Freud for inspiration; its revolutionary role in art, literature, and politics in France in the 1930s; its exile in New York during the war and influence on Abstract Expressionism there; and the post World War II international Surrealist exhibitions of 1947, 1959, and 1965, which were fantastic theatrical shows, dedicated to myth, Eros, and 'deviation' respectively. Students will be encouraged to examine Surrealist writings alongside the many media used by Surrealist artists (painting, drawings, lithographs, collage, ready-mades, and photography), and to assess Surrealist art from a number of thematic and theoretical perspectives. Surrealist themes to be addressed will include amour fou, violence and desire, mythology, occultism, and Utopianism. In addition, psychoanalysis, feminism, and the social history of art will be used to assess the successes and failures of Surrealism and to help understand why its legacy is still ever-present in contemporary art.

Papers 14 and 15. Painting in Venice in the High Renaissance

This course will treat painting in Venice during the period c.1480 - c.1530. It will begin with a consideration of the later work of Giovanni Bellini, emphasizing both his private and public paintings. It will continue with a close examination of the work of Giorgione, who remains one of the most fascinating and most mysterious artists of the period, in an effort to determine both the make up of his oeuvre, surviving and lost, and the nature of his innovations. The Venetian career of one of Giorgione's most significant followers, Sebastiano, will be examined, and the course will culminate with a detailed study of the early career of one of the greatest of all European painters and the artist who indelibly marked the Venetian school, Titian, concluding with the work produced just before he came to be patronized by Charles V. In addition, attention will be paid to several contemporary painters whose work, while not generally at the level of these major figures, is nevertheless of great interest: Gentile Bellini, Carpaccio, Cima da Conegliano, and Palma Vecchio.

Papers 16 and 17. Modern movements in painting in England and France, 1880-1920

European art of the period covered by this course is characterized by fierce individualism on the one hand and by an emphasis upon artistic alliances on the other. From Whistler's Ten o'clock (1885) to the explosions of the Futurists at the Sackville Galleries (1912), artists took to the podium to expound their ideas about art. The Salon des Indépendents in Paris, like the New English Art Club in London, offered the comfort of mutual support to like-minded artists who found themselves at odds with the official taste of the Salon and the Royal Academy respectively. Travel between the major centres of artistic production became an important element in campaigns by the avant-garde, first within Europe, then, by the end of the period, between Europe and the United States of America. The course will attempt to study the careers of individual painters against this background of alliances. It will relate theory to practice and will take account of the relevant social and political pressures. It will touch upon the following broad topics: after Impressionism, Symbolism, the impact of non-Western cultures, Cubism, the machine aesthetic, and the emergence of abstraction.

Papers 18 and 19. British architects and Italy from Jones to Soane

This paper will explore the varying ways in which British architecture was transformed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by the impact of Italian architecture, whether through publications or travel. Attention will be paid to the shift of interest from Palladio to antique architecture, both Roman and Greek, as in the temples at Paestum and in Sicily. This will involve study of the travels and designs of architects such as Jones, Burlington, Chambers, Adam, and Soane, as well as the impact of the archaeologist, engraver, and architectural theorist, Piranesi.


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Cambridge University Reporter, 6 June 2001
Copyright © 2011 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.