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History of Art Tripos, 2005: 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, 2005 (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 310):

Paper 1. Approaches to the History of Art, with reference to works of criticism

This paper deals with the influence of writers of classical antiquity upon the Renaissance approach to art and architecture; with changing attitudes towards both antiquity and the Middle Ages in the eighteenth century; with nineteenth-century and twentieth-century theoretical and critical approaches to art and architecture; and with recent developments in art historical methods, the growth of connoisseurship and conservation studies, formal and stylistic criticism, and sociological and iconographical interpretations of works of art and architecture.

Papers 2 and 3. Rome: from Imperial Capital to Holy City AD 300-1500

This course will consider the transformation of antique Rome from late Antiquity to the Quattrocento. The Early Christian city appropriated the legacy of the ancients, transforming antique structures into Christian places of worship and imposing new typologies and meanings. The re-use of spolia and the continuity of craft traditions kept alive aspects of imperial culture throughout the Early Christian and medieval period. Later, as the city shrank to a small nucleus on the banks of the Tiber and ancient monuments fell into ruin, the relationship between antiquity and the Christian tradition shifted. The dynamics of the relationship between the papacy and the commune of Rome further complicated the city's evolution. The course will consider Rome in its broadest sense: its urban planning, devotional and secular architecture, mosaics, frescoes, and sculpture.

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 begins 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 then considers 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 is 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 include 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 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.

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 approaches Rubens' 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 follows Rubens' artistic development chronologically, introducing students to his most important works and commissions. In accordance with the theme of this course, the paintings are discussed as reflecting Rubens' 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 is given to Rubens' 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 serves 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 concludes with an examination of the posthumous reception of Rubens' 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. 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.

Papers 14 and 15. The Arts and Crafts Movement

This course examines the Arts and Crafts Movement, an international phenomenon of enormous scope and influence which dates roughly from the 1850s to the First World War. By looking at the work of a range of different artists, critics, architects, and designers, the course assesses both the Movement's intellectual ambitions, and its complex social and political aims. The course begins by addressing the theoretical pre-history of Arts and Crafts ideas in the writing of figures such as A. W. N. Pugin and John Ruskin, both of whom campaigned for artistic unity and 'honesty' in design. It then examines the activities of William Morris and his firm, the communal guilds, and workshops of the 1880s, and architects such as Philip Webb and Richard Norman Shaw. The position of Charles Rennie Mackintosh within the Arts and Crafts Movement is also assessed. The second half of the course studies the Movement's expansion outside Britain, from the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright in America to the rise of a new vanguard of design in Austria and Germany. Attention is paid throughout to the way in which ideas that developed within a local, decorative art context continue to inform contemporary debates on the role and responsibilities of art and design.

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 explores 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 is 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 involves 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 4 February 2004
Copyright © 2011 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.