The course offers an introduction to the major art movements in this period illustrating how radical ideas and intentions became fashionable and influential to succeeding generations of artists. Participants on the course will learn about the formal innovations in the use of materials, the importance of ideas, new exhibition strategies and the impact of political and social change on the evolution of art.
Designed as a course in three terms, the programme offers a comprehensive, illustrated survey of Modern and Contemporary art in the late 19th century until the present day.
Students attending the Course will be given an illustrated lectures of 75 minutes plus time to ask questions. Above all, the course is intended to equip participants with the tools and confidence to continue developing their interest in art beyond the classes.
- Understanding how Modern and Contemporary art fundamentally changed traditional expectations of European and American art as a medium of illustration and commemoration.
- Discovering how artists began to employ new materials and techniques for making art.
- Learning how to distinguish between different art movements, styles and methods by looking at specific artworks made by some of the most important artists of the period.
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7 October – 25 November 2021
Thursdays 15:00 – 16:30 London Time
Term One - 1870-1940
Starting with the Impressionism and the legacy of 19th century innovation, this term proceeds to the early decades of the Twentieth Century and includes some of the important artistic ideas of the period including Modernism, Cubism, Expressionism and Surrealism. The course will look at the ways British artists responded to continental Modernism and how European artists engaged with political conflict and world war.
Term One Talks:
Impressionism: The first talk explains how Impressionist painters adopted a new way of looking at the modern world, emphasising optical effects and the visual sensations of both urban crowds and natural landscapes.
The Post-Impressionism of Paul Cezanne and Paul Gauguin: Hoping to move beyond the formal effects of Impressionism, Cezanne and Gauguin each developed a singular style that became more expressive and spiritual in intention. From Cezanne’s concentration on perception to Gauguin’s imaginative re-interpretation of his subjects, Post-Impressionism guided painting towards a new understanding of truth and ‘reality’.
Cubism: Arguably, the most influential avant-garde art movement of the twentieth century, Cubism truly revolutionised painting and sculpture. Encompassing a belief that an object or a face had signification beyond their physical features, the Cubists pushed art into a new, self-sufficient creativity.
German Expressionism: The Expressionists believed that art could offer a new spiritual dimension. Their paintings spoke of modern dislocation and a romantic longing for innocence.
Modernist Artists in Focus - Marcel Duchamp and Henri Matisse: These two artists provide a powerful contrast at the heart of the debates around Modernism in art. Duchamp pioneered a new conceptual language of word play, games and philosophical questions about the status of art while Matisse evolved the nature of painting reveling in the expressive potential for colour and the sensual enjoyment of painting.
Surrealism: Founded by a manifesto, resembling a political document, the Surrealists rejected the bourgeois world which had supported the carnage of World War One. Instead, they argued for a new comprehension of the world based on adventures in the subconscious and an appreciation of Marxism.
Russian Constructivism: Following the Russian Revolution, Russian artists attempted to find a new visual language to complement and support the profound changes taking place in society
Modern British Art: British artists between the wars faced several dilemmas. How could British art be relevant and progressive? Many aspired to follow the European modernists, while others found inspiration in naïve and folk art. What these artists shared was a belief that art could improve the world and prevent conflict among different classes and rivalrous nations.
Eight 1.5 hour lectures
13 January – 3 March 2022
15:00 – 16:30 London Time
Term Two - 1940- 1980
This term maps the shift of the avant-garde from Europe to the United States when Abstract Expressionism was enthusiastically supported by American museums and national institutions. Students will also learn how artists began to make Conceptual and Minimalist art, requiring more active participation from the viewer and a deeper appreciation of ideas and process. Term Two also looks at the relationship of art to history, the impact of mass media on Pop Art, the growth of art photography and Land Art being made in natural environments beyond the gallery.
Term Two Talks:
Abstract Expressionism: Once regarded as provincial and peripheral, American artists began to lead the avant-garde after the Second World War by innovating a bold new formal language of painting, producing large and expressive ‘colour-field’ paintings. No longer guided by the need to describe what is seen, these artists such as Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock were more concerned with what they felt and hoped to make art that was timeless and universal.
Post-War German Art and the Experience of History: German artists were compelled to question the function of art after the horrors of the Second World War. Some looked back to a pre-war Expressionism while others adopted a more ironic and rebellious approach to post-war life, criticizing both Capitalism and Marxism. Above all, these artists wanted to revive and restore a radical tradition in German art, hoping to restore a lost purpose and morality.
Modernist Sculpture: Sculpture during the 19th century was largely founded upon an academic, salon tradition rooted in the Italian Renaissance. A sculpture such as Auguste Rodin began to find a less rigid and more emotionally authentic style. This talk will illustrate the subsequent innovations made by sculptors such as Brancusi, Hepworth and Moore and how they attempted to communicate a more subjective formal language of working in three dimensional materials employing either carving or modeling and casting.
Art Photography: Originally regarded as a rival to painting, photography began to assume a greater interest in explicitly demonstrating the inherent character of the medium itself and thereby differentiating itself from its origins in documentation, portraiture and images of record.
Conceptual Art and Minimalism: Distrustful of expression and emotion in Abstract Expressionism and other forms of Modernism, artists in the late 1950s and early1960s began to debate the very nature of art. Why should an artist make objects for an art market? Why not turn instead to prioritizing impermanent or economically worthless objects in favour of immaterial experiences and sensations. Language and philosophical problems also became important whereby traditional assumptions about art and looking at art were turned upside down.
Arte Povera: This distinct art movement originating in Italy embraced humble, organic materials to explore simplicity, time, the natural world and the value of craftsmanship.
Land Art and Earthworks: In the 1960s artists began to dispense with art made in studios and turned to the landscape and organic materials. Interventions were made in landscapes which were bold and ambitious but often controversial for sometimes bordering on destruction.
Pop Art: An explosion of graphic arts in the mid-twentieth century excited artists who began to imitate the same styling in advertising, marketing and packaging. Ironic and satirical pop artists immersed themselves the language of the supermarket, the cinema, television, mass marketing and desire.
Eight 1.5 hour lectures
24 March – 12 May 2022
15:00 – 16:30 London Time
Term Three - Contemporary art after 1980.
In the final term, the course examines artworks being made from 1980 up until the present day. Having explored the origins and progression of Modernism, students will now explore the new concept of Postmodernism and the rise of opportunities for artists to explore new subjects, materials and exhibition spaces.
Term Three Talks.
Postmodernism in Contemporary Art: Postmodernism is a contentious term, but it is still important to understand in order to navigate contemporary art. Postmodernism does not take any particular position but allows artists to free themselves from the whole idea of originality and an emphasis on the artist’s ‘hand’.
‘Sensation’ and the Young British Artists: During the 1990s the art world in London drew global attention as a new generation of artists such as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin confidently made art with humour, bravado, honesty and a distinctive attitude of irreverence.
Artist in Focus: Jean-Michel Basquiat: Basquiat is now highly prized in the art market. But how did this self-taught artist become one of the most respected and collected artists of the last 30 years? How too does Basquiat fit into the Western art world tradition and how can we interpret his dazzling but challenging art?
Artists Working Collaboratively - Theaster Gates and Jeremy Deller: Increasingly artists are keen to work with communities of people to create projects that involve many hands and contributions. Artists like Gates and Deller invite groups of people to embellish an idea that becomes greater than the work of a singular artist.
Identity in Contemporary Art: In an increasingly global and multi-cultural art world, artists are eagerly exploring ideas of migration, historical memory and cultural cross-pollination. In this talk we look at several artists such as Chris Ofili who draws inspiration from music, popular culture, fashion and folklore to articulate hybrid identities.
Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall Commissions: This talk examines the history of ‘site specific’ commissions from contemporary artists responding to the one of the world’s largest indoor spaces, The Turbine Hall at Tate Modern.
Contemporary Brazilian Art: Brazil is the Latin United States, a melting pot of indigenous, and migrant communities added to culture brought from Africa through violent slavery. Contemporary Brazilian artists inherit a legacy of street art, political resistance and a curiosity about the past. The talk will illustrate some of the leading contemporary Brazilian artists exhibiting today.
Art and New Technologies: The arrival of blockchain technology and the popularity of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) is just one example of the huge impact of new technologies on contemporary art. Technology promises to revolutionise the processes and techniques available to artists today, from digitalisation to computer generation and artificial intelligence to virtual reality.
An Introduction to Modern and Contemporary Art
Only Term 1
Only Term 2
Only Term 3
Joshua White has extensive experience teaching and lecturing in Modern and Contemporary art. For over 15 years he has taught at Christie’s Education in London where he was director of The London Art Course and led multiple courses including the Chairman’s programme for VIP clients.
He is a founder and presenter of The Art Channel, an online project documenting and reporting on Modern and Contemporary art exhibitions in commercial galleries and public institutions. The channel has now received 1 million views.
Joshua has direct experience of the art market, working as a Gallery Director between 2018 and 2020 specialising in 20th Century photography.
Elsewhere, he has lectured for Tate Modern and Britain, The National Portrait Gallery, The Courtauld Institute Gallery, Somerset House, The Design Museum, Sotheby’s Institute and The University of California. Further to his institutional work, he has worked with numerous private clients including group visits to the Venice Biennale and Berlin.
Joshua has written exhibition catalogues and been published by the BBC, The FT, Christie’s and Flash Art.
During 2020 he was a guest contributor to Channel 5’s ‘Great Paintings of the World’ and Radio 4’s ‘Behind The Scenes’.
Joshua is a graduate of the University of Oxford and has a Master’s degree from Christie’s Education in the History of Art.
Per Term: £560
Full Course: £1550
Am I eligible?
There are no prior qualifications needed to study this course.
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+44 (0)78 2447 4719