Whistler to Whiteread: Art in Britain since 1875
Rather than offering a broad survey, this lecture course will examine some of the key episodes and developments in British art in the period, from J.A.M. Whistler’s radical Falling Rocket—a painting so apparently slapdash and formless that it led to a bitter libel case—to the Young British Artists—whose arrival on the art scene in the late twentieth century likewise sparked controversy. Each lecture will focus on a significant movement, exhibition, artist, genre, or medium, and the emphasis throughout will be on close visual analysis. We will consider the dichotomy of tradition and modernity, challenging any notion of straightforward “progress,” and looking instead at the ways in which artists have seemed radical for their time and also drawn inspiration from the past. The course will explore a range of media, incorporating not only painting and sculpture but also the decorative arts and installation art, from the Arts and Crafts movement to Grayson Perry’s ceramics and Damien Hirst’s multi-media works. Alongside British artists the course will look at foreign-born artists working and exhibiting in Britain. Topics may include artistic communities such as the Bloomsbury Group and St. Ives; experiments with abstraction by Barbara Hepworth and Bridget Riley; the treatment of the body in the work of Henry Moore and Lucian Freud; and innovations in sculpture by Jacob Epstein and Anthony Caro. The art of the period will be considered against the background of Britain’s expanding and then diminishing empire, two devastating world wars, and the rise of feminism, amongst other important historical developments.