Historically, revolutions have happened when political forms no longer matched social realities. Something analogous has held true in the cultural realm, when a new generation of artists arose seeking creative expression more in tune with changing times. Contrasting artwork of the upstart rebels with that of the prevailing Masters, our class sessions will highlight the six most momentous of these great cultural revolutions.
Moving chronologically, we begin with the Renaissance, when Italian painters broke through the constraints of Medieval artistic conventions. Later, in the Reformation era, the ardent spirituality of Baroque painters like Caravaggio, Rubens, and Rembrandt exposed the artificiality of stylized Mannerism. With the Enlightenment movement, Rococo masters like Watteau and Boucher introduced a playful touch which lightened the serious tone of grand-scale French Classicism. In the Age of Revolution, we’ll see Romantic artists such as Turner and Delacroix bringing forth elements of mystery and emotion in swirling colors. Later in the 19th century, Impressionist painters took on the prestigious French Academy, promoting artwork grounded in the experience of ordinary people. Lastly, we’ll chronicle the revolt of the Surrealists, the first group of artists who explicitly sought to shock, as they pointed to incongruous paradoxes of modern life.