HISTORY OF CONTEMPORARY ART
Learning outcomes of the course unit
This year, the course is divided between an understanding of the Romantic period, centred on the theme of Nature and its divinisation, and that of the Twentieth century avant-garde.
Course contents summary
With a symmetrical devaluation of nature itself, idealisation of man-made nature (Futurist reconstruction of the universe), idolatry of the machine, celibate machines, etc. The first part highlights the meaning of the word Romanticism in its various interpretations and in comparison with precepts and Neoclassical ideology. Neoclassical canons for sculpture and painting, the 18th century view, Arcadia and the fake-natural dressing at court. Watteau and French painting, melancholy and theatre. Nature as allegory Tiepolo, Piranesi and the role of the pre-Romantics. Goya, Fuessli, Blake and Turner. Canova, Winckelmann and the relationship of devotion and renewal with the ancient world. The fiction of a pure, monochromatic, Apollonian Greece. Nietzsche and the discovery of the Dionysian. Originality and repetitiveness. Model of the icon and the archeropita figure. Difference between iconoclasm and iconography. Art as novelty and originality. Baudelaire and fashion. Old and new hierarchy in the arts. Prevalence of sculpture and architecture in Neoclassicism. Romanticism and the re-evaluation of the Gothic period, Catholicism and popular traditions. Romance languages and sentimental lyricism. Enlightenment philosophy, the position of Rousseau, the new view of nature in Kant, Schlegel, Schelling. Chateaubriand, Madame de Stael and Victor Hugo, poet and painter. The Germany of Madame de Stael, the figure of Napoleon and Byron, Goethe and Shakespeare. The sentimental and naïve in Schiller. Romantic music, Schubert, Goethe, Friedrich. Leopardi, the Lettera semiseria of Grisostomo, Italy and Romanticism. Hayez and Verdi. Painting as opera. David, Ingres at the Villa Medici and the French model as passage to sentimental Romanticism Nazareni, the Pre-Raphaelites and the return to another type of antiquity not rooted in classicism: before Raphael and Da Vinci. The different hierarchy of the arts in Romanticism: music, literature, painting, drawing, sculpture, architecture. Is there such a thing as Romantic sculpture? Discovery of Nordic countries. Friedrich and German painting. Idealisation of nature and mystique of detail. "Close the outer eye to open the inner one". Relationship between German Romanticism and Surrealism. Voyage north: intense cold and infinity. Role of the figure in the mystic vision of F. A new perspective dimension. The window in the poetics of F: relationship between internal and external. Metaphor of water in the world of the painter. Existential and psychoanalytic values: the death of his brother. Conversion to Catholicism. Protestant art and Catholic art: the significance of the Flemish point-of-view. Accusation of heresy. The painting as atmosphere, landscape as a feeling-state and not a result. The infinite work. The infinite painting: The void and art. Whistler and Ruskin’s accusation. The canvas as a series and philosophical pendant. The writings of F. and their influence on his painting. Style of the aphorism vs. Neoclassical precepts. Influence of the Dresden school of philosophy and the relationship with Goethe. Goethe—Enlightenment and Pre-Romantic thinker: The Sorrows of Young Werther and Faust. Kleist and “getting inside the painting”: the work of art no longer as an ornament to be hung on the wall, but as a philosophical treatise to be questioned. Kleist’s treatise and the modern theme of unsolvable hermeneutic interpretation of the infinite semiosis. The masterpiece as an inexhaustible well of interpretations. The canvas as the sum of irresolvable interpretations. Others close to Friedrich: Carus and Letters on Landscape Painting, Dahl , Runge and allegory. Other types of pictorial Romanticism. Delacroix and history. Trip to Morocco. Classicism of the noble savage. Géricault and the irrational theme of the horse. Historical paintings and the Raft of the Medusa: Contemporaneousness and rhetoric. English painting, Constable, Turner and the presaging of informal painting. Difference between informal painting and abstract painting. Various types of abstraction (Mondriand and Neoplasticism, Malevic and Constructionism, Kandinsky and the spiritual aspect of art, Klee irony and the Bauhaus school). Avant-garde art and its relationship to Romanticism. Cubism, Futurism, Cubo-Futurism, Orphism, Constructivism, etc. In-depth examination of the Futurist and Dadaist manifestos (the position of Marinetti and Tzara). Absolute abstraction of Arp and Schwitters: Merzbau. Difference between the collages of Braque and Picasso. Modernity and traditionalism in the first Futurist manifesto. Hermetic, visionary, analogical and esoteric tension of Futurism. The machine as idol. Cosmic vibrations. Avant-garde trends, chronophotography, film editing, etc. Dynamism, interpenetration, machine-idolatry, etc. The key figure of Boccioni and his work, Materia Evolution of the theme of “mother reading” (Rembrandt and the Bible). The viewer who enters into the work. Art and modern life: the rise of the city and Modern Idol. Severini and the return to order, Carrà and metaphysics Legacy of pointillism and divisionism (Seurat, Segantini) to Futurism and the Avant-garde. Duchamp, relationship with retinal painting and Futurism. Nude descending the stairs and the theme of the Virgin-become-bride. The imperceptible as pictorial material. Duchamp, Man Ray: photography and body art: putting into play one’s own body. Dadaism and Nihilism. Absolute refusal of art and differences with Surrealism. Unconscious, automatic art, surreality. Rimbaud and transgression of all senses. Aestheticism, synesthesia and modernity. The ready made. Relationship with the museum and play on words. The importance of Raymond Roussel and his influence on Duchamp. The avant-garde and film. The Large Glass and alchemy. The theme of celibacy and androgyny. Picabia and the machine. Casual intervention. Dust Breeding and optical relationship with nature. Duchamp’s relationship with play, the void and nature. Duchamp’s last work and the contemporary theme of installation. Difference between sculpture, ready-made and installation. Duchamp’s influence on modernity (with special reference to conceptual art, body art and pop art).
Note: in order to pass the examination, both the students who attended the course and those unable to attend it are required to know at least four books. One on the history of Romanticism, another one on the History of Art in the twentieth century. A specialized book (previously agreed on) on an artist of the nineteenth century and another one (previously agreed on) on an artist or a movement of the twentieth century. If these requirements are not met, the examination cannot take place. As far as Romanticism is concerned, knowledge of at least one of the following books is required. Marcel Brion. L'arte del Romanticismo (Garzanti). or William Vaughan. L'arte romantica (Mazzotta). or Ilaria Ciseri. Il Romanticismo. Mondadori illustrato (it would be better to study it after having read one of the previously mentioned books. However it may be considered sufficient for the purposes of the examination if the student already has a good knowledge of the historical period). In the library access may be gained to an extensive Electa catalogue on the Paesaggio (Landscape) exhibition held in the Palazzo delle Albere in Trento. This contains a large variety of pictures and essays on Romanticism in the arts (including music, literature, philosophy). If carefully studied, this work can even replace the two recommended handbooks. It does, however, assume that the reader already has good knowledge of the topic. It is very useful for prompting ideas for any short dissertations that may have to be written (to be previously be agreed on) Those who are interested in the general issue of landscape can contact Raffaele Milani. L'arte del Paesaggio. Il Mulino. The specific knowledge of this book, which can replace the handbook, nonetheless enables the student to acquire an overview of Romantic art. Those who wish to study in depth the transition from Neoclassicism to Romanticism with particular reference to the changing of views and the relationship between Enlightenment and Romanticism (Davidi, Ingres, Valenciennes) the following reading is recommended: Anna Ottani Cavina, I paesaggi della Ragione. Einaudi Those who prefer to acquire knowledge on the most philosophic or literary aspects of Romanticism can also choose among the following: Franco Rella. Aspetti del Romanticismo. Donzelli editore.D'Angelo. Filosofia del Romanticismo. Il Mulino (this book requires a good – at least secondary school- knowledge of the history of philosophy). For those wishing to focus on English Romanticism, the following book is particularly interesting: a cura di Marcello Pagnini, di autori vari, Il Romanticismo, Il Mulino. The literary aspect is also treated in depth. For those who choose the specialized topic covered during the course, that is to say Caspar David Friedrich, the void, the infinite, the religion of Nature, it is possible to choose one of the following books: Silvia Pegoraro. Nel solitario cerchio. L'infinito e la pittura. C.D. Friedrich. Pendragon or: C.D. Friedrich. Scritti. Abscondita (also the foreword by Roberto Tassi and the annexes, e.g. the text by Heinrich Von Kleist, etc. must be read carefully). There are many cheap specialized books on Friedrich (Prestel, Taschen, also distributed with an issue of the review l'Espresso) that are very useful as they contain pictures of F’s works and his biography. These books, however, cannot replace the two aforementioned essay books. It is, however, advisable to study and become acquainted with one of those books, in order to have an overview of the pictorial production of this artist which is most widely portrayed in the recommended essays. It is obviously possible to study in depth another specialized topic (Fuessli, Goya, Blake, Constable, Thomas Jones, Turner, Delacroix, Gericault, etc.). In order to do that, however, the book used for the research must be previously agreed on. Only in certain cases may the short specialized Skira Rizzoli essays issued with the newspaper Corriere della Sera be used.
The lectures take place during the second term, 4 hours a week. During the lectures, images of the main works discussed during the course will be displayed.