The Musee d’Orsay in Paris holds the largest collection of Impressionist and Post Impressionist art works in the world, as well as many other works dating primarily from the mid nineteenth century through the first two decades of the twentieth. The collection includes many pivotal works in the history of modernism, those that altered the course of the painting and sculpture of our time. Housed in a former train station (the Gare d’Orsay), the Orsay opened to the public in 1986, and is one of the most visited museums in Europe.
Through the use of digital images and classroom discussion, this course will explore works from the collection of the Musee d’Orsay, including those of the Barbizon school artists Corot, Millet, Daubigny and Rousseau who exhibited un-idealized landscapes based on direct observation of nature; the radical works of early modernists such as the Realists Manet and Courbet who were among the first to depict scenes of contemporary life; Impressionists Degas, Monet, Renoir, and Pissarro, Post Impressionists Cezanne, Seurat, Van Gogh and Gauguin, as well as those of their more academic, traditional contemporaries such as Meissonier, Cabanel, Bouguereau and Couture. Works by Picasso, Matisse, Mondrian and others chart the progress of modernism toward greater abstraction and emphasis on the subjective, personal expression of the artist so central to the art of the first half of the twentieth century.
At the time many of these works were made, the primary method of acquisition for the French state collections was via purchases from the Salon, annual or bi annual government sponsored exhibitions of contemporary art that drew thousands of visitors, and could lead to state or private commissions and draw students to classes led by the state-honored artist. Traditional works depicting mythological or historical scenes were highly valued by the French Academy in the ranking of subject matter known as the hierarchy of genres, while landscape and still life were deemed inferior. Acquisitions would be held at the Musee du Luxembourg until they were deemed worthy of elevation to the Louvre, the ultimate goal of any serious artist. That changed with the donation to the state of the Caillebotte Bequest, a private collection of Impressionist works that both introduced modern art to the state collections and altered the way works were accessioned by the government. The Caillebotte Bequest, other donations and subscriptions used to purchase important works formed the core of the museum’s most important holdings.
Six meetings, 90 minutes eachJanuary 25, February 1, 8, 15, 22, March 1, 2018 (day)
March 8, 15, 22, April 5, 12, 19, 2018 (evening)