Athenaeum Music & Arts Library welcomes back art historian Linda Blair with a new lecture series, Impressionism. For many years now, Blair has been one of the Athenaeum’s most popular speakers.
Impressionism was transformative. It shattered the trajectory of Western art that had been born in 1400s Florence. For the following 400 years, art remained true to its Renaissance beginnings and hummed along quietly, but by the 1860s, it began to slip off its smoothly greased rails. A new generation of skilled, innovative artists — today revered, but reviled in their own day — despaired over the morbidity of that long tradition. They met on Thursday nights at Café Guerbois to question the basic assumptions upon which art had rested for so long. We will explore why these young avant-garde artists were willing to sacrifice so much material comfort and professional approbation in order to create new art.
The lecture series will place the Impressionist movement within its historical context, as well as examine its philosophical underpinnings and radical innovations as developed by its leading artists — Edouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas—before turning to the artist who most fully inhabits the theories and techniques of Impressionism, Claude Monet.
March 2 or 5: Historic Context and Influences, and Practices
The first lecture is devoted to the basic premises and practices of Impressionism. Other contributory factors, such as the role of photography, studies in optics, the influence of the Barbizon painters, and an emerging sense of individualism, will be discussed. The rest of the first lecture and the second one will be devoted to Edouard Manet, called the Father of Impressionism when in fact he was not an Impressionist at all, but an extraordinarily inventive, indeed, almost revolutionary artist.
March 9 or 12: Edouard Manet: Father of Impressionism
The lecture series continues with Edouard Manet’s formative years. His daring work attracted other rebellious painters to his leadership. One of Manet’s many tragedies was that he was unable to explain or justify his work and this made him vulnerable to ridicule and exclusion by the very establishment he so wished to join.
March 16 or 19: The Paris of Renoir and Degas
This lecture contrasts the work of Renoir and Degas, two painters so antithetical in personality, technique, and subject matter that each throws the other into high relief. Both provide keen insight into 19th century Paris, its high and low pleasures, from its well-inhabited bordellos to the privileged lives of the haute bourgeoisie. If time permits, we will begin to explore the early paintings and development of Claude Monet, one of the most influential artists of recent centuries.
March 23 or 27: Claude Monet: Formative Influences and Early Works
This lecture is devoted to Monet’s early works, as the continuation and ultimate rejection of Impressionist theory, when Monet’s art continues to evolve. Included will be his famed series works — the haystacks and façade of Rouen cathedral, studies of the effects of light on form and color. (Note: March 27 is a Friday.)
April 6 or 9: Monet: The Late Years
The magic of Monet’s paintings continues, with special emphasis placed on his late works, the water lilies series and studies of his beloved pond at Giverny, when air, water, and form evaporate into the ephemeral and art soars into abstraction.
Linda Blair has taught art history for many years, at the La Jolla Athenaeum and UC San Diego Osher; she was a docent at The Cloisters. She holds a BA from Mills College and an MA from USD. She is an active volunteer at UC San Diego, dedicated to raising scholarship funds.
For tickets or more information, visit our website at ljathenaeum.org/art-history-lectures or call 1-858-454-5872.
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