Politics, Pruning and Paint: Case studies in Art History

The course will explore an eclectic range of subjects in art history. Meandering from Renaissance art and its contemporary re-appropriation, to the history and social dynamics of life drawing, to photography, iconography and beyond, this series will question what art tells us about society, while revelling in a whole lot of sumptuous art.

When: Tuesdays from 19th February 2013, 6.30 – 8pm
Venue: Some Velvet Morning, 123 Queens Pde Clifton Hill
Co-ordinator: Anna Drummond

week 1

19.2.13

Magnificent Matrimony: Marriage in Renaissance Art
Anna Drummond (Melbourne Uni)
Just as today’s gossip magazines adore photos of celebrity weddings, in the Renaissance stunning works of art were created depicting marriage. This session explores a range of sumptuous paintings to consider which weddings were reprepsented and how and why marriage was depicted in Italian art from the fifteenth century and beyond.

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week 2

26.2.13

The Politics of Gardening
Katrina Grant (Melbourne Uni)
The way that nature has been shaped into landscapes and gardens has often been a political act that aimed to promote a personal or national identity. Gardens are symbols of a society’s attitude to nature and to the social order (for instance, who is allowed in and who is not). Political messages are often woven through the landscapes of gardens when they are created and changing attitudes can see landscapes reworked to reflect new power structures and new political realities. Too often as modern visitors we are not given any sense of this, with gardens presented simply as pleasurable and/or grandiose.
In this talk Katrina will present the political side of a number of 16-18th century European gardens from France, Italy and the UK.

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week 3

5.3.13

Michelangelo’s Fresco of the Creation of Adam in the 21st Century
Anna Drummond (Melbourne Uni)
Michelangelo’s fresco of the Creation of Adam is amongst the most famous works of art of all time. As a result, this iconic image of God reaching out to touch his finger to Adam’s has been endlessly parodied, imitated and co-opted, used in everything from movie posters to gym logos. After considering the original meaning and significance of the fresco, this session explores why and how this image has been re-used in the twenty-first century, pondering why it has become so iconic and what it denotes to contemporary audiences.

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week 4

12.3.13

Art and Travel – From Grand Tourists to Bilbao
Katrina Grant (Melbourne Art Network)
In this session we will explore the relationship between art and travel from aristocratic art collecting to the phenomenon of ‘destination’ art museums like the Guggenheim at Bilbao. We will begin in the 18th century with the lure of Italy and the ‘Grand Tour’. A trip taken by many young aristocratic men (and the occasional woman) and meant to educate them about art and the classical world. Some young ‘milordi’ were transformed by these trips, collecting paintings, sculpture and even artists and architects to take back to England, others were more interested in other delights, like the courtesans of Venice. We will discuss whether travelling makes you ‘see’ differently, whether art always lives up to expectations and whether or not looking at art is the best way to understand a foreign culture. The discussion will finish with a look at art and travel in the 21st century and how it has transformed from an experience for a privileged few to a mass tourism industry.

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week 5

19.3.13

Models, Mannequins and Muses
Margaret Mayhew (La Trobe Uni)
The idea of the female artists’ muse has been a central figment of Western European painting and the tradition of the fine art nude. However, a closer examination of the practices of life modeling, art education and figurative painting reveal a complex array of differing bodies and genders at work behind and in front of the easel.
In this talk I will discuss some of the historical practices of life drawing and figurative art, and the differing types of models and artists engaged in looking and being looked at. The talk will mainly focus on France and England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries contextualizing the emergence of the academic life-drawing class within the rapid social and cultural changes occurring at the time.

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week 6

26.3.13

Oceanic Art
Sana Balai (National Gallery of Australia)
Oceanic art is largely collected by major institutions and private collectors in Australia, America and Europe. However, in spite of Australia’s proximity to the Pacific Islands region, Australian institutions have undervalued the art form from the region that is highly regarded in Europe and America.
The National Gallery of Victoria holds a select collection of up to 1,000 Oceanic works that focuses on forms of sculpture and painting in Melanesia, most of which are yet to be displayed or published. Its future vision is to include contemporary art form from across the Pacific region and most importantly, art made by living artist of all gender. The newly opened Contemporary Asian& Pacific art gallery not only introduces viewers to the cultural diversity through the masks and sculptures from Papua New Guinea and contemporary art pieces by Maori and Polynesian artists; Pacific art making a strong presence amongst Asian master pieces which is testimonial to the importance and high valued these works are artistically and culturally.
This lecture will highlight some of these works and hopefully share some cultural stories associated with these works and by someone from the region.

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