Lecture Series: Western Paintings that Changed the World—From Giotto to Warhol

May 29, 2013
Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m.
The Strand Theatre, Rockland
This two-part, illustrated lecture series will explore European and American paintings that have altered the course of not only of art, but also world history. Although many paintings could be put forward as important or the best of an artist’s career, each of the four paintings chosen for this series had transformational influences on the artists that came after and on events beyond the art world, itself. Farnsworth’s Director of Education Roger Dell will focus in detail on the creation of the paintings, as well as their formal elements, social history, and influence on fellow and future artists’ work. Moreover, the place of the paintings in their broad cultural context and their impact on historical and political events in the West and around the world will be explored.
Working on large commissions across Northern Italy in the 14th Century, the painter Giotto di Bondone created brilliant frescoes that challenged the age-old manner of depicting on a flat surface the human figure and its surrounding space. In the Arena Chapel in Padua, Giotto covered the walls with a series of life-like figures from the New Testament, creating a paradigm shift from the Medieval to the modern worldview. His breakthroughs began the movement in art to more and more realistic renditions of reality, and for the next hundred-and-fifty years other Italian artists, such as Alberti, Brunelleschi, and Masaccio took up Giotto’s cause and expanded on his innovations. During this period, scholars and cartographers borrowed the new innovations in perspective and also rediscovered the writings of the ancient Greeks about the earth’s surface, among many other things. This intellectual furor brought together art, science, and scholarship and ushered in the Renaissance and profoundly affected the Age of Discovery.
Leonardo did not want to paint The Last Supper. He had been working for years on a colossal equestrian statue for the Duke of Milan Ludovico Sforza, when in 1494 the Duke redirected the bronze for the statue to the making of cannon. Although he had no experience with fresco painting and was loathed to stop work on the statue, Leonardo was commissioned by the Duke to decorate a wall in the refectory at Santa Maria delle Grazie depicting Christ and his apostles around a long table. Paintings of the Last Supper had been created by artists since the Early Christian period, however Leonardo infused his rendition with a sense of humanism and beauty unseen before. For centuries, Leonardo’s figures in The Last Supper were the models for the way artists attempted to portray the personalities and the souls of people through their outward appearances.
In 1907, Picasso hoped that his largest painting to date would be a seminal work that would triumph over all the efforts of his competition. He was 26 years old. His painting of five women in a brothel rejected many of the conventions standards in Western painting for over 500 years or since the Renaissance, including carefully modeled human figures, accurate color, and convincing depiction of three dimensional space on the surface of the flat canvas. Although containing recognizable objects and figures, Les Demoiselles fired some of the first shots in the battle of abstraction against realism and was the founding painting of Cubism. Although recognized today for its stylistic innovations, Les Demoiselles was Picasso’s summation of his personal beliefs about women, Parisian society, disease and death. The painting’s influence on European and American artists throughout the 20th Century is unrivalled.
On April 21, 1964, at the opening of an exhibition at the Stable Gallery in New York, visitors were confronted by floor-to-ceiling stacks of Brillo boxes. These were not full nor empty cardboard boxes made for the product, but rather wooden boxes that Andy Warhol and two assistants had carefully silk-screened in order to mimic the real things. The exhibition was a decidedly commercial flop. However, Warhol’s “Brillo Box Show” exploded the idea of what art was or should be, and threw the art world into the ongoing debate on the roles of celebrity, the market, and money. The esteemed art critic Arthur Danto sees this exhibition as the dividing line between the Modern and Post-Modern periods and believes Warhol was truly one of the most influential artists in the last hundred years.
Location: The Strand Theatre, Rockland
Cost: Series reservation(s)— $26 nonmembers, $20 members. For individual lecture tickets, please click on the individual lecture title.

These programs are made possible in part by—
Mr. and Mrs. Louis Cabot, Mr. and Mrs. Robert J. Campbell, Cascade Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Peter F. McSpadden, Ms. Joyce Tenneson, Dr. and Mrs. Frederick E. Varricchio, and anonymous donors



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Price: $20.00