Modernist Masters and Their Legacies–Cézanne, de Chirico, Duchamp, and Picasso: A Four-Part Course with Dr. Jennie Hirsh

Modernist Masters and Their Legacies–Cézanne, de Chirico, Duchamp, and Picasso: A Four-Part Course with Dr. Jennie Hirsh


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In this course, we will consider the work and influence of Paul Cézanne, Giorgio de Chirico, Marcel Duchamp, and Pablo Picasso. Each session will focus for thirty minutes on the work of a key modern figure and then examine the contemporary legacy of each artist for the remainder of the meeting.

Contemporary art is often seen to be confusing, overwhelming, intimidating, and frustrating. That said, considering how an artist fits into the history of art can provide a clearer understanding of the meaning of a work and how it participates in a longer trajectory of artistic practice. This course takes four key modern figures--Paul Cézanne, Giorgio de Chirico, Marcel Duchamp, and Pablo Picasso--as a starting point for studying contemporary art.

Each session will provide a) an introduction to the life and work of one artist as a baseline for understanding the lasting contributions of each artist and b) a series of case studies that map out the formal, theoretical, and historical influence of the artist in new and often unexpected contexts. While all four artists hail from a European context, the case studies survey their respective legacies in works and projects from North America, South America, Asia, and Africa.

Lecture 1: Paul Cézanne

This session will introduce learners to the life and work of Paul Cézanne, considering how he revolutionized how we think about the surface of painted works. Specifically, we will explore his trademark landscape, still life, and bather compositions to understand how he engaged both geometry and color to change and further flatten the picture plane. Further, in the second half of the session, we will look at how he influences other paints, including modernists, such as Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, and Giorgio Morandi, as well as contemporary figures such as Francis Alÿs, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Sherrie Levine, and Jeff Wall.

Lecture 2: Giorgio de Chirico

This session focuses on the lasting influence of Greek-born Italian painter and writer Giorgio de Chirico, touted to be the father of so-called "metaphysical painting." After looking at his trademark empty Italian squares, bizarre self-portraits, and his more baroque compositions, we will examine the lasting impact he left on his contemporaries, the French and Belgian surrealists. We will look at his far-ranging influence on contemporary figures, such as Mike Bidlo, Charles Moore, Regina Silveira, and Andy Warhol. We will assess how his powerful oneiric compositions replete with appropriations of the classical past have inspired artists for a century to explore how fragments and shadows of history can unlock the mysteries of dreams and the unconscious.

Lecture 3: Marcel Duchamp

In this session, we will study the incredible contributions of Marcel Duchamp, best known for his "readymade" sculptures that transformed every day, industrially produced objects into masterpieces. In addition to looking at his cleverly titled works and richly composed paintings, we will look at his "Large Glass" and eternally enigmatic "Étants Donnés," both part of the Duchamp collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Finally, we will consider Duchamp's influence on not only Pop artists, such as not only Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, and proto-postmodernists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, but also contemporary figures including Alvaro Barrios, Wim Delvoye, Jeff Koons, Joseph Kosuth, Sherrie Levine, Yasumasa Murimura, Gavin Turk, and Hannah Wilke.

Lecture 4: Pablo Picasso

Focused on the life, work, and legacy of Pablo Picasso, this session outlines the key periods in this prolific artist’s life, focusing on the early decades of his life via his Blue and Rose periods, analytic and synthetic cubism, primitivism, surrealism, and more. In the second segment of this final session, we will look at how his aesthetic strategies, such as cubism and collage, as well as iconography, continue to resonate with contemporary artists today, including John Baldessari, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Maurizio Cattelan, Rineke Dijkstra, David Hockney, Keith Haring, Jasper Johns, Malcolm Morley, and Claes Oldenburg.

Jennie Hirsh (PhD, Bryn Mawr College) is Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Maryland Institute College of Art. She has held postdoctoral fellowships at Princeton and Columbia Universities, as well as pre-doctoral fellowships from the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, the U.S. Fulbright commission, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and the Wolfsonian FIU. Hirsh has authored essays on artists including Giorgio de Chirico, Giorgio Morandi, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Yinka Shonibare, and Regina Silveira, and is co-editor, with Isabelle Wallace, of Contemporary Art and Classical Myth (Ashgate 2011).

How does it work?

This is a four-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

Is there a reading list in advance?

Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, there are suggested readings for further investigation. You will receive this soon after course registration.

How long are the lectures?

Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.

How much is the course?

The course is $140 for four lectures.

Is a recording available?

Yes. If you need to miss a lecture, you will be sent a recording after the event.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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