Impressionism: Looking, Painting, Modernity
- André Dombrowski
- College of Arts & Sciences
- Freshman Seminar Grant
As life in the nineteenth century sped up, so did the century’s art. Painting in “fifteen minutes,” as the critic Jules Laforgue described Impressionism in 1883, characterized a novel kind of picture built of hectic, freewheeling signs. Impressionism thus chronicled the profound cultural shifts of its era; its blurs and unfinished appearance made movement and a particularly modern sense of time and vision its chief subjects. This seminar seeks to understand these developments by establishing an account of Impressionism that fits our current global, multimedia and multidisciplinary forms of humanistic thought. To this end, we will read those recent scholars who place Impressionism within new contexts that include the history of science and technology (visual perception, psychology, evolution, chemistry), political history and theory (republicanism, revolution, empire, nationalism), and consumer culture (fashion, capitalism), among others. This course will of course also survey the movement’s major contexts and proponents-Manet, Monet, Degas, Morisot, Cezanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Rodin-from its origins in the 1860s to its demise in the 1890s, as well as its subsequent adaptations throughout the world until World War I. In short, Impressionism revolutionized the Western easel format, an aesthetic paradigm shift that every art historical generation since the late nineteenth-century has grappled with anew. Continuing this tradition, this course proposes to study the newest and most wide-ranging research on Impressionism available to date.