This year, 2017, marks the centennial of Auguste Rodin’s death. Acclaimed as the greatest sculptor since Michelangelo, Rodin renewed the ancient art of sculpture, boldly bringing it into the 20th century. In this course, students will engage in Rodin’s fascinating artistic career, initially full of rejections, controversies, and scandals—which he managed to transform into international successes. We will examine how Rodin interacted with his contemporaries, how he responded to the values and ideas of the culture of his time, and why the origins of modern sculpture are traced to him.
After an interlude of a year, we will return to my favorite film form: romantic comedies. This semester we will focus on movies made in the thirties and early forties, often in the slapstick tradition of Bringing Up Baby, a film we examined last year. The movies include "It Happened One Night", starring Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable, the first movie (and one of only three) to win all five of the major Academy Awards—best film, director, actor, actress, and film-script. The second movie is "His Girl Friday", one of my favorite romantic comedies because it combines a love story with a murder plot and an ending not unlike the one in "The Philadelphia Story" with stars Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. In "The Awful Truth", both Cary Grant and Irene Dunne spend much of their time trying to spoil the other’s plans for remarriage. If there is time, we will examine "Adam’s Rib", a great Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn comedy in which Tracy and Hepburn play a married couple opposing one another in a murder trial. To provide change-of-pace from these films, we will discuss more recent romantic comedies like "Sabrina" (the newer version), "Moonstruck" (for which both Cher and Olympia Dukakis won Academy Awards), and "One Fine Day", starring Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney.
From torrential downpours to quiet walks in the garden, generations of composers have been inspired by Mother Nature in all her forms. Oboes become ducks, flutes become birds, the timpani rolls thunder, cymbals crash with lightening, and the plucking of stings becomes the patter of rain all in service of composers trying to capture a snapshot of nature to bring into the concert hall. This class will examine a wide range of masterpieces created in honor or fear of the natural world, including Beethoven’s iconic Symphony No. 6, “Pastoral,” Mendelssohn’s tone poem "The Hebrides", Britten’s "Sea Interludes", Grofe’s "Grand Canyon Suite", Strauss Jr. "Thunder and Lightning Polka", and more. Don't forget your galoshes!
In this course we will trace the developments in modern art that emerged in America during and after World War II. Emphasis will be placed on the evolution of Abstract Expressionism in New York, which shifted the center of modernism from Paris. Radical artists such as Gorky, de Kooning, Pollock, Rothko, Newman, and Motherwell will be examined. Many unusual examples of these artists’ works will be included.
"Though newcomers from New York and California like to think they've brought cosmopolitanism to Texas, the evidence continues to mount that our state was a full participant in the twentieth century.” – Texas Monthly, 2014 What is Texas art? In recent years, Texas has gained recognition for its extraordinarily rich artistic and cultural environment. From the earliest days of settlement, artistic activity has been pivotal to Texas cultural life. Increasingly, a vast range of art centers, major museums, local arts organizations, and community centers recognize the invaluable artistic contributions made within the state. Museum catalogs, academic scholarship, and media attention continue to raise the profile of Texas art. In this course, we will explore the development of visual arts in Texas. We will conduct an examination of art movements, artists, and major works, exhibiting a broad range of artistic techniques from its earliest incarnations through the mid-twentieth century. Throughout the course, Early Texas Art and Texas Modernism will be discussed in the context of other local regional art movements, both in the United States and internationally. The course will be broken into three classroom seminars covering Texas Impressionism, Lone Star Regionalism, Modernism, and Contemporary, which will be followed by two field visits to prominent collections of Texas art in both private and public collections in the Houston area. (Limited to 25 students)
In this two-part course, we will examine six legendary directors and their most iconic films, seeking to understand the films as the product of each of their singular artistic visions. Fall’s session will include films by Francois Truffaut, Steven Spielberg, and Stanley Kubrick. Spring's session will include the films of Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, and Martin Scorsese. Throughout the course, students will learn basic film theory and see how understanding directors of films as analogous to the authors of literature came to be the dominant paradigm in film analysis. In analyzing the work of major movie directors, we will define individual director’s directorial style and cinematic themes as well as determine what makes an influential director. We will consider these directors’ legacies and influence on the film industry. Students will leave the course with an understanding of how directors combine all elements of movie making (screenplay writing, cinematography, editing, sound, and managing actors’/actresses’ performances) to convey their own artistic ideas.
The lives of these four great artists span five centuries of Spanish history, a history fraught with the intense conflicts and passions aroused by the intermingling forces of religion, ethnicity, and politics. These artists are extraordinary not only because of the aesthetic quality of their work, but also because each elevates his artistry: first, by criticizing the very framework of power, ethnicity and religion that sustains him and second, by articulating in his art an elevated ethical stance from where the criticism has been issued. With the exception of Picasso, we shall see how these criticisms appear, understandably, under a variety of artful disguises making them difficult to detect to most of their contemporaries, which become readily apparent in hindsight. Finally, we shall see how in spite of these similarities, these four artists give us strikingly different portrayals of our humanity—of what kind of beings we are and rather similar portrayals of what kind of beings we should aspire to be.
Since European commemorations of the First World War’s centennial are in their final year and our nation is engaged in seemingly unending conflict today, it is particularly relevant to take a close look at the ways in which the arts not only have been employed by governments to propagandize, but have been embraced by professional artists and ordinary citizens alike to defy, bear witness to and sustain our humanity. The well-known British artist David Bomberg wrote, “World War I was bad news for the arts.” And, for the most part, historians and art historians still largely believe that not only did the First World War destroy more than it created, but that war, more generally, has been – and is – inhospitable rather than conducive to serious cultural activity. Students will spend four rich, and hopefully enriching, classes debunking such assertions. Utilizing a wide framework to define “the arts” (painting, collage, graffiti, lithography, women’s wartime and postwar self-fashioning, soldiers’ art, and often contentious war memorials), this course will focus on “art and war” on conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries. In this thought provoking class, students will examine the ways in which human beings try to make sense of war and its grievous consequences through the arts. Students will also be introduced to images from an extraordinary collection of art created by ordinary soldiers in the trenches—an exhibit curated by Dr. Guenther that has traveled to multiple cities in Europe, Houston and Washington, D.C.
From the Greeks to the present day, the preoccupation with beauty has been constant in western thought, influencing our ideas and attitudes from relationships to art. As often as not, we disagree with others as to what beauty is. One of the many things we learn from art history is that things once considered “beautiful” no longer are, and that other things reviled as “ugly” are now considered beautiful—demonstrating that ideas about beauty change and evolve. In our own lifetime, certain images have taken on the status of “classics,” like The Mona Lisa. Yet, even here, there is no absolute opinion. It is unlikely that there is agreement as to the beauty of this or that object or image. Rather, there are vastly different responses to a wide variety of visual experiences. This course will use the visual arts as our guideline, focusing on why we find one image more meaningful than another. We shall compare many works of art, perhaps to show ways of clarifying for ourselves this mysterious subject of beauty.
Sacred music, like all art, is a product of the culture that created it. The lyrics of religious music tell of the beliefs and history of the faith, but the music itself reveals much about the religion—a Mass by Palestrina reflects the glory and majesty of Renaissance Catholicism, and a Bach cantata expresses the bold confidence of early Protestantism. In this course, we will review the basic tenets of the world’s major religions and explore liturgical and devotional music, and classical art music inspired by these faiths. Classes include: • Co-evolution of religion and music • Special words – Hallelujah & Amen • Eastern Religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism • Judaism • Catholicism/Non-Catholic Christianity • Islam
The interaction between artists—in particular painters—and fashion makers is a fascinating one. Starting with the reign of Marie Antoinette, arguably the most fashion obsessed queen to occupy the French throne, we will take a close look at how she and her favorite portraitist Elizabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun, set the fashion world on its head in the years just before the French Revolution. When Napoleon I swept into power, an entirely new style both in art and fashion was called for. No lesser an artist than the great Jacques-Louis David, author of the magnificent Coronation of Napoleon I, designed uniforms for the representatives of the newly created civil institutions of Napoleonic France. During the Romantic era, the English Pre-Raphaelite artists, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and in turn William Morris, had a significant impact on the fashions of their day. However, when the beautiful Empress Eugenie succeeded Marie Antoinette on the French throne during the Second Empire, her two favorites—Charles Frederick Worth, the court couturier, and Franz X. Winterhalter, the renowned court painter—created a style in dress and portraiture that was embraced by the fashionable elite from Paris to St. Petersburg and from Boston to Madrid. Around 1900, Vienna was a fulcrum of artistic activity and its leading artist, Gustav Klimt, exercised enormous influence over not only painting, but the decorative arts and fashions as well. Many of society beauties he painted were also clients of Emilie Flöge, his long-time mistress, who ran Vienna’s most avant-garde fashion salon. His influence on her creations as well as the use of her creations in his paintings constitutes a fascinating symbiosis of painting and fashion. This interdependence of art and fashion can be traced well into the 20th century in the creations of Chanel, Dior, Balenciaga, Courèges and Oscar de la Renta, the subject of an upcoming exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.