Courtauld student ambassador and BA second year student Sophie Newton has written this awesome review on the British Museum’s latest exhibition. Catch it before it closes on the 5 July!
Defining Beauty, this year’s major Spring exhibition at the British Museum, is a must-see for any budding art historian. The display, although focusing on the sculpture of ancient Greece, draws from collections and cultures from all over the world and contains a variety of objects; from your typical nudes, to novelty-shaped drinking cups and 18th Century drawings of the Parthenon marbles. All of them have a single running theme, exploring the variety in ancient art and its continued influence throughout western art history.
The art-historical narrative of the west is almost entirely indebted to the discoveries and teachings of Ancient Greece. From the resurgence of interest in the Renaissance, through Johannes Winckelmann‘s writings of the Enlightenment to Jenny Saville‘s confrontations of the human body, the classical form has been constantly returned to, reinterpreted and re-evaluated. Their quest for the ideal and their achievements in doing so have remained iconic, no matter how many times they are seen and parodied.
(Sir Joshua Reynolds, Cupid and Psyche, c. 1789, The Courtauld Gallery)
The exhibition explores these issues in relation to the lives and philosophies of the Ancient Greeks themselves, bringing in the original ideas of beauty, religion, daily life and reality while challenging the widely-held perceptions of the Classical Sculpture. Many of the objects are well-known, and to see them in reality really confirms the reasons why they’re so often written about. It begins with two often-seen objects, a crouching Venus in marble from the 4th Century and a 1st or 2nd Century bronze athlete. With their contrast, we are immediately presented with two of the major issues that surround classical sculpture – that the vast majority of originals were lost or destroyed, and that those that we do have access to are later reproductions, often from another culture entirely. The bronze is an original, found off the coast of Croatia in just 1996, while the Venus is a later Roman copy – it must always be remembered when thinking about ‘Greek Sculpture’ that more often than not we see their art through the lens of Roman admiration and imitation.
Does this affect our 21st Century viewing? Unfortunately, the exhibition highlights this issue without making much attempt to give a satisfactory answer, although a Roman nude displayed later on gives an amusing insight into how absurd our own Romantic view may look in the future. The contrast between the female deity and the human male, however, does set up for many of the other debates throughout the rest of the exhibition. Directly behind them stand three statues by the legendary artists Myron, Polykleitos and Phidias. Comparing each of their approaches in the attempt to create the perfect from, with mathematical precision in the spear-bearer (actually a 1920s German reconstruction – again, considerations must be made for the interest in neoclassicism in rising fascism), the careful balancing of opposites in the Discobolus, and the following of intuition in the River God taken from the Parthenon, we can begin to see the deep philosophical thought that went into the representation of the human figure, for both deities and for ordinary people.
(The Townley Discobolus and The Westmacott Athlete, The British Museum)
However, this link between Antiquity and widely-held perceptions of beauty and idealism is confronted directly afterwards with a display of how such statues were originally seen. Plaster models of statues reconstructed with the bright polychromy that continues to be revealed by imaging techniques such as x-ray and ultraviolet directly contrast to the stark white purity irrevocably associated with classical sculpture. Surrounding the four centre examples stand objects highlighting its wide-spread usage and variety, from the golden reconstruction of the legendary statue of Athena from the Acropolis, through Mesoamerican friezes and medieval Christian carvings, to finally the Treu Head where traces of the original pigment remains visible to the naked eye. Such a confrontation between perception and reality, in the art itself and in our study of it, forms a major theme in the display.
Other themes explored include philosophy and literature, and the influence these had on the development of more realistic art styles and beyond into the ideal. A trio of Kouroi, idealised male forms, in rough chronological order illustrate this development, with the Westmacott Athlete concluding the run. Further along, a highly feminised statue of Dionysus illustrates the continued experimentation of form in the search for perfection. Alongside this, explorations into depictions of women and conflict highlight the perceived difference between nakedness and nudity for the Ancients – for the Greeks, nakedness equated to a uniform of moral and social perfection, and thus the less-easily controlled female must remain clothed at all times. Venus, as deity and erotic object, is the exception. Daily life and social conventions and the effects these had on the perception of the body forms the next section, from key periods of an individual’s life such as childhood and marriage, to the depictions of love and erotic desire and the manner of viewing such scenes. How different can we view a statue of Venus in a religious temple from a prostitute found at the bottom of a drinking cup? A statue of Hermaphroditus from the Galleria Borghese and a vase depicting Kaineus illustrates the complexities of gender in the Greek world, and the attempts of art to illustrate such. This continues into examining the divide between human and animal, with the Centaurs, Amazons, Maenads, etc, all embodying the various forms of the definition of humanity and civilisation. Such range is illustrated in the character portraits of theatre personae and the posthumous portraits of philosophers – although the quest for realism led to the ideal, it also led to caricature and the development of portrait types. Greek depictions of non-Greek bodies as well as the Greek influence in the East also has a place in the narrative, illustrating the widespread reach of the Greek philosophy on humanity and its infinite beauty.
(The Belvedere Torso and Reconstruction of a figure from the Temple of Aphaia, Courtauld emuseum)
This is how the exhibition concludes, bringing us full circle in our evaluation of the Greek body. The Parthanon figure of Dionysus is displayed opposite the Belvedere torso, both objects that at one point embodied the perfection of the Greek form. Their influence, in the Italian Renaissance and in the 18th Century Enlightenment, as well as their continued admiration today, illustrates perfectly the reasons for Antiquity’s hailing and celebration. This exhibition both challenges and confirms perceptions of Greek art, broadening the definition of beauty beyond that which is commonly held.Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off
I am so happy to reveal what has been going on with The Courtauld Gallery’s collaboration with Welling School and their year 7s. They spent today with a graphic designer, starting to collate their ideas around gender and The Courtauld collection into an exciting zine. For now here are some photos but expect a full report and the zines themselves when they are finished in the next couple of weeks!Uncategorized | Comments Off
We only have 2 weeks left for you to apply to our year 12 Art History Summer University! Last year, one of our brilliant student ambassadors made this video to give you an insight into what the course was like and how it was useful to her and her friends.
Hannah interviews three students who have attended our Art History Summer University in 2012 to see how it has helped them 18 months on…Uncategorized | Tags: film, student ambassador, summer university, widening participation | Comments Off
Last week we were so excited to welcome 12 young people from across London and the UK to our gallery and university. They were invited to a celebration event after being shortlisted in our Click, Connect, Construct: 16-19 Student Visual Essay Competition using Pinterest.
The day started in the Prints and Drawings room where Assistant Curator Rachel Sloane put on display prints and drawings which related to the students’ boards – some of the drawings and prints were even included in their boards so we were all impressed by what we discovered from each other!
Following that we got a tour of the newly opened Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album – an exhibition at The Courtauld Gallery – by Dr Katie Faulkner Visiting Lecturer at The Courtauld Institute of Art.
Finally it was time for the prize-giving! The shortlisted students were Angel, Blossom, Chloe, Fatimah, Georgie, Hannah, Jeremy, Lily, Molly, Nadia, Nathan, and Shirley from Bethnal Green Academy, Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatchem College, Kingsdale Foundation School, New College Nottingham, Swindon New College, and Sydenham and Forest Hill School.
So here are the prize winners!
Winners of the Highly Commended section: Angel, Blossom, Chloe, Hannah, Molly, Nadia, and Shirley.
Most Original Approach to Source Material – Georgie
Most Creative Interpretation of a Theme – Jeremy
Most Visual Impact – Lily
Best Art History Research – Nathan & Fatimah
Thanks so much to everyone who took part in this competition. Such an incredible array of boards and we hope to welcome you all back here soon!Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off
We are very excited to announce that applications for the 2015 Summer University opened today until 27th April 2015! Further information about the application process can be found on our website.
Summer University runs from Tuesday 7 to Friday 10 July 2015. This year’s theme is Global/ Local looking at art history in its global and local contexts, as well as studying art from across the world in a variety of London collections including our very own Courtauld Gallery.
Not sure what Summer University is? Especially designed for year 12 students, this is an opportunity to spend four days experiencing student life at a world-class university, The Courtauld Institute of Art, with its own beautiful art gallery.
To apply to take part you must be currently studying at a UK state school or FE college, with an interest in finding out more about Art History and the possibilities of studying the subject at degree level.
This is a free non-residential course designed for students from non-selective state school or college.
Got any questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
We hope to hear from you soon!Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: art, art history, summer university, university, year 12, young people | Comments Off
Welcome back! We wanted to let you know what we have got up to over the half term. 15 young people from year 10 to year 13 joined us for two Insights into Art History workshops. They were both brilliant days and looked a little like this…!
Day 1: Conservation
Where science meets art: a day considering The Courtauld Gallery from the perspective of conservation. We were lucky enough to have a tour of the collection in the morning from a second year conservation student from The Courtauld Institute of Art.
Highlight was finding out that one of these figures below has an extra toe as a restorer in the 19th century got a little carried away while retouching the painting…
In the afternoon artist Nadine Mahoney, who makes her own paints as part of her practice, showed us how to mix egg tempera and then we finished off with a little go at gilding!
Day 2: Manet’s Bar
This day concentrated on one of The Courtauld Gallery’s most famous artworks of all time: Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergere. The morning was spent with Dr Caroline Levitt, an art historian who specialises in French modern art.
In the afternoon, we hit Somerset House courtyard with photographer and artist Marysa Dowling to create art of our own!
The Courtauld Institute of Art’s Insights into Art History workshops are for year 10 – 13 students, currently studying at a UK state school or FE college, with an interest in finding out more about Art History and the possibilities of studying the subject at degree level.
These are free non-residential courses designed for students from non-selective state school or college.
If you would like to sign up for any future workshops or would like to find out more, please get in touch with Meghan Goodeve or Alice Odin, Oak Foundation Young People’s Programme Coordinator, at email@example.com or 0207 848 1058.Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off
Insights is a series of free one-day workshops especially designed for 16-19 year olds to explore and investigate The Courtauld Gallery collection. Each day has an exciting focus and a new subject to discover! Booking required for all events: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please check out the different workshops below and let us know whether you would like to attend one or more!
PAINTING CONSERVATION – suitable for year 10 and upwards
Tuesday 17th February 2015, 11.00-15.30
Experience art and science collide in this workshop focusing on painting conservation. Working with an experienced professional, this day will equip you with skills on how to use scientific techniques to study paintings as well as the benefits this has to your own art work.
MANET’S BAR– suitable for year 10 and upwards
Wednesday 18th February 2015, 11.00-15.30
Take a closer look at The Courtauld Gallery’s most famous artwork Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergere. This will give you a change to work with an art historian and contemporary artist to see how Manet’s work has continued to shape artists since its inception. From Tom Hunter to yourself you will create a portfolio of work inspired by this artwork in just one day.
PRINTING DAY - suitable for year 10 and upwards
Saturday 14th March 2015, 11.00 – 16.00
Explore a wide range of printing techniques with our print expert Helen Higgins. Following on from our Prints and Drawings day in October, you will engage with a wide range of printing techniques and see up close some wonderful examples in our brand new Prints and Drawings gallery.
Please note, places are allocated in priority to students from non-selective state schools or FE colleges and/or from a Widening Participation background. To book simply email Meghan Goodeve & Alice Odin, Oak Foundation Young People’s Programme Coordinator (job-share), on email@example.com
We have been overwhelmed by the quality of applications to Click, Connect, Construct: 16-19 Student Visual Essay Competition 2014-15 at The Courtauld Institute of Art. Yesterday we announced 12 shortlisted students who are invited to take part in our Celebration Day!
The students selected are Angel, Blossom, Chloe, Georgie, Hannah, Jeremy, Lily, Molly, Nadia, Nathan, and Shirley from the following schools: Bethnal Green Academy, Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College, Kingsdale Foundation School, New College Nottingham, Swindon New College, and Sydenham and Forest Hill School.
On the day we will be announcing the overall winners for the following categories:
Best Art History Research
Most Creative Interpretation of a Theme
Most Visual Impact
Most Original Approach to Source Material
The afternoon will include a tour of the newly opened exhibition at The Courtauld Gallery Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album and a behind the scenes workshop in the prints and drawings room, not usually open for public.
All shortlisted applicants will be given a prize on the day, which will include complimentary tickets to The Courtauld Gallery and much more!Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off
Now the festive period is upon us, we have put together a top 5 exhibition list for 2015. Enjoy!
Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915-2015
Thu Jan 15 2015 – Thu Apr 16 2015. Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High St, E1 7QX
Rubens and His Legacy: Van Dyck to Cézanne
Sat Jan 24 2015 – Fri Apr 10 2015. Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD
Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden
Thu Feb 5 2015 – Sun May 10 2015. Tate Modern, Bankside, SE1 9TG
Human Rights Human Wrongs
Fri Feb 6 2015 – Mon Apr 6 2015. Photographers’ Gallery, 16-18 Ramillies St, W1F 7LW
Wed Jun 24 2015 – Sun Oct 25 2015. Tate Britain, Millbank, SW1P 4RGCategories: Uncategorized | Comments Off
In October half term we were very happy to welcome young people on two one-day workshops at The Courtauld Gallery. A mixture of returning faces from projects, such as Animating Art History and Art History in the Classroom, and new faces from schools and colleges across London.
Day one focused on Prints and Drawings with printmaker and print historian Helen Higgins (@helenhigginsart) leading the day. We visited both the gallery and had an exclusive look at the Prints and Drawings room with Assistant Curator of Works on Paper Dr Rachel Sloan. See below for pictures from the day!
Day two continued the theme of prints and drawings, but this time focusing on Jasper Johns: Regrets at The Courtauld. Working with artist Nadine Mahoney and Dr Katie Faulker, we were lucky enough to have a curator’s tour by Dr Barnaby Wright followed by creating lots of experimental drawings.
We run half term workshops for young people so contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to find out more about what is going on! Alternatively drop us a tweet @CourtauldYPCategories: Uncategorized | Comments Off