2018 Art References

Image above: Josef Albers, Full

Lectures, talks, collections
Summaries, notes, observations, and some key works
Includes The Hidden Language of Art: Symbol and Allusion AGNSW lecture series 2018

Wednesday 3 October 2018 Dorothea Tanning and Surrealism (Speaker: Dr Victoria Carruthers, Department Art Theory, Australian Catholic University), AGNSW
Many different styles and techniques, produced thousands of works, same preoccupations to capture the moment, multiple realities, imagination, drawn into the world of the mundane, thresholds. Birthday, 1942, painted when she was 42, invokes the supernatural, the winged beast fusion of reality and fantasy, theatricality, mixture of cultures. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, 1943, the trope of the haunted house, disturbing otherness, clarity, tension, strong emotions, open doors gateways to another reality. Avatar, 1947, reprieve from the diabolical landscape, something lurking in the shadows outside. Later work revisionist, Arizona desert, more abstract less precision, Evening in Sedona, 1976.
Summary extract from lecture handout
American artist Dorothea Tanning was born in Galesburg Illinois in 1910 and died in New York in 2012. Her intensely creative life produced a body of highly experimental work spanning more than 70 years which included: paintings; drawings; collage; lithographs; etchings; sculpture; installations; textiles; gold jewellery; and, costume and set designs for theatre and ballet.  In 1999, after the rigours of oil painting became too physically demanding, she turned her hand to writing, producing two volumes of award winning poetry, a novel entitled Chasm and a memoir, Between Lives. Her work was influenced by the highly charged psychodramas of gothic and other fiction that she loved reading in her younger years; and, by the physical and imaginative intensities of her own childhood experiences. But she was most profoundly influenced by surrealism and a surrealist ‘sensibility’ pervaded her work. Entranced by Andre Breton’s notion of ‘the marvelous’, a place of infinite imaginative possibility, her characters are often caught in states of physical, emotional or psychological transformation. Her work demonstrates a preoccupation with thresholds, liminal and transitional spaces in which fantasy, reality, sensation and imagination converge. Her iconographies: doors; doorways; everyday interiors inhabited by otherworldly forces; cloth; sunflowers; wallpaper; children; women and, dogs are repeated throughout her work but never as a simple return.  Instead they shapeshift into a continuum of visual associations as the idea of one motif formally and imaginatively becomes another. Tanning was the long-term partner and wife of Max Ernst from 1942 until his death in 1976, as well as being an active member of the avant-garde milieu both in New York and in Europe. This, along with her love of ideas, the stylistic range and depth of her work entitles Tanning to occupy an important space in the history of modernism and twentieth century art history.

Dorothea Tanning, Birthday, 1942
Dorothea Tanning, Birthday, 1942

Dorothea Tanning, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, 1943
Dorothea Tanning, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, 1943

Dorothea Tanning, Avatar, 1947
Dorothea Tanning, Avatar, 1947

Dorothea Tanning, Evening in Sedona, 1976
Dorothea Tanning, Evening in Sedona, 1976

Wednesday 26 September 2018 Louise Bourgeois: The subject of pain is the business I am in. (Speaker Jason Smith, Curator, Director, Geelong Gallery), AGNSW
The Louise Bourgeois archives in New York open by invitation for research, extensive collection of letters and diaries, her writing about thinking after psychoanalysis, return of the repressed, about her life, expressed level of aggression, self-loathing, compulsive, anxiety, rage, fear of abandonment. Created her own path, modernist, postmodernist. Delighted in language and word play. Obsessive outpouring of emotion, belief that art is about life. Best known as a sculptor. Unconscious expression and formal form, finished when nothing left to eliminate. Followed Kant on being in the world, existentialist, self-scrutiny. Femme Maison, 1947, woman and the domestic sphere, house and home defined her identity with the past, deep sense of betrayal by her father, led to her fear of abandonment. Role of art in eliminating depression, leading to self-awareness. Continual loss of self-esteem. Moved to America after marriage in 1938, created first major body of work. C.O.Y.O.T.E. 1941-48. Started psychoanalysis after her father died in 1951, free association. Didn’t exhibit for eleven years, and then when she did, completely fluid. Favourite artist Francis Bacon. The Cells are a series of installations made out of a mixture of made and found objects, including doors or other structures the artist collected from the neighbourhood, cluttered with memories from her personal life, like fears she carried from her childhood. Cell (The Last Climb), 2008, created two years before she died.
Summary extract from lecture handout
To unravel a torment you must begin somewhere. – Louise Bourgeois
This lecture focuses on some of the autobiographical and psychological impulses that gave rise to the art of Louise Bourgeois, and a series of recurring motifs and forms that imbued her work with emotional and symbolic intensity. In a career spanning seven decades, Louise Bourgeois (1911– 2010) created an oeuvre of arguably unparalleled material and stylistic diversity that continues to resist categorisation within any specific aesthetic tendency. Bourgeois had an early determination that her work would cut its own path amidst the multifarious conceptual trajectories of the modernist and postmodernist periods through which she evolved as an artist. While closely associated with artists, art historians, designers and architects, Bourgeois actively disengaged her work from any particular mode, writing that ‘in general my work portrays and encompasses the whole tradition of art. I am not interested in … the academies of style, a succession of fads. Art is about life and that sums it up’. Bourgeois’ work developed from and declared a deeply rooted humanism and existentialism, drawing daily on psychological states that had their origins in the traumas of her childhood and that conditioned everything she did—and felt she was—in the present: ‘What counts, our whole purpose, is to try to understand what we are about, to scrutinise ourselves … Every day you have to abandon your past or accept it, and then, if you cannot accept it, you become a sculptor’.

Louise Bourgeois , Femme Maison, 1947
Louise Bourgeois , Femme Maison, 1947
Louise Bourgeois, C.O.Y.O.T.E. [previously known as The blind leading the blind], 1941-48
Louise Bourgeois, C.O.Y.O.T.E. [previously known as The blind leading the blind], 1941-48

Louise Bourgeois, Janus Fleuri, 1968
Louise Bourgeois, Janus Fleuri, 1968
Louise Bourgeois, Arch of Hysteria, 1993
Louise Bourgeois, Arch of Hysteria, 1993
Louise Bourgeois, Maman, 1999
Louise Bourgeois, Maman, 1999

Louise Bourgeois, Cell (The Last Climb), 2008
Louise Bourgeois, Cell (The Last Climb), 2008

Wednesday 19 September 2018 Following the line: understanding south-east art practices (Speaker: Jonathan Jones, artist, indigenous perspectives public art), AGNSW
Art of south-east Australia cultural practice and traditions, covered 80 different nations, including Lake Mungo and Brewarrina fish traps. Significant in terms archaeology, the region had the highest Aboriginal population. Rethink of the ideas in the use of line. Research on the south-east shields around the Murray basin and coastal areas, what the lines mean, line-work on possum skin cloaks to more recent artists Lin Onus and Badger Bates. Most of the collected objects pre-contact era. The designs connected to individual people. Later line used to tell stories Tommy McRae, Spearing the kangaroo c1980, William Barak Ceremony c1895, Roy Kennedy Mission boy dreams (2006). H G Wedge, Wiradjuri from Cowra, creates washes then carves image with blunt pencil, incising the canvas then paints the images created, correlation with the marks made in the shields, HJ Wedge Stop and think (1993)
Notes from AGNSW Art Set Murruwaygu
The exhibition Murrwaygu: following in the footsteps of the ancestors (Art Gallery of NSW, 28 November 2015 – 21 February 2016) considers the continuing use of the line by four generations of male artists from south-east Australia, from pre-contact times to the present day. A distinctive use of the line is constant in figurative and abstract imagery, in varying mediums, and through changing social, political and cultural climates, representing the unbroken lineage of Koori knowledge and culture.

Shield, New South Wales, 1889, Museum Victoria
Shield, New South Wales, 1889, Museum Victoria

Artist unknown, attributed to Southern Riverine region Broad shield, National Gallery of Australia
Artist unknown, attributed to Southern Riverine region Broad shield, National Gallery of Australia

Spearing the kangaroo c1980 Tommy McRae, Southern Riverine, Australia, c.1835–1901
Spearing the kangaroo c1980 Tommy McRae, Southern Riverine, Australia, c.1835–1901

William Barak Ceremony c1895, Art Gallery of Ballarat, Victoria
William Barak Ceremony c1895, Art Gallery of Ballarat, Victoria

Roy Kennedy Mission boy dreams (2006)
Roy Kennedy Mission boy dreams (2006)

HJ Wedge Stop and think (1993)
HJ Wedge Stop and think (1993)

Wednesday 12 September 2018 Seeing desire: Marcel Duchamp’s Étant donnés (Speaker: Dr Jaime Tsai, Art History, National Art School), AGNSW
Viewed through peep hole in a door, the installation, Étant donnés (Given) encompasses eroticism, aesthetic manifesto, symbolism, and wordplay, reference to Gustave Courbet, L’Origine du monde (“The Origin of the World”), 1866. For Duchamp, visual, retinal art, started with Courbet through to the 1960s. He believed art should challenge the popular saying ‘stupid as a painter’ i.e. that painters only translate what they see and that painting is not an intellectual activity, rather that retinal vetting is to do with the brain, he wanted to move away from the retinal meaning as context, to perception, the creative act, artist as the medium and the spectator the creator. In Given, an encounter with frustrated desire, a wander through the landscape, the peep hole as visceral element, use of perspective, embodied interaction, changed work into a projected image, back to the grid tradition of Durer in 1600s. The peep hole gives the work its perspective from a fixed point, psycho-physiological vision, slippage, scientific and human. Stereoscope, object and observer, two dissimilar images, flatness becomes tactile, reference to Lacan’s writings, what’s behind the door less important than the desire to see it. Nature of desire in an Arcadian landscape, Titian, Diana and Actaeon, 1556-9. Desire only exists if the object is unobtainable. Duchamp declared retinal art dead.
Summary extract from lecture handout
According to his wishes, Marcel Duchamp’s last work Étant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau / 2° le gaz d’éclairage (Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas) (1946-64) was unveiled after his death at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1968. It is a meta-picture that represents the culmination of many themes that preoccupied his practice, including speculative science, eroticism, and paradigms of modernism. As Duchamp no doubt intended, it continues to evade fixed interpretations. He was fond of saying: ‘there is no solution, because there is no problem’. Nonetheless, this lecture will attempt to decode some of Given’s key symbolism, and unravel the meaning at the heart of Duchamp’s final joke.

Duchamp (Marcel), Étant donnés, 1946–1966 1
Duchamp (Marcel), Étant donnés, 1946–1966 2
Marcel Duchamp, Étant donnés, 1946–1966
English: Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas,
French: Étant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau / 2° le gaz d’éclairag

Duchamp (Marcel) The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), 1915–23
Marcel Duchamp The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), 1915–23

Courbet (Gustave), L'Origine du monde The Origin of the World, 1866
Gustave Courbet, L’Origine du monde (“The Origin of the World”), 1866

Courbet (Gustave), Woman with White Stockings, 1861
Gustave Courbet, Woman with White Stockings, 1861

Titian, Diana and Actaeon, 1556-9
Titian, Diana and Actaeon, 1556-9

Wednesday 5 September 2018 Woman as national allegory: cases from Indian and Indonesian art (Speaker: Chaitanya Sambrani, Centre for Art History and Art Theory, School of Art and Design, Australian National University), AGNSW
Female figures as national symbols, as bearer of natural virtue. M F Husain famous modernist Indian painter, exiled due to his work Mother India, titled by his accusers, bare breasts and implication of violence, the Supreme Court ruled the accusations did not have a basis. India and Indonesia multilingual, multicultural, especially post-colonial rule, Britain in India and Holland in Indonesia, cultural values still in existence. Two moods: heroic goddess; and the temptress, creates a frisson of excitement for the male gaze, Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906) Lady in the Moonlight (1889), remarkable because of the use of old iconography and exceptionally new, classical but considered risqué, a woman sitting alone at night by a river showing her ankles. In Galaxy of Musicians (1893?) shows different ethnicities across India, united face of the nation. Unity in diversity a feature in both India and Indonesia. Abanindranath Tagore, Bharat Mata, (Mother India) (1905) multiple arms represent multiple virtues, holds important cultural items: the beads (piety), sheaves of rice (fertility), a manuscript (learning), and a white cloth (purity). Nandalal Bose, Sati (1907 and 1943) death in loyalty to her husband, either goddess or devoted wife, life has no meaning and ceases when her husband dies. Amrita Sher-Gil travelled widely throughout India, idealised images on Indian women, Group of three Girls (1935) timeless fatalism, no eye contact, resignation, for her emancipation, but images stuck in historical long suffering women. In Indonesia idea of mother earth, Goddess Ibu Pertiwi, National Monument, Jakarta, the National Personification of Indonesia. Largest Islamic population in the world, modernism a result of colonialism, influence of Dutch artist who lived in Indonesia for extended periods including Willem Hofker emphasis on Balinese femininity, Two Balinese women in the temple (1947), domesticated woman, idol image, domesticated womanhood. Hendra Gunawan, Bride of the Revolution (1957) deconstruction of the feminine icon in contemporary art. Jim Supangkat, Ken Dedes, (1975 remade 1996) idea of great queen/empress juxtaposed with rest of body, flaunts 1970s sexuality, seen as an attack on national values.
Summary extract from lecture handout
There are histories of female figures being used as allegorical representations of motherlands in several countries. Such figures are often symbolic references to the nation as the maternal source which gives birth to national consciousness and civilizational ideals. These figures stand in for notions of national identity or virtue. Of equal frequency are images of the female form taken as “typical” of national beauty, whether in the form of the devoted wife or the transgressive object of fantasy. Using examples from nationalist and postcolonial periods in Indian and Indonesian art, this lecture will examine the production and consumption of idealized (and often sexualized) female figures, primarily on part of male artists. The lecture will point to the ways in which the image of woman as mother (goddess) and as object of desire (possession) is pervasively integrated into the normative national subjectivity, assumed as being masculine and heterosexual. The second part of the lecture looks at ways in which contemporary women artists have addressed such symbolic stereotypes in making work that uses humour and subterfuge in its critique of patriarchal nationalism and its conceits.

lect 5 Sept18 M F Husain, Bharatmata or Mother India, 1957
M F Husain, Bharatmata or Mother India, 1957

lect 5 Sept18 Raja Ravi Varma, Lady in the Moonlight, 1889
Raja Ravi Varma, Lady in the Moonlight, 1889

lec 5 Sept 18 Raja Ravi Varma, The Gypsies, 1893
Raja Ravi Varma, The Gypsies, 1893

lec 5 Sept 18 Raja Ravi Varma, Galaxy of Musicians, 1893
Raja Ravi Varma, Galaxy of Musicians, 1893?

lec 5 Sept 18 Abanindranath Tagore, Bharat Mata, 1905
Abanindranath Tagore, Bharat Mata, 1905

lec 5 Sept 18 Nandalal Bose, Sati, 1907 &1943
Nandalal Bose, Sati, 1907 &1943

lec 5 Sept 18 Amrita Sher-Gil Group of three Girls, 1935
Amrita Sher-Gil Group of three Girls, 1935

lec 5 Sept 18 Goddess Ibu Pertiwi, National Monument, Jakarta
Goddess Ibu Pertiwi, National Monument, Jakarta

lec 5 Sept 18 Willem Hofker, Two Balinese women in the temple, 1947
Willem Hofker, Two Balinese women in the temple, 1947

lec 5 Sept 18 Hendra Gunawan, Bride of the Revolution, 1957
Hendra Gunawan, Bride of the Revolution, 1957

lec 5 Sept 18 Jim Supangkat, Ken Dedes, 1975 remade 1996
Jim Supangkat, Ken Dedes, 1975 remade 1996

Wednesday 29 August 2018 The Iconography of Arthur Boyd (Speaker: Kendrah Morgan, Senior Curator, Heide)
Central preoccupation with what it is to be human, ethical paradox, plight of the outsider, use and abuse of power, painted inner feelings, shifted from subjective to objective, semi-human hybridised animals (ramox), gestural expressionist. Travel to Central Australia in 1951 led to the bride series, about mixed race marriage, embodies imagery from his parent’s marriage, and his affair represented in three way entanglement (Persecuted lovers 1957-8), later images sensual lyricism, developed series of lovers in the landscape. 1971 returned to Australia, painted the Chained series after his return to England mid 1970s, then back to Australia and the Shoalhaven series, inspiration from the landscape and inner peace. Some influences: Bosch, Dostoevsky (Three Heads (The Brothers Karamazov) 1938), Pieter Bruegel the Elder (The Cripples 1568, The Tower of Babel, The Gloomy Day 1565), Rembrandt, Picasso (La Vie 1903), Tintoretto (Narcissus 1555), Chagall (The Wedding 1944, The Bay of Angels 1962), Holman Hunt (The Scapegoat 1854-6), Titian (The Death of Actaeon 1559-76), Blake (Nebuchadnezzar 1795)
Summary extract from lecture handout
Acclaimed artist Arthur Boyd (1920–1999) was a master in a range of media but most widely recognised for the extraordinary allegorical paintings that he produced in series across the course of his long career. This lecture focuses on how Boyd developed his distinctive and deeply personal symbolic language, exploring the evolution and meaning of specific motifs and how he applied and extended these in key sequences of paintings to create images of universal and lasting relevance. While Boyd’s work is stylistically diverse, his iconography is remarkably consistent, allowing us to identify what inspired and drove him, and made him one of the most important Australian artists of the twentieth century.

Boyd, The cripples, 1943
Arthur Boyd, The cripples, 1943

Boyd, The mining town (Casting the money lenders from the temple) c.1946
Arthur Boyd, The mining town (Casting the money lenders from the temple) c.1946

Boyd, Boat builders, Eden, 1948
Arthur Boyd, Boat builders, Eden, 1948

Boyd, Bride running away, 1957
Arthur Boyd, Bride running away, 1957

Boyd, Nebuchadnezzar on fire and Daniel with bound arms, 1968-69
Arthur Boyd, Nebuchadnezzar on fire and Daniel with bound arms, 1968-69

Boyd, Chained figure and bent tree, 1973
Arthur Boyd, Chained figure and bent tree, 1973

Boyd, Australian scapegoat, 1987
Arthur Boyd, Australian scapegoat, 1987

Boyd, Morning Pulpit Rock (Four Times a Day series), 1982
Arthur Boyd, Morning Pulpit Rock (Four Times a Day series), 1982

Wednesday 22 August 2018 Sidney Nolan: deconstructing the embodied landscape (Speaker: Deborah Edwards, independent curator, previously Senior Curator Australian Art, AGNSW), AGNSW
Nolan concerned with connections of myths, cultural symbols, and narratives in the Australian landscape, mythology of place. Created over 35,000 works during his lifetime. The Ned Kelly, Eliza Fraser, and Burke and Wills series symbols and allegories, meaning becomes opaque, paintings frequently ambiguous, myths of place, iconography of his own psyche. Kiata 1943, influences Cezanne, surrealists, experiment with spatial ambiguity. Kelly 1946 abstraction with legends, folklore, an allegory spread out over several paintings. Kelly series world of fact and imagination, created emblem of menace, outcast and hero. Symbiotic relationship of self and landscape, exterior and interior worlds. The Eliza Fraser series interpreted as Nolan’s growing resentment towards Sunday Reed after their five year affair. Eliza Frazer, shipwrecked and lived with the aborigines and a convict, Bracefell (who she betrayed to the authorities), sensationalised sexual innuendo in her version of the story. In the paintings not in or of the landscape. The Burke and Wills series a tale about the formidable landscape, camels reference to biblical land, surrealist elements, isolation and displacement.
Summary extract from lecture handout
Symbols and allegories in art, even when investigated, frequently remain enigmatic or subject to varying interpretations. Meanings, if once clear, become opaque for us as artworks recede further into the past. We are also frequently separated from meaning in works created under the mantle of different cultures. But where are we with Sidney Nolan? One of our most important artistic iconographers of the Australian continent was a white Australian male; from our modern period, our milieu. How much aid do we need to comprehend his art? This lecture explores what may be some of the hidden meanings embedded in the art of Nolan, through contemplation of works in three of his most iconic series of paintings – the Ned Kelly works, the Eliza Fraser series, and the paintings of Burke and Wills.

Nolan, Kiata 1943
Sidney Nolan, Kiata 1943

Nolan, Kelly 1946
Sidney Nolan, Kelly 1946

Nolan, Mrs Fraser and Bracefell 1946
Sidney Nolan, Mrs Fraser and Bracefell 1946

Nolan, Mrs Fraser 1947 1
Sidney Nolan, Mrs Fraser 1947

Nolan, Mrs Fraser 1947 2
Sidney Nolan, Mrs Fraser and convict 1947

Nolan, Burke and Wills expedition 1948
Sidney Nolan, Burke and Wills expedition 1948

Nolan, Perished 1949
Sidney Nolan, Perished 1949

Nolan, Burke at Coopers Creek, 1950
Sidney Nolan, Burke at Coopers Creek, 1950

Wednesday 15 August 2018 Picasso and The Unknown Masterpiece (Speaker: Terence Maloon, Director, Drill Hall Gallery, ANU, Canberra, former curator AGNSW)
Balzac’s novella Le Chef-d’œuvre inconnu (The Unknown Masterpiece) is a reflection on art, and has had an important influence on modernist artists. The plot: young Nicolas Poussin, as yet unknown, visits the painter Porbus in his workshop. He is accompanied by the old master Frenhofer who comments expertly on the large tableau that Porbus has just finished. The painting is of Mary of Egypt, and while Frenhofer sings her praises, he hints that the work seems unfinished. With some slight touches of the paintbrush, Frenhofer transforms Porbus’ painting such that Mary the Egyptian appears to come alive before their very eyes. Although Frenhofer has mastered his technique, he admits that he has been unable to find a suitable model for his own masterpiece, which depicts a beautiful courtesan called Catherine Lescault, known as La Belle noiseuse. He has been working on this future masterpiece, that no one has yet seen, for ten years. Poussin offers his own lover, Gillette, as a model. Gillette is so beautiful that Frenhofer is inspired to finish his project quickly. Poussin and Porbus come to admire the painting, but all they can see is part of a foot that has been lost in a swirl of colours. Their disappointment drives Frenhofer to madness, and he destroys the painting and dies that night.
Paul Cézanne strongly identified with Frenhofer, it has been argued that Cézanne’s own attempts to paint the nude were heavily influenced by Balzac’s portrayal of Frenhofer’s work. In 1927, Ambroise Vollard asked Picasso to illustrate Le Chef-d’œuvre inconnu. Picasso was fascinated by the text and identified with Frenhofer so much that he moved to the rue des Grands-Augustins in Paris where Balzac located Porbus’ studio. There he painted his own masterpiece, Guernica. Picasso lived here during World War II.
Picasso also strongly identified with the fable about a romantic artist in pursuit of the perfect painting, where the pitfalls of lack of confidence can lead to mastery, overconfidence to ruin, never-ending search for reality ends in darkness. Picasso’s works from 1910 outline forms disappear, then later boundary pulled back to reclaim figuration. Picasso called abstraction pure painting.
Summary extract from lecture handout
In 1931 the art dealer Ambroise Vollard published a luxurious limited edition of Balzac’s novella, Le Chef d’Œuvre Inconnu (The Unknown Masterpiece) illustrated by Picasso. Balzac’s story had intrigued visual artists ever since its first publication in 1831. Vollard’s re-edition was timed to mark the centenary of the novella’s appearance, and its new association with Picasso served to emphasize the idea of Le Chef d’Œuvre Inconnu as an amazingly far-reaching “fable of modern art”. The most striking aspect of the illustrations Picasso supplied for Vollard was their flagrant non-correspondence to Balzac’s text. No doubt this could be explained by dint of the widespread prejudice among the painters of Picasso’s generation towards “illustration”, “anecdotage” and “literature” becoming involved in pictorial expression. It could be attributed to this quintessentially modernist prohibition. Or were there other forces motivating Picasso’s illustrations, perhaps something more secretive and coded? Three decades after Vollard’s publication, Picasso – then aged 87 – no longer held the inhibitions that had thwarted him in 1931. Imagery relating to Le Chef d’Œuvre Inconnu reappeared quite openly in a series of etchings from 1968, the Suite 347, as if staging a “return of the repressed”. This lecture examines Picasso’s successive responses to Balzac’s tale in terms of the complex relationship his art had maintained towards the ever-present prospect and ever-deferred possibility of abstraction.
Picasso, Peintre et Modele tricotant from Le Chef- d_Œuvre Inconnu, 1927
Picasso, Peintre et Modele tricotant from Le Chef- d’Œuvre Inconnu, 1927

Picasso, Landscape, 1908
Picasso, Landscape, 1908

Wednesday 1 August 2018 Symbolism and the femme fatale (Speaker: Denise Mimmocchi, Curator Australian Art, AGNSW), AGNSW
Bertram Mackennal Circe, 1893, Greek goddess turned sailors to swine, symbol of flesh and spirit, woman as sorceress, modern femme fatale. Symbolist movement of late 19th century not tied to a style rather a set of conceptual ideas, often motif of dreamer or sleeper. Prins Eugen, The forest, 1892, arcadian landscape sublime and sinister. Franz von Stuck, Sin, 1899, theatrical death and destruction, influenced Klimt and Munch.
Summary extract from lecture handout
Art history is filled with representations and allegories of women that follow the age-old biblical dichotomy of saint or sinner. But toward the end of the 19th century, the figure of the femme fatale; the woman of a treacherous, yet alluring sexuality, became an iconographic obsession and a central figure of meaning in the work of Symbolist artists. At the hand of the Symbolists, and in their search for expressions of the subconscious, the figure of the femme fatale became more potent, more sinister and more perverse than images of evil women in the past. Through such imagery, perceptions of female malevolence became embedded in the western psyche. This lecture explores reasons why the figure of the femme fatale became so prevalent in fin de siècle culture using examples of Symbolist artists across the western world who in their work fashioned the femme fatale into her myriad guises.

Mackennal (Bertram), Circe, 1893
Bertram Mackennal, Circe, 1893

Gauguin, Vision after the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel), 1888
Paul Gauguin, Vision of the sermon (Jacob wrestling with the angel), 1888

Eugen (Prins), The forest, 1892
Prins Eugen, The forest, 1892

von Stuck (Franz), Sin, 1899
Franz von Stuck, Sin, 1899

Munch (Edvard), Ashes, 1894
Edvard Munch, Ashes, 1894

Streeton (Arthur), Spirit of the drought, c. 1895
Arthur Streeton, Spirit of the drought, c. 1895

Wednesday 25 July 2018 Victorian painting: uncovering forgotten narratives (Speaker: Dr Alison Inglis, Department Art History, University of Melbourne), AGNSW
David Wilkie, Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Waterloo Despatch, 1822, included depictions of actual war veterans, set groundwork for popular narrative. William Powell Frith, The Derby Day, 1856-8, represents modern Victorian life, appearance related to depictions of a person’s character. Joseph Noel Paton, in Memorium, 1858, scene from the Indian mutiny, sensational at the time, represented impending massacre, later changed to an image of rescue. Edwin Landseer, Man proposes, God disposes, 1864, reference to the remains found of the doomed Franklin expedition. William Dyce, Pegwell Bay, Kent – a Recollection of October 5th 1858, 1858-60, significant title, in the sky a comet trail, image about time, geological time, astronomy and geology. John Everett Millais, Christ in the House of his Parents (The Carpenter’s Shop), 1849-50, depiction of real people caused offence, seen as common lower class appearance. William Holman Hunt, The awakening conscience, 1853, depiction of the place of women in society, mirror behind reflecting open window, redemption through nature, sympathetic portrayal of a fallen woman. John Everett Millais, Autumn Leaves, 1856, without subject but implies time passing, transience of youth and beauty. James McNeill Whistler, Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, 1862, not about a story, about music, white and harmonies.
Summary extract from lecture handout
The vast majority of artists in the Victorian period – including Cope, Frith, Egg, Lauder, Paton, Landseer, Strutt, Dyce, Hunt, Millais, Leighton and Yeames – aligned themselves with the great narrative tradition that had defined British art since Hogarth. Indeed, one avant-garde figure of the 1860s, James McNeill Whistler, declared mockingly: “It was the era of the subject … The British subject”, in which the meaning of the work resided more in the convincing portrayal of a story than the aesthetic harmony of the composition. A painting was seen to be a type of visual literature, with the audience asking: “what does the picture represent”? This question was not always easily answered, however, and artists often inserted motifs or symbols to enrich the work’s meaning. To modern audiences, who lack the contemporary context, these images can appear ambiguous or even indecipherable. This lecture will trace the fortunes of the Victorian subject painting, revealing the sometimes forgotten narratives and unexpected transformations towards the end of the century.

Wilkie (David), Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Waterloo Despatch, 1822
David Wilkie, Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Waterloo Despatch, 1822

Paton (Joseph Noel ), in Memorium, 1858
Joseph Noel Paton, in Memorium, 1858

Landseer (Edwin ), Man proposes, God disposes, 1864
Edwin Landseer, Man proposes, God disposes, 1864

Dyce (William), Pegwell Bay, Kent – a Recollection of October 5th 1858, 1858-60
William Dyce, Pegwell Bay, Kent – a Recollection of October 5th 1858, 1858-60

Whistler (James McNeill), Symphony in White, No. 1 The White Girl, 1862
James McNeill Whistler, Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, 1862

Wednesday 4 July 2018 Desire, Devotion, Longing: Symbols of Love 1700-1900 (Speaker: Dr Angela Hesson, National Gallery of Victoria), AGNSW
Focus on complexity, people and interaction, objects and symbolism. Historically, imagery focussed on love the happy moments, subject of emotion, stories of love and loss, anticipation and memory. Classical tradition, transformation enduring myths of love, Venus embodiment of desire but also morally and emotionally ambiguous. Gesture of the pain of lost love, performance of grief, 18th century romantic, tombs and crumbling ruins represent transience. John Everett Millais, Only a Lock of Hair, 1857, a lock of hair intended as a gift, a love object, private ritual, symbolic intimacy, desire, associated with longing, melancholy, paradox of joy and grief. A lock of hair often part of lockets, hair of a person that was loved, public private context. Portrait miniatures, eye miniatures of a loved one, convict tokens, mourning rings and pendants, objects of personal remembrance, rituals of mourning. During the Victorian period hair became a mark of legitimate art, symbolic.
Summary extract from lecture handout
The visual language of love in European painting, sculpture and decorative arts from the late seventeenth to the late nineteenth century. From its advent to its vestiges, love, as it is expressed in art, literature and artefacts, is not so much a single emotion as an intricate constellation of feelings. To consider love is, in effect, to consider the full spectrum of human experience, from birth to death, and perhaps beyond. Focusing in particular upon eighteenth-century works and the origins of love’s iconography, and forward to its subsequent evolution, exploring the diverse facets of this complex emotion, from religious worship to familial devotion to fleshly desire.

Regnault (Jean-Baptise ), Venus preparing herself (La Toilette de Vénus) 1815
Jean-Baptise Regnault, Venus preparing herself (La Toilette de Vénus) 1815

Regnier (Nicolas), Hero and Leander, c. 1625-1626
Nicolas Regnier, Hero and Leander, c. 1625-1626

Millais (John Everett), Only a Lock of Hair, 1857
John Everett Millais, Only a Lock of Hair, 1857

Mourning Pendant, 1782, NGV
Mourning Pendant, 1782, NGV

Wednesday 27 June 2018 Blindness in the Enlightenment (Speaker: Dr Georgina Cole, Art History and Theory, National Art School), AGNSW
The Enlightenment, Age of Reason, 18th century, included a range of ideas centered on reason as the primary source of authority and legitimacy and came to advance ideals like liberty, progress, tolerance, fraternity, constitutional government and separation of church and state. Sir John Fielding, magistrate, force in modernisation of the law, instituted pre-trial process, and in developing police force. Strong humanitarian influence, child protection, educating young people to keep them off the streets and away from crime, prodigious pamphlet writer. Blinded in an accident at the age of 19. In the 1762 portrait by Nathaniel Hone, Sir John Fielding is shown with one hand holding a document, which is thought to represent one of several which he and his brother wrote suggesting improvements in the law, and the other resting on two volumes, a law book and a Bible. The black band on his forehead was there to let others know that he was blind. The 1773 portrait is allegorical, embodiment of blind justice, combined empirical approach with what it means to be blind, lived experience, subjectivity, moral capacity, blindness not a problem to be solved, revealed as link between sensation and knowledge. Nothing impeded him from participating in public life. The column represents strength and stability, the crack in the column reference to visual impairment, disability of the physical not an impairment to moral thinking. Represents blind justice, face turned to the light, dressed in senatorial robes, book of law crushing serpent, without blindfold, truly blind, forced impartiality, self-referential posture, special relationship with the divine. The emphasis under Reynold at the Royal Academy was not to represent image but to capture the spirit.. The two portraits show changing perceptions, more romantic view of blindness as having special qualities.
Summary extract from lecture handout
Nathaniel Hone’s three portraits of the blind magistrate and social reformer, Sir John Fielding, how the portraits construct a public image for Fielding, and also a visual language for representing his blindness that draws on empirical investigation and poetic metaphor. In this regard, the portraits engage with changing ideas about blindness in the Enlightenment, which characterized it as a physiological condition with notable effects on knowledge and subjectivity. However, the perseverance of allegory in the portraits suggests the tenacity of literary and symbolic ideas about blindness in the “age of reason”.

Hone (Nathaniel), Sir John Fielding, 1762
Nathaniel Hone, Sir John Fielding, 1762, National Portrait Gallery, London

Hone (Nathaniel), Sir John Fielding, 1773
Nathaniel Hone, Sir John Fielding, 1773, Middlesex Guildhall Art Collection

Wednesday 20 June 2018 River stories: the art of Australian waters (Speaker: Amanda Peacock, Program Director Aboriginal Art, AGNSW), AGNSW
Judy Watson’s ngarunga nangama, calm water dream, installed at 200 George street which is built above the Tank Stream, it depicts the stream, granite rocks, and shell middens. The shell middens were burnt for their lime which went into the mortar of the first stone buildings in Sydney, Aboriginal culture part of the DNA of the city. Aborigines carefully managed the landscape, through the use of fire to attract game. The pattern of cleared areas is clearly shown in early colonial painting including Robert Dale Panoramic view of King George’s Sound, part of the colony of Swan River, 1832, and Joseph Lycett, Aborigines using fire to hunt kangaroos, c1820.
Summary extract from lecture handout
Rivers were the superhighways of colonisation, continental arteries promising access to a living heart. They have also been a focal point for Indigenous knowledge, culture and social life for millennia. Rivers form geopolitical divisions, provide transport, abundance of resources and have been the location of encounter and resistance. Art, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, can reveal Australian histories that have been forgotten or that we have collectively avoided knowing; and can provide a way for us to better see and understand our shared histories, present and future.

Watson (Judy), ngarunga nangama, calm water dream, 2016, public art commission, 200 George St, Sydney
Judy Watson, ngarunga nangama, calm water dream, 2016, public art commission, 200 George St, Sydney

Dale (Robert ), Panoramic view of King George's Sound, part of the colony of Swan River, 1832
Robert Dale, Panoramic view of King George’s Sound, part of the colony of Swan River, 1832

Lycett (Joseph), Aborigines using fire to hunt kangaroos, c1820
Joseph Lycett, Aborigines using fire to hunt kangaroos, c1820

Abdulla (Ian), Swimming before school, 1995
Ian Abdulla, Swimming before school, 1995

Wednesday 13 June 2018 Vertu et Patrie: Jacques-Louis David, Neo-classicism and the French Revolution (Speaker: Professor Mark Ledbury, Art History, University of Sydney), AGNSW
An era of seismic social change: (1) advent of public art exhibitions from 1740s, mass audiences and artists in open competition (2) intellectual revolution, enlightenment, social investigation, loosening of authority in politics and the church, erosion of authority of the royal court (3) philosophy of virtue from within not from God. Vertu: virtue, Patrie: place, people free to determine governance for themselves, self-determination. Boucher, Rococo frivolity, became victim of reaction in the social cultural sphere to undermine the court and its extravagance, by contrast Greuze paintings depicted the lives of virtuous modest peasantry and bourgeoisie, at the time radical propaganda. After three attempts David won the prestigious Prix de Rome, which funded a five-year stay in Rome, transformative, detailed sketches of Greek and Roman art. Part of the generation of dissent. Produced works in grade scale compared to competitors, captured human feeling, slightly frenetic, exaggerated, used his limitation (e.g. use of foreshortening) to his advantage e.g. The Oath of the Horatii, 1785, nothing like it had been seen before. Deeply involved in the revolution, signed death warrants, friend of Robespierre, imprisoned (painted self-portrait), then at the end of the revolution aligned himself with Napoleon, heroic history paintings.
Summary extract from lecture handout
How the texts and influences for a new wave of art changed in the 1760s and 1770s, how David seized the initiative and allied himself with the forces of a new, enlightened and politically radical patriotism in the 1780s, how he blended an enthusiasm for the beauties of Greek and Roman art with a passionate commitment to political and social change, and how he negotiated the complex, contingent processes of Revolutionary change.
See examples of David’s sketchbooks at https://publicdomainreview.org/collections/the-sketchbooks-of-jaques-louis-david/ and in the collections of the Getty and the Harvard Art Museums.

David (Jacques-Louis), Oath of the Horatii, 1785
Jacques-Louis David, Oath of the Horatii, 1785

David (Jacques-Louis ), The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons, 1789
Jacques-Louis David, The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons, 1789

David (Jacques-Louis), Tennis Court Oath, 1791
Jacques-Louis David, Tennis Court Oath, 1791

David (Jacques-Louis ), The Death of Marat, 1793
Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Marat, 1793

David (Jacques-Louis), Napoleon at the Saint-Bernard Pass, 1801
Jacques-Louis David, Napoleon at the Saint-Bernard Pass, 1801

Wednesday 6 June 2018 Modern morality in Hogarth and Gainsborough (Speaker: Dr Georgina Cole, Art History and Theory, National Art School), AGNSW
Compared to Paris and Rome, London had a limited art market in the 18th century, artists were aware of the need to justify their art, interest in social values that may accompany commercial activity appealed in terms of ideas of virtue. Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759, influential: sympathy, benevolence, compassion, kindness, politeness. Imagination crucial in moral understanding. Critics considered that painting should show that virtues can be relevant to society, more than just pleasing to the eye. Art entertaining as well as instructive in Hogarth’s pictorial theatre series Marriage a la Mode and Industry and Idleness. Both Hogarth and Gainsborough supported the Foundling Hospital. Gainsborough had a reputation as a modern man of feeling, sensitivity, and was popular with the aristocracy, idealised connection between the poor and the upper class.
Summary extracts from lecture handout
In the eighteenth century, the “social” virtues of compassion, kindness, and benevolence replaced the “republican” virtues of heroism, courage, and patriotism as the ethical basis of behaviour. These virtues provided subject matter for painters of everyday life as well as a moral justification for art-making and viewing. Artworks by Hogarth and Gainsborough engaged with questions of marriage, education, and charity, and visualized moral imperatives. In Hogarth’s progresses, virtue is rewarded and vice richly punished through the logic of cause and effect. For Gainsborough, the moral prerogative of charity provided a way of thinking through differences in artistic practice, offering a benevolent resolution between the idealized, academic style, and the naturalistic “fancy” picture.

Hogath (William ), Marriage a la Mode 5. The Bagnio 1745
William Hogarth, Marriage a la Mode 5. The Bagnio, 1745

Hogarth (William), Industry and Idleness series Plate 1 The Fellow 'Prentices at their Looms, 1747
William Hogarth, Industry and Idleness series Plate 1 The Fellow ‘Prentices at their Looms, 1747

Gainsborough (Thomas), Cottage Girl, 1785
Thomas Gainsborough, Cottage Girl, 1785

Gainsborough (Thomas ), Charity Relieving Distress, 1784
Thomas Gainsborough, Charity Relieving Distress, 1784

Wednesday 30 May 2018 A window on to heaven: Optical illusions and allusions in Baroque Rome (Speaker: Steven Miller, Head of the Archive and Research Library), AGNSW
Optical illusion in 17th century popular. Artists program of the counter-reformation, aim to correct abuses of the reformation and update Catholicism. Bernini one of the major figures combining emotional drama and realism, to pray with the imagination. Bernini influenced Gaulli e.g. the expanded figures out of frame.
Summary extracts from lecture handout
Focus on three major ceiling paintings of Baroque Rome. Each is an illusionistic ‘triumph’: Andrea Pozzo’s ‘Triumph of Saint Ignatius’ for the church of the same name is one of the finest examples of quadratura, a type of painting that incorporates architectural elements to create an illusion of the expansion of actual into imagined space, including, in the centre of the church, an enormous fake dome. Pietro da Cortona’s ‘Triumph of Divine Providence’ for the Palazzo Barberini and Il Baciccio’s ‘Triumph of the Holy Name of Jesus’, on the ceiling of the Gesù church, are technical and theatrical masterpieces, blurring the boundaries between heaven and earth.

da Cortona (Pietro) Triumph of Divine Providence, Palazzo Barberini, 1633-69
Pietro da Cortona Triumph of Divine Providence, Palazzo Barberini, 1633-69

Gaulli (Giovanni Battista ) (Il Baciccio) Triumph of the Holy Name of Jesus, 1672-85, Church of the Gesù, Rome
Giovanni Battista Gaulli (Il Baciccio) Triumph of the Holy Name of Jesus, 1672-85, Church of the Gesù, Rome

Pozzo (Andrea ), Il trionfo di Sant_Ignazio, 1691–94. Frescoed ceiling of the church of Sant_Ignazio, Rome
Andrea Pozzo, Il trionfo di Sant’Ignazio, 1691–94. Frescoed ceiling of the church of Sant’Ignazio, Rome

Wednesday 23 May 2018 The Concealed Iconography of Japanese Christians in the 17th Century (Speaker: Dr Olivia Meehan, Ian Potter Museeum, University of Melbourne) AGNSW
The Japanese discovered the West on their own terms and were never colonised. Giovanni Niccolò (c1558-1626) started an academy of painters. Conflict between the Japanese authorities and Portuguese resulted in all foreigners being expelled, represented in The Great Martyrdom of Nagasaki, September 10, 1622.Christians went underground and developed their own culture, with their own oral history, a cross can be found represented in stone lanterns. Symbolic discreet red and white roses, swallows representing the holy trinity can be found Maria Kannon – a statue of Kannon worshipped as Maria by the Hidden Christians, outside of Sendai.
Summary extracts from lecture handout
In 1543, after more than a century of exploration and expansion, the first Europeans, the Portuguese, landed off the southern island of Kyūshū, Japan. The Portuguese brought with them guns, Western learning materials and Christianity. This produced a visual culture created by the Jesuit seminary and the impact on this of the ensuing ban on Christianity in Japan during 17th century. Many Christians were forced to go underground during the ban and as a result objects and works have been found containing hidden Christian symbols and a unique iconographic program.

Artist unknown, Arrival of a Portuguese, early 1600s Japan
Artist unknown, Arrival of a Portuguese, early 1600s, Japan

Artist Unknown, The Great Martyrdom of Nagasaki, September 10, 1622, Japan
Artist Unknown, The Great Martyrdom of Nagasaki, September 10, 1622, Japan

Artist unknown Ishidōrō – stone lantern, Shunkō-in Temple of the Ray of Spring Light Kyōto
Ishidōrō – stone lantern, Shunkō-in Temple of the Ray of Spring Light Kyōto

Wednesday 17 May 2018 Nicolas Poussin: Peintre-philosophe (Speaker: Dr Christopher Allen, classical scholar and art critic The Australian) AGNSW
Poussin inspired by stoic ideas (inner steadfastness and calm) in his self-portraits his clothes, ring, symbols of stoic virtue. A lot of his landscapes have a still pool, metaphor for stillness of mind, stillness and structure. Arcadia (a place in Southern Greece) became a symbol of untouched virgin nature.
Summary extracts from lecture handout
Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) was born in Normandy and did not arrive in Rome, the centre of contemporary art, until 1624 and at the comparatively late age of 30. He was forced to return to France in 1640 to take up the position of First Painter of King Louis XIII. With the death of the king in 1642, he was able to escape back to Rome. He was now not only one of the three leading painters of his time – with Pietro da Cortona and Claude Lorrain – but respected as a kind of sage, a peintre-philosophe as well as peintre-poète. Poussin was undoubtedly the most original painter of mythological subjects in the history of art, for he used the stories of classical myth as a vehicle for philosophical meditation on the order of nature. But his paintings are never simply illustrations of intellectual doctrine; rather, he uses an eclectic combination of biblical and mythological subjects as the means to articulate a concrete, imaginative reflection on the nature of reality.

Posssin (Nicolas) Et in Arcadia Ego (The Arcadian Shepherds), 1637-39
Poussin, Et in Arcadia Ego (The Arcadian Shepherds), 1637-39

Poussin (Nicolas) Rebecca at the well (Rebecca and Eleazar), c. 1648
Poussin, Rebecca at the well (Rebecca and Eleazar), c. 1648

Poussin (Nicolas) Landscape with Diogenes, c. 1647
Poussin, Landscape with Diogenes, c. 1647

Poussin (Nicolas) Landscape with a calm, 1650-51
Poussin, Landscape with a calm, 1650-51

Poussin (Nicolas) Winter (The Flood), 1660 - 1664
Poussin, Winter (The Flood), 1660 – 1664

Wednesday 11 April 2018 Geometry and Light in San Carlo alle quattro Fontane (Speaker: Michael Hill, National Art School) AGNSW
Borromini linked all parts of his design by hidden language of geometry, organic rhythms and symmetry. Started with horizontal then vertical axis, equilateral triangles, to form the arch to define the dome, celestial geometry, three layers of light, including single direction of light from a window above the entrance.
Summary extracts from lecture handout
In 1634 the Spanish Trinitarians commissioned Francesco Borromini (1599-1667) to design a new convent in Rome, along with a church dedicated to San Carlo Borromeo and the Holy Trinity. The result had a seismic impact – however the Baroque is defined, one of the starting points is always San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane. In particular, the ingenuity of the church plan has been the subject of recurrent debate. Its supposed oval-centred geometry has led Borromini to be understood as proto-modern, in that San Carlo’s underpinning suggests a connection to the new science of Galileo and Kepler. The beauty of the plan is matched by that of the natural lighting, which became apparent following the unblocking in the 1960s of the dome windows and the removal in the 1990s of the organ in front of the north window. Suddenly, the nuanced light was visible: from the windowless lower zone, to the middle stratum of directional light, to the brilliance of the dome. Also revealed were a broken pediment, a gilded balustrade, and a camera di luce, all activated to the worshipful experience of the church.
Borromini San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, constructed 1638-1641
San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, constructed 1638-1641

Borromini San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane dome, constructed 1638-1641

Borromini San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, dome light constructed 1638-1641
The dome, San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane

Wednesday 4 April 2018 Sistine Secrets: Michelangelo’s Torment and Triumph (Speaker: Lorraine Kypiotis) AGNSW
The Belvedere torso highly influential, Michelangelo’s admiration of the Torso was widely known in his lifetime. Completed in 1512, the Sistine ceiling frescos contain
9 scenes of the Genesis
4 corner pendentives
4 pairs of bronze nudes above the pendentives
8 triangular spandrels with pairs of bronze nudes
7 prophets
5 sybils
20 ignudi
10 medallions
Summary extracts from lecture handout
In 1508 Michelangelo Buonarotti was contracted by Pope Julius II to paint the Sistine Chapel Ceiling. It was a commission which he only accepted begrudgingly, claiming adamantly that he was a sculptor not a painter. From a simple program that was to entail the painting of twelve Apostles – a program that Michelangelo would reject – the final work, that would take four years, encompassed over 300 figures in a schema of fictive architecture. Hailed as a masterpiece in its own time, there is still no doubt of the supremacy of his work and its legacy. The ceiling however took its toll on Michelangelo who, after completing it, stated: “After four tortured years, I felt as old and as weary as Jeremiah. I was only 37, yet friends did not recognise the old man I had become.”

A selection

Michelangelo Drunkenness of Noah, Sistine Chapel, 1509
Drunkenness of Noah, 1509

Michelangelo, The Deluge, Sistine Chapel, 1509
The Deluge, 1509

Michelangelo, The Libyan Sibyl, Sistine Chapel, 1511
The Libyan Sibyl,1511

Michelangelo, Jonah, Sistine Chapel, 1511
Jonah, 1511

Wednesday 28 March 2018 The Strange World of Albrecht Dürer (Speaker: Alisa Bunbury, Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne) AGNSW
Invention of printing and paper transformed communication, in Germany 1390 (Chinese invention several centuries earlier), use of metal from 1455. Gifted artist from an early age Self-portrait aged thirteen (1484, silverpoint, Albertina, Vienna), established his reputation and influence across Europe when he was still in his twenties with his high-quality woodcut prints, St Jerome curing the lion (title page in The Letters of St Jerome, 1492, woodcut, NGV). Earliest engravings date from 1490. Travelled to Venice profound impact of Renaissance art, starting point for perspective. Apollo and Diana (c. 1503–04, engraving, NGV). One of the first artists to sign work. Contemporary of Leonardo (15 April 1452 – 2 May 1519) and Michelangelo (6 March 1475 – 18 February 1564). In St John Devouring the Book, descriptive direct biblical references. One his most famous works replete with symbols Melencolia I (1514), ‘the great art historian Erwin Panofsky famously described it as a ‘spiritual self-portrait’ of Dürer himself. Strewn around the winged figure is an assortment of tools and instruments relating to geometry, architecture and artistry in general. These include a moulder’s form, a plane, a saw, a ruler, nails, the mouth of a bellows and, on the left, an inkpot and pen case, a hammer and a goldsmith’s crucible with tongs. Hanging on the wall are a pair of scales, an hourglass and a bell. The magic square – where each row of four figures adds up to 34 – is often explained as a Jovian talisman. The numbers in the bottom row show the date of the engraving.’
Summary extracts from lecture handout
One of the most brilliant artists of his time Albrecht Dürer (21 May 1471 – 6 April 1528) is renowned for his iconographical innovation, technical brilliance and intellectual acuity. He lived through a time of profound religious, cultural, intellectual and artistic transformation, spanning the late medieval, Renaissance and Reformation periods, and his diverse art reflects this turbulent period.

Durer, St John Devouring the Book, from The Apocalypse, 1498, woodcut, NGV
Dürer, St John Devouring the Book, from The Apocalypse, 1498, woodcut, NGV

Durer, Melencolia I 1514, engraving, AGNSW
Dürer, Melencolia I 1514, engraving, AGNSW

Wednesday 21 March 2018 Rebirth in Caravaggio’s Conversion of St Paul (Speaker: Michael Hill, National Art School) AGNSW
Symbolism in the painting.
The horse dramatic motif, major in its meaning, considerate, walks delicately around Paul, light falling on the horse’s shoulder and down onto Paul, Franciscan spiritual guide. The scene could be set in a stable as in birth of Christ. Paul vessel for the light transformed from within, blinded and reborn.
Summary extracts from lecture handout
A profound reflection on the theme of blindness as a gateway to spiritual renewal. The painting depicts the moment Paul, the future author of the Greek epistles that comprise the bulk of the New Testament, is blinded by the light of Christ. The Conversion pairs with the Crucifixion of St Peter on the facing wall, which shows an upside down Peter being raised atop the Janiculum. The two paintings, heavy with the darkness of the fallen world, contrast with the bright, ideal, and Heaven-bound figures of the chapel’s altarpiece, The Assumption of the Virgin, by Annibale Carracci.

Caravaggio, Conversion of St Paul, Cerasi Chapel, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome,1600
Caravaggio, Conversion of St Paul, Cerasi Chapel, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome,1600

Caravaggio, Crucifixion of St Peter, Cerasi Chapel, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome, 1600
Caravaggio, Crucifixion of St Peter, Cerasi Chapel, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome, 1600

Carracci (Annibale), Assumption of the Virgin, Cerasi Chapel, Santa Maria del Popolo, 1601
Annibale Carracci, Assumption of the Virgin, Cerasi Chapel, Santa Maria del Popolo, 1601

Wednesday 14 March 2018 Clues, Hidden Symbolism, and Early Renaissance Art (Speaker: Anne Dunlop, Herald Chair of Fine Arts, University of Melbourne), AGNSW
This lecture focussed on the use of seemingly insignificant details as evidence in the interpretation of fifteenth-century European art. Included reference to Erwin Panofsky’s concept of hidden symbolism and Carlo Ginzburg’s idea of the ‘clues paradigm;’ with reference to two famous and enigmatic paintings, Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait and Piero della Francesca’s Flagellation, as ‘cases’ to test the strengths and the weaknesses of the detective story approach.
Reference: Carlo Ginzburg, ‘Morelli, Freud, and Sherlocke Holmes: Clues and Scientific Method,’ History Workshop Journal 9 (1980): 5-36

van Eyck (Jan) The Arnolfini Portrait, 1434
Jan van Eyck, The Arnolfini Portrait, 1434, National Gallery London
Erwin Panofsky considered it a unique form of marriage contract, recorded as a painting.
Some interpretations of the symbolism in the painting.
‘The two figures suggests conventional 15th century views of marriage and gender roles – the woman stands near the bed and well into the room, symbolic of her role as the caretaker of the house and solidifying her in a domestic role, whereas Giovanni stands near the open window, symbolic of his role in the outside world.
The carved figure on the bedpost, probably of Saint Margaret, patron saint of pregnancy and childbirth, who was invoked to assist women in labour and to cure infertility.
The mirror reflects two figures in the doorway, one of whom may be the painter himself. In Panofsky’s controversial view, the figures are shown to prove that the two witnesses required to make a wedding legal were present, and Van Eyck’s signature on the wall acts as some form of actual documentation of an event at which he was himself present.
The dog symbolizes fidelity (fido), loyalty.
The oranges on the window sill and chest may symbolize the purity and innocence that reigned in the Garden of Eden before the Fall of Man.’

della Francesca (Piero) Flagellation, 1455–1460, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino
Piero della Francesca, Flagellation, 1455–1460, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino
Many interpretations.
‘Debate surrounding the work concerns the identities or significance of the three men at the front. Depending on the interpretation of the subject of the painting, they may represent contemporary figures or people related to the passion of Christ, or they may even have multiple identities. The latter is also suggested with respect to the sitting man on the left, who is in one sense certainly Pontius Pilate, a traditional element in the subject. The notion of two time frames in the composition is derived from the fact that the flagellation scene is illuminated from the right while the supposedly “modern” outdoor scene is illuminated from the left.’

Saturday 10 March 2018 Kimberley Rock Art: an historic treasure (Speaker: Maria Myers AC, Chair, Kimberley Foundation Australia) AGNSW
Summary extracts from lecture handout
Kimberley rock art is arguably some of the world’s oldest, with evidence suggesting the earliest occupation in the region dates back 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. One of the world’s largest rock art estates. The area, larger than Germany, is dominated by sand stone outcrops and escarpments, the region contains tens of thousands of rock art galleries and individual images. Aboriginal Australians of the Kimberley are the primary custodians of the rock art which is the only record of how people saw themselves, each other, the natural world and the social systems. The Kimberley Foundation is currently underwriting two major research projects: Rock Art Dating and Kimberley Visions (mapping the rock art and occupational history of the Kimberley).
Rock Art Styles
Early Period
1.
Rock markings – Human interactions with landscape

Kimberley rock art 1 rock markingsIn addition to rock paintings (‘pictographs’) and engravings (‘petroglyphs’), people made cupules, incisions, grooves, and complex stone arrangements. These rock markings occur in large numbers from the period Aboriginal people consider the beginning of time – tens of thousands of years ago up until recent times. Their meanings vary and may relate to: changes in ceremonial life and a possible increase in the number of ceremonies; landscapes modifying over time as sea levels and climate changes; and the marking of identity by people.
2. Naturalistic – The earliest visible Kimberley rock art paintings

Kimberley rock art 2 naturalisticThe art is dominated by large, sometimes life-size animals, fish, plants, and some human forms painted mostly in mulberry and red. Long flowing brushstrokes are used for motif outlines, solid infill to head, tail and limbs while body cavities have stippled irregular infill. Sometimes found beneath other paintings, suggesting an earlier age, perhaps from the Pleistocene (>10,000 years ago). This tradition may also include handprints/stencils and paint impressions of string and grass.

Middle Period
3. Gwion – Complex records of Aboriginal life and thought

Kimberley rock art 3 GwionFinely painted human figures are shown in elaborate dress with a rich range of artefacts including spears, boomerangs, dilly bags and ornaments. Colours vary from red to mulberry to almost black. Some animals depicted.

Kimberley Rock art Sash-Gwion-Drysdale-National-Park
Gwion, Drysdale National Park

4. Static Polychrome – A precise human response to a changing world

Kimberley rock art 4 Static PolychromeSchematized, usually straight human forms; dominated by groups of people rather than deities, depicting headdresses, multi-barbed spears and spear throwers. They are finely painted in red and orange, with faded white and yellow paints, creating the illusion of unpainted or ‘missing’ parts. Painted over Gwions, they may be up to 9,000 years old and possibly reflect a social response to rising sea levels and changes in territory.

Kimberley Rock Art Staic Polychrome

Late Period
5. Painted Hand – Diversity and territoriality

Kimberley rock art 5 Painted handA rock art expression often involving broad brush strokes and superimposed over the earlier art styles. Striking hand motifs can have intricate geometric designs. This tradition is enormously varied with bichrome and polychrome depictions of objects, humans, animals, plants, lines, finger dots and non-figurative motifs. This diversity may show the marking of clan estates during the Holocene (last 10,000 years).
6. Wanjina – The spirit ancestors and their representation in anthropomorphic form

Kimberley rock art 6 WandjinaAboriginal people in northern and central Kimberley continue to identify with Wanjina, a continuous tradition dating to the last 4000 years. As figurations of supernatural power, images of Wanjina are characterised by halo-like headdresses and mouthless faces with large round eyes, set either side of an ovate nose. These ‘Creator Beings’ and the ‘Wunggurr Creator Snake’ are painted in many forms and can be repainted to ensure annual renewal of the seasonal cycle and the associated periods of natural fertility. The actual Wanjina is believed to either reside in the rock where it is painted or to have left its body there.

Kimberley Rock Art Wandjina rock art on the Barnett River, Mount Elizabeth Station
Wandjina rock art on the Barnett River, Mount Elizabeth Station

Wednesday 7 March 2018 Peacemaker, hero, warrior, lover: the many lives of Vishnu (Speaker: Melanie Eastburn, Senior Curator Asian Art, AGNSW)
Usually depicted with blue skin (encapsulates the universe) and with four arms holding a lotus flower, a mace, a conch, and a discus.
Summary extracts from lecture handout.
‘The great Hindu god Vishnu is responsible for preserving the order of the universe. When equilibrium is threatened, one of many avatars or incarnations of the god journeys to the earthly realm to restore peace. Vishnu’s avatars include boar-headed Varaha, the much loved mischievous Krishna, the heroic warrior prince Rama and the historical Buddha. Avatars of Vishnu are central to two great Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, both of which have long been sources of artistic and moral inspiration. In his cosmic form, Vishnu encapsulates the universe; he is all things at once, including the only truth and the only reality. With origins in ancient India, in the early centuries of the current era worship of Vishnu and his avatars spread beyond South Asia to many parts of Southeast Asia.’

Vishnu as Vishvarupa (cosmic or universal man) c1800-1820 V&A
Vishnu as Vishvarupa (cosmic or universal man) c1800-1820 V&A

Vishnu and attendants, early 12th century, Pala dynasty, Bangladesh, phyllite, NGA 1989
Vishnu and attendants, early 12th century, Pala dynasty, Bangladesh, phyllite, NGA 1989

Vishnu Ten incarnations of Vishnu, early 19th century, opaque watercolour on paper, V&A
Ten incarnations of Vishnu, early 19th century, opaque watercolour on paper, V&A

Vishnu Lintel Churning of the sea of milk, mid 10th century, Khmer empire, Cambodia, sandstone, NGA
Lintel: Churning of the sea of milk, mid 10th century, Khmer empire, Cambodia, sandstone, National Museum of Cambodia, on loan to NGA

Wednesday 28 February 2018 Not just a pretty picture: understanding gesture in Renaissance Madonnas (Speaker: Louise Marshall, Art History, The University of Sydney)
Some of the gestures typical of the period 14-15th century: interplay of gazes child to mother, mother to viewer, the Madonna the intermediary; the child grip on the veil symbolic of the loin cloth Mary wrapped around crucified Christ; Christ holding a gold finch representing the natural world created by God; in the 13th century adult looking Christ child, after that represented as real child, naked representing his humanity; sleeping Christ child alludes to future death; gestures of affection typically caressing the chin, like representations of Cupid and Psyche, the Madonna not just a mother but also a bride, mother of all Christians.
Summary extracts from lecture handout.
‘Multiple layers of symbolism encoded in the ubiquitous subject of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child. This is the great theme of Renaissance art, appearing as the centre of altarpieces and as devotional images in bedroom and convent cells, in town halls and street tabernacles. From the fourteenth century on, Italian artists presented Mary and her son with ever increasing naturalism and immediacy. These apparently cheerful representations of mother and child are often fraught with tragedy, looking forward to the Passion and Christ’s future death, the necessary means of human salvation. These representations of mother and son are also imbued with mystic eroticism, since the Virgin Mary is also the personification of the Christian church and the mystic bride of Christ the infant spouse.’

Madonna Duccio di Buoninsegna, tabernacle (Virgin and Child with Sts Dominic and Aurea)1312
Duccio di Buoninsegna, tabernacle (Virgin and Child with Sts Dominic and Aurea), London, National Gallery, c. 1312-15 (?)

Madonna Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Vicolabate Madonna, 1332
Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Vicolabate Madonna, San Casciano in Val di Pesa, Museo di Arte Sacra ‘Giuliano Ghelli’, 1319 [from church of S. Michele, Vicolabate, Tuscany] (tempera on panel)

Madonna Andrea Mantegna, Virgin and Child, Berlin, Gemäldegalerie, c. 1465-70
Andrea Mantegna, Virgin and Child, Berlin, Gemäldegalerie, c. 1465-70

Madonna Giovanni Bellini, Brera Madonna, Brera Museum, Milan, 1510
Giovanni Bellini, Brera Madonna, Brera Museum, Milan, 1510

Madonna Raphael, Small Cowper Madonna, National Gallery of Art, Washington, c. 1505
Raphael, Small Cowper Madonna, National Gallery of Art, Washington, c. 1505

Wednesday 21 February 2018 Ancient Greece: the invention of the classical orders (Speaker: Peter Kohane, Faculty of the Built Environment, UNSW)
Principles of Greek architecture, impact on the beholders end meaning. Portico AGNSW based on Greek order of an Ionic temple. The Erechtheion perfect Ionic temple on the Acropolis. The Parthenon is Doric, there are no straight lines, tricks the eye. The column order related to clothed female figures (Ionic) and naked male figures (Doric), related to ancestral worship forms from ancient wooden temples transformed later into stone and then marble. Corinthian order dates from 1st century BC relates to a legend of a wicker basket placed on the grave of a young woman from Corinth, where in Spring a plant had grown up around the basket, a sculptor walking past made a drawing and it was later incorporated in architecture, symbolic of rebirth (Spring).
Summary extracts from lecture handout
‘The analogy between a human being and the columnar orders. This involves the concept of the human body as a type of perfection, its proportions and contours appreciated by Greek sculptors. Each of the three Greek orders (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian) has a distinctive human character. One explanation is that such curves (in the columns) were conceived as ‘optical refinements’: they compensate for the ‘angle of view’, allowing the beholder of a building to perceive an ideal beauty.’

Greek architecture The Parthenon (Athens, 447 BC)
The Parthenon (Athens, 447 BC) – Doric

Greek architecture The Erechtheion acropolis-0002
The Erechtheion (Athens, 421 BC) – Ionic

Greek architecture The Temple of Zeus Olympia, Athens
The Temple of Zeus Olympia, Athens – Corinthian

Greek architecture AGNSW-Venue-Image-516x350
Art Gallery of NSW (Vernon, Sydney, 1904-6) – based on Ionic order

Wednesday 14 February 2018 Balancing the (heavenly) books: Giotto’s Arena Chapel (Speaker: Louise Marshall, Art History, University of Sydney) AGNSW
Great patron meets great artist. Summary extracts from lecture handout: ‘the richly layered symbolism of what has been called ‘the Sistine Chapel of the fourteenth century – the Arena or Scrovegni Chapel, in Padua, painted by Florentine artist Giotto di Bondone around 1303-5 (200 years before Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel). The chapel was commissioned by the wealthiest man in Padua, merchant and financier Enrico Scrovegni, together with a local religious group known as the Cavalieri Gaudenti, or Knights of Prayer’. Details of ‘the many interweaving strands of the decorative program, to show how particular symbolic elements, as well as the choice and arrangement of scenes, articulate the concerns and hopes for salvation of both sets of commissioners, many elements are subtly modified and rearranged in order to denounce the dangers associated with greed and love of money – all directly relevant to merchant banker Scrovegni, the entire chapel program can be understood as a confession of guilt on Scrovegni’s part, with the aim of balancing the (heavenly) books, and the magnitude of Giotto’s achievement, the way in which his invention and psychological insight are put to brilliant use in furthering the key themes of guilt, penance and judgement’. Simplified landscapes keyed to the narrative.

Scrovegni Chapel interno-cappella
Scrovegni Chapel

Scrovegni Chapel No.-2-Scenes-From-The-Life-Of-Joachim-2.-Joachim-Among-The-Shepherds-1304-06 (2)
Joachim among the Shepherds

Scrovegni Chapel Vices and Virtues - inconstancy vice_6
Vices and Virtues – inconstancy

Scrovegni Chapel Judas' Betrayal
Judas’ Betrayal

Wednesday 7 February 2018 Macassan connections (Speaker: Cara Pinchbeck, curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, AGNSW)
An exploration of artworks that refer to the long history of contact between Aboriginal people of Northern Australia and Macassan fishermen from the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. The fishermen made annual visits to Northern Australia to collect trepan (sea cucumber), and they lived and worked with Aboriginal people. Trepan is used in Chinese soups and trade probably dates back to between 1650 and 1750. This dating is supported by rock art and the presence of Tamarind trees, an introduced species in Northern Australia, that are estimated to be at least 300-400 years old. In his circumnavigation of Australia, Matthew Flinders recorded Macassan contact in 1803. Some of the art references to Macassan interaction:

Djawa (Tom), Mundukul, 1950 AGNSW
Tom Djawa, Mundukul, natural pigments on bark, 1950
In ‘Mundukul’ 1950, Djäwa captures three yellow-bellied pythons, the Yirritja snakes known as Mundukul and connected to water. At Milingimbi Mundukul is associated with the Macassan Well. The name of the well reflects the long-held connections in the area with Macassan trepangers from Sulawesi.

Marika (Mawalan), Macassan prau, National Museum
Mawalan Marika, Macassan prau, not dated, natural pigments on bark, National Museum of Australia

Rock Painting Macassan prau painted at Malarrak, Mabuludu, Wellington Range
Rock Painting Macassan prau painted at Malarrak, Mabuludu, Wellington Range, NT

Rock painting of a building, possibly a smokehouse, Malarrak, Mabuludu, Wellington Range
Rock painting of a building, possibly a smokehouse, Malarrak, Mabuludu, Wellington Range, NT

Wednesday 31 January 2018 Gardens and pavilions: politics and symbolism in the Mughal landscape (Speaker: Dr Michael Brand, Director, AGNSW) 
Summary extract from lecture handout
‘The Mughal emperors of India considered themselves Timurids, descendants of the Central Asian ruler Timur (also known in European literature as “Tamerlane”) who ruled from 1370 until 1405. This legacy had a major impact on how they ruled in India, their relationship to the landscape, how this can be read through Mughal painting, and how this affects the depictions of the Mughal emperors themselves, focus on three of the first five Mughal emperors: Babur, who ruled from 1526 until 1530; his grandson, Akbar, who ruled from 1556 until 1605; and his grandson, Shah Jahan, who ruled from 1628 until 1659.’
The emperors built gardens, an allusion to origins in Central Asia and other landscapes, with Koranic references and symbols, depicted in Mughal poetry, manuscripts, and in the architecture of the tombs.

Mughal, Babur supervising the laying out of the Garden of Fidelity 1590
Babur supervising the laying out of the Garden of Fidelity (V&A, London)

Mughal Humayun_s Tomb, Delhi, India 1562-7 2 (2)
Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi, India 1562-7

Mughal, Jahangir_s Tomb, Shahdara, Lahore, Pakistan 1628-38
Jahangir’s Tomb, Shahdara, Lahore, Pakistan 1628-38

Mughal, Taj Mahal, Agra, India, 1632-43
Taj Mahal, Agra, India, 1632-43

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