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 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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