Emergence of Modern Art

Ref: C2419229

From Courbet and Manet to Cézanne, this course explores the beginnings of modern art. Throughout the second half of the 19th century, an increasing number of painters challenged the hegemony of the Academy and developed new ways to paint. This course will start with a discussion of the impact of the invention of photography on painting. The work of major figures will then be considered: Courbet (and, with him, Realism) and Manet. We will study Impressionism, as well as the gradual transformation of the art world with new schools, new ways to display and sell works, new exhibition places. With Seurat, Cézanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin, we will see how painters moved beyond Impressionism and continued to experiment. Throughout the course, we will reflect on the bias informing the classical understanding of the origins of modern art, especially the overwhelming focus on Paris, and some diversity will be introduced by considering modern artists from other countries.

Course aim

Throughout this course you will develop your understanding of modern art through the study of its origins and early developments.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Contrast modern and academic art, and identify the defining characteristics of early modern art (2nd half of the 19th c.)
  • Name influential artists and analyse key works of art
  • Name at least one artist who was not Parisian and name a woman modern artist. Discuss the focus on Paris
  • Follow-up on individual interest by conducting independent research

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed
  • A class visit might be organised. We could go to the Courtauld Gallery (in which case you will have to pay the entrance fee) or to the National Gallery. This will be discussed during the first session.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course

Download full course outline

Emergence of Modern Art Course Outline


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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