It is hard to realize that Impressionist paintings, which are so beloved in our time, looked strange and radical and unfinished in the time they were created. How this painting style was born, out of the turbulence of France’s Second Empire, the rebuilding of Paris, the rejection of the official school of painting represented in the Salon, the unfolding view of modernity, and the creative impulse of painters experimenting with the representation of light and color is the subject of the Great Course DVD, From Monet to Van Gogh: A History of Impressionism, Parts 1 & 2.
The lecturer of this DVD series is art historian, professor and author Richard Brettell. He is an excellent presenter – very well informed, easy to listen to and passionate about his subject, he places Impressionism and its famous painters in the context of the history of France and the history of art. Brettell also takes a close look at the lives of the painters and examines and analyzes their paintings with practiced expertise. I feel like I can “see” the paintings differently, knowing more about their creation, technique and the statements the artists were trying to make. The close collaborations and bonds of friendship between artists, how older ones mentored younger ones, how they formed their own society (known as the Anonymous Society of Sculptors, Painters and Printmakers) to exhibit and sell their art, how they nurtured and challenged each other's artistic growth, and ended up making such a dramatic swerve in the history of artistic expression, makes for a fascinating story. Other Great Courses topics by Brettell include, Masterpieces of the Louvre and Masterpieces of the Metropolitan Museum of Art – your own tour through the collections of two great museums.
Great Courses is a treasure-trove of information on so many tempting subjects it is hard to choose just one at a time. Available in DVD format and also BOCD, you can invite university professors, who are experts in their fields, into your living room for private classes. Each course is made up of half-hour lectures on the topic and can range from 10 – 40 lectures in all. Peruse our catalog, or browse the shelves in the DVD & BOCD sections downtown, to find a subject you have always wanted to know more about.
By the way, the picture is the self-portrait of my favorite Impressionist painter. Can you guess who he is? Look here for the answer.