Bristol

Art History, Stoke Bishop

Virtual Art History: For the duration of the current self-isolation rules, an extract from a past Art History talk will be emailed to group members once a fortnight. Comments on the material are invited, to be included with the subsequent extract. Even if not in real time, there’s an opportunity for more considered discussion than is possible in our normal meetings.

What it is: Exploring contexts and connections within our Western artistic heritage, with a view to increasing our understanding and so the pleasures we derive from it. The 2019-20 season was devoted to European art between 1850 and 1914 under the title Art in an Age of Becoming Modern, see the summary below. For 2020-21 we shall turn our attention to art of the ancient world.

When it is: Friday mornings, fortnightly to alternate with Art Appreciation (many people belong to both groups). Coffee is available from 10.00 am and talks, usually by the Leader, David Norris, begin at 10.30am. Meetings will recommence on October 2nd, but on Zoom rather than at St Mary's.

Where it is: in normal circumstances at St Mary's Church Hall, Mariners Drive, Stoke Bishop. New members are welcome, we meet in a large hall and there is room for all who wish to attend. There is no need to telephone - just bring your up-to-date membership card to register at your first meeting. The Convenor, Brenda Hugill, may be contacted by using the message facility, see the pigeon "send a message" symbol.

Just turn up. Access without steps and a hearing loop are available on request. The Hall is about a 5 minute walk from the Church Avenue stop for bus No. 4. For car parking there are some off-road spaces, but most people park on Mariners Drive.

We study art history through selected works, reproduced by PowerPoint on our screen. Talks aim to analyse and make connections, discussing such questions as: why this subject matter? why represented in this way? how related to earlier works? how did artistic traditions and conventions change as the world changed?

While each season and each session can be enjoyed for itself, you will get most out of the course if you can attend regularly. A summary of each of our previous four seasons can be found by clicking the appropriate link on the right. These four sub-pages, the later ones with illustrations, together provide a brief summary of European art history from the High Renaissance up to the point at which the story is continued below.

Summary of the 2019-20 Season

Art in an Age of Becoming Modern

The images included with the text below are just a few of those discussed during the season. To appreciate any one of them, you should click on it to obtain an enlargement. If you start with the first, it's possible to progress through all of them in sequence.

Delaunay, The Eiffel Tower The period 1850 to 1914 was one of social, economic and political changes that led to innovative artists feeling free to defy established conventions. The Eiffel Tower by Delaunay (1911, right) illustrates the choosing of new kinds of subject-matter from an artist's own time. Also, its modern style informed by Cubism illustrates the use of new ways of painting, refusing to be constrained by traditional perspective and spurred by the developing art of photography to do what a camera could not. Artists set out to represent their sensations in front of a subject rather than just appearances. Brush marks, instead of being smoothed out, were made visible and turned to account. Non-natural colour and distortions of forms were used to represent ideas rather than reality.

Courbet, The Stonebreakers Millais, Ophelia Our period began with fresh emphases on realism. The Stonebreakers by Courbet (1849, left) enlists our sympathy for two road workers engaged in mindless hard labour, challenging past practice by the large size of the painting for such humble subject-matter. This French Realism, using colours that stay earthbound, can be contrasted with the Pre-Raphaelite aim of ‘truth to nature’. In Millais’ Ophelia (1852, right), the landscape background, painted in the open air in obsessive detail, is in as sharp a focus as the main figure. The bright, intense colours help to elevate the subject of a young woman’s suicide to a higher realm.

Holman Hunt, The Awakening Conscience Manet, Déjeuner sur l The Awakening Conscience by Holman Hunt (1853, left) addresses a standard Victorian narrative, that of a so-called ‘fallen woman’, the mistress of a young gentleman. Symbols in the painting tell us the story – she’s having a sudden spiritual revelation, regretting her lost innocence. Déjeuner sur l’Herbe by Manet (1863, right) depicts a woman who has taken off her clothes in the company of two fully dressed men and who stares back at us as we look at the picture. The flouting of the conventions by this modern twist to a classical subject encouraged other French artists to be adventurous in their own ways.

Monet, Bathers at La Grenouillère Monet, Impression, Sunrise Bathers at La Grenouillière by Monet (1869, left) was painted directly on the spot in the open air. Its bold brushstrokes of pure colour capture the visual effect of specific and momentary conditions of light and atmosphere. The animation of the paint-work suggests the animation of the scene. Impression, Sunrise (1872, right) was Monet’s personal and spontaneous response, embodied in fluid paint, to the view from a window overlooking the harbour at Le Havre. The label ‘Impressionist’ became attached to Monet and other artists whose works were rejected by official exhibitions and who formed a group organising their own.

Degas, The Dance Class Renoir, Dance at Moulin de la Galette Degas was a group member who did most of his painting in the studio and whose style was very different to Monet’s. The Dance Class (1875, left) is one of his many paintings of ballet dancers in rehearsal. The composition has the feeling of a snapshot, influenced by Japanese prints as well as by photography. Dance at the Moulin de la Galette by Renoir (1876, right) is a joy-filled representation of a Sunday afternoon occasion in the open air, featuring young people from a local neighbourhood. Bright sunlight filtered through trees bathes the scene in dappled light that helps to capture the vibrancy of the occasion.

Manet, Bar at the Folies Bergère Seurat, Sunday Afternoon on the Island The lively brushwork in Bar at the Folies Bergère by Manet (1881, left) suggests the sparkling night-time atmosphere of Paris, city of pleasure. The contradictions between the figure of the barmaid seen directly and that seen in the mirror are intriguing. Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Seurat (1886, right) represents a new style of painting, the image created by painstakingly placed dots of pure colour. These blend in the viewer’s eye, producing luminous, shimmering colour effects through optical mixing. Rather than the fleeting moment typical of Impressionism, the effect is to suggest timelessness.

Gauguin, Vision After the Sermon Van Gogh, Starry Night These next two paintings exemplify contrasting styles of Post-Impressionism. The simplified style of Gauguin’s Vision After the Sermon (1888, left) represents the primitivism he sensed in the life of rural Brittany. Some village women are imagining a Bible story enacted in front of their eyes. A change of scale and non-natural colour separate the imagined from the real. The stunning brushwork of Van Gogh’s Starry Night (1989, right) splices together a view of galactic swirls set over Provençal hills and an imaginary village from his native Holland. It’s like a hallucinatory dream that speaks of the universe and man's place in it.

Cezanne, Mt Ste Victoire with Large Pine Cezanne, The Kitchen Table Probably the most influential of the Post-Impressionists was Cezanne. Mont Saint Victoire with Large Pine (1885, left) is one of his paintings of a favourite subject. Brushstrokes are linked to the structure of the landscape and the distant mountain seems brought forward to have the same visual weight as the foreground. The artist’s still-lives, such as The Kitchen Table (1890, right) play games with perspective and the representation of space. Different points of view coexist, giving the viewer an experience of a slightly altered, dislocated reality. The tablecloth brings the elements together into a harmonious overall balance.

Gauguin, The Dream Monet, The Water-Lily Pond The Dream by Gauguin (1897, left) is from the years the artist spent in Tahiti in search of an innocence he felt the West had lost. Finding the island Europeanised and its native culture corrupted, he invented a paradise largely from his own imagination and from motifs such as the Maori carving and the kangaroo here. Monet, also in search of a paradise, created one for himself in the shape of his garden at Giverny, providing him with subject-matter for paintings like The Water-lily Pond (1899, right). The bridge is a reminder of the influence on European art of Japanese culture, with its tradition of a deep engagement with nature.

Matisse, Bonheur de Vivre Grosz, Funeral The wildly sensual forms and bright, clear colours of Bonheur de Vivre by Matisse (1906, left) are intended to evoke feelings of pure pleasure. Jarring shifts in scale, varying perspectives and distorted anatomies correspond to imagining ourselves moving around inside its deep, warm bath of pictorial space. Expressionist artists in Germany, taking their lead from Van Gogh and Munch, also tried to depict the artist's feelings rather than record a scene. Colours were used for emotional effect and a deliberately "primitive" style was often adopted. Funeral by Grosz (1917-18, right) gives a nightmarish vision of a world gone mad.

Cezanne, The Large Bathers Picasso, Les Demoiselles d The Large Bathers by Cezanne (1906, left) is a personal interpretation of the long-established tradition of depicting female nudes in a landscape. The figures are beautifully harmonized with their setting, as if trees, sky and human bodies were all composed of the same substance in a synthesis of nature and art. Contrast Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907, right), a confrontational depiction of five nude prostitutes in a brothel. Faces are based on Iberian sculptures and African masks. Space is compressed and claustrophobic and forms are radically distorted and fractured, characteristics that further developed would lead to Cubism.

Matisse, The Red Studio Boccioni, The Street  Enters the House The Red Studio by Matisse (1911, left) depicts a selection of the artist’s own works in a view of his workspace seemingly looking down from above. The strong colour, characteristic of the group known as The Fauves, flattens any perspectives, eliminating distinctions between object and space and between foreground and background. The Street enters the House by Boccioni (1911, right), an example of Italian Futurism, expresses the sensations experienced by a woman on her balcony in a busy city. The sounds and activities of the modern world are portrayed as a riot of shapes and colours with multiple viewpoints.

Rodin, The Burghers of Calais Brancusi, The Kiss Sculpture was slower than painting to respond to the changing world. The Burghers of Calais by Rodin (1889, left) emphasises the emotional suffering of men expecting to go to their deaths to save their city. A conventional monument would have shown them noble and heroic after their reprieve. One of the works that redefined sculpture for the modern age is The Kiss by Brancusi (1908, right), a non-literal representation directly carved by the artist. The simplified geometric forms of two lovers merge into a compact block that recalls the shape of the stone slab from which it was made. Truth to the material meant leaving the surface rough.

More Group Pages
Architecture, Henleaze Art Appreciation, Stoke Bishop Art History, Stoke Bishop Art on Show, South & Central Bristol
Autobiography & Biography, Horfield Biography, Bishopston Bird Recognition for Beginners Birds on the Wing
Book Study, Westbury-on-Trym Bowls, indoor - an introduction Bridge Bristol U3A Band
Bronte Sisters Study Group Calligraphy, Bishopston Chaucer - Canterbury Tales Choral Singing, Knowle
Cinema - Iconic Films Cinema - World Cinema, Henleaze Cinema Group, Harbourside Computer Basics
Computer Group, Clifton Computer Group, Redland Computing & Technology, Westbury Fields Creative Writing, Westbury-on-Trym
Cricket Watching Current Affairs, Downend Current Affairs, Filton Current Affairs, Frenchay
Current Affairs, Henleaze Current Affairs, Knowle Current Affairs, Westbury Park Current Issues, Sneyd Park
Cycling Group Discovering Villages/Visiting Villages Discussing Democracy, Henleaze Economics, Westbury-on-Trym
Enjoying Shakespeare, BS9 Ethics, Downend Ethics, Henleaze Exploring Happiness, Fishponds
Exploring Humanism Family History, Henleaze French Conversation Intermediate French Conversation, BS4
French Conversation, Downend French Conversation, South Bristol French Conversation, Southville French Conversation, Westbury-On-Trym
French Discussion, Henleaze French, Advanced From Plot to Plate, Bishopsworth Further French, Westbury-On-Trym
Gardens Group, Bristol Genealogy Geology German Conversation, Harbourside
German Self Study, Near-Beginners Homeopathy, Montpelier Hot Topics, Fishponds Italian Conversation, Fishponds
Italian for Beginners, Fishponds Italian Intermediate, Bedminster Italian, Henleaze Jazz Appreciation 1
Jazz Group 2, North Bristol Latin in Bedminster Latin in Westbury Park Lawn Bowls, Beginners
Literature Group, Wednesday Looking at Art, Redland Looking into Landscapes Lunch Club, North-East Bristol
Lunch Group, Cosmopolitan Lunch Group, South Bristol Mahjong, Westbury-on-Trym Money Matters, Clifton Village
Motorcycling Group Music, the Blues and its Branches Opera for All, Broadmead Opera in Downend
Photography Group Poetry Reading Group,Fishponds Poetry Writing, Redland Politics: A Brave New World, Redland
Quizzing at Home Racketball Reading Group - Shaldon Reading Group, Bedminster
Reading Group, Bishopston Reading Group, Downend Reading Group, Fishponds Recorder Group 1, Bedminster
Recorder Group 2 Science & Engineering, Westbury Fields Scrabble & Coffee, Central Bristol Scrabble at The Beehive, Horfield
Scrabble, Harbourside Short Story Group, Bedminster Short Story Reading Group Show Time! Downend
Snooker, Horfield Social Group, BS3 Social Group, BS4 (Knowle & Brislington) Social Group, Discovery and Discussion
Social Group, Downend and NE Bristol Social Group, Fishponds Social Group, Frenchay and Stapleton Social Group, Henleaze 1 (Monday)
Social Group, Henleaze 2 (Thursday) Social Group, Henleaze 3 (Monday) Social Group, Horfield Social Group, Redland & Cotham
Social History, Fishponds Solo Whist, The Watershed Solos - Central Spanish for Post-Beginners, Bishopsworth
Spanish Intermediate 2 Spanish Intermediate, Fishponds Spanish Post Intermediate Conversation Spanish Post-Intermediate Discussion
Table Tennis, Downend Tai Chigong for All, Westbury-on-Trym Textiles South of the River Textiles, Crafts, Needlework
Theatre Group, Central Travellers Unlimited, Clifton Village Ukulele 2, Speedwell Strummers Ukulele, Bedminster
Walking Group Walking Group, Fishponds Walking South Watercolour for Pleasure, BS7
Yoga, Brislington
More Group Pages
Architecture, Henleaze Art Appreciation, Stoke Bishop
Art History, Stoke Bishop Art on Show, South & Central Bristol
Autobiography & Biography, Horfield Biography, Bishopston
Bird Recognition for Beginners Birds on the Wing
Book Study, Westbury-on-Trym Bowls, indoor - an introduction
Bridge Bristol U3A Band
Bronte Sisters Study Group Calligraphy, Bishopston
Chaucer - Canterbury Tales Choral Singing, Knowle
Cinema - Iconic Films Cinema - World Cinema, Henleaze
Cinema Group, Harbourside Computer Basics
Computer Group, Clifton Computer Group, Redland
Computing & Technology, Westbury Fields Creative Writing, Westbury-on-Trym
Cricket Watching Current Affairs, Downend
Current Affairs, Filton Current Affairs, Frenchay
Current Affairs, Henleaze Current Affairs, Knowle
Current Affairs, Westbury Park Current Issues, Sneyd Park
Cycling Group Discovering Villages/Visiting Villages
Discussing Democracy, Henleaze Economics, Westbury-on-Trym
Enjoying Shakespeare, BS9 Ethics, Downend
Ethics, Henleaze Exploring Happiness, Fishponds
Exploring Humanism Family History, Henleaze
French Conversation Intermediate French Conversation, BS4
French Conversation, Downend French Conversation, South Bristol
French Conversation, Southville French Conversation, Westbury-On-Trym
French Discussion, Henleaze French, Advanced
From Plot to Plate, Bishopsworth Further French, Westbury-On-Trym
Gardens Group, Bristol Genealogy
Geology German Conversation, Harbourside
German Self Study, Near-Beginners Homeopathy, Montpelier
Hot Topics, Fishponds Italian Conversation, Fishponds
Italian for Beginners, Fishponds Italian Intermediate, Bedminster
Italian, Henleaze Jazz Appreciation 1
Jazz Group 2, North Bristol Latin in Bedminster
Latin in Westbury Park Lawn Bowls, Beginners
Literature Group, Wednesday Looking at Art, Redland
Looking into Landscapes Lunch Club, North-East Bristol
Lunch Group, Cosmopolitan Lunch Group, South Bristol
Mahjong, Westbury-on-Trym Money Matters, Clifton Village
Motorcycling Group Music, the Blues and its Branches
Opera for All, Broadmead Opera in Downend
Photography Group Poetry Reading Group,Fishponds
Poetry Writing, Redland Politics: A Brave New World, Redland
Quizzing at Home Racketball
Reading Group - Shaldon Reading Group, Bedminster
Reading Group, Bishopston Reading Group, Downend
Reading Group, Fishponds Recorder Group 1, Bedminster
Recorder Group 2 Science & Engineering, Westbury Fields
Scrabble & Coffee, Central Bristol Scrabble at The Beehive, Horfield
Scrabble, Harbourside Short Story Group, Bedminster
Short Story Reading Group Show Time! Downend
Snooker, Horfield Social Group, BS3
Social Group, BS4 (Knowle & Brislington) Social Group, Discovery and Discussion
Social Group, Downend and NE Bristol Social Group, Fishponds
Social Group, Frenchay and Stapleton Social Group, Henleaze 1 (Monday)
Social Group, Henleaze 2 (Thursday) Social Group, Henleaze 3 (Monday)
Social Group, Horfield Social Group, Redland & Cotham
Social History, Fishponds Solo Whist, The Watershed
Solos - Central Spanish for Post-Beginners, Bishopsworth
Spanish Intermediate 2 Spanish Intermediate, Fishponds
Spanish Post Intermediate Conversation Spanish Post-Intermediate Discussion
Table Tennis, Downend Tai Chigong for All, Westbury-on-Trym
Textiles South of the River Textiles, Crafts, Needlework
Theatre Group, Central Travellers Unlimited, Clifton Village
Ukulele 2, Speedwell Strummers Ukulele, Bedminster
Walking Group Walking Group, Fishponds
Walking South Watercolour for Pleasure, BS7
Yoga, Brislington