What is the course about?
This 5-session course offers the opportunity to study a range of artworks with links to ‘madness’. We will consider how the definition of ‘madness’ has changed over the centuries and what impact that has had on art and artists. We will look at works by artists with known mental health issues and consider whether their mental frailty made them more or less creative. Was their mental illness always present or did it result from the pressures of the society they lived in, damage they inflicted on themselves and the stress of maintaining their artistic output.
“The teacher was excellent and made learning fun. Very polished presentation.”
What will we cover?
Each class will focus on a different period in the history of western art looking at attitudes to mental illness, how it was depicted, and how the idea of ‘madness’ influenced popular and artistic culture in the period. We will look at both artworks and artists that have been thought of as examples of ‘mad’ over the centuries. We will consider how definitions of ‘madness’ have changed over time. We will look at both the history of art and recent research to examine the links between creativity and art.
The periods and artists discussed will include:
• Medieval, early English and early European art – Hieronymus Bosch and the Luttrell Psalter; the troubled artists of the late Renaissance and early Baroque period – Michelangelo and Caravaggio.
• The institutions of madness in 17th and 18th century France and England, and the beginnings of a scientific approach to the treatment of mental illness. – Gericault and Richard Dadd.
• The cult of the Romantic and the impact of war in the late 18th and early 19th century – William Blake and Goya
• Freud, Psychiatry and 20th century art – Vienna in 1900 (Egon Schiele); Surrealism and the subconscious (Salvador Dali and Munch).
• Substance abuse, lifestyle and sickness and their effects on the mind – Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock and Rothko.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Identify least three links between mental health, mental illness and the lives of artists covered in this course.
• Describe how the definitions, diagnoses and treatments for mental instability have changed since the late 17th century.
• Identify key works of art and artists that have ‘madness’ as their subject or in their background.
• Participate in discussions about substance abuse, lifestyle and sickness on the works of key artists like van Gogh, Pollock, and Rothko.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
The course is open to all. No prior knowledge of history, art history or psychiatry is required.
You should be able to follow written and verbal instructions, hand-outs and health and safety information and will be invited to take part in group discussion. Please look at the rest of the course outline carefully to decide if you may benefit from support in your English and Maths skills to help you to take part fully in this class.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
You will be taught with short lectures, slides, and group discussions.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
General information and advice on courses at City Lit is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details