Still life in the history of art: opulence and fragility

Course Dates: 10/01/23 - 31/01/23
Time: 10:30 - 12:30
Location: Online
Still-life paintings usually represent ordinary things, often small and arranged on an indoor surface, without human presence. Long regarded in western art as the lowliest subject or “genre”, one that only required technical skill rather than imagination, still lifes are now considered some of the most charming and best loved paintings and can contain intriguing meanings that repay close study.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
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Full fee £99.00 Senior fee £79.00 Concession £64.00

Course Code: VB767

Tue, day, 10 Jan - 31 Jan '23

Duration: 4 sessions (over 4 weeks)

Or call to enrol:020 7831 7831

Lines open Monday-Friday 12:00-18:00

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What is the course about?

Still life is a subject that has appealed to artists from Roman times to the present day, even though for a long time it was seen as inferior sort of subject matter. Indeed, earlier in the history of art, groups of objects were not usually represented by themselves but as part of other, larger paintings, and only gradually became accepted as a suitable separate subject matter for finished works around the earlier part of the 16th century. Perhaps because of the lowly status of the still-life genre, women artists also made successful careers as still-life painters, and we will examine works by Clara Peeters, Giovanna Garzoni, Rachel Ruysch and others.

Yet despite this apparent lack of status, still lifes make up some of the most loved paintings of all time: Dürer’s Great Piece of Turf, Cézanne’s Still Life with Apples and van Gogh’s Sunflowers for example. Dutch still lifes of the 17th century, for example by Heda, Claesz and Kalf, and Cézanne’s still lifes of the 19th century, are also some of the most highly admired works in the history of art. By contrast, Picasso and Braque chose the still life genre for their most avant-garde Cubist works because the neutrality of the subject matter made it a valuable vehicle to explore pure form.

In addition, rather than always being a mere representation of objects, still life as a genre is also often associated with themes of transience, decay and the futility of earthly possessions, particularly in connection with religious ideas. Such paintings are referred to as memento mori or vanitas still-lifes and they gained popularity during the 17th century, particularly in Protestant Europe, where

overtly religious subject matter became unacceptable. The complex meanings of the symbolism of vanitas objects as, for example, painted by Harmen Steenwyck and Jan Treck, will repay our close study on the course. However, as we shall also see, the ideas embodied in many of these works continue until the present day in the genre.

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

• You will learn about the “hierarchy of genres” and the place that still life held in this hierarchy

• You will discuss the impact the hierarchy had on the artists who produced still-life works, including significant women artists

• You will learn to decode the symbolism of vanitas and memento mori still lifes

• You will examine the different reasons why artists paint still lifes and draw comparisons between still lifes produced by artists from different periods and countries, such as Cotán, Caravaggio, Zurbarán, Chardin, Manet, Fantin-Latour, Monet, Gauguin, Matisse, de Chirico, Morandi, Winifred Nicholson, Magritte and William Scott.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

· Define still life as a genre

· List the names of at least ten different artists who are associated with the still life genre and recognise examples of their work

· Explain the significance of the position of still life in the hierarchy of genres

· Give at least three different reasons for the production of still life paintings

· Describe the subject matter of vanitas still life paintings, interpret at least five of the iconographic symbols and explain the meanings of the associated works

· Explain the appeal of still life painting in the art of the Impressionists, Post-Impressionists and avant-garde artists of the early 20th century

· Describe the development of still-life painting in the 20th century.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This course is suitable for all levels.

You should be able to follow simple written and verbal instructions, demonstrations and instructions on the basic elements of Zoom software, like usage of the microphone and camera.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

You will be taught online with slide presentations and group discussions. Handouts will be provided by your tutor to support your learning on the course; these handouts will be available on City Lit’s Google Classroom, not printed out for you. You will be invited to join the Google Classroom within a week of the course start date.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

You might wish to purchase a notebook for taking notes.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Art of the Northern Renaissance

European Art 1850-1900

European and American Art 1900-1950

Women Artists 1400-1800.

Elizabeth Eyres

Liz Keevill Eyres worked as a textile designer in the fashion industry for four years and then as a magazine journalist specializing in interior design for 13 years. Her first degree was at Camberwell School of Art which she did at the same time as completing a degree in History and Art History with the Open University. Liz studied and has taught at Kingston University, where she lead modules and lectured in history of art, design history and architecture for ten years and ran study visits both at home and abroad. Liz has researched into English Modernist textile design of the 1950s and the professional practice of the provincial Edwardian architect, in particular Norwich-based architect George Skipper.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.