Course overview

A new way of seeing human beings and their environment; the end of the middle ages and the birth of modern Europe, the discovery of the ‘New World’; fresh insights into faith and the upheaval that created; and a new way of doing art. This study day investigates Renaissance art in Southern and Northern Europe and traces the birth and development of the Reformation. The art of Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael and van Eyck and the thought of Luther and Calvin together with the reforms of Henry VIII all feature in this extensively illustrated study day.

Course description

The Renaissance and Reformation together moved Europe from the Middle Ages into the modern world. Recovering from the great plague of the mid 14th century, artists, poets and early scientists began to construct a new way of seeing and understanding humanity, and human beings were put at the centre of enquiry. The dominance of the Catholic Church was being challenged, although it was still the primary commissioner of art. We will study the rise of the leading artists in Italy and northern Europe, and discuss the seminal art works of such masters as Raphael, Durer, Michelangelo and Van Eyck. With the cataclysmic challenges of Luther, Calvin and others, the foundations of Europe were shaken. The authority of the Church was undermined, beliefs and practices which had been taken for granted for a millennium were questioned, and political power shifted. In England, this was manifested in the split between the monarchy and the pope - and played out in the history of Henry VIII and his wives. Artistically it posed the urgent question of what could artists do now that the Church in Northern Europe was no longer commissioning art. Artists such as Breugel, Holbein and the early landscape painters are good examples of what happened. This study day will explore the inter-reactions of art, religion and history in this momentous period.

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