From Monet to Van Gogh: A History of Impressionism

Course No. 7187
Professor Richard Brettell, Ph.D.
The University of Texas, Dallas
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Course Overview

They appeared in a period of upheaval. They saw the rebuilding of Paris, the rise of industrialism, the ruin of the Franco-Prussian war. They displayed their startling and shocking works in a series of exhibitions from 1874 to 1886. And by the 1890s, this "loose coalition" of artists who rebelled against the formality of the French Academy had created the most famous artistic movement in history. "They" were the Impressionists, and Professor Brettell is your expert curator and guide to a movement that created a new, intensely personal vision of the world.

Whether the subject was a city street, a holiday beach, a harvest field, or a demoiselle's boudoir, they virtually invented the sensibility—urbane, contemporary, ever-changing—that today we take for granted as the "modern."

Who were the Impressionists? What's the difference between a Manet and a Monet? How does a Pissarro landscape differ from one by Cézanne? Were they really as personally scandalous as the Establishment alleged?

And why is Impressionism, a 19th-century phenomenon, still so appealing in the 21st?

What You Will Learn

These artists documented life in the latter half of the 19th century and provided models of behavior, decorum, and urban beauty that persist to this day. This series of lectures will introduce you to the style, subject, and function of Impressionist painting by artists including Monet, Renoir, Cassatt, Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, and van Gogh.

Separate analysis is given to the important Impressionist exhibitions and their contemporary critics like the writer Baudelaire. Among key topics covered are the public and private worlds of Parisian modernity, life in the countryside, the new leisure class, and the influential legacy of Impressionism.

Dr. Brettell, Professor of Aesthetic Studies at The University of Texas at Dallas, is a teacher and curator of international renown and is widely published on 19th- and 20th-century art. His lectures are designed as a way for you to view and discuss the Impressionist revolution with a deft mix of history, biography, and art:

  • You'll learn how the Impressionist aesthetic was driven by the rise of the railroad and suburban tourism.
  • You'll learn how Mary Cassatt painted the lives of wealthy expatriates, while Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec scoured the dives of Montmartre to draw Paris by night.
  • You'll learn about technique: Degas's use of lighting effects. Renoir's plump, sensuous brushstrokes. Pissarro's use of slabs and pieces of paint. Gauguin and Van Gogh's bold, bright colors.
  • You'll see how Berthe Morisot could convey women's sense of boredom, sadness, and frustration.
  • You'll see how Monet's approach changed in his later years from one in which the subject was in flux and motion to one of constancy and stability.
  • You'll learn what happened to this radical movement as its leaders grew older—and more successful—by century's end.

"We will take a chronological, and oftentimes biographical, approach to studying the artists rather than looking at each career separately," says Professor Brettell. "This is due in large part to the fact that there was a certain amount of collectivity among them, visible not only in the Impressionist exhibitions but in the artistic tours/retreats that pairs of painters took in order to study modern life and its environs.

"As the life and career of each painter unfolds, we are introduced to their families, friends, and colleagues, all of whom become subjects in and influences on their work. The careers of many of the artists are discussed from their early exposure to art, their teachers, travels, and later stylistic influences."

Great Impressionist Works You Will See

Presented with these absorbing lectures are more than 200 vividly reproduced artworks for your study and enjoyment, including:

  • Ballet Rehearsal on the Stage, by Edgar Degas. This sepia-toned painting, done in the style of a photograph, was part of the first Impressionist exhibition and raised questions about how visual images were created.
  • Impression: Sunrise (Marine), by Claude Monet. This painting of a sailboat at dawn may have given Impressionism its name, along with Monet's well-known Impression Sunrise. Light, freely painted, about color and immediacy, it is one of the most radical paintings in the history of modern art.
  • Déjeuner sur l'herbe (Luncheon on the Grass), by Edouard Manet. This depiction of Manet's favorite model, Victorine Meurent, as a nude on a picnic with two clothed men was considered scandalous. It exemplifies Manet's tendency to shock, provoke, and raise more questions than he answers.
  • The Beach at Trouville, by Claude Monet. Painted on Monet's honeymoon, this canvas depicts his wife and Madame Boudin at Trouville, on the Normandy coast. The dots on Madame Boudin's dress are actually grains of sand that blew onto the canvas as Monet painted.
  • The Garden, by Berthe Morisot. Morisot executed this work, her career masterpiece, with an incredible gestural abandon that few male artists could match.
  • Vision after the Sermon, by Paul Gauguin. One of the most bizarre and powerful paintings in the history of art, this painting combines elements of high art, Japanese art, and religious imagery.

Trace the Beginning of "Modern Art"

The Impressionists were the first formal group of professional artists to include women: Berthe Morisot and the American, Mary Cassatt. Morisot, in fact, participated in seven of the eight Impressionist exhibitions, more than any other member of the movement except Pissarro.

In their first exhibition in 1874, the "Société Anonyme des Artistes" (the name Impressionists came later) took an approach that was not only modern, but unprecedented.

We tend to think of the history of art as one of individual geniuses who acted as teachers for subsequent groups of artists. But the Impressionists worked very differently. They chose to develop their craft as equals, painting and learning from one another in small groups.

Rather than promoting sameness, this way of working highlighted the unmistakable differences among the groups and artists.

Impressionist painters often painted the same scenes, at times simultaneously, with their easels side by side. These occasions present a fascinating opportunity to compare technique and to see the Impressionist approach at work. Renoir's and Monet's 1869 studies of La Grenouillère (The Frog Pond), a well-known spot for swimming, socializing, and renting boats, offer a notable case in point.

One of the legacies of Impressionism is to leave the viewer with a profound sense of life—of life captured on the canvas, through motion, light, and color, and life lived by these remarkable artists, always seeking to experience and to learn, to better capture the reality before their eyes.

This course is an absorbing lesson in the marvelous cultural, historical, and visual experiences that great paintings provide.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    The Realist and the Idealist
    In 1855 Paris held the first of many international exhibitions, allowing Frenchmen and foreign viewers to witness the tensions raging in the French art world. At mid-century, the bitter rivalry was between two competing trends: the French Classical tradition exemplified by Jean-Dominique Ingres, and the French Romantic tradition presided over by Eugène Delacroix. To this mixture was added the new strand of art called Realism. x
  • 2
    Napoleon III’s Paris
    Napoleon III, the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, declared himself emperor of France in 1853. His aim was to modernize the economy of France, create a sophisticated and centralized rail-transport system, and completely rebuild and glorify the capital city, Paris. This systematic development meant that, for most Parisians, life was utterly disrupted and altered from fundamental patterns. x
  • 3
    Baudelaire and the Definition of Modernism
    A poet and art critic named Charles Baudelaire began writing systematically about art in 1846. His basic idea was that art should be "of its own times," and he struggled to find artists who would embody his ideals. x
  • 4
    The Shock of the New
    Edouard Manet, the son of a prominent civil servant, was among the best-educated and most authoritatively independent artists of the 19th century. He painted works that, although fundamentally Baudelairian, actually transcend Baudelaire. Manet's painting is as great as Baudelaire's poetry, and greater than his art criticism. x
  • 5
    The Painters of Modern Life
    By 1865 Manet's fame made him the de facto leader of a group of young painters who wanted to push painting further and further into modern life. These artists included Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Frédéric Bazille, Camille Pissarro, and Paul Cézanne—all of whom would become central members of the Impressionist group. x
  • 6
    Pierre-Auguste Renoir
    Of the young artists in Manet's circle, Auguste Renoir was the most naturally fluent and, hence, sensual painter. His works vary widely in composition, subject, and style, indicating a willingness to experiment that was greater than that of any of his colleagues. x
  • 7
    Impressions in the Countryside
    In 1869 Monet, Renoir, Sisley, and Pissarro all moved to a landscape along the Seine just west of Paris and easily accessible to the capital by train. The aesthetic created by these four men in what we might call the Cradle of Impressionism stressed the modern and the mutable. The landscapes were not only up-to-date in terms of their fashionable urban/suburban subjects, but also in their fascination with the frank use of materials. x
  • 8
    Paris under Siege
    The Second Empire crumbled in 1870 when, after provocation from Prussia, France declared war. Inadequately prepared, the French endured a humiliating defeat. This was followed by another in a series of 19th-century French revolutions, the Commune, based completely in Paris. These upheavals caused many Impressionists to leave Paris and France, and had notable effects on their lives and work. x
  • 9
    The First Exhibition
    Within two years of the group's return to Paris, they had organized themselves into a new and, in French art, unprecedented private and independent group of artists. Their aim was to organize an exhibition of their own work on their own terms, outside the governmental strictures that limited artistic freedom in France. The exhibition, in May of 1874, quickly came to be called an exhibition of Impressionists or an Impressionist Exhibition, possibly based on the title of a quickly painted canvas by Monet entitled Impression: Sunrise. x
  • 10
    Monet and Renoir in Argenteuil
    After the First Exhibition, a core group of the artists spent the summer together in the suburban town of Argenteuil, just west of Paris, a popular spot for sailing on the Seine. That summer can easily be considered the classic moment of suburban Impressionism. x
  • 11
    Cézanne and Pissarro in Pontoise
    While "The School of Argenteuil" painted modern suburban landscapes along the Seine, Camille Pissarro gathered a different group of artists around the much less-modern town of Pontoise, on the river Oise. Although several artists were part of this group, the most important, after Pissarro, was the young provincial painter, Paul Cézanne. x
  • 12
    Berthe Morisot
    Berthe Morisot was the first woman in the history of French art to have a career comparable to the best of her male colleagues. She was also the first to be accepted completely by a group of male artists, including Manet, Degas, and Renoir. Her social position in the haute bourgeoisie and her gender shaped her oeuvre powerfully. x
  • 13
    The Third Exhibition
    In 1877 a relative newcomer to the group, Gustave Caillebotte, organized the third Impressionist Exhibition. His modern and thoroughly urban works anchored what can now be called the single most important of all eight Impressionist exhibitions, defining the major artists for the next several generations. x
  • 14
    Edgar Degas
    One artist, more than any other, represented the modern urban condition as a psychological as well as social condition. Edgar Degas created a body of work in various media that defines Parisian modernism through the interaction of figures with their settings. x
  • 15
    Gustave Caillebotte
    Caillebotte was the wealthiest of all the artists associated with Impressionism. Long known as a collector and patron of the group, he was recognized as a painter in his own right only after World War II, when works from the family collection began to be acquired by major museums. x
  • 16
    Mary Cassatt
    Mary Cassatt was a well-born American painter who had worked extensively in Europe before she met Edgar Degas in 1876. He introduced her into the Impressionist circle, and she became the only American painter who was a major force in the movement. Like Morisot, Cassatt's paintings depict the lives of wealthy women. x
  • 17
    Manet’s Later Works
    Edouard Manet is known today chiefly as a painter of major Salon Paintings in the 1860s, and as the creator of a late masterpiece, The Bar at the Folies-Bergeres. That view is incorrect and undervalues the importance of his Impressionist experiments. He is among the few great painters in the history of art who adapted his style as a mature painter to that of younger artists. x
  • 18
    Departures
    Renoir and Monet became increasingly successful in the early 1880s and, perhaps as a result, increasingly dissatisfied with the group dynamics and politics of the Impressionists. Each of them also became restive about Paris and its suburbs as the sole subject of their art. x
  • 19
    Paul Gauguin
    A young banker-stockbroker named Paul Gauguin met Pissarro in the late 1870s and became a major collector of Impressionism. He also embarked on a career as an amateur painter and sculptor, and exhibited with the Impressionists in their last four exhibitions. x
  • 20
    The Final Exhibition
    In 1885 Pissarro went to visit a young, academically trained painter named Georges Seurat. This meeting changed both men's careers and the subsequent history of art, introducing a scientific rigor into conception, composition, and execution of art. Their collaboration brought an end to the Impressionist experiment when they dominated the final Impressionist Exhibition in April of 1886. x
  • 21
    The Studio of the South—Van Gogh and Gauguin
    A young Dutch painter, Vincent van Gogh, came to Paris in February of 1886 and visited the final Impressionist exhibition. He befriended many of the artists but came increasingly under the spell of Paul Gauguin. In 1888, van Gogh moved to Arles in the south of France and succeeded in convincing Gauguin to join him to create an artistic brotherhood called "The Studio of the South." x
  • 22
    Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
    Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the only son of the Comte de Toulouse, was the wealthiest and most nobly born painter in the history of French art. All of Toulouse-Lautrec's early subjects have their origins in the art of Manet and Degas. Hence, Lautrec can be considered a second-generation Impressionist. x
  • 23
    The Nabis
    In the late 1880s a small group of young men formed a brotherhood of artists called "Nabis" (the Hebrew word for prophet). Edouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard, the most important artists of the group, took the informal art of Impressionism into the interiors of 1890s Paris—a realm relatively unexplored by the Impressionists themselves. x
  • 24
    La Fin
    After their final exhibition, boycotted by Renoir and Monet, the Impressionists worked more or less independently of each other. Monet's pictorial production of the 1890s was dominated by the concept of "series" paintings. Pissarro and Degas also devoted much of that decade to series of their own. x

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Your professor

Richard Brettell

About Your Professor

Richard Brettell, Ph.D.
The University of Texas, Dallas
Dr. Richard Brettell is the Margaret McDermott Distinguished Professor of Art and Aesthetics at The University of Texas at Dallas. He earned his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Yale University. Prior to joining The University of Texas at Dallas, Professor Brettell taught at Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, Yale University, and Harvard University. Professor Brettell was the founding American director of the...
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Reviews

From Monet to Van Gogh: A History of Impressionism is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 111.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great art, imperfect course Dr. Brettell helped me see things in impressionist paintings that I never would have seen on my own, but I thought that he sometimes claimed to see things in the paintings that couldn’t be seen (e.g., holding a parasol "tightly," touching one’s nipple "autoerotically"). Not being an art history major, I became puzzled during Dr. Bretell’s discussion of the works of Gustave Caillebotte. Caillebotte’s works seems too deliberately composed to have been painted quickly, from life, which I thought was the point of impressionism. For the same reason, I was puzzled by the lengthy discussion of Georges Seuraut’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.” Perhaps my definition of impressionism is too narrow. Despite my concerns, I appreciated Dr. Brettell’s expertise, enthusiasm, and relaxed delivery. I wish he would have looked at the camera more.
Date published: 2015-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Monet to Van Gogh is Wonderful Received as a gift, this course was wonderful. I enjoyed the presenter, the exquisite visuals, and the wonderful weave of history and art. For anyone interested in a clearly communicated history of Impressionism, this course is a "can't miss.":
Date published: 2015-01-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Light on art, poorly organized, clearly biased I love Impressionism, so it is with great disappointment that I write a negative review of this lecture series. However, throughout, the instructor was frustrating in a variety of ways. First, he doles out information on the artists sparingly and over the course of the series, which doesn't allow for a strong grasp of how a particular artist might develop during the span of his or her artistic career. Speaking of the "her," the female Impressionists are neglected to a large degree (he even admits in the final lecture that he will be neglecting those artists' end-stages, as he doesn't believe that their art develops into a later/advanced stage). When he does give time to the female artists, he often does so with a very condescending approach. For example, in his Berthe Morisot lecture, the first painting that he offers as a study is of the artist by Manet. He, therefore, launches the lecture of an artist by making her the object of another artist's "gaze," which I found to be horribly sexist. Similarly, he begins the lecture on Mary Cassatt by devoting much time to discussing Degas' involvement in her early career and studying a painting by both Cassatt and Degas--emphasizing that Degas' actual hand worked the painting! Over all, I found his treatment of the female artists to be highly offensive, as well as his references to many of the female subjects in various paintings, particularly as he consistently appraises the state of attractiveness of the different depicted models. At one point, during the Seurat discussion, he also specifies an area of social interaction study which he designates to be of interest to the "male art historians," an exclusion of any female art historians who he assumes has no desire to research the area of study of which he spoke. There are dozens of tiny insensitive remarks like the above that this instructor makes, which alienated me as a modern thinker. Besides the sexist issues, I was continuously irritated by the instructor's vague vocabulary. "THING" seems to be his favorite word to use as a descriptor of clothing and decorative items. Finally, his choice of paintings were not always the best representatives of the points that he seemed to be hoping to establish, and the paintings that were used seemed to have far less screen time than the instructor's face and his constantly waving (distracting) hand movements. So, no, I was not pleased with this lecture series. I absolutely love the time period, the personalities, and the art that is contained in this lecture, however. Revisiting Impressionism is a treat for me, but not with this instructor.
Date published: 2015-01-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful journey through Impressionism I very much enjoyed "A History of Impressionism" and learned a ton. The presenter was awesome with obvious deep knowledge and passion for his subject matter. The personal history of individual artists brought out a human side often overlooked. Putting everything in historical perspective set the table to help understand the motivation and inspiration of the times. And the detailed discussion of chosen paintings made the experience complete. I love the quote from Baudelaire that art should be "of its own times" reflecting the realism of the moment for the current as well as future generations. Highly recommend if you want a thorough introduction into a wonderful period of time and the wonderful collection of artists that made it happen.
Date published: 2014-11-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Blah, Blah, Blah #@$%&*! This course spends much more time showing the lecturer talking than it does showing the Impressionistic art! Why do I need to watch the speaker TALKING about pictures, instead of LOOKING at the pictures while he talks, which I would have preferred? The speaker is knowledgeable, but he is not as pretty as the pictures!! The historical / biographical information was interesting, and some unusual pictures were shown that you might never get to see unless you went to some unusual places. But, I thought there were too few pictures for the time spent with the DVDs.
Date published: 2014-11-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from
Date published: 2014-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from eye contact The ONLY criticism I can come up with for this course is that the professor seems to avoid making eye contact with the camera. He consistently looks toward the ceiling when speaking. This, though, should not be a reason to avoid purchasing this course as it is obvious from the outset that the professor knows his subject well. He also speaks clearly and effectively. I really like the abundant use of graphics in this course, ie photos of the paintings cited, maps of the areas the painters lived in, and photos, drawings, or paintings of the places in which they worked. I naively thought that this course would only discuss paintings of the Impressionist Era but was happily surprised to find out that the course, so far, also discusses the political circumstances in which the painters worked. So, you'll learn about other personalities related to this era, which, to me, only adds to my understanding of the world in which these painters worked and how it is that they produced the masterpieces that they did. The eye contact issue I mentioned should not be a reason to avoid this course............after several lectures I stopped noticing.
Date published: 2014-11-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Oops In the lecture on Degas the professor identifies Zola's novel focusing on a laundress as Germinal. It is in fact L'Assommoir. Germinal dealt with life in the coal mines.
Date published: 2014-04-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sticks With You This course was extremely interesting. The professor provides detailed information on the historical context of the art, which brings this course to a much higher level.
Date published: 2014-02-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good course, but it may need to be revisited I just finished the History of Impressionism course and although I enjoyed the course and I learned a great deal, I think that it might be wise if the Great Courses revisited this topic with a different professor and production team. When I opened the materials and started the first lecture, my expectation was that there would be many paintings and that Professor Brettell would talk about the paintings. In several cases, the lectures focus more on French History than Art History, and in some lectures very few paintings are shown and discussed. A new production team might reconsider the subject and come up with 24 entirely different lectures, a new course that need not replace this course but could complement it. For example, the first four lectures might be shortened to a single lecture or part of a single lecture, the last two lectures might be removed or shortened into part of a single lecture, and the new course might delve deeper into the artist's lives, or might discuss more paintings by each artist. I enjoyed this course considerably, and I have notes about many paintings that I will travel around the world to see for the first time or to look at again after having taken the course. Indeed, after viewing one lecture about Renoir, I drove across town to see one of his paintings that was in an exhibition here, and I spent that museum visit focused only on that one painting. It was a wonderful experience, made better because of this course.
Date published: 2013-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Why To Love Impressionism I was attracted to Impressionism all along. This course gave me the background to understand and appreciate it. Now I can say for sure that Impressionism is my favorite style of art. Especially Monet and Renoir. So before you go to Paris or (second best) your nearest art museum, Watch this course.
Date published: 2013-07-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from impressionism revisited This course offers an enchanting voyage through the world of the impressionists, that is so close to us. It is extraordinary enjoyable, because of the contagious passion of the leader, professor Brettell. It is magnificent to be guided by a foreigner, who appears to know Paris as he were a “boulevardier”, and who personifies the true Baudelair’s “flaneur ” . Professor Brettell Texas origin is betrayed by his non-Parisian, sometimes gloriously adorned, ties, and some bland sexist comments about Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt, the female impressionists,. (In view of his deep and detailed understanding of all the artistic, literary and political aspects of the impressionists’ era, these are indeed very minor details,). In this course he leads a glorious cavalcade in the world of the impressionists through Paris, its streets, its “arrondisements” and its couture. The only regret is that this magic trip, as most pleasant experiences, unavoidably ends with the end of impressionists This is certainly one of the best courses in this collection.
Date published: 2013-04-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brettell's The Best! Our local library presented this course last winter and Dr. Brettell's course on the Metropolitan Museum of Art this winter. Dr. B is great. His knowledge of art and his enthusiastic presentation of the subject makes each lecture a special event. Don't walk, run to this course and enjoy every word of it. I did.
Date published: 2013-03-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Average Bretell knows his material and is enthusastic about his subject, but I have to rate this course average. It is not what I consider college level material.
Date published: 2013-02-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disconnect between lecture The course content was good, but there was a disconnect between Dr. Brettell's lecture and the artwork. When speaking about a work of art, he would often not show the art, but he would be on camera himself. It would have been far more interesting had he spoken when the art was in view. The course would have been more meaningful and enjoyable.
Date published: 2013-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb Correlation Among Artists A great virtue of this course is the professor's ability and willingness, when showing a painting and discussing it, to remind the learner of comparisons and contrasts with other paintings discussed in previous lectures. I now feel much more able to look at a painting in an art book, a museum, etc. appreciatively. The professor is appropriately suave and urbane -- one can visualize him in white tie and tails at a celebration dedicating a new wing of a great museum. By contrast, one can visualize the folksy Professor Renton (the marvelous geology course!) in flannel shirt, jeans, toolbelt, backpack, and boots, just leaving for a "dig" (geological field work).
Date published: 2012-10-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from More about History, Less about Art As an artist and long time student of art history, I love the Impressionists. My husband, who is learning to paint, is inspired by their work and wanted to know more about their art. The professor was a charming presenter...so knowledgeable about the historical background in France during the time of the Impressionists and about their individual lives..lots of old photographs and antecdotes. All of which is fascinating information. But, if you want to know about the actual art of the Impressionists, I felt it fell short. I expected more analysis of the paintings i.e. aspects of composition, use of color and paint application to achieve the light that was a huge focus of their work. Neither was I thrilled with the selection or small number of paintings which seemed based more on the history and social issues of the time rather than showcasing some of the best of Impressionist art. Monet's water lilies were never mentioned or shown...yikes. The course title "From Monet, etc." is a bit misleading for there was too much emphasis placed on Manet, who was very influential to the Impressionists, but who never considered himself an Impressionist. Thus time was taken away from the actual Impressionists and the later evolutionary work of Van Gogh, Cezanne and Gaugain who were very dissapointingly represented. If you want historical background of the Impressionsits this is a very interesting course. If you expect a discussion of artistic philosopy and techniques of the Impressionsists you might be disappointed.
Date published: 2012-07-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Presentation This was an excellent presentation of the art and the lives of the artists known as the impressionists. Prof. Brettell does a nice job in this course. He presented the material well. I enjoyed his selection of paintings covered in this course. I particularly liked how he set the historical context of these works -- especially the first few lectures that reviewed what was going on in Paris at that time. This course tremendously increased my knowledge of these artists and my knowledge of the impressionist movement in general. I highly recommend this course to those who wish to learn more about these artists and their context.
Date published: 2012-07-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Thoughtful and Joyous Journey The Teaching Company and the engaging professor Brettell have done it again! What a richly marvelous course! Dr. Brettell's mastery of art is evidenced in every course he teaches. I particularly welcomed, and thoroughly enjoyed, the way he provided historical and personal context to the art and artists covered by this course. If the Impressionists' major focus was to capture the fleeting evanescence of the "now" all about them, then Dr. Brettell has similarly capture them in their families, friendships, and tragic losses. This is a wonderful human story of extraordinary men and women who have left us with shimmering works of light-filled loveliness that take my breath away. I could not more highly recommend this course to all who are interested in learning more about art, or for those already entranced by its beauty.
Date published: 2012-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A delightful tour through the history of Impressio This delightful course would be of interest and value to anyone who has seen reproductions of the Impressionist paintings (or even the real thing) and enjoyed them. One does not need to have a strong background in either Art or History to get a lot out of this course. Dr. Brettell does a great job presenting how and why Impressionism came about, who were the important artists in this period, what their lives were like, how their works were received by the art establishment and critics, and what the effects of Impressionism were on the rest of Modern Art that followed it. I especially enjoyed when Dr. Brettell spent time discussing some of the paintings in detail. A thoroughly enjoyable course!
Date published: 2012-05-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Surprisingly Good! I avoided this course for several years because I thought I knew enough about the Impressionists. Boy was I wrong! This is a great course. Most interesting to me is the political and social history Prof. Brettell provides. I am a painter, and of course an art history course will never go into the things I want to know--what colors the painters used, the mediums they used. Prof. Brettell indeed only gets into what I thought of as "Impressionism"--Monet's haystacks and Rouen cathedral series, for example--very late in the course. He I think once mention's Pisarro's tiny "comma" paintstrokes about midway through the class, and doesn't really get into broken color until Seurat. That's most what I'd expected from the class. Which means, there was a lot more I didn't know, about the interactions of the artists' lives, their friendships, their entrepreneurial enterprises, their disagreements, which this course covers brilliantly. I'm really glad I watched it.
Date published: 2012-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extremely Informative Prior to watching Professor Brettell’s course I thought that I had a fair notion of the impressionists. I soon realized that there was a tremendous amount that I did not know, particularly regarding the background conditions in Paris, and France generally, and the relation between the various artists. The only downside of watching the lectures is that now I will have to go back to all of the museums that I have visited, with impressionist collections, and look at them again with some real understanding. I very highly recommend Professor Brettell’s lectures.
Date published: 2012-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comprehensive review This is a very detailed and excellent review of impressionism centered around the artists, their lives and their paintings. The professor obviously knows his subject very well and is very enthusiastic about it. By the end of the course, one is thoroughly familiar with this period in art and well armed for any museum any where. My only complaint is that the initial lectures on modernity do not ever actually define this term and the controversies around it. This is improtant as impressionism amd realism begin Modernism in art. In any case, this is a good course to take if you want to really dig into impressionism. If you just want a superficial overview, however, you may try one of the introductory art courses from TC instead.
Date published: 2011-10-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Life Changing My daughter and I watched this course as a part of her high school fine arts credits. It was the third course in three. When Professor Brettell began we were momentarily dismay by the amount of history he included. However, the historical background made all the difference in understanding why the Impressionist movement started. Each day we excitedly watched that day's class and came away with a greater understanding of this wonderful period in art history. The course has most definitely enriched our understanding of the Impressionist painters. Our one complaint is that Professor Brettell has a difficult time looking at the camera.
Date published: 2011-08-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and Entertaining This is one of my favorite courses. I am listening to it for the third time! The professor is wonderful! His commentary is lively and he really helps you look at the paintings he presents in new and different ways. His enthusiasm for the paintings, the artists, and France at the time they painted is contagious! He is able to weave the story of France, Paris, and the artists into his commentary about the paintings in a delightful way. The only reason I gave the "Course Content" a 4 is because a few of my favorite paintings were not featured, but I understand there is only so much you can do in the time given. I would highly recommend this course to anyone who loves Impressionist art and would like to know more about how the art reflects the personalities of the artists and the times in which they lived.
Date published: 2011-08-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from See before visiting Paris The course starts out with background information that will help you understand what French art was like before the Impressionists, how Paris became the city it is today and how these changes promoted the Impressionist movement. Prof Brettell integrates literature, politics, history, architecture and art into one course that gives a great overview of what most Americans think of when they think of French art and artists. We viewed this course as preparation for a visit to Paris and its most famous museums. We suggest that if art is your passion, you should do the same.
Date published: 2011-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Light that privileges fleeting impressions DVD review. FROM MONET TO VAN GOGH can be appreciated at different levels. First, it is a fine overview of an artistic movement that produced many of the most beloved, colourful and reproduced works of Western art. When and why were they painted? And how could they arouse so much controversy? They seem so sensual and appealing today compared to the academic styles they were supplanting. On another level, this is also the story of how a tiny artistic movement broke off from mainstream tastes and became a mutual support society, at least in the early years. This became financially possible because of wealthier middle and upper classes eager for new images in their homes — “art patrons” shared a certain aristocratic glow — and the growing importance of art entrepreneurs peddling avant-garde pictures around the world. This freed the artist to pursue his or her dreams without kowtowing to institutionalized culture gatekeepers and opinion leaders among the chattering classes. Impressionist paintings, like the concert hall music popular at that time, were a riot of the senses that appealed to ordinary merchants and civil servants bored with the Greek mythology and Arcadian never-never lands of classic paintings. This middle class had more free time to visit beaches and nature spots thanks to the new rail lines. In old photographs, they look pretty stuffy to us today, with their top hats, dark coats and frilly dresses. Their obsessions with respectability make them seem hypocritical. But a new level of privacy in large metropolises like Paris, freed them from the oppressive conformity of small-town life. Women dreamed of mysterious lovers (think of Emma Bovary) and men spent money in dance halls or raunchier places to be titillated by parallel bohemian societies where ordinary proprieties were ignored. So we have nature Impressionists like Renoir and Monet, and demi-monde impressionists (or Neo-Impressionists) such as Degas and Toulouse Lautrec. All specialized in a treatment of light that privileged fleeting impressions and the senses, not eternal truths. It all seemed outrageously immoral at the time. Hence a notoriety that no doubt helped sales. Thanks to journalism, controversy and fake outrage was the badge of a new culture for lightly-educated consumers. Selling had to be part of the artistic package. On a final note, I would strongly encourage TTC customers interested in impressionism and late 19th century French culture to seek out a great French film A SUNDAY IN THE COUNTRY (1984) — Un dimanche à la champagne. It describes a single day in the life of an old painter who admired the impressionists in his youth, but was too conventional and fearful to follow them. He is nevertheless successful enough to own a country estate where he receives his son and grandchildren for a day. It is a glowing meditation on old age, creativity and a France that disappeared a few years later with WW I. But I’m being sidetracked. Dr. Brettell does a fine job of guiding you through the movement and the world that produced it. His voice is clear and the presentation excellent. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2011-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Course by Best Art Lecturer I have courses by all of the Great Course lecturers on Art and Bettell is in my judgment overwhelmingly the best. He is knowledgeable and engaging with a real knack for communicating in a way that gets to the heart of the matter or painter and with a good sense of telling detail. I have several DVDs dealing with Impressionism and this series is by all odds the best.
Date published: 2011-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Very Best Dr. Brettell is one of the finest lecturer's I've run across in 81 years of living and many years of lectures. Dr. Brettell is involved with his subject, obviously loves his subject, and makes you love it too. Everything about this course is excellent.
Date published: 2011-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my all time favorites [DVD] I have seen or listened to more than 100 courses now. This is a favorite. Returning to it feels like visiting an old friend, but I learn something new each time. A recent trip to the Barnes Collection (famous for it’s Impressionist paintings) prompted me to watch this again in its entirety. It is just about the perfect TTC experience for me. Its introductory background lectures are about 20% of the material, so it doesn’t take too long to get going. During those lectures you learn about Baudelaire’s art criticism, Paris’ complete redesign, and the Franco-Prussian War. Not surprisingly, there are also examples of mid-century French art presented to draw a contrast with what follows. All lectures have some artwork discussed. After the introduction, there is roughly one lecture for each artist, as well as one lecture for each of the Impressionist Exhibitions that occurred during 1870s and 1880s. The Impressionists worked closely together, and their families sometimes traveled together. The travel destinations, some of which were quite close to Paris, play an important role in understanding the art. The biographical material really is quite substantial and a very enjoyable part of the show. Prof. Brettell’s style is to describe his subjective reaction, and then to overlay the likely reaction of contemporaries to the same work. He choses a relatively small number of paintings per lecture, which I like very much. So, as others have mentioned, do not expect the series to be encyclopedic. Note that the time period is pretty much limited to the period that they were exhibiting together. The final Exhibition was in 1986, which is discussed in the 20th lecture. With the lecture series nearly over at that point, it does not explore the Impressionist’s solo careers. Every time I watch a lecture of two, I want to rush off to a museum. Every time I see a wonderful example of Impressionist art, I think of this course. Strongly recommended.
Date published: 2011-05-18
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