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 109.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tremendous Biographies I got to know the artists better as well as their works. . .and how one artist was influenced by another.
Date published: 2018-11-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Didn't want the course to end... I watched this course on DVD as that was the best way for me to see it on a large screen (my TV), and it was nice to be able to see more of the details in the works of art shown. This is an older course, I believe it was made around 2002, and doesn't have the production quality of more recent courses I've watched. However, that was not detrimental to my enjoyment of it in any way. The subject matter is truly fascinating, made even more so by the explanations of the economic, political, cultural, and social situation in France concurrent with the age of Impressionism. The major artists are covered in detail, along with their relationships with each other. Attention is given to the artists' personal lives as well as their art. I especially liked the descriptions of the art from a curator's point of view. Professor Brettell is clearly very knowledgeable about his topic, and his genuine enthusiasm was contagious. I ended the course wishing there were 12 more lectures (and I've ordered more courses taught by him). Highly recommended.
Date published: 2018-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful. Not much to add to the other outstanding reviews. So, briefly: Professor Brettell provides a fascinating discussion of the Impressionists and Impressionism. I am an art history neophyte, and feel his analyses have enabled me to see and "see" these magnificent works with far deeper understanding and appreciation than I ever could before. The information about the painters' lives was equally absorbing and worthwhile. Our professor speaks clearly and eloquently, is very well-organized, and is a pleasure to listen to. His deep love of his subject is obvious and contagious, and I am impressed by the number of synonyms he knows for "wonderful." A few minor quibbles: Professor Brettell is obviously familiar with French, but insists on pronouncing two-syllable words correctly stressed on the second syllable with the accent on the first. These include beret and malaise, as well as, remarkably, artists' names such as Degas. This at least makes some sense when trying to highlight the distinction between Manet and Monet, but it gets old quickly. He also somewhat uncomfortably makes multiple comments which imply characteristics of his audience, such as "We all know about going to the beach in the summertime," "We all know about the tour boats on the Seine," and "Of course we all know something about the life of Vincent Van Gogh." There was also "Why is the boy fondling a cat, something that boys don't do?" And one can get the idea from these lectures that every woman in a Parisian cafe, at least in the 1880s, was a prostitute, and every man in search of one. Regardless - This is one of the finest courses I have ever taken. It has my highest recommendation for anyone with with any interest whatsoever in art.
Date published: 2018-08-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Super I went throgh these lectures quickly because they were so interesting. Lots of info that would be difficult to find elswhere. Good speaker.
Date published: 2018-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Among the Best An excellent, well illustrated account that helped dispel our profound ignorance of the subject in a stimulating and enjoyable way. We'd be interested in more by the professor and more about the Impressionists - especially a broader review of Van Gogh & Cezanne and of Monet and Renoir. Perhaps short courses comparable to Greenberg's 8 lecture series on the lives of selected composers would work - rather than much longer courses such as those offered on Leonardo and Michelangelo..
Date published: 2018-03-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from My husband and I watched this series with great pleasure and found the lecturer's approach very interesting: more history than art. He shed light on the social relationships between the artists and their interaction with their times, particularly noting the contemporary drastic rebuilding of Paris. The lecturer drew examples of art from new sources we were not familiar with, scarcely showing us any of the famous works of these artists, probably by this method only drawing on those which illustrated his own interpretation of the Impressionists. Because of this approach the lecturer appears to have a detached attitude towards his audience, also shown by his talking more and having fewer pictures, and those not enlarged to the full screen of the computer. The pictures not being enlarged greatly detracted from the points being made. It would certainly enhance this series if this could be remedied.
Date published: 2018-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beyond any book in its depth and insights! Just totally wow, if you're into Impressionism and especially if you're into oil painting! I thought I knew all that was known about the Impressionists before watching this course. Ha. But I pretty much do now.
Date published: 2017-12-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Topic Handled Well I had very little founding in this topic when I bought the course. The course materials and delivery were excellent. I learned a great deal and it was painless!
Date published: 2017-11-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from It's a History Course! I was expecting to see a lot more paintings by the various Impressionists which is why I gave four stars instead of five. Instead, I learned more about what lead to the era of Impressionism and how it developed. It discussed the technique used by various artists, but I was expecting more in the magnification of brush strokes by individual artists. I think there should have been more works by Van Gogh and Monet as these two artist are in the title of the course and are well known artists. I did appreciate learning more about how Impressionism came about.
Date published: 2017-07-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Delightful An excellent detailed history of this artistic movement and its artists. The speaker is delightful and extraordinarily knowledgeable. A pleasure to watch.
Date published: 2017-07-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from First rate! Each lecture made me look forward to the next. Very well integrated series of lectures that place impressionism in artistic, political and social context. Lecturer has a tendency to fantasize about what people in the pictures are thinking, but his descriptions of technique and relationships among painters are excellent.
Date published: 2017-06-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from History of Impressionism I'm older & my objective is to increase my appreciation and knowledge of the arts. I'm an engineer by training & a businessman by vocation. Now that 'm retired I have some restrains on my independence so courses such as those in the arts are perfect for me.
Date published: 2017-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from very descriptive Always loved the French impressionists. Now I know why.
Date published: 2017-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Oh, but not Professor Kloss The program is excellent - scholarly, challenging and well worth the time. My comments are mainly a comparison between the Professor Brettell (this course) and Professor Kloss (The World's Great Paintings). I viewed the latter and much preferred the style of delivery over the former. Professor Kloss is more animated, looks at the viewer, provides subtle humor, and wears great ties. The lectures are seemingly warmer - more friendly. Both are providing a tremendous wealth of knowledge but style matters for me. Both are excellent courses as introductions to art of the Western world. To better make my point, I have already purchased Professor Kloss's A History of European Art.
Date published: 2017-03-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A thorough presentation. An excellent and lively stroll through Impressionism. The early focus on the influences of the changing Paris of the era and the development of pre-impressionism is very welcome information. Richard Brettell is always a joy to follow. I highly recommend this and his other art history courses. No flash, just solid, creative presentation.
Date published: 2017-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Monet to Van Gogh We enjoyed this very much. We also bought extra one for our grandson
Date published: 2017-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful History of Impressionism Dr. Brettell does a great job in explaining and showing the Impressionist and their historical context. Although this course was recorded in 2002, it still holds up very well.
Date published: 2016-08-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Impressionism is not quite what I thought it was This wonderfully detailed course covers the impressionist movement in Paris (and beyond) from the 1850's to the end of the century. I thought I was fairly familiar with the art, and that is more or less true. But the course opened my eyes to the amazing inter-connectedness of the artists and made their time in history, espeically the history of Paris, really come to life. Wonderful course. Well illustrated with slides of important paintings. I would have liked to see more of the familiar impressionist painting shown at least in passing, but the limited time is a problem for showing everything.
Date published: 2016-08-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved Every Minute! Highly recommend! This is a great course and the professor was excellent. He is extremely knowledgeable but made it easy to understand the history leading up to Impressionism, the artists, and their various relationships, and influences. I look forward to watching it again. I felt the professor was an outstanding speaker and loved his passion and enthusiasm for art. The best course I have watched so far.
Date published: 2016-08-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from LIKE A GOOD NOVEL, WAS ALMOST SAD TO FINISH My son and I both enjoy art, but we are not artists nor have we formally studied art. We are both drawn to impressionism, like many are, and wanted a course to better prepare for our visit to the art museums of Washington DC and Philly. We went through Sharon Hirch's "How to Understand Art" to get some foundations, and then turned to Brettell's "History of Impressionism." We loved the lectures, and they significantly enriched our visit to the Phillips (Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party among others), the National Gallery, and the Barnes in Philly. Brettell did a great job in combining the art with commentary on the context of the period and perspective on the artists as human beings. Loved it all!
Date published: 2016-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extremely interesting, informative, and valuable This is a terrific course and no subscriber will regret seeing it. It makes me eager to read more about the movement and how it was motivated and what it led to afterwards. A truly fine course.
Date published: 2016-07-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Better Than Nothing I wanted this because I paint and wanted to try to fill in gaps in my knowledge of art history. I was impressed with the professor's knowledge but put off by all of his "umm"s, etc. Also, when he showed slides, I wanted him to zoom in on the brushwork, so I could see how they were actually painted. He didn't give them long enough and he didn't include enough paintings - too much exposition, which you can read in his booklet. I guess I got spoiled by Wm. Kloss's presentations in other course. Still, better than not having any of the info. and pictures....
Date published: 2016-06-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The history behind the art Professor Richard Brettell is a fountain of knowledge about art, the history of art, the history of the artists, and the political context of the Impressionism movement. Each lesson is succinct and well researched. The art selected for review and evaluation is the very best of the collections in the greatest galleries anywhere. However, Professor Brettell seldom looks at the camera, and the viewer. His failure to directly face and address the viewer sets up a tension that is uncomfortable. His subject matter is very well presented, but often he starts each thought with "Um". This too is distracting. None-the-less the content of this course is exceptional and worth purchasing.
Date published: 2016-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Impressionistic Art Movement I really enjoyed watching this course! The professor was very knowledgeable and shared both the context of the paintings (inter-relationships of locations, painters, culture, and politics) and his personal insights into the paintings. This course was much better than a book and helped me gain a better art appreciation. As an amateur photographer it also provided great ideas for my fine-art photography!
Date published: 2016-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What a review of the impressionists This excellent course not only presents the evolution of the Impressionist movement but also a detailed discussion of those who were key players in it. Their background, lifestories and interactions added a great deal to the underestanding of the how and why of their art. The professor is excellent and clearly enjoys the subject. He brings his views/ideas to focus by choosing artwork that can illustrate the life and soul of the artists, as well as those who impacted their styles. He did them great justice by the way he presented their works. There were, however, many artists who were not discussed (or could be discussed more at length) that I wish the course was longer. It was a great pleasure to view and learn.
Date published: 2015-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Overview of the Impressionists I enjoyed every lecture in this course and learned a great deal about the Impressionists. I have visited many of the great museums around the world and appreciated the information that was presented about many paintings. More importantly, I appreciated learning about the artists' backgrounds and the political and social milieu of their time. Female Impressionists were included in the course, which is a very good feature of it. The professor's presentation style is excellent, providing lectures which are packed with information and also very interesting. The only cons about the course was that for some paintings, the professor described average looking women as "dumpy." One of the interesting facets of Impressionism to me is the portrayal of average people.
Date published: 2015-05-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from superb course excellent professor, and he organised the course briliantly - would have deserved 36 or 48 lectures to give us more detail on all the marvellous artists he covered!
Date published: 2015-05-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Pleasure to Watch Most college art history survey courses include a prominent section on Impressionism, which remains today among the most popular historical schools of painting. This very enjoyable course by Dr. Brettell, a Yale-trained art historian, a former curator and an expert on Impressionism, covers the field in a comprehensive manner, emphasizing the lives, personalities and relationships of the prominent members of the Impressionist movement, names very familiar to museum goers and from those art history courses taken long ago. In the vein of a traditional college art history course, his method is to treat in depth a limited number of representative paintings in the context of the artists’ overall work and their influence on the field of Impressionism. In addition to the distinctive style and subject matter of these art works, the lecturer also analyses the factors of light, color, texture, paint strokes and the dots of Pointillism that help define the unique identity of Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism. An important feature of the course is Dr. Brettell’s detailed explanations of his own interpretation of the scenes and persons depicted and their meaning, some quite imaginative, leading one to wonder if they necessarily reflect or perhaps exceed the original intention of the artist. Nevertheless, they add depth and stimulation to the narrative. Dr. Brettell stresses the historical context of the Impressionist movement, spanning the 1870s to the 1890s. The First Impressionist Exhibition in 1874 broke with tradition by staging an exhibit of 51 works by a number of artists, not in the official Salon, but in a separate rented location, which attracted widespread public attention and favorable press coverage. Two subsequent Impressionist Exhibitions followed in the 1870s and more beyond, firmly establishing the movement as a major force in contemporary art. Prominent artists are often perceived as loners and independent spirits, yet are sometimes fiercely competitive with other artists of the same school. However, Dr. Brettell describes the close and symbiotic relationships that several famous Impressionists formed with each other. Examples of such binary relationships include Monet and Renoir; Pissarro and Cezanne; Pissarro and Seurat; and Van Gogh and Gauguin, in which these pairs were not only personal friends, but painted together and in some cases even briefly lived together. They also influenced and complemented each other’s works. The fascinating lecture on Toulouse-Lautrec, his shockingly non-conventional lifestyle and its influence on his art, reveals that his dwarfism and physical defects were attributed to inbreeding and the fact that his aristocratic parents were first cousins, an explanation that I had not heard before. These well-illustrated lectures are a pleasure to watch, and Dr. Brettell’s narrative is both interesting and instructive. Even informed fans of Impressionism can learn much in this course about the lives and relationships of these famous artists.
Date published: 2015-04-13
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
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