Museum Masterpieces: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Course No. 7510
Professor Richard Brettell, Ph.D.
The University of Texas, Dallas
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Course No. 7510
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Course Overview

Where else can you find masterpieces extending from the dawn of civilization to today; or encyclopedic holdings from all the major cultures on earth; or genres ranging from paintings to period rooms, sculpture to suits of armor, metalwork to musical instruments—all situated in a palatial building beside one of the world's most magnificent parks?

No other museum covers the history of humanity and its achievements as thoroughly as The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Professor Richard Brettell believes that The Metropolitan Museum of Art is not just the greatest art museum in America, but that it is also the most complete encyclopedic art museum on the planet, rivaled only by the Louvre in Paris and the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, whose collections have significant gaps by comparison.

A Consummate Guide

Professor Brettell is a scholar, an author, a teacher, and a former museum director, known to many Teaching Company customers for his dazzling investigation of a much-loved period in From Monet to Van Gogh: A History of Impressionism and his overview of a legendary cultural icon in Museum Masterpieces: The Louvre. Above all, he is a consummate guide who delights in selecting superb works of art and then exploring their resonance with other works. For example, in this course he exploits The Metropolitan Museum of Art's wide-ranging holdings to draw your attention to masterpieces that share intriguing similarities, linking different cultures, genres, and periods:

  • Two noble countenances: Auguste Rodin's lifelike portrait bust of Honoré de Balzac from 1891 evokes, in its realistic power, the remarkable 4,000-year-old copper head of a ruler in the museum's Ancient Near Eastern Art collection.
  • A study in forms: The overlapping abstract forms of Willem de Kooning's 1949 painting Attic strikingly recall the figures crowded onto the surface of Roman funerary sarcophagi or the swarming melee in Nicolas Poussin's The Abduction of the Sabine Women.
  • Mother and child: Every culture uses art to depict the bond between mother and child. Professor Brettell chooses four paradigmatic examples: an early Italian painting by Berlinghiero, a 14th-century Indian copper sculpture, a pre-Hispanic Olmec figurine, and a Renaissance relief by Andrea della Robbia.

Many Museums under One Roof

In these 24 visually rich, half-hour lectures, Professor Brettell takes you through The Metropolitan Museum of Art from front to back, from bottom to top, introducing practically every department in the museum. Each is a museum unto its own, representing one of the world's finest collections in its field. You will see an astonishing number of works—more than 400 in all—focusing on Professor Brettell's favorites, and in the process touching on virtually all of the best-known pieces in the museum, and many more besides. His is a personal tour, driven by his enthusiasm and a ceaseless curiosity to see riches of The Metropolitan Museum of Art unknown even to him.

Your journey begins in Lecture 1 with a brief history of the museum, Central Park, and the city itself. Then you proceed up the broad steps facing Fifth Avenue and into the museum's Great Hall. Lectures 2–5 take you to the complex of galleries at the front of the building, dealing with the civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome, ancient Egypt, Asia, the ancient Near East, and the Islamic world.

Then in Lectures 6–9 you return to the Great Hall and ascend the grand staircase to The Metropolitan Museum of Art's outstanding collection of European paintings, covering the Renaissance to the 19th century. Here you find masterpieces by Giotto, Raphael, Dürer, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh, and many others. Lectures 10 and 11 cover the nearby Department of Drawings and Prints, which has the largest holdings in the museum, plus the Department of Photographs; these collections are largely in storage, and you will see treasures that are normally not on display.

Lectures 12–15 take you to galleries in the heart of The Metropolitan Museum of Art on the first floor, devoted to European decorative arts and sculpture, along with the arts of Africa, Oceania, and the ancient New World. These four lectures present a study in contrasts, covering the height of European culture represented by its rooms, furniture, statues, and other objects, followed by a survey of some of the world's most powerful non-European art, including masks, figures, and ritual vessels produced on three continents and countless islands over a span of 3,500 years.

Lecture 16 is a study in contrasts itself, featuring musical instruments, arms, and armor. Then in Lecture 17 you descend to The Metropolitan Museum of Art's ground floor to investigate fashion and fabrics at the Costume Institute and the Antonio Ratti Textile Center, whose extensive holdings are rarely seen by most visitors.

In a great sweep across the back of the museum, you study American art in Lectures 18 and 19; you sample 20th-century art in Lectures 20 and 21; and you tour the Robert Lehman Collection in Lectures 22 and 23, exploring a wing devoted to one of the most extraordinary gifts of art by a single individual. These six lectures feature scores of artists such as Sargent, Whistler, Picasso, Matisse, Goya, and Renoir. Lecture 24 concludes the course with a look at some of The Metropolitan Museum of Art's most illustrious donors and directors.

You would have to move through the museum at superhuman speed to take in all of the works investigated in detail in the 12-hour running time of this course. Yet the experience with Professor Brettell is one of a relaxed stroll with a very knowledgeable, very personable, and ceaselessly curious companion. The course is truly a user-friendly guide to a mammoth institution that has amassed astonishing treasures.

Where Did All These Masterpieces Come From?

One of the fascinating aspects of this course is that Professor Brettell provides insights from the curator's point of view. For instance, he notes that museum directors and curators have an idiosyncratic way of reading labels: They start at the bottom, which lists the donor and year of acquisition. "Those of us in the profession are interested in the stories of the formation of the great American art institutions, which are stories about donors." Some of these stories include:

  • In 1946 Gertrude Stein spurred the museum to start collecting modern art in earnest by bequeathing the famous portrait of her by Picasso.
  • The year 1969 saw the donation of an entire museum by Nelson Rockefeller: The Museum of Primitive Art, which formed the nucleus for the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.
  • In 1971 the museum used donated funds to pay a record price for Velázquez's remarkable portrait Juan de Pareja—a likeness "so quiveringly alive," says Professor Brettell, "that you can't believe that the man won't walk out of the picture!"

Feed Your Imagination

A great art collection like The Metropolitan Museum of Art's is a place for dreamers, thinkers, and time travelers. It is a world where you can connect to people and cultures that are long vanished. "Great works of art communicate across time," says Professor Brettell. They evoke distinctive people, ways of life, and points of view that are both familiar and strange, and that put the present into a more universal context. A brooding sculpture, an intricate piece of jewelry, a reconstructed room with meticulous period furnishings, a powerfully painted portrait or landscape—these and other works of human craft and genius feed the imagination and satisfy the soul in ways that are hard to pin down, but that open a limitless vista of learning and enjoyment.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    The Making of the Museum
    Using maps, charts, photographs, paintings, and prints, this lecture provides a historical portrait of New York City and the circumstances that spawned its greatest museum. x
  • 2
    The Art of Ancient Greece and Rome
    We begin our tour of The Metropolitan in the Classical collection, which occupies large spaces of a grandeur suited to Greco-Roman art. x
  • 3
    Ancient Egyptian Art
    The Egyptian collection ranges from entire tombs and temples to tiny objects of gold, glass, and ceramic, with particularly rich holdings in "the art of the afterlife." x
  • 4
    Asian Art
    These galleries contain masterpieces from Tibet, India, Cambodia, Korea, China, and Japan. Especially notable is the Astor Court, which is modeled on a Ming dynasty scholar's courtyard. x
  • 5
    The Ancient Near East and Islamic Art
    Extending from Bronze Age objects to a glorious room from an Islamic palace, these collections show the mastery of glass, ceramic, stone carving, and bronze in successive urban cultures. x
  • 6
    European Painting I—The Renaissance
    The Metropolitan is famous for its Department of European Painting. We investigate the development of figural illusionism in works by Giotto, Fra Angelico, and others. x
  • 7
    European Painting II—16th–17th Centuries
    Covering the High Renaissance and the extraordinary profusion of painting in Europe for the next two centuries, this lecture includes works by Raphael, Vermeer, El Greco, Velázquez, and Rembrandt. x
  • 8
    European Painting III—18th Century
    Works examined include Italian paintings by Tiepolo and Canelletto, French Rococo oils by Watteau and Boucher, and British portraits by Reynolds and Gainsborough. x
  • 9
    European Painting IV—19th Century
    The Metropolitan has perhaps the most balanced collection of French painting from 1830 to 1900 in any universal art museum. We look at works by Monet, Cézanne, and Gauguin, among others. x
  • 10
    Drawings and Prints
    We sample some of the more than 1.5 million objects in the Department of Drawings and Prints, which includes the entire range of drawing styles and materials from the Late Middle Ages to the present. x
  • 11
    Photographs
    Photography, the most pervasive of modern media, is well represented at The Metropolitan, with a collection extending back to the earliest experiments in the early 19th century. x
  • 12
    European Decorative Arts
    In an exercise of time travel, we visit luxuriously appointed period rooms representing high European culture—from an Italian Renaissance studiola to an 18th-century Parisian grand salon. x
  • 13
    European Sculpture
    The Metropolitan's European sculpture collection includes Renaissance works in stone, bronze, and terra-cotta, and masterpieces by artists such as Bernini and Canova. x
  • 14
    The Arts of Africa and Oceania
    The intricately crafted objects in this lecture include a feather box, a ceremonial shield, and a painted wooden skull rack from Oceania, as well as powerful masks and sculpted figures from Africa. x
  • 15
    The Ancient New World
    We survey a collection of materials from the rich cultures of the Americas before European colonization, the most comprehensive display of ancient New World Art in any universal art museum. x
  • 16
    Musical Instruments and Arms and Armor
    This lecture looks at major masterpieces in the arts of making music and war. The Departments of Musical Instruments and Arms and Armor both feature stunning examples from the histories of their fields. x
  • 17
    Costumes and Textiles
    New York's preeminence as a fashion center led The Metropolitan to create the Costume Institute and the Antonio Ratti Textile Center to study collections of historical fashions and fabrics. x
  • 18
    American Art—1650–1865
    Starting in period rooms from the colonial era, we explore the development of a distinctive American art up to the Civil War through works by Revere, Stuart, Copley, Hicks, Cole, Church, and others. x
  • 19
    American Art—1865–1900
    America entered an industrial boom after the Civil War that created a new demand for art in a wide range of genres. We sample pieces by Tiffany, Saint-Gaudens, Eakins, and Sargent, among others. x
  • 20
    20th-Century Art—Before World War II
    The Metropolitan's encyclopedic holdings allow comparisons between its 20th-century collection and its other works—for example, a Brancusi sculpture and an archaic Greek figure. x
  • 21
    20th-Century Art—After World War II
    We explore The Metropolitan's post–World War II art, including abstract expressionists such as Pollock, Rothko, de Kooning, and David Smith, as well as Pop, Op, and other movements. x
  • 22
    The Robert Lehman Collection—1400–1800
    A remarkable private collection kept intact after its donation to The Metropolitan, the Lehman Collection is rich in old master paintings and drawings. We sample its holdings up to 1800. x
  • 23
    The Robert Lehman Collection—1800–1960
    The Lehman Collection has important works from the 19th and 20th centuries. We examine paintings by Ingres, Corot, Monet, Renoir, Matisse, Derain, Bonnard, and Balthus, as well as works on paper. x
  • 24
    The People of the Museum
    The Metropolitan has been built by farsighted directors and generous donors. We look at some of the most remarkable of these. x

Lecture Titles

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What's Included

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Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 160-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 160-page printed course guidebook
  • List of works discussed
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider

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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

Museum Masterpieces: The Metropolitan Museum of Art is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 76.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Meet the Met... The Met is on my bucket list for places to visit. Like the Louvre, a person will not be able to visit all the works of art within this massive museum...it needs several visits. These lectures should be considered as 'must see' prior to any visit. Dr Brettell (Dick) systematically describes each gallery within the Met, showing some of the more famous, yet representative works contained there. I must admit, his style of presentation lulled me to sleep at times...but he is quite knowledgeable, and his lectures well-prepared. Recommended, especially just before that trip to the museum. Sale and coupon are required to really enjoy the good Professor's lectures.
Date published: 2017-09-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Visit to the Met! My husband and I just completed watching the Great Courses Museum Masterpieces: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. We thoroughly enjoyed the program, not only due to its content but to our instructor, Professor Richard Brettell. The professor is articulate and extremely knowledgeable on the subject matter as would be expected from a scholar of his caliber. But, what really is impressive is his enthusiasm and joy as he speaks about the art, its interpretation and history. It's contagious! We are excited and looking forward to our next journey with Professor Brettell into the arts as we explore Museum Masterpieces: the Louvre. Thank you, Teaching Company, for bringing these types of quality programs to the general audience.
Date published: 2017-04-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great survey of a world-class institution We bought this course in anticipation of an upcoming trip to New York City ant the Met. I thought it was a great overview of the history of the museum as well as a survey of the art it contains. People expecting a comprehensive survey of art will probably be disappointed, but if you're planning your day at the Met and would like knowledge to make your experience more enjoyable, this is an excellent course.
Date published: 2017-03-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great museum, lecturer not so great.... My biggest problem with the video is that it so superficial. The Met is enormous and it's good to get guidance about what to see. But rather than discuss the qualities that make a particular work great, the lecturer instead explains what he thinks it means. And he makes glaring mistakes. For example, while telling us that Reubens and his wife are gazing adoringly at their small son, the viewer easily sees that Reubens' gaze is focused lovingly on his wife. I understand that it's difficult to prepare a lecture for viewers of such disparate backgrounds. But these presentations veer far too strongly toward the superficial.
Date published: 2017-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The MET - An American Museum and a World Treasure When I visited the MET in the late 1990's, I bought the soft cover guide sold in the museum store. It surveys the key pieces, has hundreds of photos and is over 450 pages long. Sadly, it languished on my bookshelf until I started watching this course. About three lectures in, I remembered I had it and it became my companion through the rest of the lectures. Professor Brettell brought the guide to life as he discussed his favorite pieces in the museum. I enjoyed his presentation style and enthusiasm. Something I did not realize is how American museums differ from the ones in Europe. Many American museums tend to display pieces from around the world and include photographs and decorative arts; items rarely found in European art museums. The MET stands out as the best art museum in the US and is one of the top three in the world according to Professor Brettell. One of the most interesting lectures was number 10 (Drawings and Prints). Professor Brettell discussed how one of Rembrandt's engravings went through various 'states'. Between printings, sometimes the metal engraving was changed (a figure removed, additional shading, etc.) and a new version was printed. The MET has a couple of these 'states' and they can be compared. I can't think of another art medium that changes in a similar way. If you are interested in drawings, don't miss the two Lehman lectures at the end of the course. You can probably tell that I really liked this course. I learned a lot about art history and world cultures, and the Americans who had the passion to found the museum. Someday, I'll plan an extended visit to New York and take it all in. My fourth review (DVD).
Date published: 2016-09-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from How to get to know the Met w/o going to the Met Dr. Brettell's breezy but knowlegible lectures provide a thorough introduction to visiting the US most well known and widest ranging art museum, the NY Metropolitan. He hits the highlights of the multiple stand alone departments and explains how they came to be. For the visitor who has limited time, the Met can be overwhelming both in its physical space and in the number and variety of items exhibited. Watching this series will help the new visitor plan his time and whet the former visitor interest in visiting alternative exhibits. This not a dry art history lecture but an entertaining trip with a docent well qualified to lead us through the Met. I wish I could take him with me when I get to visit.
Date published: 2016-08-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A GREAT REVIEW OF THE MET I loved the course. The Professor really broke down the museum into understandable sections. I have gone to the MET since the 60s and now I FINALLY understand the "method to their madness". I am really looking forward to my next trip there!
Date published: 2016-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent overview of the MET This video is similar to the video on the Louvre in Paris. The author is the same and his highlights are exceptional. The graphics and photos make this a must for a DVD or streaming and not audio. I would recommend this to my friends it's one of the favorites of my entire collection
Date published: 2016-07-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from vey helpful - I joined the MET!! I ordered this course after I joined the Met. The course enhanced my enjoyment of this great New York Treasure. I've enjoyed watching several classes and then visiting the galleries covered in those classes. It was not only helpful and additive but enjoyable, too.
Date published: 2016-01-28
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Only bad course yet. I have only made it through four lectures so far, but the presenter is focused on telling us how to get around the museum rather than showing us its contents. It also seems that a fair percentage of the images are of the presenter looking at objects of art - why not show us the art and discuss what we are looking at? Unfortunately, I'm so upset that I've given up on this particular course and shelved it.
Date published: 2016-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent introduction to the Met Dr. Brettell's enthusiastic but completely unpretentious presentations and deep understanding of his subject should be the model for TGC instructors. I am planning a trip to NYC soon with my 10 year old god-daughter to take her to the Met, and was hoping that this series would give me a good start to educate myself as a "docent." I've been to the Met dozens of times, and also many of the world's great museums and considered myself fairly literate about art, but Dr. Brettell's expansive knowledge and insights reminds me of how little I really do know, and how much more to learn! Thanks, TGC, for a great course.
Date published: 2015-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Can't Wait to Visit the Met! I haven't frequented many museums in my life, & I've felt that it was something I'd like to better understand and enjoy. I live pretty close to NYC, so I figured this course would be a great one to watch in order to prepare me for a visit to the Met. I was not disappointed. Professor Brettell did a fantastic job of explaining all areas of the Met, clearly exhibiting a great enthusiasm for his subject matter. He explained the differences between American museums and European museums, holding up the Met as the shining example of the best of the American Museums (while respectfully acknowledging some of the other great museums in the USA), and arguably the best Art museum in the world. In short (no spoilers here), American museums tend to be encyclopedic and will exhibit art from all over the world, all different styles and all different times. While you'll tend to find mostly painting and sculpture in European art museums, American museums will also have ancient carvings, masks, armaments, furniture, photography, costumes, etc. Professor Brettell did a great job of touching on all the collections in the Met without exhaustively explaining any of them. It was enough to get me really excited about a visit, which is actually planned for about a month from now. Whether or not you plan to visit the Met, I strongly recommend this as an overall Art appreciation course as well. I'm now looking forward to some other courses by Professor Brettell.
Date published: 2015-06-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from My review of "Museum Masterpieces: The Metropolitan Museum of Art" by Richard Brettell: Professor Brettell takes you on a virtual tour guide of the museum. He does an excellent job of taking us to the different wings of the museum, exploring arts of different cultures around the world, exploring the art movements of time periods throughout history, and focusing on aspects of specific works of art. I would recommend this course to anyone interested in art history and the humanities.
Date published: 2015-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Delightful and engaging. Richard Brettell's enthusiasm for art and the Metropolitan Museum is genuine and catching! I am lucky that I live in New York City, and I have visited the Met many times and this course will enrich future visits and enticed me to focus on areas of the Museum that I have not visited in any depth, The temporary exhibits at the Met are so seductive that it will be hard to see the collections that I am newly aware of, however. The Met will never get old because of the constant exhibits and rotating collections. I plan to let myself have "aha" moments when I come upon works discussed by Prof. Brettell. It should be fun! It always is. The Met is a world I can walk into and feel I have traveled to a distant land. I am grateful for this course and the personal education it provided to me. I feel badly for people who do not live here. I would love for a course to be developed that explored some other great American art museums...especially the Art Institute in Chicago where I once lived...that museum also was like a cathedral to me...it is a spiritual experience to be surrounded by and absorb art in these fabulous great art museums. Add to that Philadelphia, the National Gallery and Boston also...travel the country!
Date published: 2015-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Valuable and Enjoyable Guide to the Met From my Manhattan childhood to periodic stays both lengthy and brief in NYC, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has always been my very favorite museum and a must visit. Its distinction as the world’s premier encyclopedic museum is approached only by the Louvre and the Hermitage from the perspective of universal coverage. Though I thought I knew the Met’s permanent collection fairly well, in this instructive and enjoyable course I was introduced to several departments that I had never seen, in particular the fabulous Lehman collection, added in 1975 as its own appendage at the rear of the Met’s main structure facing Central Park. Subject matter coverage of this course offers an excellent survey of art history as a whole, with examples of art objects ranging from paintings and sculptures, to decorative arts and costumes, to artifacts of historical and cultural significance. This display of major works, all the more impressive as they are housed in the same museum, is complemented by detailed explanations and analysis, presented with great enthusiasm by Dr. Brettell, a Yale-trained art historian with extensive museum and academic experience as a curator, scholar and lecturer. He leads his audience through the maze of seemingly endless rooms of this enormous institution by showing a schematic diagram at the beginning of almost every lecture to pinpoint the location of the current subject. All departments are covered, even the few not open to the general public (e.g. drawings, prints, and photographs). Dr. Brettell had literally thousands of objects to choose from in his descriptions and elected to concentrate on a limited number of representative works, treating them in considerable detail. Inevitably this meant skipping many well-known works which may disappoint some viewers, but no one is able to cover everything in a single visit to this unique, all-encompassing museum. With its judicious selections and enlightened narrative, this course is a valuable aid to virtually anyone who plans a serious visit to the Met, whether a tourist, a college student, or a native New Yorker.
Date published: 2015-02-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Museum Masterpieces: The Metropolitan Museum of Ar Informative with enough content to provide some real insight into specific art pieces showcased in course. Definitely will visit museum the next time I am in NY. Now I know just what galleries to head for and where to find them.
Date published: 2015-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worthwhile even if you never visit the Met I recently visited the Met for the first time, and didn't have time to finish the course before I left. I should have taken the time; however, thanks to Prof Brettell, I'll be much better prepared next time. If you are planning a trip and are new to the Met, this course can make your visit much more valuable. The Met was overwhelming for me, and the bookstore guide material I found there was not nearly as useful as this course would have been. When I returned from New York I was motivated to finish the course: 1) as a result of my visit, I was interested in the Met and wanted to learn more about it., and 2) I realized as the course went along that our local art museum is similarly organized and has many of the same types of objects and artists represented. As Prof Brettell spoke, I followed along with the handbook of the collections for our local museum and learned a lot about our museum, which I can visit any time I want. The course is well organized and Prof Brettell's knowledge and enthusiasm are big pluses. My (relatively minor) complaints: 1. The bright glare from Prof Brettell's glasses is distracting. 2. Prof Brettell often tells us why he believes some object is a great work. However, other times he merely says the piece is "marvelous" or "wonderful" and it's not always clear to me why he believes this. To take just one example of many: I was hoping to understand what is "marvelous" about Picasso's painting of Gertrude Stein. Sure, it's interesting because it's a famous person painted by a famous artist. It's a realistic painting of a body (painted in person) with a mask-like face (painted later) that doesn't resemble Gertrude Stein's face. The story was interesting, but the presentation left me puzzled about what was "marvelous" about the painting. In summary, in spite of some minor flaws, this is an excellent course for someone planning to visit the Met, or for someone who wants to better understand their own metropolitan art museum.
Date published: 2014-09-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Would give it 4.5 stars-if I could I thoroughly enjoyed the course and the professor. Professor Brettel is an amiable and knowledgeable guide, providing a look at the Metropolitan's vast collection by departments as well as some of the museum's history and development. I would have given it 4.5 stars if I could-it was better than good but not up to the level of Professor Kloss's courses, in my opinion. Worthwhile nonetheless.
Date published: 2014-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Gift, in Several Ways This course was a gift. I wasn't sure how enjoyable it would be to view a museum virtually, as a tourist guided from place to place, with no random wanderings as displays piqued my interest. Would I miss the sense of wonder that is usually my response to items of antiquity and rarity? I need not have worried. If you are an avid museum aficionado, there are only two situations in which you need to view this series. The first situation, if you are not able to attend the museum in person, is to at least get a feel for what you are missing. The second is if you plan to attend, or have attended, to help you plan your tour or to understand what you saw. Professor Richard Brettell is fun. He uses his expertise and knowledge to introduce you to the departments of the museum, the history of the museum, and the holdings and collections it possesses. His charming manner engages you while his encyclopedic knowledge of art and art history gives you a feeling for what is there, why it's important, and where it fits in the scope of the art world. It is probably a testimonial to my lack of knowledge of the art world, but his explanation of how the items in the collections are related really brought a depth to the experience. I think previously, I had dismissed the donor tags as irrelevant bits of egotism instead of viewing them as a relationship between the items in a collection. As the professor relates it, presenting the entire museum in 24 half-hour units is impossible, so he has carefully chosen from millions of artifacts, a set which is impressive, Some I expected (European and American painting),some unexpected but predictable in retrospect (Fabrics, Armor and Musical Instruments) and some incredibly mind-blowing (Persian and Roman architecture and antiquities, and the period rooms). And if you view this small sample size in the correct light, it gives some enterprising company the opportunity to release several more sets of discs showing more of this museum's displays. What company that would be, I cannot imagine. As for the worry that I would not enjoy a virtual tour of a museum, it was unfounded. All tours of museums, even those you walk through, are virtual in a real sense. The museum staff would prefer it if you limited your interaction with the displayed items. True, you have to miss the awesome 21' width of the painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” but juggling the Nazca stirrup vessels is not encouraged even if you happen across them in the museum.
Date published: 2014-07-17
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disapointment Dr. Brettel apparently knows his subject well, but too much time is spent in talk behind the lectern and not enough in viewing the works of art. In general I feel the course tries to cover too much ground with not enough lectures and is therefore sketchy and superficial.
Date published: 2013-09-04
Rated 2 out of 5 by from only introductory, not much substance Prof. Brettel guides us through the immensity of the Metropolitan museum. This is a gigantic task and thus he finds himself lost in the abundance. Unfortunately, he chose to make his visit into a catalogue, with sections of different interests and he often needs to review sections that are not within his real area of expertise. The results are, as a result, often boring…. This opus has to be compared to the glorious review of the impressionist, where prof. Brettel was excited and exciting. Prof. Brettel chose for the more serious museum more sedated darker suites and finally prevents his (colorful??) ties from flying out by keeping his jacket buttoned. Prof. Brettel return to the best of himself when he enters into the Robert Lehman Collection, where he finds himself comfortable and competent, In a final review he dedicates a chapter to a long list of donors. New York has always had many extraordinarily wealthy people, and if you are one of them, it is easy to develop great tastes and great collections. They donated work of art to the museum for self-aggrandizement as well as for tax purpose. No need to further celebrate their wealth. All told this course offers a pallid idea of this great museum. If you cannot see it personally, this review will stimulate your curiosity
Date published: 2013-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More from Dr. Brettell, please! This is my fourth viewing of Dr. Brettell's course on the Met (which my husband and I enjoy visiting as often as we can get to New York) and every time I get more out of it. He so thoroughly delights in the museum to which he introduces us that his love is infectious and you want to jump in your car and drive there ASAP. He also has a wonderful sense of humor that pervades the lectures. Just a note - his course on the Louvre is just as excellent! PLEASE ask him to create courses on other great museums, including the National Gallery of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine arts, the Getty Museum etc etc. This is a real gift to the viewer! A very satisfied long time customer
Date published: 2013-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful. A Joy. (Even if you can't see the Met.) This is a thoroughly delightful, lighthearted and engrossing - if very brief - introduction to one of the world's great art museums. *But* - it is very worth taking even if you have no plans for visiting the Met. The great strengths of the course are the art (duh) and the professor. Professor Brettell speaks with an infectious enthusiasm and a constant smile. He is highly knowledgeable, very clear, extremely well organized, and a pleasure to listen to. In addition to describing the art beautifully, he points out connections between works in various parts of the museum and in different genres, spends some helpful time on the architecture and arrangement of the museum itself, reviews its history, and describes some of the key figures among its donors, trustees, and staff. All of this makes for a course which never flags in its interest. The art, of course, is extraordinary. Some time is given to departments as diverse as Islamic, Asian, Egyptian, and pre-Columbian art, as well as musical instruments, arms and armor, and prints and drawing, among others. The greatest part of the course, however, is devoted to European and American (i.e., U.S.) painting and sculpture, with a substantial amount of decorative arts thrown in. And, TGC people, I very much appreciate your devoting so much of the viewing time to the objects themselves, rather than to watching the professor speak (which has been a problem in some other art courses.) Although the course covers much of art history, it is not a course in the history of art per se. Movements and schools are not systematically explained, and the discussion of the individual works is primarily at a descriptive level, rather than academically analytic. (For an outstanding art history / art appreciation course, see "How to Look at and Understand Great Art" by Professor Sharon Hirsh.) The course is, however, enjoyable from beginning to end. I recommend it for everyone, regardless of your artistic background, and whether or not you are likely to get to the Met anytime soon. But - of course! - the next time you're anywhere near New York, be sure to go!
Date published: 2013-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Introduction to a Great Musuem This course does exactly what it purports to do: it 'introduces one to this great musuem,' and is, hence, the best possible invitation for those of us who have never been fortunate enough to get to New York -- or to visit this museum -- to hop on a plane in order to do so. That this is the intent of the course is made very clear at the outset by one of the most knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and friendly experts I have yet encountered. That said, If a person is already familiar with the Met, or if one is more narrowly focused on a particular kind, period, artist, or country of origin of art, then this is probably not the course for them. The range of the Met's holdings, and the exquisite beauty and wonder of so many of them, is truly amazing. I enjoyed the professor's having himself photographed next to, or standing before, various pieces of art or sculpture in order to help us appreciate the scale of particular pieces, some of them quite massive and others delicately small. Although our professor did his best to get me excited about more modern art (that of the 20th Century), I remain largely unmoved by it, save for the early 20th Century Impressionists. This is a personal preference, however, and in no way the fault of the course or its presentor. If one is thinking about visiting New York, or is trying to narrow down which 'top' musuems to take the time to visit, this course is an excellent assessment of the wonders of the Met.
Date published: 2012-06-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not particularly Inspiring... I don't particularly recommend this course. Here's why... The TGC art courses by Prof Kloss and Scalen really captured my heart and imagination for fine art, and I thought this course might bolster that interest for a trip to the NY art museum. It didn't. It's more like a friend kind of... rattling on... telling you all the stuff you should see when you go to NY, but not helping you understand why you should want to see them. The lecturer lacks the kind, dignified manner in presenting the work that we all enjoyed with Prof. Kloss. With Kloss' courses, it's like "you can't put it down." This one is "you don't want to pick it back up." THAT SAID, there are a few categories of folks that I really think it would be good for: *If you already love fine art deeply and are happy to see it again through another person's eyes. *If you are definitely going to NY and are going to the Museum, it would help you pick out exactly the things you want to see in the particular areas of the museum. You could just watch the lectures on the art eras that interest you. *If you live in NY and want to be able to show your friends what a great resource you have there. You could even show your friends a couple of the lecturers to get them looking forward to seeing the stuff they want to see. *Something I liked....The presentation of the art in this course had a very nice new element: It showed a photo of the art work, and then showed the lecturer standing in front of it at the museum. Seeing the setting and the relative scale worked well. Upshot: See Prof Kloss' art courses first.
Date published: 2012-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Especially good for the occasional visitor Since I live far from New York, and my wife hates any big city, a visit to the Metropolitan Museum is a regrettably rare opportunity, with a limited amount of time available. Any person in my situation can be functionally overwhelmed by this center's vastness and depth, and will appreciate a good guide. I viewed this course prior to visiting the Museum, and found it an excellent resource, both to selecting the areas to visit, and to appreciating the areas which you can visit. The course format has distinct advantages over a book, a web page, or a simple video, including an enthusiastic and knowledgeable presenter who can give a mobile "tour" and highlight areas you are likely to visit, as you will be seeing them. It's a good way to blend the depth of a written Guidebook with the physical enjoyment of a visit. I found this course enhanced my latest visit and will review it again when I return (or when I especially wish I could). One suggestion -- if you visit in the summer, plan to spend some time after your visit in the outdoors of Central Park to let the grandeur of your visit sink in. This idea -- a course focusing on sites that many of us cannot visit frequently, or cannot visit at all -- might be a good one to continue expanding on.
Date published: 2012-03-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It's The Title The title of this course is The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is exactly what Professor Brettell covers and does a wonderful job doing so. Yes, he is passionate, animated and infectious in his discussion of the artwork, but primarily of the museum itself. I've read other reviews who seem to have had their nose bent out of joint over the fact that Professor Brettell did not go into more depth and detail about the artwork, the artists and the style. If that is what you are looking for, then purchase other TC courses such as The World's Greatest Paintings, A History of European Art, or How to Look at and Understand Great Art. This course, as its title states, is about The Metropolitan Museum of Art. For those who have never been there, take the course and go! For those like me, who have not been there in a few decades, take the course and go. It will so greatly enhance your experience at the Met that you will be beyond grateful that you did. As for Professor Brettell himself, you can't beat his passion, enthusiasm and love for what he teaches.
Date published: 2012-03-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good trip planner Prior reviewers have certainly felt two ways about this course and it's easy to understand why. If one is looking for an in-depth examination of the museum's contents, this isn't it. For a fairly quick survey of it's many departments, however, and particularly if one is planning a trip to the City, it has considerable value. As I've said in previous reviews of Dr. Brettell's courses, his enthusiasm is infectuous and adds to the appeal of his presentation. I do wish, however, he'd lose some of the adjectives--marvelous, wonderful, extraordinary, and so on. After a while, they get pretty gushy.
Date published: 2012-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course The professor is knowledgable, engaging and interesting. The course is wonderful. Buy it. I have been to the museum many times, but it was amazing to have a subject matter expert to take you on a guided tour of each room and discuss the aesthetic value of certain pieces. You learn about objects and pieces that the general public would not even know existed.
Date published: 2011-12-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Check Out a Different Museum This course was given to me as a surprise gift from a very dear friend in order to cheer me up at a point awhile back when I was feeling rather depressed. While this was the shortest course I had from the Great Courses (only 24 lectures), it felt as though it was going to be one of the longer ones. I wasn't very far into the course when I began to realize how disappointed I was becoming. The instructor, while certainly well-credentialed, oftentimes seemed to "hold back" on pertinent information, instead citing more trivial notes about the piece in question (although, in at least 2 instance, I wasn't convinced he was still discussing what the course outline claimed him to be). The instructor does cover the Met by its various sections, so the course is fairly representative of the museum. Naturally, just as if visiting the actual museum, there are going to be sections that I truly enjoy, and others for which I really don’t have much interest. But this is not what is at issue. While I should have been totally geeked when a lecture containing discussion on Constable or Van Ruisdael came about, I wasn’t. The presentation was lacking to such a degree that I found myself getting distracted frequently even when pieces by my “heroes of the art world” were discussed. I wound up returning this course, applying its credit towards the purchase of a different course. Yes, I am an evil, despicable human being for trading in a gift - especialy given the thought behind this one. However, I wound up enjoying the replacement course immensly. I suppose that one day soon, I will confess my contemptable actions to that dear&thoughtful friend....
Date published: 2011-11-01
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