The World's Greatest Paintings

Course No. 7126
Professor William Kloss, M.A.
Independent Art Historian
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Course No. 7126
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Course Overview

Great paintings challenge us to understand them, to penetrate their mysteries, and to appreciate their riches. But within the vast history of art, there exist only a small number of paintings that transcend the traditional role of art to become cultural signifiers—works that allow us to comprehend more deeply the world and our place within it.

So what distinguishes one of these select masterworks? Dazzling in their visual impact and their grip on the imagination, the world's greatest paintings

  • challenge the conventions of the art of their times, extending or transforming the painter's visual language and broadening the impact of art in Western societies;
  • serve as visual anchors of faith, politics, philosophy, mythology, literature, and every phase and aspect of social history; and
  • depict human life in visions of enduring power, reflecting and affecting the times and cultures in which they were created.

Now, in 24 illuminating lectures, The World's Greatest Paintings leads you in a compelling discovery of some of the most significant paintings in Western art. Taking you from the 14th century to the 20th, distinguished art historian and veteran Great Courses Professor William Kloss reveals a group of works that, in his expert judgment, rank among the greatest paintings ever made.

The World's Greatest Paintings explores one of the supreme legacies of human life, opening rich perspectives on Western civilization through your encounter with these daring and sublime works of art.

Enter the Richness of the Painter's World

From the opening lecture, Professor Kloss demonstrates that his aim is "to make you feel welcome and comfortable in the company of paintings." With this focus, he guides you in a direct and engaging encounter with the images themselves, challenging you to consider how and why these paintings affect us, and inviting you to join him in looking deeply into the painter's multidimensional visual realm.

Focusing on 65 masterpieces of Western painting, including key works by Giotto, Titian, Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Picasso, The World's Greatest Paintings offers you a vivid, visceral encounter with genius, shining light on the unique technical, stylistic, and expressive achievements of each painting.

As a foundation for the inquiry, you consider ways of defining greatness in painting:

  • Uniqueness: The qualities that set a painting apart from all others in a way that influences or changes the course of art
  • Impact: A painting's effect on viewers, both initial and cumulative
  • Emotional and intellectual resonance: The deepening, comprehensive experience of a painting, justifying its initial impression

Throughout the series, you witness the depth of painting's interface with Western social institutions, culture, and thought.

Beginning with the 14th-century religious masters, you see how painting affirmed the foundations of Christian theology in the glorious images of Duccio, Masaccio, and Grünewald. You see how painters responded dramatically to political events in David's stark portrayal of the assassinated Jean-Paul Marat and in Delacroix's allegorical Liberty Leading the People. And you see Western social culture eloquently revealed in scenes of life by Bruegel, Steen, Hals, and Manet.

Rather than tracing particular schools or "isms," the lectures are arranged chronologically, showing what painters of contrasting traditions and cultures were doing in the same time periods, thus following the progressive unfolding of each painter's art. And with most lectures limited to only two to three paintings, you enjoy the rare chance to hear an expert talk at length about each carefully selected work.

Landmarks of a History-Shaping Art Form

As a core feature of the course, your study of these canvases builds the skill of viewing a painting with real discernment through an enthralling examination of the elements of composition, technique, and expression.

Among many iconic works, Professor Kloss offers a fresh look at these legendary paintings:

  • Leonardo's The Last Supper: One of the most influential paintings in the history of Western art, Leonardo's magnum opus achieves an extraordinary blending of vivid psychological detail and rich theological symbolism.
  • Velazquez's Maids of Honor: The artist's tour de force composition portraying courtiers, retainers, and an implied royal presence, its technical mastery and intriguing ambiguities have been discussed for centuries.
  • Monet's Water Lilies: Monet's lush, shimmering color and light in this grand series of paintings place it at the pinnacle of 20th-century art.

Your investigation also highlights some fascinating, less familiar masterworks:

  • Geertgen's Madonna with Musical Angels: A radiant work of genius, this small-format work pulsates with layer upon layer of minute, symbolic details.
  • Gorky's The Plough and the Song, 1947: A triumph of abstract art, this glowing canvas evokes nature-based forms in a joyous, sunlit field of color.

Professor Kloss draws your attention to numerous points of entry for appreciating a painting, showing you how to evaluate composition (the artist's arrangement of pictorial elements within the frame), style, interpretation, and technical elements such as light, color, and brushwork.

Above all, the qualities of these paintings come alive through Professor Kloss's vivid demonstration of what it is to look deeply, through his richly incisive reflections on the paintings. He shows you how Rembrandt expresses deep emotion in The Jewish Bride through a liquid modeling of hands and jeweled fabric, in paint that "lives and moves." You share his experience as a viewer "breathing the air" of Claude Lorrain's magnificent landscapes. And, with remarkable candor, he conveys his own wrenching response to Hans Hofmann's to JFK: thousand roots did die with thee.

Teaching of a Rare and Penetrating Dimension

Speaking with a passionate conviction of the value of these works, Professor Kloss deepens your enjoyment by delving into the stories behind their creation and by highlighting fascinating details of the paintings.

In Van Eyck's Madonna of the Canon van der Paele, 1436, you learn of the highly unusual placement of a pair of eyeglasses in the composition and its relation to the biblical Magnificat in "magnifying" the Lord. You learn that the masterful pictorial composition of Whistler's mother seated in profile came about because she was too frail to stand, as originally planned. And you learn the details of Edvard Munch's dark vision while walking on a bridge at night, which found expression in his famous The Scream.

Taking his cue from the deeper motives that inspired these great works, Professor Kloss uses pictorial analysis to bring you directly into the presence of the extraordinary, elemental power of these paintings—their power to astonish, to uplift, to unsettle, to ultimately shake our sense of reality, leading us to richer domains of experience and of the appreciation of life.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Greatness in Painting
    What makes a masterpiece? Look at criteria for defining greatness in painting, including a work's uniqueness and the quality of its impact, both immediate and cumulative. x
  • 2
    The Majesty of Duccio and Giotto
    Your exploration begins with two composite masterworks of Italian painting. In the Maestá altarpiece by Duccio, grasp the elements of the painting's visual impact and spatial carrying power, its dramatic composition and imagery. In the Arena Chapel frescoes by Giotto, study the powerful depictions of devotion and grief in two narrative scenes. x
  • 3
    Acts of Faith—Masaccio, Van Eyck, Van der Weyden
    This lecture traces landmark religious imagery in 15th-century painting. Define Masaccio's narrative ability in two biblical fresco scenes from the Brancacci Chapel. Then discover Jan van Eyck's brilliant melding of realistic portraiture and sacred images in Madonna of the Canon van der Paele, and the emotional intensity and compositional richness of Rogier van der Weyden's Deposition of Christ. x
  • 4
    The Diversity of Piero, Mantegna, Botticelli
    You now encounter three major painters of the Italian Renaissance. In Piero della Francesca's Resurrection, reflect on the fresco's commanding image of the risen Christ and its mathematical composition. Later, contemplate Andrea Mantegna's extraordinary innovations in "illusionistic" painting and the luminous mysteries of Botticelli's Primavera. x
  • 5
    The Devotion of Bellini, Geertgen, Dürer
    You continue with three extraordinary evocations of religious devotion. In Bellini's St. Francis in the Desert, witness the portrayal of the saint's passion for nature by means of divine light. Study the multilayered pictorial details enriching Geertgen's Madonna with Musical Angels and the spiritual import in Dürer's monumental Self-Portrait. x
  • 6
    Masterworks by Leonardo, Raphael, Correggio
    Track the dramatic interaction of the human figures in Leonardo's iconic Last Supper and the composition's rich theological symbolism. Then define Raphael's embodiment of High Renaissance ideals in Baldassare Castiglione, and the poetic eroticism of Correggio's illusionistic Jupiter and Io. x
  • 7
    Great Ensembles—Michelangelo and Grünewald
    In scenes from Michelangelo's stunning Sistine Chapel ceiling, study the compositional power of The Creation of Adam and the weighty emotion of the ominous Prophet Jeremiah. Continuing with a highly contrasting masterwork of German art, penetrate the mystical evocation of suffering and ecstasy in Matthias Grünewald's Isenheim Altarpiece. x
  • 8
    Ideal and Real—Giorgione, Titian, Holbein
    You encounter the Concert Champêtre (1510–1511), worked on by both Giorgione and Titian, uncovering the enigmatic imagery of its Arcadian scene. Then study Titian's radiant portrayal of the Virgin Mary in the Assumption and the richly detailed execution of Holbein's portrait, Charles de Solier. x
  • 9
    Living and Dying—Bruegel, El Greco, Caravaggio
    Explore three contrasting 16th-century masterworks. In Bruegel's Hunters in the Snow, investigate the artist's layering of descriptive scenes within a vast space. Conclude with the haunting details and symbolic compositions of El Greco's Burial of Count Orgaz and Caravaggio's The Entombment. x
  • 10
    Life Stories by Ter Brugghen, Rubens, Steen
    Probe Hendrick Ter Brugghen's tender, understated evocation of the healing of St. Sebastian. Then learn about Rubens's ingenuity as a court painter in his operatic Landing of Marie de Medici in Marseilles, and the masterful organization and roguish imagery of Jan Steen's The way you hear it, is the way you sing it. x
  • 11
    Inside Vermeer, Velázquez, Rembrandt
    Explore three introspective works of genius. In View of Delft, reflect on Vermeer's purpose in this becalmed, idealized rendering of his city. Also decode the ambiguous, philosophical composition of Velazquez's Maids of Honor, and Rembrandt's richly costumed, stoic portrayal of himself in his Self-Portrait of 1658. x
  • 12
    Spirit and Thought—Hals, Rembrandt, La Tour
    Study Hals's penetrating treatment of elderly women in a Haarlem group portrait. Then explore Rembrandt's expression of a couple's deep emotion through an intimate configuration of hands and fabric, and La Tour's evocation of mystical contemplation through a flame. x
  • 13
    The Serenity of Poussin, Claude, Watteau
    Define the measured grace and brilliant use of color, shape, and gesture in Poussin's Eliezer and Rebecca. Study the elements of Lorrain's consummate mastery of the landscape, and the dreamlike qualities of Watteau's wistful fantasy, the Embarkation for Cythera. x
  • 14
    In Contrast—Chardin, Tiepolo, Gainsborough
    Three diverse works reveal 18th-century achievements in painting. In a small still life, ponder Chardin's delicate, intimate portrayal of game animals in death. Then discover Tiepolo's apotheosis of fresco painting in Apollo and the Four Continents, and Gainsborough's ingenious melding of sitter and landscape in his portrait Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan. x
  • 15
    Dark Images of David, Goya, Friedrich
    Portrayals of brutality open this lecture. Observe David's merging of idealized presentation and realism in the stark Death of Marat, and Goya's bitter vision of military retaliation in Third of May, 1808. Finally, study the Romantic evocation of nature in Friedrich's Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon. x
  • 16
    The Worlds of Constable, Turner, Delacroix
    Compare the styles and originality of British landscape masters Constable and Turner, highlighting Constable's compositional technique and signature cloud-filled skies, plus Turner's bravura use of color and light. In Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People, examine the artist's allegorical fusing of symbol and reality in the heat of France's 1830 revolution. x
  • 17
    Dark to Bright—Courbet, Church, Monet
    French and American canvases reveal bold innovations in 19th-century painting. Contemplate the elements of Realism in Gustave Courbet's sprawling, slow-motion composition of a rural funeral, followed by Frederic Church's dynamically original depiction of Niagara Falls. Then study Monet's blaze of sunlight and color on a snowscape in The Magpie. x
  • 18
    Alone and Together—Whistler, Degas, Renoir
    In the ever-familiar image of Whistler's mother seated in profile, observe the superlative blending of abstract, formal composition with the intimate portrayal of a living woman. Follow with the pictorial riches and psychological ambiguities of Degas' In a Café, and the virtuoso staging and color of Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party. x
  • 19
    Unlike Any Other—Sargent, Manet, Seurat
    In John Singer Sargent's elusive portrait of the daughters of a friend, ponder the unusual placement and psychological separation of the subjects. Then, explore the deliberate unreality of Manet's Bar at the Folies-Bergère, and Seurat's suspended, Pointillist rendering of Parisians in A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. x
  • 20
    Close Observation—Cézanne, Van Gogh, Homer
    Uncover the structural geometry and unity of focus in Cézanne's The Card Players, as they create the weighty, timeless concentration of the figures. Also witness the structure and balance of Van Gogh's sun-baked vista in The Harvest, and Winslow Homer's dramatic merging of self with subject in Fox Hunt. x
  • 21
    The Human Condition—Munch, Matisse, Schiele
    Analyze Munch's pictorial composition of The Scream, as its pulsating visual field embodies the figure's cry of psychic terror. In stunning contrast, study Matisse's lyrical, floating colors and figures in The Joy of Life, then conclude with Egon Schiele's The Family and its bold evocation of his own hopes and fears. x
  • 22
    Art in Time of War—Monet and Picasso
    Two milestones of 20th-century art: Learn about the creation and the architectural display of Monet's transcendent series of water-lilies, parsing his superlative brushwork reflecting sky, clouds, and sunlight on water. Then take apart the writhing, nightmarish images in Picasso's Guernica, evincing his pained response to the atrocities of war. x
  • 23
    Time and Memory—Magritte, Hopper, Gorky
    In Magritte's Time Transfixed, observe how the artist calmly dislocates our sense of temporal and physical reality. In the famous Nighthawks, study Hopper's careful, deliberate design evoking the silent separateness of the figures. Finally, trace Gorky's inspired craft in bringing to life the joyful explosion of color in The Plough and the Song. x
  • 24
    Expressive Abstractions—Pollock and Hofmann
    Track Jackson Pollock's whole-body approach to putting paint on canvas, and tease out the layered color fields in his elemental force of nature, Lavender Mist. Then contrast Hans Hofmann's mastery of geometry and color with his brutal, agonized creation, to JFK. Conclude with reflections on the power of great art. x

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  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 112-page printed course guidebook
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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 112-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider

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Your professor

William Kloss

About Your Professor

William Kloss, M.A.
Independent Art Historian
Professor William Kloss is an independent art historian and scholar who lectures and writes about a wide range of European and American art. He was educated at Oberlin College, where he earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Art History. He continued his postgraduate work on a teaching fellowship at the University of Michigan and was then awarded a Fulbright Fellowship for two years of study in Rome. As Assistant Professor...
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World's Greatest Paintings is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 120.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great presentation I have a better appreation of these great artist. Fine preaentation.
Date published: 2017-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from the worlds greatest paintings I have purchased all theart videos and I'm satisfied with all of them. Some are better than others but they are all very good.
Date published: 2017-02-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Art for Science Majors I thoroughly enjoy the scholarly presentations. Depth, clarity with a touch of subtle whimsy. I can only wish to follow the advice of the presenter and visit the sites someday.
Date published: 2017-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Introduction to Art Appreciation You cannot go wrong if you decide to purchase this course. We selected the DVD version as a supplement to high-school level homeschool and, because I never took art appreciation as an undergraduate, I had no idea what to expect. Even if I had had expectations, however, the program would have exceeded them. Instructor Kloss' deep knowledge and passion for his subject opened our eyes to aspects of painting that we would have never considered, and that alone is reason enough to make the purchase and time spent worthwhile. In addition, Kloss' formal yet warm teaching style is so compelling that he could read the phone book and you'd walk away feeling like you'd learned something about how telephone companies work. (This is in contrast to some instructors whose delivery and mannerisms interfered with our appreciation of their material.) We intend to watch the lectures over and over, because they are jam-packed with information, they are beautiful to behold, and they enrich us as human beings.
Date published: 2017-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intellect and Emotion SO in Harmony w. Dr. Kloss This review is simultaneously for Dutch Masters (course 7180) and World’s Greatest Paintings (7126), both presented by Dr. Kloss. Not to worry: comments regarding the two courses close out my review. But most important is the information in my review on Dr. Kloss. Simply put, Dr. Kloss is an utterly superb speaker and lecturer. But choice of superlative adjectives on my part still would not convey much to you. Instead then, I give the following characterization of this truly outstanding lecturer. 100% objective fact-of-the-matter is that this speaker has no “uh”s in his speech – completely devoid of them. Such a fact is not crucially important. However, if a speaker is “always” saying “uh”, then the ever-present “uh”s can be a distraction. Nonetheless, it is not opinion here. Dr. Kloss does not say “uh”. OK, more substantively now: Dr. Kloss is a high-precision speaker – both literally (in his enunciation) and semantically (in his excellent word choices). Borrowing the language of linguistics, Dr. Kloss’ prosody (or melody of speech) is not cold and removed and overly-studied for such an erudite and high-precision speaker. I have heard (CD) a Great Course wherein such was the case: a high-precision speaker who was erudite but delivered in a totally overly-studied manner – as if he were reading the “book report” he wrote. Such cold, withdrawn, overly-studied speaking is NOT Dr. Kloss. Enough on that analysis of Dr. Kloss’ speaking manner and on to THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT I HAVE TO MAKE IN MY ENTIRE REVIEW: Dr. Kloss is SIMULTANEOUSLY and FULLY-HARMONIOUSLY COMBINING INTELLECTUAL IDEAS AND EMOTION in what he presents. For being such an erudite, knowledgeable, well-controlled, well-organized, high-precision enunciator, and high-precision semantics chooser, it is truly remarkable how much emotion Dr. Kloss conveys. Some of his descriptions brought tears to my eyes. But, totally honestly, a couple (or more) times I literally had tears in my eyes due to Dr. Kloss’ presentation itself: how wonderfully he engaged my cognitive mind and my emotion and that he did that for me – well I was literally weeping with joy. In our world are so many things we do for each other: cashiers taking our money, folks changing the oil in our car, doctors trying to fix us, et cetera. That’s great that we don’t have to do it all ourselves, á la Robinson Crusoe. But then there are folks that purely bring us joy: entertainers, athletes, artists, musicians. And then there’s Dr. Kloss who simultaneously – and fully and deeply – engages our cognitive mind and deep emotion. I’m tearing up even thinking about how this person accomplished this for me. That (preceeding paragraph) may – to you my review reader – seem overly hyperbolic, but, it is not. I literally was weepy with the beauty of it all – the art, the understanding, the emotion, and the emotion from what Dr. Kloss himself was doing (the meta-knowledge that he was doing it). Somehow I hope Dr. Kloss receives word of this review. I want to thank him for the marvelous way he so fully engaged me both intellectually and emotionally. And I hope Dr. Kloss continues to live with a very much longer and very happy life. He SO enriched my life. Interestingly – and then my promised comparison of the two courses – Dr. Kloss himself spoke words on the topic of combining the intellect and emotion. In the World’s Greatest painting course, Dr. Kloss said, quote: “Emotion and intellect are not separate analytical concepts. But intertwining strands in a living painting.” Dr. Kloss: you made me weep with joy realizing how you did this yourself in your presentation. I wish you a long and happy life still to come. Continuing the thought, Dr. Kloss said in lecture 6 of the 7126 course, “…self confident robust man who seems to be the embodiment of the ideal Renaissance humanism. A person whose intellect and emotions are in perfect harmony and under the control of wisdom.” That well-developed sentiment, my dear (and patient) review reader, is fully the case with Dr. Kloss himself. As for the two courses, I preferred slightly the Dutch Masters (7180) over World’s Greatest Paintings (7126). 7126 has equal counts per allotted historical time period of the paintings. I see no need for that. For example if there were more superb candidates in say the Renaissance or Baroque era, then include more of those era’s paintings than in the middle ages or more modern era. The other small quibble is that I think the World’s Greatest course over-emphasized religious paintings. The 7180 (Dutch Masters) course I therefore liked better. There is a surprising variety there (hence the 36 lectures). The subtitle about “age of Rembrandt” is very misleading. The Dutch Masters is not Rembrandt + footnotes! Still, if you want an even larger variety, then the World’s Greatest will have that – including, by the way, many paintings from the Dutch Masters (some of which are merely referenced rather than “selected”). But don’t get me wrong: There were paintings I loved in the Greatest Paintings course and they were not just the selections from the Dutch masters that were what I liked. Really I think you should get both courses.
Date published: 2017-02-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very well done - App needs work Having seen may of the paintings Professor Kloss talks about, he does an outstanding job. Whether you just want to know more about famous paintings, or are planing to actually see them ,this course is for you.
Date published: 2016-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I ordered this course expecting it to be great and it was.
Date published: 2016-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course! This course was wonderful and I greatly enjoyed it! My one complaint is that the Great Courses DVDs do not have closed captioning for people who have difficulty hearing.
Date published: 2016-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from technology delivery woefully BAD!!! The course content and professor are just fine. What is NOT fine is that the technological glitch that has prevented me from finishing the course via video streaming has not worked for 2 weeks and repeated phone calls have given me only, "our tech staff is working feverishly to fix this" -- sorry, not good enough. I've tried safari and chrome browsers to no avail. Also, TGC has not stopped sending me print materials as requested and another course, also video streamed, also does not appear.
Date published: 2016-08-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worlds Greatest Paintings Prof Kloss as usual provides interesting material in a clear and concise manner. He brings real meaning to the art not only clarifying the concepts and technique involved, but the artists intent. He presentst fits into the history of the period as well as the history of art . Great job .
Date published: 2016-07-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The great Paintings. This was an idiosyncratic presentation of this art historian's selection of a spectrum of great paintings. It was interesting, informative and provocative, and he did not choose the "top ten," as it were, but rather illustrative masterworks from a continuum of historical periods. I liked this history and the placement of the works in context of their times, and to a lesser extent their personal situations. However, I am an amateur painter, and I wanted to learn more about the technical aspects of the paintings, why which media, pigments chosen, why certain size or shape, and so on and so on. There was some of that, but I wanted more. I also wanted more of an attempt to address the impossibly subjective.: what is the WOW factor in this painting, and why? The DVD is clear, and the reproductions excellent. Technically well done.
Date published: 2016-07-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Analysis, Great Presentation, Great Passion video download version . The course material and the initial comments by professor Kloss make it clear that "The World's" portion of the course title is confined to Western Europe and North America and "Greatest" means professor Kloss' selections on the day. He goes so far as to comment that his very last selection would likely not be on anyone else's list, and gives very clearly and convincingly reasons why it is on his list. Further his selection is limited by the course length of 24, 30 minute lectures to about 60 paintings, and further limited by selecting only one painting from all but two artists. So we get a self-portrait by Rembrandt, but not the "Night Watch" and "The Last Supper" but not "Mona Lisa" by Leonardo. But if this seems like nit-picking, it is not. After all in any great list, many deserving are by necessity left out, not for merit, but for time and space. Rather professor Kloss spends his time, roughly 10 minutes per entry dissecting and analyzing each painting, and giving us a little on the artist, the subject matter and the cultural context of the times necessary to further understand the painting. To be sure this is not an Art History course, so no doubt this series will be of more benefit to those who have a background in the subject, but even for those of us who only know what we like, there is a wealth of information and insight to be gained. Professor Kloss' lecture style is a bit more formal than many presenters as he seems most at home standing behind the lectern, which did not bother me, but has been an issue for some reviewers. Rather I found is measured presentation style, replete with a large and well chosen vocabulary, and his occasional low-key sense of humor to be both engaging and informative. But do not be fooled by his quiet style, as his passion for what he sees (and helps us see) in some of this paintings is evident and inspiring. I will purchase other courses with him as the lecturer. For those who don't have a sound art background, taking Sharon Hirsh's course, "How to Look at and Understand Great Art" will be beneficial. It was for me. Highly Recommended
Date published: 2016-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great exposure to a topic I knew nothing about I had absolutely zero exposure to this materiel prior to taking the course, so I went into it as the proverbial Blank Slate. I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Professor Kloss is a great presenter who nicely sets up the course at large and each class within. He imparts an appreciation for painting in general, the artists, and the specific paintings under examination. Outside the context of the course materiel, it was a real joy for me to spend time with someone so immersed in their life’s intellectual love – it left me a bit envious. If nothing else, the opportunity to spend time with someone so privileged was worth taking the course. There were moments when I thought the analysis drifted into the far-fetched region, but, looking introspectively, that probably is more a function of my own unwashed nature than a valid critique of Professor Kloss’s analysis. Even those moments, however, were useful in stretching my mind’s hidebound ways. The bottom line is if you are looking for something that may be outside your normal academic pursuits, then this is a great course to satisfy that desire.
Date published: 2016-02-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eloquent and impassioned William Kloss is an impassioned commentator about the paintings he has selected here -- informed, insightful, and leavened with wry humour. Surely he is one of the most eloquent lecturers we have had the pleasure to enjoy with Great Courses. I would recommend any art appreciation course taught by Kloss.
Date published: 2016-02-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Trip through History with Art I thoroughly enjoyed this course. William Kloss' presentation is superb, just as he describes many of these masterpieces. He balances history, biography of artist and analysis of the piece perfectly, telling a series of short stories. I may not agree with his selection of the most significant pieces for some artists, but it didn't diminish in the slightest.
Date published: 2016-01-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Brilliant I highly recommend this course, it was thoroughly pleasurable. Not to be missed.
Date published: 2016-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A pleasant voyage through the World of Fine Art Prof. William Kloss´s Course of World´s Greatest Paintings is highly recommended for everyone who wish to take a trip through the world of sensitive pleasures of the Great Art. First of all, Prof. Kloss is very charismatic and kind as a lecturer. Although my professional formation is Law I always had a passion for the Great Art, specially painting. And this Course is something extraordinary to explore. Prof. Kloss guides us through a very representative selection of many paintings and painters from the Middle Ages to the present. He shows us deep knowledge about the matter and teaches us how to "read a great painting" and be able to understand the painter´s message wrote in an artistic way. No words but a specific message made through colours, silhouettes, shadows, expressions, little details, secret lines and so on. I was hoping Prof Kloss could give us an entire course about Leonardo and the others great painters.
Date published: 2015-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Definitely a Top 10 for me. I tend to gravitate towards the Science type courses, but I decided to expand my horizons a bit with this one. I'm REALLY glad I did. I have very little in the way of Art knowledge and/or experience, but I felt like I gained a far better appreciation for painting after going through this course. Professor Kloss has a clear passion for the subject and I'm glad he chose his own arbitrary list as opposed to one put together via consensus, or some other method. Learning about his own, individual reactions to paintings actually helped me better understand how I might be able to better appreciate Art myself. I have already purchased another of Professor Kloss' courses & I'm really looking forward to geting started with it.
Date published: 2015-04-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent I really enjoyed this course. I thought that the professor made excellent use of the online format. The lectures were well organized and informative, and I learned more about paintings I already knew something about (Sistine Chapel, Last Supper, Guernica), and learned about some incredible paintings I hadn't known about before. Great Course!
Date published: 2014-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A bonbon A delightful and fulfilling review of some of the best paintings. There will never be a consensus on the best: these are well chosen. Don't miss this course.
Date published: 2014-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Delicious survey William Kloss knows his stuff, and delights in the odd fact, the neglected angle, the unnoted similarity. A great guide to the great works of art.
Date published: 2014-12-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Poetic Descriptions of Paintings I have completed over 60 Great Courses--all presented by great professors. Of these, for me, Professor Kloss is the most literate in his presentations. Not only did I enjoy what he said, but how he said it. His vocabulary is extensive and his words paint pictures of paintings that evoke understanding of the artist and the art. He has extensive historical knowledge which he associates with the era of the painting. He has rich knowledge of the Bible, theology and mythology which is the central theme of many early paintings. He correlates subjects with theological or mythological interpretations. I most enjoyed the last lecture--Expressive Abstractions--Pollock and Hoffman. His passion for paintings and his emotion for J.F.K.: A Thousand Roots Did Die with Thee is poignant. His presentations are courtly, spiced with humor, and occasional twinkles. This is a wonderful course to expand knowledge of life-long learners.
Date published: 2014-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent overview Although the selections were not always representative of what I would have chosen, the instructor gave valid reasons for his selections. His passion for the subject was evident and his knowledge was impressive. He used many examples of literature, history and biographical information that was always interesting.
Date published: 2014-12-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Both reasoned and personal In this course, Prof. Kloss gives us a detailed analysis of a selection of great paintings of the Western world. Significantly, the choice of paintings is not merely educated but personal--these are paintings he loves, which move him, and this informs his analyses. It is a delight to listen to the careful explorations of paintings that are not just well-known but that move the lecturer deeply, and the combination allows the listener/viewer to gain extra insight into the way art can speak across time and culture.
Date published: 2014-12-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thank You For This Course Prof. Kloss is both knowledgeable and charming so the time just flies by in his lectures. He can get emotional but usually is wry. I cannot appreciate the importance that he attaches to diagonals, triangles and circles etc. in the composition of paintings. While many of the rest of the paintings that he showed and discussed are in many ways admirable, to put it mildly, subject to my subjective and humble view there are only five of them that I would be overjoyed to possess. I dream on. The five are in order of how I esteem them, from the best to the merely terrific are: 1. Jackson Pollock's "Lavender Mist". 2. John Constable's "Wivenhoe Park". 3. Johannes Vermeer's "View of Delft". 4. Edwin Church's "Niagara". 5. Hans Holbein's "Charles De Solier Sieur De Morette".
Date published: 2014-09-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My First Course I loved that Professor Kloss has a sense of humour when discussing the paintings. He is a bit tongue and cheek occasionally, but how refreshing is that in a world of art critics and historians who take themselves much too seriously? I wouldn't hesitate to buy any course with Mr. Kloss at the helm. The details of the paintings (sometimes shown with arrows or circles or highlighted colours) made such a difference to my awareness of composition or subject matter. I also liked his biographical overviews, mention of historical context, and comments about the inter-relatedness of a subject or artists.
Date published: 2014-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Gem Professor Kloss is once again outstanding. His presentation is thoroughly professional and erudite. The background knowledge is presented carefully, leading one through not only the painting but the artist and its cultural milieu. There is an underlying sense that he could lecture on each piece for hours, but has chosen just enough to whet the appetite and subtly encourage further individual study. I appreciated his decision to present the chosen paintings in a generally chronological order. It made it easier to understand transitions; style, subject matter, techniques and so forth. The future will find me again taking additional classes from Professor Kloss.
Date published: 2014-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the courses you hate to see end! I am currently viewing this course and enjoying it very much. I'd viewed another course given by Professor Kloss, and he was one of the reasons I ordered this one. His presentation style is courtly, friendly, engaging and interesting. He speaks to the viewer and connects the viewer to the painting he is discussing. He clearly states that these particular favorites are ones he has selected for their overall impact and for the impression they made upon him, and that any "world's greatest" will be, by definition, subjective. Some of the works he has selected were not favorites of mine to start with, but he presented a strong cases for them and did make me look at them in a different light. Others were works I'd loved for years and it is a pleasure to hear them discussed. The sessions fly by - I'd gladly listen to Prof. Kloss for hours! I'm very happy that I purchased this course and would recommend it to others.
Date published: 2014-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well worth the time spent watching I'm on board with many of the other reviewers who praise Mr Kloss's presentation. I also agree that his course should drop the word "World" in its title. For those who might argue with his choices, Kloss makes it very clear that his picks for "greatest paintings" are personal and time sensitive - on a different day/month/year he might well have made different selections. He never tries to persuade anyone to accept his opinions. What he does do is draw us into the world of the picture - its content, its story, the painter's influences and techniques, and painting's and painter's place in the history of European/American art. Mostly, I appreciated following Professor Kloss's eye and in the process learning how to read art.
Date published: 2013-10-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from World's Greatest Paintings I am so happy with this course I wrote to the professor to thank him. I took Art History 101 in 1964. (That dates me.) I had a teacher similar to Professor Kloss, someone who inspired me to keep on learning. I told Professor Kloss that I have read at least half a dozen art histories every year since college, yet I learned something from each lecture. I am profoundly grateful to him and the Great Courses Company.
Date published: 2013-10-08
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