"Sunflowers," 1888, by Vincent van Gogh; photo by Diego Delso
There is a reason that London’s National Gallery and the Tate Britain are must-sees for art lovers. In them, one can explore more than five centuries of Western painting, including such masterpieces as Leonardo’s Madonna of the Rocks, Valazquez’s Rokeby Venus, and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.
Art historian Bonita Billman examines the rich holdings of these two museums, placing selected artworks within their aesthetic and historical contexts.
9:30–10:45 a.m. Beginnings of a National Collection
Founded in 1824, The National Gallery collections range from the Renaissance masterpieces of Duccio, Giotto, and Raphael, to Turner and the French impressionists in the modern era. Located in Trafalgar Square, it is one of the most visited museums in the world. The Tate Britain, on the site of the old Milbank Prison, currently houses a world-class collection of British paintings.
11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. From Gainsborough to Cezanne
Take a step back in time to the 18th and 19th centuries when art moved from more representative landscape and portraiture paintings to impressionism and post-impressionism. Highlights include works by Hogarth, Gainsborough, Renoir, Seurat, Van Gogh, and Cezanne.
12:15–1:30 p.m. Lunch (participants provide their own)
1:30–2:45 p.m. Queen Elizabeth I to the Stuarts
In an effort to portray Elizabeth I in the best light, paintings of her were strictly controlled, resulting in what were essentially portraits of propaganda. The portraits of the Stuarts had a more realistic elegance. Artists include Holbein, Van Dyck, Lely, and Kneller.
3–4:15 p.m. The Romantics to the Moderns
Outstanding painters of the Georgian through Edwardian eras include J.M.W Turner whose atmospheric landscapes and seascapes brought new energy to this genre. The Pre-Raphaelites, including Millais, Rossetti, and Edward Burne-Jones, focused on creating art imbued with a sense of spirituality while staying true to the beauty found in nature.
Billman is an instructor in art history at Georgetown University School of Summer and Continuing Studies.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1 credit