Mother and Child (A Goodnight Hug) by Mary Cassatt, 1880
Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keeffe, Louise Nevelson, and Cindy Sherman worked at different periods and in different media and styles. However, they did share one thing: the desire to ignore society’s dictates and live and work according to their own. Art historian Nancy G. Heller examines how these controversial American artists helped to ignite some of the most important and radical developments in modern and contemporary painting, sculpture, and photography.
The week’s sessions are lavishly illustrated with examples of major works created by all four women, plus extensive biographical and comparative materials.
June 20 Mary Cassatt: A Pennsylvanian in Paris
The radical late 19th-century style known as impressionism was born, and focused, in Paris, yet one of its principal exponents was an American expatriate. Cassatt’s luscious landscapes and tender portraits of women and children exemplify the impressionists’ interest in fleeting images of everyday subjects, depicted as they were actually perceived by the human eye, not according to the strictures imposed by academic training.
June 21 Georgia O’Keeffe: More Than Just Flowers and Skulls
This iconic artist is best known today for the striking and colorful works she painted during her long residence in New Mexico. However, it was actually the Wisconsin-born artist’s astonishing early experiments with abstraction in the form of watercolors and charcoal drawings created between 1910 and 1920 that initially established her place in the history of American modernism.
June 22 Louise Nevelson: Grande Dame of Abstract Sculpture
As a Russian Jewish immigrant in rural Maine, Nevelson was an unlikely candidate for artistic superstardom. But her ability to identify the beauty in such humble materials as discarded scraps of wood, plus her remarkable sense of design and her carefully cultivated, highly theatrical persona, made this artist a major presence on the New York art scene for many decades. To this day Nevelson’s signature sculptures—monochromatic, wall-like assemblages—are still readily identifiable, and often imitated.
June 23 Cindy Sherman: Self-Portraits That Look Nothing Like Her
The most-prominent member of the so-called “Pictures Generation,” beginning in the early 1980s Sherman upended the venerable concept of self-portraiture by taking unrecognizable photographs of herself, her face and body obscured by elaborate makeup, wigs, costumes, and prosthetic devices. Sherman’s work, which rapidly achieved both commercial success and scholarly recognition, played a major role in establishing photography’s new identity as an art form equal in importance to painting and other, more traditional, techniques.
Heller is a professor emerita at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and the author of the book Women Artists: An Illustrated History.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1 credit*
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*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.