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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

The Arts of the Northern Renaissance

2-Session Program

Friday, May 31, 2019 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
Saturday, June 1, 2019 - 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Code: 1H0433
"Annunciation", by Jan van Eyck, 1434

The flowering of the visual arts in the Northern Renaissance was groundbreaking. Angela Ho, an associate professor in the department of history and art history at George Mason University, discusses the tremendous artistic and cultural innovations of northern Europe to emerge in the late 14th to 16th centuries. 

From the use of exquisite detail and symbolism in the art of Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden and Hans Memling to the divergent views on human nature seen in the works of others such as Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel, it was a transformative time that produced art unlike that created in Italy. In addition, the advent of print and the Protestant Reformation had a tremendous impact on art, especially in the work of Albrecht Dürer whose focus on the minutiae of the real world was unparalleled.  

FRI., MAY 31

Realism and Symbolism in the Northern Renaissance

With works by Jan van Eyck, Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein and others as examples, explore how artists achieved feats of illusionism and conveyed deeper meanings through the inclusion of symbolic elements.


10–11:15 a.m.  The Height of Luxury at the Valois Courts

Magnificent tapestries, illuminated manuscripts, and other objects bestowed prestige for patrons including Charles V of France and his brothers—the Dukes of Anjou, Berry, and Burgundy.

11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.  Art and Faith

Northern Renaissance art was inextricably linked with religion. While Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling, and others served patrons in their private devotional practices, the advent of the Protestant Reformation ushered in the emergence of new secular genres.

12:30–1:30 p.m.  Lunch (Participants provide their own)

1:30–2:30 p.m.  The Print Revolution: The Impact of a New Technology

The invention of printing had far-reaching cultural and social implications for Europe. It revolutionized both the spread of knowledge and information and the possible ways in which artists, such as Durer, could shape and disseminate their creative identities.

2:45–4 p.m.  All Too Human: Sin, Folly, and Everyday Life

Northern Renaissance artists were interested in the flaws in human nature: Hieronymus Bosch’s preoccupation with sin and folly led to works filled with demons and monsters, while artists such as Pieter Bruegel preferred to visually investigate the life of ordinary people.

World Art History Certificate core course: Earn 1 credit

S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)