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Understanding Modern Art

5-Session Afternoon Course

Wednesday, October 13, 2021 - 12:00 p.m. to Wednesday, November 10, 2021 - 1:30 p.m. ET
Upcoming Session:
Wednesday, October 27, 2021 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2160
Select Your Tickets
$85 - Member
$95 - Non-Member

Top: Still Life with The Dance, 1909, by Henri Matisse (Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg) Bottom: Lee Krasner, Untitled Mural Study, 1940 

The radical innovations made by European and American painters and sculptors between 1900 and 1960 forever altered the way we think about visual art. Before World War I, fauvist and expressionist painters challenged the traditional Western concept of beauty, while Picasso and Malevich took on thousands of years of art history by exploring the controversial realm of abstraction.

Between the wars, artists as different as Salvador Dalí and Frida Kahlo made images based on their own dreams and hallucinations. Later, American art finally achieved international recognition through the enormous, dramatic canvases of Jackson Pollock, paving the way for several decades of cultural prominence that began in the 1960s.

In this richly illustrated course, art historian Nancy G. Heller, professor emerita of art history at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, discusses major works by the period’s seminal painters and sculptors, emphasizing their broader socio-political and aesthetic contexts.

OCT 13  New Art for a New Century

Revolutionary developments in France begin with fauvism--the glorious color and joyous shapes of Henri Matisse plus other, related painters including André Derain and Marguerite Thompson Zorach.

OCT 20  Empathy and Shock

At the same time that fauvism was revolutionizing French art, radical German expressionists like Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Kaethe Kollwitz, and Ernst Barlach created powerfully emotional paintings, prints, and sculptures.

OCT 27  Beyond Realism and Narrative

The invention and dissemination of cubism by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, and the totally nonrepresentational works of Kasimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian, and Hilma Af Klint.

NOV 3  Exploring the Subconscious

Dada, a product of World War I nihilism, as seen in the art of Marcel Duchamp, and its descendant, Surrealism, exemplified by the wild imaginings of Salvador Dalí and the extraordinary autobiographical paintings of Frida Kahlo.

NOV 10  The Triumph of American Painting

After the Second World War the United States becomes the international center for cutting-edge art, with the huge and dramatic canvases of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Lee Krasner.

5 sessions

World Art History Certificate core course: Earn 1 credit*

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*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1 core course credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.

This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.