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Understanding Modern Art: From Picasso to Pop

2-Session Course

Friday, June 28, 2019 - 6:30 p.m. & Saturday, June 29, 2019 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Code: 1M2029

"Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2", 1912, by Marcel Duchamp

The radical innovations made by European and American painters and sculptors between 1900 and 1965 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, and the nation increased its cultural prominence with the enormously successful, yet subversive, form known as Pop Art.

Art historian Nancy G. Heller, a professor 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.


6:30–7:30 p.m.  New Art for a New Century

Revolutionary developments in France and Germany: fauvism art (the glorious color and joyous shapes of Henri Matisse) and expressionism (powerfully emotional prints, paintings, and sculptures by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Kaethe Kollwitz).

7:30–8:30 p.m. Beyond Realism and Narrative

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


9:30–10:45 a.m.  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.

11 a.m.–12:15 p.m.  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.

12:15–1:30 p.m.  Lunch (participants provide their own)

1:30–2:45 p.m.  Pushing the Boundaries of Visual Art

Nonobjective art: 1960s-era experiments in minimalism, including paintings by Ellsworth Kelly, sculptures by Carl Andre, and op art by Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely.

3–4:15 p.m.  Soup Cans and Celebrity Portraits

In a representational counterpart to minimalism, artists reject what they saw as the inwardness and elitism of abstract expressionism. Pop artists return to recognizable imagery, but with a 1960s twist.  Paintings by Andy Warhol. Jasper Johns, and Roy Lichtenstein, and sculptures by Claes Oldenburg and Marisol are discussed.

World Art History Certificate core course: Earn 1 credit

2 sessions

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