Art and the Impact of Secularism on Eighteenth-Century Society
by Alden R. Gordon, Gwendolyn Miles Smith Professor of Art History and Chair of the Fine Arts Department, Trinity College
This course idea is based upon a desire to create a philosophical and historical framework that permits the understanding of the dramatic changes in the settings of daily living, the fine arts and architecture that is based in the Enlightenment’s empowerment of the individual. These philosophical ideas along with the associated new respect for empiricism, science and nature (human, organic and inanimate) found expression in a dramatic new emphasis on secular subject matter in art and in new departures in the planning of domestic space in architecture. As the century progressed and Enlightenment individualism made an impact on political philosophy and government, architecture responded with forms and historical quotations of style that expressed republican and democratic values.
The course, to be entitled Art and the Impact of Secularism on Eighteenth-Century Society, will explain how absolutist monarchs like Louis XIV and his successors authorized the creations of academies which sponsored the growth of the new ideas and promoted the professionalization of artistic and intellectual pursuits even though those ideas eventually undermined the authoritarian basis of absolute divine-right monarchy. Ranging from the style and subject matter of painting to the appropriate forms of decorative furnishings for intimate spaces in private residences, the course will contextualize the way secular genre subjects of everyday life were powerfully expressive of the shift in values from hierarchichal institutions of religion and state to the subversive realm of private emotion and the desire for individual happiness and fulfillment.
The course will make use of philosophical, scientific and literary readings along with first-person accounts and travel literature to amplify the issues in the realm of ideas which were also expressed visually and materially in the arts. Eventually, it is my goal to write an art history text book to accompany this course.
Syllabus for a Proposed Course
This is a survey course which aims to give a picture of the entire spectrum of architecture and of the fine and decorative arts in a full European cultural context. Students will learn about individual artists and architects in readings which will be done in parallel to the course lectures which will concentrate on overarching patterns of stylistic evolution and changes in usage brought about by shifts in social and economic conditions. All students will do an independent research project and term paper based on a single work of art that they can study at first hand or on a central text of the period. Students who are able to read in a foreign language (French, Italian, German, Spanish or a Scandinavian or Central or Eastern-European language) may earn an extra half-credit by doing an additional body of reading in the foreign language as part of the Languages Across the Curriculum program.
Course requirements: There will be two exams and one research term paper project
which will require students to visit a major museum collection or rare book library on
their own. There will also be one required group museum trip. Students will be graded
upon the tests, term paper project, attendance at class meetings and museum trips, and
on active and informed participation in class discussions. Students will be assigned to
lead discussions in class on readings.
Texts: There is no single adequate text book for the broad sweep of European arts of the
eighteenth century. The books which do exist are divided by nationality and by medium.
Therefore, I am obliged to use several different books in which students will be assigned
readings. All of these will be on Reserve in the Trinity College Library. Shorter
essays will be available in a course reading packet (indicated in the syllabus by an asterisk *) which will be sold at cost in the Department of Fine Arts office. Students who
wish to own the books may purchase them either at the Trinity College Bookstore or via
one of the on-line commercial book dealers. Any edition is acceptible, though I provide
below the essential information for the latest editions including ISBN numbers for such
- Wend von Kalnein, Architecture in France in the Eighteenth Century, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1972, reissued 1995 (about $85) (0-300-06013-0)
- Michael Levey, Painting and Sculpture in France 1700-1789, New Haven, Yale Univ. Press, (paperback, Amazon new $35, used $17.95); (0-3-0006494-2)
- John Summerson, Architecture in Britain 1530-1830, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1993 (0-300-05886-1)
- Ellis Waterhouse, Painting in Britain: 1530-1790, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1953, 1994 (0-3-0005833-0)
- Michael Levey, Painting in Eighteenth-Century Venice, 1959. (0-3-0006057-2)
- Paul Hyland ed., The Enlightenment: A Sourcebook and Reader, New York, Routledge, 2003 [ISBN 0-415-20449-6 pap.]
For students without sufficient prior study of European history, it is recommended that you buy a standard history, such as Jeremy Black, Eighteenth-Century Europe in the History of Europe series in paperback, New York, St. Martin’s Press, 2nd edition, 1999.
PART I: From Grandeur to Intimacy. Circa 1680 to circa 1745. FRANCE
- Introduction and Overview. Historical perspective. Readings from John Locke, “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding,” (1690) from Paul Hyland ed., The Enlightenment: A Sourcebook and Reader, New York, Routledge, 2003 [ISBN 0-415-20449-6 pap.]
- The Pre-eminence of France and the reordering of artistic leadership in the Late Reign of Louis XIV. The importance of the French arts institutions and their educational model.
- Palaces, Gardens and Interiors and the Expression of Power and Social Order. Reading: * Joan DeJean, “Introduction, Living Luxe” and “Fashion Queens” from The Essense of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion …, New York, Free Press, 2005. (Coursepack) and Reserve: Skim picture books on Open Reserve on Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte; Palais de Versailles; French Gardens;
- France as a Model for Europe. Reading: Wend von Kalnein, Architecture in France in the Eighteenth Century, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1972, (text and also on reserve). Introduction and Part I, Chapter 4.
- “Domestic Architecture in and outside Paris.” and Michael Levey, Painting and Sculpture in France 1700-1789, New Haven and London, Yale Univ. Press, 1993, Chapter 2, Sculpture: Coustou to Slodtz.
- The Importance of Paris. Urbanism, Residences for the newly wealthy and changes in manners. Reading: * Rochelle Ziskin, The Place Vendôme: Architecture and Social Mobility in Eighteenth-Century Paris, Cambridge University Press, 1999. Chapters 2, “Social Representation and Gendered Realms” pp 34-64 & Chapter 5, “Not at all Monsieur Jourdain,” pp 114-127. (Coursepack) (Book is On Reserve for consultation of illustrations, TC Library: NA 9072 . P37 P589 1999)
PART II: Art And The Expression Of The Subjective. 1715-1760
- Interior Architecture, Painting, Sculpture and Stucco. The Great Itinerant Artists. Reading: Kalnein, Architecture in France in the Eighteenth Century, Part Two, Chapter 5 and 7: * Katie Scott, The Rococo Interior, New Haven, Yale Univ Press, 1995, Ch 7, “Earthly Paradise on the L
eft Bank,” pp 147-176 (Coursepack).
- Country Life and Gardens and Sculpture. Reading: LIBRARY RESERVE: Mark Girouard, Life in the French Country House, Chapters 5 (The Curious History of the Salon) and 6 (In and around the Boudoir).
- The Decorative Arts: Tapestry, Silver, Porcelain, Furniture, Small Sculpture, Musical and Scientific Instruments. This topic will be continued from class into the museum visits. Reading: * Carolyn Sergentson, Merchants and Luxury Markets: The Marchands Merciers of Eighteenth-Century Paris, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996, Chapter 4, “Importation and Imitation,” pp. 62-96. (Coursepack). LIBRARY OPEN RESERVE: Consult pictures in books on French furniture, porcelain and tapesty.
- The Eclipse of Dutch Art and the Rise of French Painting and Sculpture. The Literary and Philosophical sources of the Enlightenment. The emergence of new or newly respectable genres in art and contrast to Academic hierarchies. French Painting and Engraving. READING:.Michael Levey, Painting and Sculpture in France 1700-1789, New Haven, …, Chapter 1 & 4 (Painting up to the Death of Boucher, 1770, sections on Boucher, Chardin, Greuze).
PART III: Italy, Austria, Germany.
- Italy in the Eighteenth Century: Rome.. Reading: *Christopher A. M. Johns, “The Entrepôt of Europe: Rome in the Eighteenth Century,” from E. Bowren and J. Rishel eds., Art in Rome in the Eighteenth Century, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2000, pp. 16-45 (Coursepack). & * John Pinto, “Architecture and Urbanism,” from E. Bowren and J. Rishel eds., Art in Rome in the Eighteenth Century, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2000, pp. 112-121. (Coursepack) [TC Quarto N 6920 .A7 2000]
- Rome as the Destination of Travelers: Per Bjurström, “Physiocratic Ideals and National Galleries,” from Per Bjurström, The Genesis of the Art Museum in the 18th Century, Stockholm, Nationalmuseum, 1993, pp. 28-60. (Coursepack)
- The Importance of Travel and First Hand Experience. II. Italian Painting, Sculpture & Decorative Arts by Artistic Centers: Naples, Venice, Turin, Genoa, Florence. Reading: Michael Levey, Venetian Painting, (On Reserve)
- Austria and the German States. Readings TBA. Library Open Reserve: Books on Meissen Porcelain; Splendor of Dresden.
9. PART IV: ENGLAND
- Architecture and Interior Decor in England and the British Embrace of Continentalism. Reading: John Summerson, Architecture in Britain 1530-1830, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1993, Chapter 17 (English Baroque: Hawksmoor, Vanbrugh, Archer); Chapter 20 (The Palladian Phase 1710-50: The Palladian Movement: Campbell, Burlington and Kent) and Chapter 23 (The House and the Street in the Eighteenth Century).
- English Painting. Hogarth and Gainsborough to Wright of Derby. Reading (On Reserve) Ellis Waterhouse, Painting in Britain: 1530-1790, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1953, 1994, Chapter 11 (Hogarth), Chapter 18 (Thomas Gainsborough).
PART V: Sublime, the Picturesque, National Antiquariansim and Historicism.
- Historicism in Architecture and Decorative Arts. Summerson, Chapter 24 (Building in Gothic: From Wren to Walpole); Chapter 25 (Neo-Classicism and the Picturesque 1750-1830: Neo-Classicism and Britons Abroad); Chapter 26 (William Chambers and Robert Adam).
- The Sublime and the Picturesque in Landscape Painting, Garden Design and in Art. READING: * Longinus, 1st C. AD, W. Rhys Roberts trans. Longinus: On the Sublime, Cambridge University Press, 1907, pp. 42-59, Sections 1- 8, and Section 36, pp.135-136, On Sublimity and Human Nature; (Coursepack) The English Garden: Its Sources in Baroque Landscape Painting and Its Impact on Later Art and Architecture. Waterhouse, Chapter 17 (Richard Wilson 1713-1782); Chapter 21(Wright of Derby and the Painters of Romantic Literature)
- LATER 18th C. PAINTING
- Levey, Painting and Sculpture in France 1700-1789, Chapter 4 (Painting up to the Death of Boucher, 1770 section on landscape painter Vernet) & Chapter 6 (Painting up to the Salon of 1789, through section entitled Genre: Aubry and Boilly). The Psychological and Fantastic Dimension and the Transition to Romanticism: Fuseli, Stubbs, Goya
- History Painting 1750-1789 in England and France: Reading: Waterhouse, Chapter 16 (Sir Joshua Reynolds); Chapter 19 (Foundation Members of the Royal Academy); Levey, Painting and Sculpture in France 1700-1789, Chapter 6 (Painting up to the Salon of 1789, Second part to end.) * Andrew McClellan, The Museum and Its Public in Eighteenth-Century France,” from Per Bjurström, The Genesis of the Art Museum in the 18th Century, Stockholm, Nationalmuseum, 1993, pp. 61-80 (Coursepack)
- French Sculpture. Bouchardon, Caffiery & Falconet to Houdon. READING: Levey, Painting and Sculpture in France 1700-1789, Chapters 3 & 5.
- French Architecture from Soufflot to Ledoux. Reading: Kalnein, Architecture in France, Part Three, Early Neoclassicism. Note that interior styles are dealt with in the sections on “Decoration.” Library Open Reserve: Books on Neoclassicism in Decorative Arts.