Skilled craftsman, tortured genius, art world dissident – the idea of the artist has changed radically over centuries...
On this course, we explore how the identity of the artist has evolved throughout history.
The notion of the artist as a solitary genius with political views and working within a specific social or historical context has had a powerful hold on how art can be understood.
We know how famous artists trained, traded, collaborated, practised, promoted themselves, and were paid and judged.
What does this tell us about how they saw themselves, and how they were seen by others? And what are we left with if we don't think about the artist when trying to get to grips with their art?
About the course
Each week is taught by a different expert, and you learn from talks in the lecture theatre and Q&A discussion.
Week 1: 9 January: The Master of the workshop
Early Renaissance artists were thought of as master craftsmen who applied their trade in workshops, trained apprentices, and formed guilds to control standards. Creativity was prized. Credibility and value were based in tradition.
Week 2: 16 January: The rise of the genius
Discover how the Renaissance writer, Vasari, transformed humble craftsmen into ‘genius artists’ who were seen as intellectually talented as well as highly skilled. Find out how art made a break from craft.
Week 3: 23 January: The art market’s artist
How did the rise of the art market in the 17th century shape artistic identity? We look at Dutch Golden Age artists who sold their work directly from their studio, or through dealers, auctions, and art fairs to the growing middle classes.
Week 4: 30 January: The Academician
From the 18th century, academies were the height of aspiration for most artists. So powerful was the Academy’s sway upon creative output that, by the mid-19th-century, they came to be seen as conservative, resisting a rising tide of innovation. This week we’ll find out more about what it meant to be an Academician.
Week 5: 6 February: The Romantic genius
Week 6: 13 February: The artist’s network
19th-century artists were rarely solitary in their creativity. Artists such as the Impressionists forged networks to spark ideas.
Week 7: 20 February: The bohemian rebel
By the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was desirable and even glamorous to break the rules and overthrow tradition, to trailblaze and reject society.
Week 8: 27 February: The post-war professional
The post-war desire for cultural regeneration saw the establishments of arts councils, funding bodies, educational programmes, residencies, and awards. As art became institutionalised, so did the artist.
Week 9: 6 March: The creative entrepreneur
Today’s young creatives are multi-platform artists, constructing many artistic identities. They are versatile in their practice. In the age of the internet when everyone can be an artist, and everyone a critic, their network is more important than ever.
Week 10: 13 March: Art world dissidents
How are artists reinventing themselves in times of austerity? In this final talk, we look at contemporary artists such as the Guerrilla Girls and Bob and Roberta Smith who work collectively and share recognition. How does this alternative identity challenge the art market, and is it symptomatic of a greater cultural and political rebellion?