Radical Change: 1850-1940

Focuses on a crucial period of change and innovation in European art practices. Addresses ideas about art and the visual, the consequences and complexities of which are still being played out in the art and socio-cultural worlds of today.

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Course outline

Painting and sculpture changed forever in the years between 1875 and 1950.

Traditionally art was descriptive and narrative. In this period – which along with the Renaissance is a major one for change and evolution in the history of art – the perception of what art is changed forever. It was during this time that the idea came to be recognised that art is actually about itself, that is, a painting or a sculpture does not just have the function of illustrating or telling a story; it has a life of its own. Thus artists started to explore different ways of applying paint to a canvas or finishing the surface of a clay model. And as for buildings – did they all have to conform to traditional patterns and layout, or how could they vary?

One of the key reasons for this reassessment of the place of art in society was the advent of photography. Once you could document life with a camera why did you need the painstaking method of representing things through art forms such as painting? Painting ran the risk of becoming redundant. It had to reinvent itself – and artists did that in a variety of ways. As a result we have a real range in the way that art appears in this period because artists approached this problem in a variety of manners.

The focus of this course is on artistic activity in Paris in a period of rapid social, technological and political change. Students are introduced to the transition from traditional to contemporary sculpture alongside major developments in painting.

Principal artists and topics include Matisse, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, Chagall, Salvador Dali, Rodin, Brancusi, Futurism, The Armory Show, Dada and Surrealism.

Terms & Conditions

This programme gives you the opportunity to attend regular lectures in a selection of courses, alongside enrolled students as an observer. Please note that you are not eligible to attend tutorials, take part in assessments, sit for exams and will not have access to course material online. You will be provided with a course outline to keep you up to date with the topics discussed in class every week. This is a no-stress learning opportunity.


  • 12 weeks, 4 March - 3 June, Wednesday, 12-2pm
  • $355.00 incl. GST
  • The University of Auckland, City Campus
  • Presented by Robin Woodward

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