The art of change

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, artists in France repeatedly redefined the boundaries of art. Spurred by political and social upheaval, artists rejected the conventions that had governed Western European art for centuries in order to find new and evolving visual languages that reflected their individual artistic ambitions and the changing world around them. Our discussions will include Courbet, Monet, van Gogh, Picasso, and Duchamp, among many others.


Course outline

Week 1: The French Salon

Our first class will provide an introduction to the conventionally accepted ‘academic’ art of the French Salon. This governmental institution was the official taste-maker in art from the 17th – 19th centuries. We will discuss key works by Watteau, David and Delacroix as examples of the diversity within the French Salon.

Week 2: Realism

The work of Courbet, Daumier and Millet reacted against conventional Salon fare in its clear-eyed perception of the reality of life for many, which was often grim and steeped in hard work. We will discuss the different approaches of these artists and the shifting socio-political landscape that informed them.

Week 3: Impressionism

This class will explore the diverse facets of French Impressionism, from the flickering lights of Monet to the unapologetically modern boulevards of Caillebotte. Work by Degas, Cassatt and Renoir will also be discussed.

Week 4: Post Impressionism

This class examines the divergent directions of painting that splintered after Impressionism: the scientific pursuits of Seurat’s pointillism; van Gogh’s dramatically expressive swirls; Gauguin’s ‘primitivism’ and Cezanne’s exploration of space. In their own individual ways, these artists all helped open yet more doors for increasingly experimental artistic expression.

Week 5: Expressionism and an emotional approach

This class explores work that prioritised an increasingly personal, internalised approach to painting. We will look at the work of van Gogh, Gauguin, Munch and Matisse, who pushed the borders of expression and emotion.

Week 6: Cubism

This class will explore Picasso and Braque’s formulations of a new visual language that broke down form into facets, pushing the boundaries of how the world could be represented. We will look at examples of the many different iterations of Cubism, including Louise Henderson and Colin McCahon’s Cubist work in New Zealand.

Week 7: Futurism and Dada

Our final class explores the bombastic art of the Futurists, who applied lessons from Cubism and Post-Impressionism to incite aggressive and politically charged revolution. We will conclude our course with Dada, a movement that, like the Futurists, was deeply affected by WWI and sought to topple the status quo of everything.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this course, learners will have a more critical understanding of art from the late 19th – early 20th centuries, a period that redefined what art could be. Additionally, participants will be able to use visual analysis skills to critically analyze any work of art and become more confident and critical viewers of art

Who should attend?

This course is designed for anyone with an interest in art and/or art history. No previous experience is required.


  • 7 x Mondays, 12:30-2:30pm, 12 October - 30 November
  • $245.00 incl. GST
  • The University of Auckland, City Campus
  • Presented by Linda Yang

Seminar presenter

Linda Yang

Linda Yang

Professional Teaching Fellowship

Linda Yang completed a Professional Teaching Fellowship in Art History at the University of Auckland, where she previously attained her Masters in Art History. Linda has also completed an internship at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, and was an Educator at the Auckland Art Gallery.

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