Whistler, Impressionism and European Avant-Gardes HISTART5092

  • Academic Session: 2019-20
  • School: School of Culture and Creative Arts
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course explores developments in western painting (e.g. Impressionism, Post-Impressionism/Symbolism) which form the context for the emergence and evolution of Art Nouveau and its underlying themes of nature and renewal. By focussing on the way in which the visual arts responded to cultural, social and political change, the course will foster a deeper intellectual engagement with the symbolism of Art Nouveau architecture and design.


Normally 2 hours per week, a mixture of lectures, seminars and visits.

Requirements of Entry

Standard entry to Masters at College level

Excluded Courses



Essay (80%) 4,000 words

Oral presentation (20%) 15 mins

Course Aims

To foster acquisition by students of in-depth knowledge and understanding of:

a) relevant works by Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, Symbolist, and Secessionist artists in Europe and their critical reception
b) the prominence of themes and motifs such as nature, death and renewal; gardens; flowers; the human body; reactions to the city; concepts of the 'decorative' etc; and their transmission to the architecture, design and decorative arts of the period

c) key period texts such as Whistler's 'Ten o'clock Lecture'; Duranty's 'La Nouvelle Peinture'; Mallarmé's 'The Impressionists and Edouard Manet'; and statements by exhibiting groups such as the Vienna/Berlin/Munich Secessions

To promote advanced critical and visual analysis skills and engagement with the different historiographical approaches to the study of artists/movements considered;

Through the above, to encourage self-reflective, 'deep', and independent learning.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to demonstrate - principally through the essay and the oral presentation - their acquisition of knowledge and skills by:

1. Distinguishing between and critically reflecting upon:

- the contributions of selected artists, groups of artists and art movements, focussing on the cities of Glasgow, Paris, Brussels, Munich and Vienna, and international networks of exchange such as the art market and exhibitions

- plein-airiste as compared with studio-based practices; and the diversification of painting styles and techniques after c.1880
- the influence of selected period theorists/critics/writers, eg.
Baudelaire, Zola, Duranty, Whistler, Mallarmé, Geffroy, Bahr; Hevesi, etc
art as a response to wider forces for change - e.g. social, political, scientific, horticultural, etc.

2. Evaluating different historiographical approaches to the artists/movements considered.

3. Gathering and critically deploying a variety of art historical evidence (eg. artists' writings and other primary documentation; artists' preparatory sketches; period photographs; modern secondary texts and critical interpretations), and selected evidence from related disciplines such as architecture, design and the decorative arts, history, literature and geography, in order to draw valid and independent conclusions both about individual works of art, and about wider iconographical and stylistic trends.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.