ARTH-450-01 Themes in Russian and Eastern European Art
Spring for 2017-2018
Eastern Europe and Russia have been defined by conflicting religious, social, and political values; the border lands – from Poland on the Baltic, through the Czech and Slovak lands, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, former Yugoslavia to Albania – marked the “iron curtain” between East and West for decades.
But the region, a cultural crossroads for centuries, was also one of extraordinary richness in art and architecture. Its art represents a dynamic interaction of local traditions and foreign artistic sources, ranging from Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman to more modern European influences. We will discuss important differences in the styles and functions of arts for religious and courtly ceremonies, for political purposes, and personal expression, within the framework of several pervasive characteristics or themes. These pervasive ideas include: visions of the sacred; the rise of secular arts and patronage; tensions and adjustments between East and West; realism and social concern, defining historical events; and the roles of museums and cultural leaders in developing a sense of national art and preserving cultural heritage. We give special attention to two conditions that profoundly affected the arts of these countries: awareness of innovations in Western Europe, and the imposition of state control of the arts by totalitarian regimes.
Beginning with a historical and geographical background, we will compare selected themes in the art of two or more countries as case studies, with attention to actual contacts and interactions among artists of different regions. Specific topics will depend on students’ interests. The first comparative project will lead to individual research plans for seminar reports. The second part of
the semester will concentrate on the 19th and 20th centuries, a period of multiple independence movements in almost every country, and art that reflected and supported ideals of national identity. There are also many resources for study of contemporary artists and movements in the complex transitions after the end of Communism.
The seminar is designed for advanced students of art history or relevant cultural studies. CERES and Slavic languages students are encouraged to enroll.
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