Could you name the four most important paintings in Western art? That is, the ones that most influenced the course of art, or history, or both? (Perhaps you’re thinking about Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling, or Leonardo’s Last Supper?) While a fun exercise, there is no definitive list of the “most important” paintings—or the most beautiful, or the most famous, or the most valuable. And even if we could identify the “most important” paintings, it would not necessarily answer the more profound questions we might ask: namely, why has painting played so central a role in Western culture for centuries, and why does it continue to be the most popular medium for artists working today?
Covering six centuries of painting in about sixty minutes, this lecture looks at four indisputable masterpieces that exemplify how paintings communicate ideas and shape how we see the world. In short, these are paintings that every art lover should see if they want to understand art—and that everyone who doesn’t love art should see if they want to fall in love with it. The paintings include:
Tina Rivers Ryan / Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo), Formerly Columbia University
An art historian by training, Dr. Tina Rivers Ryan is currently a curator at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. She holds five degrees in art history, including a BA from Harvard and a PhD from Columbia, and has taught classes on art at museums including The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, as well as at the University at Buffalo, the Pratt Institute, and Columbia, where she was one of the top-ranked instructors of the introduction to art history. A regular critic for Artforum, the world’s leading art publication, her writing also has appeared in scholarly journals and books, and in catalogs published by museums across America and Europe.
For few issues is the public debate conducted with so much misinformation and irrational exuberance. So now for something completely different: a dispassionate analysis of what we actually know and what we don’t yet know about climate change. In this class, Professor David Helfand carefully distinguishes facts from fictions, and physics certainties from feedback uncertainties.
Every planet’s temperature is controlled by a simple balance between the energy it receives and the energy it radiates back into space. We will examine each of the main factors affecting this balance. He will begin by exploring the astronomical phenomena that have driven climate change in the past: solar variability, changes in the Earth’s orbit and other factors over which we have absolutely no control. He will then go on to show how the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere has changed in the past and is changing today using measurements of prehistoric climate derived from tree rings and ice cores. Examining the current energy balance and what we can expect over the next few decades, we will conclude by exploding a few myths and providing a rational basis for decisions about our future.
David Helfand / Columbia University
David Helfand has been a Professor of Astronomy at Columbia University for 42 years where he served as chair of the Department for nearly half that time. He is also the former President of the American Astronomical Society and of Quest University Canada, and currently serves as Chair of the American Institute of Physics. He has received the Columbia Presidential Teaching Award and the Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates. He is the author of the new book, “A Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age.”
We are living longer than we have in all of human history. It is therefore time that we rethink out-of-date assumptions about age, work and productivity. The research of University of Toronto Professor Michelle Silver invites you to rethink your perceptions about aging and retirement. In this talk, Professor Silver will teach us how aging is different today from the not so distant past. We will discuss retirement from its early policy roots to the social phenomena it has become.
This class covers four key strategies for later life transitions, weaving in examples from CEOs, Elite Athletes, Physicians, and Academics Professor Silver has interviewed. She will also discusses how ageism still pervades much of society, while sharing lessons from employers who are helping mature workers pivot and find new interests. Join us to explore what retirement can mean and how we as individuals, and as a society, can make the most of it.
Michelle Silver / University of Toronto
Michelle Silver is a professor at the University of Toronto where she holds joint appointments in the Department of Sociology and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Health and Society. Her book, “Retirement and Its Discontents” draws from in-depth interviews with a range of professionals that capture concerns about what retirement means to emphasize the significance of creating new retirement strategies. Her work has been featured in several media outlets including Forbes, the Times Literary Supplement, Zoomer, Next Avenue, The Globe and Mail, and Global News.