We often think of art of bygone centuries as a means of recording the past – creating long-lasting records of people, places and cultures – offering us the means to help understand history and our own relationship to it. In this way, a walk through a museum can be a fascinating journey through time. Yet some of the greatest and most revolutionary works of art do so much more than document the world; rather, they change how we see it.
This class will examine a small number of extraordinary objects drawn from the Western tradition, including paintings, sculpture and architecture, originating from different countries and spanning more than two millennia. Considering monuments as varied as the Parthenon of ancient Greece and the French sculptor Auguste Rodin's Burghers of Calais, from Masaccio's Holy Trinity to Diego Velázquez's Las Meninas, we will focus on works that, in many ways, are as much about the experience of the viewer as they are about the subjects they represent.