Accueil > The power of art, art and power (1848-1968)

AHUM 1240A - Power of art, Art and power (1848-1968) (The)

Type d'enseignement : Lecture and tutorials

Semester : Autumn 2017-2018

Number of hours : 48

Language of tuition : English

Voir les plans de cours et bibliographies



Course Description

This course aims to clarify the conditions in which an artwork is created and shown, in other words the relationship between those who make art and those who commission or pay for it. Starting with the mid-19th century—the birth of the Realist movement in France—and closing on the events in May 1968—student revolts, strikes and demonstrations in the Western world—, the course seeks to analyze the artworks in the context of their commission, diffusion and reception. It will cover major art movements in Western culture such as Realism, Impressionism, Postimpressionism, Symbolism, Fauvism, Abstraction, Cubism, Dada, Surrealism, Art Brut, Neo-Dada, Minimalism, Pop Art, Feminism as well as visual culture more largely (posters, ads and some moving images). The stress will be put on the role of institutional and private patronage, the mechanisms of censorship, the art market, the exhibition system or other approaches to display. The period covered by the course corresponds to a major shift in the way artists produced and diffused their artworks. Guided by the ideal of artistic freedom and the artist's supreme independence since the second half of the 19th century, their radical reaction to the establishment (avant-garde movements) resulted in the re-definition of what art is (abstraction, the ready-made) as well as in an intense reflection on the political implication of artists and artworks (anti-war or feminist art). The course will address the topic through four main sections: 1) political engagement, 2) freedom and anti-establishment, 3) propaganda et 4) wars. Within each section, the sessions will unfold chronologically allowing a better understanding of the evolution of the notions involved, the artistic techniques as well as the status of the creator. Whenever a new artistic movement is introduced, its main characteristics and protagonists will be exposed so that students of different backgrounds be able to follow efficiently the course argument. The « conférence de méthode » will be closely related to the course, focusing on visual analysis methodology, and the subtle articulation between an artwork and its historical context.


SLAVKOVA, Iveta (Enseignante)

Course validation

- Conference grade : 2/3 of the average ; - Written exam, ex cathedra course : 1/3 (dissertation-essay, one question confronting different aspects of the course material, 3h).


Learning goal: - recognition of the major modern art movements in Western Art history, and their formal qualities ; - Acquaintance with typologies and materials of the artworks in the modern period ; - Connection between the artistic production, the historical context, and the type of government ; - Understanding of the role of images in shaping the individuals and imposing ideologies ; - Understanding the conditions in which the images are commissioned, selected and diffused ; - The political engagement of artists and its concrete impact on public opinion and society.

Plans de cours et bibliographies

Art and politics

  • Session 1: Art as a political weapon : Courbet and the realist movement, Thursday Sept 1
  • Session 2: The avant-garde : a guiding light for a better society (from Saint-Simon to Surrealism), Thursday Sept 8
  • Session 3: Political agitation and the arts (Dada, surrealism and the revolts of May 68), Thursday Sept 15

Freedom of the artists and anti-establishment attitudes

  • Session 4: Modernity and the birth of the free artist (from Manet to abstraction), Thursday Sept 22
  • Session 5: Otherness and folly : non-western art’s and Dubuffet’s “art brut”’s anti-establishment potential, Thursday Sept 29
  • Session 6: Women artists versus a male history of art (feminism, US and Europe, 1960-1970s), Thursday Oct 6


  • Session 7: The arts in the service of ideology (Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, 1930s), Thursday Oct 13
  • Session 8: In the name of the nation (the Italian futurists and the Vichy government in France), Thursday Oct 20


  • Session 9: « Soft power », advertisement unmasked (Pop art, New Realism, Situationism) Thursday Nov 3


  • Session 10: The traditions of heroes (Napoleon, First World War), Thursday Nov 10
  • Session 11: Denouncing the massacre (Guernica, First World War, Second World War and Vietnam War), Thursday Nov 17
  • Session 12: Conclusions : the power of images, and exam methodology, Thursday Nov 24