Presented by Simon Schama, Mary Beard and David Olusoga, Civilisations explores the visual culture of societies from around the globe, revealing alongside the magnificent objects made in the West the wealth of treasures created by other cultures, from the landscape scrolls of classical China and the sculpture of the Olmecs to African bronzes, Japanese prints and Mughal miniatures.
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Copyright: NutopiaBBC Two on Thursday
1st March 2018 at 9:00PM
Simon Schama, Mary Beard and David Olusoga explore the visual culture of societies around the globe.
1st March 2018 at 9:00PM
Episode 1: The Second Moment of Creation
The first film by Simon Schama in Civilisations looks at the formative role art and the creative imagination have played in the forging of humanity itself. The film opens with Simon’s passionate endorsement of the creative spirit in humanity and the way in which art can help to forge the civilised life. Civilisation may be impossible to define, but its opposite – evidenced throughout history in the human urge to destroy - is all too evident whenever and wherever it erupts. Simon Schama explores the remote origins of human creativity with the first known marks made some 80,000 years ago in South African caves; marks which were not dictated merely by humanity’s physical needs. He marvels at the later cave works: shapes of hands, in red stencils on the walls of caves, and at the paintings of bison and bulls, and Stone Age carvings. As time passes the elements of civilisation are assembled: written language, codes of law, and expressions of warrior power forged in metals. And humanity begins to produce art not just for ritual, as Simon discovers in Minoan civilisation. But how do such cultures arise and how do they fall? Simon travels to the civilisations of Petra in the Middle East and the Maya in Central America to explore those questions. He finds that ultimately civilisations depend on humanity’s relationship with the environment for their survival, and while all believe in their own continuity, all are doomed to fall.
- Episode 2: How Do We Look?
- Episode 3: The Eye of Faith
- Episode 4: Picturing Paradise
- Episode 5: The Triumph of Art
- Episode 6: First Contact
- Episode 7: Radiance
- Episode 8: The Cult of Progress
Journey through history and explore the art of different civilisations of the world in our FREE poster. Follow this link to order your copy.
This is one of several specialist routes available in our BA (Honours) Arts and Humanities (R14). The degree starts by developing your understanding of the world we live in through a variety of perspectives, periods and subjects – including art history, classical studies, creative writing, English language, English literature, history, modern languages, music, philosophy and religious studies. You’ll then take two specialist art history modules, discovering more about art and visual culture across many periods and places. Through exploring the lavishly illustrated module books, and extensive audio, video and interactive material, you will gain a good understanding of the art-historical debates that shape this exciting subject and develop a range of skills in visual analysis.Read more ❯BA (Honours) Arts and Humanities (Art History)
This degree in humanities offers a broad-based grounding in the study and enjoyment of the arts and humanities – covering a fascinating variety of cultures, periods and subjects – while developing your critical and analytical skills. As you explore diverse perspectives on human culture, you’ll encounter a range of absorbing issues encompassing understanding of the past, reading and studying the arts, and analysis of different and conflicting points of view. Through independent and self-directed work, you’ll develop and hone the skills of argument and analysis which are highly valued by employers.Learn more ❯BA (Honours) Humanities
This broadly-focused module introduces you to university-level study in the arts across a range of subject areas - art history, classical studies, English, history, philosophy, music and religious studies. It is structured around four themes, in order to guide you through some of the basic concerns of arts subjects: Reputations; Tradition and Dissent; Cultural Encounters; and Place and Leisure. Your studies will range from poetry to string quartets, and from sculpture to short stories ? across a wide variety of cultures and historical periods. This key introductory OU level 1 module is also a useful means of acquiring the key skills required for further study of arts and humanities subjects.Learn more ❯The arts past and present
This is an interdisciplinary module built around the broad concepts of voices, texts and material culture. It will enable you to extend your understanding of the arts and humanities, both from the perspective of specific disciplines and through interdisciplinary study. The module incorporates elements of art history, classical studies, creative writing, English language studies, heritage studies, history, literature, music, philosophy and religious studies. Throughout the module you will have opportunities to consolidate and extend your critical and analytical abilities, to work collaboratively and to develop flexibility in your writing skills.Learn more ❯Voices, texts and material culture
What is art and how has it changed through history? What is visual culture? These and many other issues are explored through case studies focused on artworks, buildings and other visual artefacts from 1100 to present day. Topics addressed range from Gothic churches to modern design, Renaissance altarpieces to Dutch seventeenth-century painting, eighteenth-century landscape parks to recent installations and videos. You will also gain an understanding of the art-historical debates that have shaped approaches to this exciting subject. The module is taught using lavishly illustrated module books, alongside extensive audio, video and interactive material.Learn more ❯Exploring art and visual culture
This is not simply another module on Renaissance art. It questions the traditional geographical and social boundaries of this subject ? one of the most traditional in the art history discipline ? in line with contemporary developments in academic research. Instead of focusing on the Italian peninsula and Florence in particular (as has been the tendency for most histories of Renaissance artc.1420-1520), this module ventures to England, the Netherlands, France, Italy and Crete. It includes art forms such as prints, tapestries, manuscripts, painting, sculpture and architecture, centred around three main themes:Making Renaissance Art;Locating Renaissance Art; andViewing Renaissance Art.Learn more ❯Renaissance art reconsidered
Victoria and Albert Museum http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O61949/mechanical-organ-automaton-tippoos-tiger/ [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons under Creative-Commons license
Art and its global histories
This module presents a new history of art, starting with the Renaissance, when Europeans encountered a new range of desirable objects from across the globe. It then explores the role of art and architecture in colonial expansion up to 1800, before looking in depth at art and culture in British India. It concludes by analysing the globalisation of artistic practice from the twentieth century to the present day. The module highlights the vital role that art has played in the stories that Europeans have told about the wider world, and suggests ways in which these stories might be challenged or revised.Learn more ❯Art and its global histories
The purpose of this module is to build on your existing knowledge of art history and develop your analytical and research skills. It explores both the foundational concepts that have shaped art history and recent developments in the discipline, with reference to subject areas ranging from Renaissance Italy to the contemporary Caribbean. Studying it will prepare you for the dissertation moduleMA Art History part 2where you will have the opportunity to plan, research and write an extended piece of work based on your own art-historical interests.Learn more ❯MA Art History part 1
Seventeenth-century Dutch painting stands out from other art of the same period and even more so from that of previous centuries on account of its apparently ‘everyday’ character. Works by artists such as Johannes Vermeer, Pieter de Hooch and Jacob van Ruisdael seem to offer a faithful picture of life in the Netherlands at the time. In studying this free course, Dutch painting of the Golden Age, you will discover that there is much more to Dutch painting than meets the eye. You will explore scholarly debates about the possible meanings that might be attributed to this type of picture and learn how the very idea of ‘realism’ in art has been challenged in recent times.Learn more ❯Dutch painting of the Golden Age
You can prepare for this free course, Making sense of art history, by looking around you. It's likely that wherever you are you'll be able to see some images. It's also likely that many of these will be intended to have some sort of effect on you. In the course itself you will be exploring the power of images via a study of contemporary art from the 1980s onwards. Taking the time to look beyond the immediate appearance of an art work to consider what the artist might be trying to say can be immensely rewarding.Learn more ❯Making sense of art history
What is art? What is visual culture? How have they changed through history? This free course, Art and visual culture: Medieval to modern, explores the fundamental issues raised by the study of western art and visual culture over the last millennium. It moves from discussing the role of the artist and the functions of art during the medieval and Renaissance periods to considering the concept and practice of art in the era of the academies, before finally addressing the question of modern art and the impact of globalisation.Learn more ❯Art and visual culture: Medieval to modern
Doctor Kathleen Christian, Senior Lecturer in Art History
Kathleen Christian specialises in Italian Renaissance art with a focus on the reception of antiquity in early modern Italy, the patronage, the display and collecting of sculpture, and garden history. After completing her dissertation at Harvard on antiquities collecting in Renaissance Rome, she was assistant professor of Italian Renaissance art for six years at the University of Pittsburgh. She joined The Open University in 2012.
Her book Empire Without End appeared with Yale University Press in 2010 and won the Society of Architectural Historians’ 2012 Elisabeth Blair MacDougall Book Award. Empire Without End traces the birth of antiquities collecting in Rome and the reception of antique sculpture from the era of Petrarch until the Sack of Rome.
Her current research project is a book on Michelangelo’s Bacchus and the culture of antiquarianism and patronage in Renaissance Rome. She regularly contributes to exhibitions such as Portable Classic at the Fondazione Prada Museum in Venice, a show on Marcantonio Raimondi at the Whitworth Gallery and an upcoming exhibition of the Torlonia marbles at the Capitoline Museums in Rome.
At the OU she is co-chair of A344, Art and its Global Histories, a module which aligns with the content of Civilisations. She is interested in cross-cultural and global connections in the Renaissance, and the visual culture of Europe’s relationship with Africa, Asia, and America in this period.
She has taught a seminar on ‘The Global Renaissance’ at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Zurich. Other courses she has taught include Venetian painting, Antiquity in the Renaissance, and the methods and theory of art history.
Professor Gill Perry, Emeritus Professor of Art History
Gill Perry joined The Open University in 1977, was Head of Department from 2005-08, and Head of Research and External Collaborations from 2005-2017.
She has published books, articles and catalogue introductions on modern and contemporary European art, and eighteenth century British art, and has a particular research interest in issues of gender difference within art history and visual culture.
Her most recent book Playing at Home: The House in Contemporary Art (2013) explores the role of the house and ‘home’ in modern visual art. An earlier book Spectacular Flirtations (shortlisted for the 2008 Theatre Book Prize) explores issues of gender, spectatorship and femininity in eighteenth century theatrical portraits, while her edited collection, Difference and Excess in Contemporary Art (2004) looks at the role of gender difference and ideas of ‘feminine excess’ in the work of some contemporary women.
In 2011 she curated a show at the Royal Society, Crystal World, which explored the use of crystals in contemporary art. She also curated a major exhibition The First Actresses: Nell Gwyn to Sarah Siddons at the National Portrait Gallery, London in 2011-2012. She edited and co-authored a catalogue The First Actresses which accompanied the show, and which explores the roles of feminine portraiture in the construction of eighteenth century celebrity culture. Recent publications include a catalogue essay on women artists and the home ‘Traces of Home and Changes of Skin’ for the exhibition Women House at the Monnaie de Paris and National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington (2017-18).
She has chaired several Art History courses, including A316 Modern Art: Practices and Debates at third level, and A216 Art and its Histories at second level.