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Week 7 Civilisations: The debate

Updated Wednesday 11th April 2018

Emma Barker, a Senior Lecturer in Art History, will be reflecting on episode seven of Civilisations on Friday 13th April between 12pm - 2pm. Let us know your thoughts in this discussion hub...

Creative commons image Icon The National Gallery under Creative Commons BY-NC 4.0 license

Welcome to this post-viewing discussion of Civilisations! Episode 7 ('Radiance’) was presented by Simon Schama, and explores the role of colour in different civilisations across the globe. In it, Simon traces the association of colour with spiritual rapture as well as with sensory pleasure over several centuries. Starting with the great cathedrals of medieval France and ending with Matisse’s chapel at Vence, the programme also takes in the work of Venetian artists such as Titian and Tiepolo, Hindu images from Jodhpur in India and Japanese woodcuts. The way that different civilisations use and value colour is also shown to be shaped by cross-cultural connections; the brilliant ultramarine blue in paintings such as Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne, you might like to know, comes from lapis lazuli mined in Afghanistan (the word ‘ultramarine’ means ‘beyond the sea’). 

Which brings us to the discussion I will be moderating live between 12-2pm on Friday, 13th April. Join in by posting a response in the Comments section below (select 'save' to send your comment).

Were you struck more by the similarities or the differences between the ways that the civilisations explored in the programme used and valued colour? It’s worth thinking about this question not just in relation to colour as such but also in relation to particular colours: blue, gold, red and so on. Which of the many vividly coloured art works shown in the programme made the biggest impression on you and why? And what did you make of the different media and techniques involved: stained glass, oil painting, carpets, prints and so on?

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