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Week 5 Civilisations: The debate

Updated Thursday, 22nd March 2018

Join Dr Leah Clark between 12pm - 2pm on Tuesday 3rd April for a post-viewing discussion of episode five of Civilisations.

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Welcome to this post-viewing discussion of Civilisations, Episode 5 (‘The Triumph of Art'). This episode was presented by Simon Schama, and addresses ‘cultural flowering’ across the globe, in the period we know as the Renaissance.

I’m delighted to be leading this discussion, as this episode brings out many of the issues Kathleen Christian (one of the academic consultants on the series) and I addressed in our textbook, European Art and the Wider World, 1350-1550, written for A344, Art and its Global Histories.

What does it mean when we use the term ‘Renaissance’? This is a term still hotly debated in the field of Art History.  The period in European history between c. 1400- 1600 is traditionally understood as 'the Renaissance', often celebrated as a high point in the European tradition, associated with creativity, and new inventions inspired by the revival of Europe's classical past. Recently, however, the Renaissance has become 'globalised', as alternative readings of the art of the period take into account of the interdependencies that bound Europe to the rest of the world.

In this episode Simon Schama looks at a wide range of art, architecture, and material culture, to think about how different types of ‘Renaissances’ were taking part all over the world, creating some astonishing works of art and architecture. This was a time when objects, commodities, ideas, designs, and technologies circulated over long distances, crossed boundaries and travelled between cultures, with significant consequences for the visual arts.

Which brings us to the discussion (which I'll be moderating live between 10-11pm on Thursday 29 March). Join in the discussion by posting a response in the Comments section below.

Instead of contrasts or comparisons between artistic traditions, global perspectives ask us to search for commonalities, mixing, overlaps, and dialogues between the 'Western' and the 'non-Western'. What commonalities and dialogues did you see in the examples shown in the episode? Were there also elements that demonstrated how local artists adapted and transformed ‘foreign’ motifs or styles and made them their own?

 

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