Impressionism and visual culture in the 19th century


This course examines how the artistic events of the nineteenth century reacted and commented on the new paradigms of nineteenth-century modernity. More than offering a historical overview of Impressionist painting, this unit aims to investigate how the great transformations of modern visual culture have impacted on cultural and artistic practices.
Through a cultural art historical methodology, students will be acquainted not only with the critical literature on the theme (from recent scholarship to historical bibliography) but, above all, they will also be able to assess the distinctive phenomena of nineteenth-century culture, in all their diversity. After this thematically organized course, students are expected to apply sound theoretical notions onto the analysis of particularly representative case studies. Studied topics include areas such as painting, photography, urban experience, travel, universal exhibitions, art criticism or gender studies.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

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Weekly - 3 letivas + 1 tutorial

Total - Available soon

Teaching language





BATCHEN, G. (1997). Burning with desire: the conception of photography. Cambridge Mass., MIT Press.
BAUDELAIRE, C. (1863/1993). O Pintor da Vida Moderna, tradução e pósfácio de Mª. Teresa Cruz. Lisboa, Vega.
BENJAMIN, W. (1839/1999). Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century «Exposé of 1939». in The Arcades Project. Cambridge (MA) e Londres, Harvard University Press.
BROUDE, N. (1991). Impressionism, a feminist reading; the gendering of art, science and nature in the nineteenth century. New York, Rizzoli.
CLARK, T.J. (1985/1999). The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers. Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press.
EISENMAN, S. F. (2011), Nineteenth Century Art: a Critical History, 4th edition. London,Thames & Hudson.
LEWIS, M. T., ed. (2007). Critical Readings in Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: an anthology. Berkeley, University of California Press.
TRACHTENBERG, A., ed. (1980), Classic Essays on Photography. New Haven, Leete’s Island Books.

Teaching method

Classes will be both theoretical and practical, articulating a first half, in which the docent presents her exposée, with a second half (seminar regime), devoted to the discussion of referential texts. Selected readings will be suggested weekly to be presented in the classroom. Discussion and critical debate is encouraged. Students must have sufficient knowledge of English to follow the specific literature of the discipline.

Evaluation method

The evaluation process is threefold:
A) Written Essay: individual assignment in which the student analyses and reflects critically on a specific topic/problem. The theme must be previously discussed with the docent. (40%).
B) Class Presentation: conference-like paper on the research carried out for the written essay (35%).
C) Participation in class debates on designated readings. Each student will have to prepare one text during the seminars, and is also expected to participate in the critical discussion of readings prepared by colleagues (25%).

Subject matter

1. Critical discussion of the concept of modernity.
2. Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century (W. Benjamin).
3. The invention of photography and its debate: ruptures of a new medium.
4. Nadar: the portraitist and the hero of modernity.
5. Charles Baudelaire and photography: an unusual relationship.
6. The new urban city experience: from the transformations of Paris (Haussmann) to flânerie (Baudelaire, Poe).
7. The world on display: imperialism, powers and utopias in Universal Exhibitions
8. The emergence of leisure: travel, spectacularity and the city suburbs.
9. Artists and exhibitions: institutional critique from the ´Salon des Refusés´ to the Impressionist Exhibitions.
10. The ‘names’ of Impressionism and the new historiography.
11. Impressionism and the \"narcissism of light\" (R. Krauss).
12 Gender perspectives: Feminism, Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Marie Bashkirtseffer.