Radical Change: 1850-1940


Painting and sculpture changed forever in the years between 1875 and 1950.

Traditionally art was descriptive and narrative. In this period – which along with the Renaissance is a major one for change and evolution in the history of art – the perception of what art is changed forever. It was during this time that the idea came to be recognised that art is actually about itself, that is, a painting or a sculpture does not just have the function of illustrating or telling a story; it has a life of its own. Thus artists started to explore different ways of applying paint to a canvas or finishing the surface of a clay model. And as for buildings – did they all have to conform to traditional patterns and layout, or how could they vary?

One of the key reasons for this reassessment of the place of art in society was the advent of photography. Once you could document life with a camera why did you need the painstaking method of representing things through art forms such as painting? Painting ran the risk of becoming redundant. It had to reinvent itself – and artists did that in a variety of ways. As a result we have a real range in the way that art appears in this period because artists approached this problem in a variety of manners.

The focus of this course is on artistic activity in Paris in a period of rapid social, technological and political change. Students are introduced to the transition from traditional to contemporary sculpture alongside major developments in painting.

Principal artists and topics include Matisse, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, Chagall, Salvador Dali, Rodin, Brancusi, Futurism, The Armory Show, Dada and Surrealism.


Coursework + exam for both 200 and 300 Levels

Availability 2024

Not taught in 2024



Recommended Reading

Eisenman, Stephen (ed.). Nineteenth Century Art: A Critical History. 3rd ed. London: Thames and Hudson, 1994.

Facos, Michelle. An Introduction to Nineteenth-Century Art. Abingdon, Oxon England; New York: Routledge, 2011.

Foster, Hal et al. Art since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism. London: Thames and Hudson, 2004.

Frascina, Francis et al. Modernity and Modernism: French Painting in the Nineteenth Century. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993.


Coursework + Exam for both 200 and 300 Levels


ARTHIST 300: 15 points


15 points at Stage II in Art History and 60 points passed


ARTHIST  200, 222, 322