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Mountains in European and African Art and History

ARHA 296
Fall 2014
Section: 01  
Crosslisting: ENVS 296
Course Cluster: African Studies

This course is a comparative study of mountains as artistic inspiration, focusing on the Atlas of northwest Africa and the Alps in Europe. We begin with Moses, the first mountain climber, and with those who built rather than climbed mountains--the Tower of Babel. We then turn to the first historical mountain climber: Oetzi, the 5200 year-old man found frozen in the ice high in the Tyrolian Alps. We then turn to medieval Europe. There, passes through the Alps and the Black Forest were conduits for the transit of men, goods, and cultural forms. Mountains were not barriers but passageways that linked cultures. In 16th- and 17th-century Europe, Netherlandish artists--Breughel, Seghers, Ruisdael, Joos de Mompers--first gave full expression to the grandeur, far beyond a human scale, of Alpine scenery. Gradually, mountains came to be viewed as places of aesthetic beauty and as manifestation of the sublime.
Romanticism, in the visual arts, poetry, and music, captures the experience of the Alps as both symbol and physical manifestation of the transcendent. Constable and Turner depict mountains in England's Lake District and the Alps as their primary subject matter. A deeper understanding of landscape painting may be had through the poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge. This transition coincided with the birth of mountaineering as a sport. We will read selections from narratives of climbing expeditions--Leslie Stephen, Mark Twain. In America, too, mid-19th century painters focused on the mountains, We will study Hudson River School artists represented in Connecticut collections (Church, Cole).
After World War I, mountaineering took on a heightened spiritual dimension for men who had survived the horrors of trench warfare. In Austria and Germany, climbing was identified with the cult of physical prowess and, sadly, with National Socialism and antisemitism. In fact, however, the development of climbing and skiing in the Alps owes much to Austrian and German Jews. In art, too, during the first decades of the 20th century, mountains were an important source of spiritual inspiration for painters whose work is central to the evolution of modern art.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA ART
Course Format: Lecture / DiscussionGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: None
Past Enrollment Probability: 90% or above

Last Updated on MAY-24-2024
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