EPL Offers a Mini-Course on the Unlikely Rise of Impressionism on January 18 and 25

December 16, 2021

an example of French Impressionist painting
Claude Monet, “Gare St. Lazare, “Paris, 1877

Evanston Public Library announces “Perspectives on French Impressionism,” a two-session, no-charge, non-credit class being offered to the greater Evanston community in partnership with the Northwestern Emeriti Organization (NEO).The instructor will be Professor Emerita Hollis Clayson, an internationally recognized expert on cultural and artistic movements originating in Paris. The two class sessions will take place the evenings of January 18 and 25 on Zoom. A full class description and an opportunity to register are available online at https://evanston.libnet.info/event/5417087.

Like many of today’s important social and cultural movements, Impressionism—a style of painting and printmaking, a social formation, and an ideology of modernity—was originally despised and mocked by the conservative arbiters of taste in 1870s Paris. Today, however, it is among the most revered forms of art, as attested to by the long lines at (pre-pandemic) museum exhibitions around the world.

“In this class we will ask why,” says Clayson, Professor Emerita of Art History and Bergen Evans Professor Emerita in the Humanities at Northwestern. “We will discern together the irony of the present-day popularity of a style that is strange and in many ways anti-intellectual—as it is a nonstop glorification of the garbage of perception.”

To understand its birth and its upswing in the estimation of so many art viewers, class participants will become acquainted with the institutional history of French Impressionism and with examples of the work of the core artists, among them Gustave Caillebotte, Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Prof. Clayson will also analyze the relationship between their artworks and the rapidly modernizing city of Paris and its surroundings.

Prof. Hollis Clayson portrait
Prof. Hollis Clayson

Hollis Clayson has published widely on Paris-based art practices. Her books are Painted Love: Prostitution in French Art of the Impressionist Era (1991), Paris in Despair: Art and Everyday Life Under Siege (1870–71) (2002), Is Paris Still the Capital of the Nineteenth Century? Essays on Art and Modernity, 1850–1900 (2016), co-edited with André Dombrowski, and Paris Illuminated: Essays on Art and Lighting in the Belle Époque (2019). Among her teaching awards are these from Northwestern: a Weinberg Distinguished Teaching Award (1987), a Charles Deering McCormick Professorship of Teaching Excellence (1993-96), and the Ver Steeg Graduate Teaching Award (2016). Her research has been supported by the Getty, the Clark, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Huntington, the National Gallery of Art, and the Institut national d’histoire de l’art (Paris). In 2014, she was named a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes académiques. Her latest project studies World’s Fairs, and centers upon the reception of the Eiffel Tower in 1889 and today.

Although attendance of both classes is strongly recommended, it is not required for participation. Suggested readings and Zoom login information will be distributed via email to all registered participants well in advance of the first class.

To register, visit https://evanston.libnet.info/event/5417087


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