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Beauty and Aesthetics 2: Late Medieval and Early Renaissance Art

There are perhaps no two back-to-back periods of greater contrast in Western art than the late Medieval Gothic and the Early Renaissance. But while these eras are notable for their differences, they also have some common ground, particularly that faith was an important—perhaps the most important—source of artistic inspiration. This course will compare and contrast these two fascinating centuries by examining their artistic production.

beauty + Aesthetics II
Late Medieval + Early Renaissance Art

Taught by John Doyle


TUESDAYS January 5 - 26
7:00 - 8:30 pm
Location: TaborSpace, 5411 SE Belmont
Four weeks, $85. Space limited to 25 students.

There are perhaps no two back-to-back periods of greater contrast in Western art than the late Medieval Gothic and the Early Renaissance. But while these eras are notable for their differences, they also have some common ground, particularly that faith was an important—perhaps the most important—source of artistic inspiration. 

This course will compare and contrast these two fascinating centuries by examining their artistic production. In February, we will hold a follow-up class in which we will analyze and compare the art of the Late Renaissance and Mannerism with that of the period that followed them, the 17th century Baroque era.

Week 1: Foundations.  What is meant by terms like Medieval, Gothic, Renaissance, and Classicism? More importantly, what do you think of when you hear these words? We'll introduce this course's structure, too: every week, following group discussion of the issues in focus, we will compare and contrast a series of images from both periods.

Week 2: Women in Art. In both of these periods, women were viewed as personifications of constructs and institutions like philosophy, the church, artistic inspiration, purity, and sin. What was the role of women in these periods? How were they depicted in the art of their times? What role did women play as artists? In which period did women fare better? 

Week 3: Faith in Art. Western Europe was predominantly Catholic, but attitudes towards the church were often in flux. Catholic Christianity was, however, not the only faith to which people belonged or of which they were aware. Judaism and Islam also played a role and will be on the table for examination and conversation.

Week 4: Architecture.  Gothic architecture is seen by many as the apogee of late Medieval culture.  And there is perhaps no field of artistic production more starkly different than the architecture of these two periods. Which do you prefer?


John Doyle works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC; Docent and Education Committee member; Architectural Heritage Center, Portland.