Faculty of Arts


Shock of the Modern: Monet to Warhol

Please note: this is archived course information from 2017 for ARTHIST 109.


‘Imagination is the Queen of the faculties’. Charles Baudelaire, French art critic and poet.

Why were the radically new kinds of art produced in Europe between the mid-19th and mid- 20th centuries often so shocking and controversial for so many people then? Why did Manet’s Olympia cause outrage at the 1865 Paris Salon? Why did van Gogh manage to sell hardly any paintings during his lifetime? Why did Surrealist art puzzle its audiences? Why did Nazism condemn modernist art? And why were and are modern art works seen as crucial for freedoms of expression and thought?

This course explores the key works, ideas and practices of the artists, who created so-called modernist art and culture from the late 1840s to the early 1960s. It investigates the various factors which contributed to the emergence of the modern during a period of rapid and revolutionary social, political and technological change.

While there is a primary focus on painting, especially up to World War 1, sculpture, photography, collage and assemblage, installation and performance are also studied. The main artistic movements are investigated: Realism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Expressionism, Cubism, Abstraction, Dada and Surrealism, and post-World War 1 figurative art, as well as the emergence of Abstract and Pop Art in America after World War 11.

The major works by the most  influential artists are studied closely – for instance, Courbet, Manet, Monet, Cezanne, Seurat, Rodin, van Gogh, Gauguin, Munch, Picasso, Matisse, Mondrian, Kandinsky, Duchamp, Magritte, Ernst, Dali, Jackson Pollock and Warhol, as well as works by the leading women artists such as Berthe Morisot, Sonia Delaunay and Claude Cahun.

The impacts of the art of all these artists on later art production, first in Europe and America and then globally, has been and continues to be, enormous. Art and visual culture, as it is made and experienced today, simply would not be possible without the imaginations, ideas, painting, sculptures, photographs and other things created by the modernist artists of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Shock of the Modern provides the necessary foundation for students planning to advance to Stage II & III courses in 19th Century modern and contemporary art. It is also invaluable for Fine Arts students, anyone who values freedom of expression and opinion, as well as those who would like to learn more about the art to be seen in museums and art galleries.

View the course syllabus

Availability 2017

Semester 1


Coordinator(s) Dr Robin Woodward

Recommended Reading

R. Brettell  Modern Art 1851-1929: Capitalism and Representation (1999)

T. Eisenman   Nineteenth Century Art Thames and Hudson (any edition)

H. Foster et al, Art since 1900 Thames and Hudson (any edition)

R. Hughes The Shock of the New Thames and Hudson (any edition)

R Rosenblum and H Janson 19th Century Art  Abrams (any edition)


Coursework + exam


ARTHIST 109: 15.0 points


ARTHIST 104, 105

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