Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Art History


Art History 250. Modernism and Mass Culture in France, 1848-1914

This course studies the early movements of European modern art—Realism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Cubism—with a focus on their interactions with mass culture. Beginning in the mid-19th century with Courbet and the impact of popular printmaking on his art, we study how other non-elite forms (lithographic posters, commercial photography, newspapers) shaped the subsequent development of modernist art, chiefly in France. In the second half of the course, we consider how new forms of leisure and commercial entertainment in Paris (café-concert, music hall, etc) impacted artists including Manet, Degas, and Seurat. We end in the early 20th century, with a consideration of cubist collage by Picasso and Braque and their adoption of the ephemera of mass culture: newspapers, song sheets, and department store advertisements. Why, if modernism can be traced through its appropriations from the commodity culture of capitalism, has it also been described as a critical alternative to it?