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Introduction to Modern Art History (Online Short Course)

Introduction to Modern Art History (Online Short Course)

Central Saint Martins
Taught by
Theo Carnegy Tan


The twentieth century was one of the most important periods of history for the world of art, one so expansive that we still feel its effects today. The movements and artists of the Modern period set the tone for the Contemporary art that currently fills galleries and pushed artistic debate to reach new academic standards with its radical ideas. Many are now familiar with some its most famous works by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol, but the historical narrative and formal concepts of Modern Art still confuse museum visitors and students every day.

This course is designed to give a comprehensive introduction to the field of Modern Art by studying in detail its most definitive artists and movements. Over our lectures we cover an immense amount of ground from the Impressionist revolution of the late 1800s to the showmanship of the YBAs. Through paintings, videos, manifestos and writings we unpick the reasons for and meanings behind each theme in order to gain a good understanding of how such art came about and why it was important. Some of the areas we cover include Impressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and many more. Each area is given specific attention individual lectures and notes are sent out after each class with the corresponding images. Discussion is encouraged and students will be asked to read texts before each class.

Weekly Topics

Week One: Making the Modern
What did modern art emerge from? What movements anticipated an upheaval of painting?
Subjects: Academies of Art, Symbolism, Realism and Romanticism, and more

Week Two: Revolutions in Painting
Impressionism and Cubism are widely recognised movements of painting, but what made them so important at the time they emerged? We look at formal and conceptual qualities that enrich these two key movements.
Subjects: Paris 1900-1920, Impressionism, Cubism, Picasso, Monet, Renoir, and more

Week Three: Visions of Modernity
In Italy, modern painters sketched out a way of living that broke completely with the past through dedication to technology and progress. Elsewhere in Europe painters turned away from the physical world into realms of spirituality to realise their visions. We look at two different sides to the Modern phenomena through abstract painting and beyond.
Subjects: Futurism, Constructivism, Abstraction, De Stijl, Kandinsky

Week Four: Leaving Modernity
Following two world wars, visions of a Utopian art began to fade. Now that we have looked at some of the key features of Modern art, we will use our last session to look at how they dismantled and modified toward the contemporary age. How did changing society affect artworks post 1950? Is painting still important in a time of conceptual art?
Subjects: Pop Art, Abstract Expressionism, Surrealism, Postmodernity

This course will give you a developed understanding of the influential modern art movements, and how they contribute to today's contemporary art. You will develop and shape you understanding an opinions of Modern Art, and practice engaging in sophisticated discussion with your peers and tutor.

Who is Introduction to Modern Art History (Online) for
Thus course will be valuable for anyone with a passion for the arts, seeking to gain an understanding of this incredibly influential artistic period. Whilst prior knowledge of Art History is not essential, the course is best-suited to students who are familiar with the area, who may have undertaken formal study.
Level: Beginner/ Intermediate
Please note: This course is for students aged 18 and older

Why choose a CSM Online Short Course
Our online learning short courses allow you to experience Central Saint Martins wherever you are in the world. Additionally all CSM Online Short Courses include;

  • Live sessions with expert
  • Lesson recordings
  • Practical assignments
  • Personal feedback
  • VLE with course content
  • Forums for support
  • 3 months online access
  • CSM Certificate upon completion

Visit Frequently Asked Questions for further details about preparing for your online course, including any equipment you need.

Please note that all courses are taught in UK time. To compare times, please check World Time Buddy.

Tutor Description

Theo Carnegy-Tan is an arts academic and journalist from London. He graduated with First Class Honours from Westminster in MA Cultural and Critical Theory. He has previously worked at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art and Zaha Hadid Architects.  He currently writes critical articles and reviews for Times Quotidian, Be-Art and Blue Labyrinths.


Online Short Course Materials

To take part in the Online sessions you will need:

  • An up-to-date web browser (we recommend Firefox or Chrome)
  • The latest version of Java installed on your device
  • Microphone and headphones (a headset with a microphone function is recommended)
  • Webcam
  • Strong Internet connection via WiFi or ethernet; 2G, 3G or 4G will not be sufficient

Course Specific Materials

  • Paper and pen to take notes during live sessions
An extensive reading list will be sent to each student at the beginning of the source recommending works by John Berger, Arthur Danto, Julian Stallabrass and literature by Modernist authors

Available dates