Harmony and Dissent:

Modern Art and the Avant-Garde

Moderated by Professor Rory O’Dea

In this seminar, we will trace the evolution of modern art through a series of pivotal moments and movements, a historical narrative that continues to resonate and shape the art world today. 

Modernism represented a profound challenge to traditional ways of making and defining art. In the words of the poet Ezra Pound, modern art was driven by the singular ambition to “Make it new,” a battle cry that inspired artists to innovate, invent, and envision the impossible and the utopian. A unifying thread of this episodic history of modernism is the dynamic tension between pure formal invention—what might be called art for art’s sake—and artists’ renewed commitment to responding to world historical events. Key concepts and themes to be considered include the development of abstraction, art and politics, art and nationalism, contemporary and popular subject matter, and the relationship between art and design.  


Seminar Dates & Times

Tuesdays  |   2:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. EST


March 9, 23
April 6, 20
May 4, 18


Session 1 The Painters of Modern Life: French Impressionism in the Nineteenth Century 
Session 2 The Expressive, the Decorative, and the Primitive: Critiques of Modernity in the Early Twentieth Century
Session 3 1917Utopia and Revolution in the Russian Avant-garde 
Session 4 The Art of Destruction and Dreams: Dada and Surrealism in post-war Europe
Session 5 Art and Cultural Identity in the 1920s: The Harlem Renaissance and Mexican Muralism
Session 6 Modernism at Midcentury: Abstract Expressionism and the birth of Postmodernism

Seminar Cost: $450 (tax-deductible portion $225)