Athenaeum Library Book Arts Lecture

Art History Lectures

Impressionism: The Great Disruptor of Western Art

Presented by Linda Blair


Thursdays, October 1, 8, 15, 22 & 29, 2020

All lectures begin at 6:30 PM


The lectures will be live-streamed online. Ticketholders will receive a link a week before the first lecture​. The lectures will be available for 24 hours to ticketholders.


Impressionism was transformative. It shattered the trajectory of Western art that had been born in the 1400s Florence. For the following 400 years art remained true to its Renaissance beginnings and hummed along quietly, but by the 1860s, it began to slip off its smoothly greased rails. A new generation of skilled, innovative artists—today revered, but reviled in their own day—despaired over the morbidity of that long tradition. They met on Thursday nights at Café Guerbois to question the basic assumptions upon which art had rested for so long. We will explore why these young avant-garde artists were willing to sacrifice so much material comfort and professional approbation in order to create a new art. 


The lecture series will place the Impressionist movement within its historic context, as well as examine its philosophical underpinnings, and radical innovations as developed by its leading artists: —Edouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, —before turning to the artist who most fully inhabits the theories and techniques of Impressionism, Claude Monet.


October 1 » Historic Context, Influences, and Practices


The first lecture is devoted to the basic premises and practices of Impressionism. Other contributory factors, such as the role of photography, studies in optics, the influence of the Barbizon painters, and an emerging sense of individualism, will be discussed. The rest of the first lecture and the second one will be devoted to Edouard Manet, called the Father of Impressionism when in fact he was not an Impressionist at all, but an extraordinarily inventive, indeed, almost revolutionary artist.

October 8 » Edouard Manet: Father of Impressionism


The lecture series continues with Edouard Manet’s formative years. His daring work attracted other rebellious painters to his leadership. One of Manet’s many tragedies was that he was unable to explain or justify his work and this made him vulnerable to ridicule and exclusion by the very establishment he so wished to join. 

October 15 » The Paris of Renoir and Degas


This lecture contrasts the work of Renoir and Degas, two painters so antithetical in personality, technique, and subject matter that each throws the other into high relief. Both provide keen insight into 19th century Paris, its high and low pleasures, from its well-inhabited bordellos to the privileged lives of the haute bourgeoisie. If time permits, we will begin to explore the early paintings and development of Claude Monet, one of the most influential artists of recent centuries. 

October 22 » Claude Monet: Formative Influences and Early Works


This lecture is devoted to Monet's early works, as the continuation and ultimate rejection of Impressionist theory, when Monet's art continues to evolve. Included will be his famed series works—the haystacks and façade of Rouen cathedral, studies of the effects of light on form and color. 

October 29 » Claude Monet: The Late Years


The magic of Monet’s paintings continues, with special emphasis placed on his late works, the water lilies series and studies of his beloved pond at Giverny, when air, water, and form evaporate into the ephemeral and art soars into abstraction.  


About Linda Blair: 

Linda Blair has taught art history for many years, at the La Jolla Athenaeum and UC San Diego Osher; she was a docent at The Cloisters. She holds a B.A. from Mills College, and an M.A. from USD. She is an active volunteer at UC San Diego, dedicated to raising scholarship funds.  




Individual tickets: $12 member / $15 nonmember

Series tickets: $55 member / $70 nonmember




Online tickets are subject to ticketing fees.


Athenaeum Library Book Arts Lecture

Art History Lectures

Eastern Influences in Western Art from the Late 19th Through the 20th Century

How the East Opened the Gates of Art in the West

Presented by Cornelia Feye


Tuesdays, October 27; November 3, 10 & 17, 2020

All lectures begin at 6:30 PM


The lectures will be live-streamed via Zoom. Ticketholders will receive a link a week before the first lecture​. The lectures will be available for 24 hours to ticketholders.


Join us in an online lecture series from October 27 through November 17 as art historian Cornelia Feye elucidates the underpinnings of Asian cultural influences on Western art from Impressionism to Abstraction to Conceptual Art in Eastern Influences in Western Art from the Late 19th Through the 20th Century.


During the last quarter of the 19th century, Asian art in the form of Japanese woodblock prints and Buddhist sculpture, as well as translations of Eastern philosophy, arrived in Western Europe, particularly Paris. Impressionist artists such as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec were inspired and influenced by the flat colors, unusual perspectives, and motifs that captured ordinary moments in time in the ukiyo-e. Post-Impressionists Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gaugin echoed these prints in their paintings, and the influences continued throughout the 20th century. 


This four-week lecture series explores the ways in which select artists were influenced and inspired not only by the formal aspects of Asian art, but also by Eastern thought and concepts. The lectures are based on the excellent work and research of Jacquelynn Baas as presented in her book Smile of the Buddha: Eastern Philosophy and Western Art from Monet to Today (University of California Press, 2006).


October 27 » The Infinite Moment


Join Feye as she begins the series by exploring the effect of Japanese woodblock prints on European artists at the turn of the 19th century. Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gaugin, and Odilon Redon, all four, inspired by these prints, seek to capture fleeting moments in their paintings through a new perception of light and space.


November 3 » Dimensions of Abstract Art


Asian thought leads early 20th century artists, now including those in Eastern Europe and America, to explore the spiritual dimension in their art. In 1910, Wassily Kandinsky’s groundbreaking book, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, helps open the door to abstract art by incorporating a spiritual dimension independent of the physical world. By that time Hilma af Klint has already begun to paint large abstract temple paintings in Sweden. In 1915, inspired by Theosophy and other Asian-influenced philosophies, Georgia O’Keeffe paints her first abstract artwork and Kazimir Malevich paints Black Square, based on a Russian icon.

November 10 » The Space of Art


Encompassing art in the West from the early to mid-20th century, Asian thought influences Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi, who incorporates Zen aesthetic in his work, while Romanian artist Constantin Brancusi brings abstract sculpture to life through Eastern concepts of empty space and simplicity. Also influenced by the Asian concepts, Marcel Duchamp creates assemblages and readymades that refer to Zen philosophy.

November 17 » Light, Space, and Insights


The influence of Asian thought continues into the late 20th century. Mid-century, Canadian-born Agnes Martin, incorporating Buddhist and Taoist influences in her work, begins to practice painting as a spiritual exercise in the solitude of New Mexico’s stark landscape. Later, Robert Irwin, Dan Flavin, Yayoi Kusama, and James Turrell break out of the gallery space and the two-dimensional picture frame by creating immersive installations and environments that foster a sense of light, space, and heightened awareness in viewers. They become participants in the experience of art in space and time, echoing the Buddhist concept of being present in the moment.


Online via Zoom


Individual tickets: $12 member / $15 nonmember

Series tickets: $44 member / $56 nonmember




Online tickets are subject to ticketing fees.


Athenaeum Library Book Arts Lecture

Art History Lectures

Leading Bad Boys and Girls of British Art

British Art before, during, and after Bacon and Freud

Presented by Derrick Cartwright and Hugh Davies



All lectures begin at 7:30 PM


Join us for a three-part lecture series on British Art that will be jointly presented by Hugh Davies and Derrick Cartwright.


This series looks at a broad swath of British art from the late Victorian era up to the present day. The focus of these talks, however, will be the distinct legacies of Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. Friends, and later rivals, Bacon and Freud drew selectively on the prior achievements of British painters and sculptors, from Walter Sickert and Wyndham Lewis to Barbara Hepworth and Jacob Epstein. Largely defying the critical expectations of their period, these artists produced shocking representations and lived unconventional lives, sometimes drawing as much attention to themselves for their outrageous behavior as for their work. In this way, they proved to be durable models for the current generation of artists throughout the UK.


TBA » Walter Sickert, Gwen John, and Stanley Spencer


TBA » Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud


TBA » Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin



About the lecturers:

Derrick Cartwright, PhD, is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of San Diego, where he is also Director of University Galleries, and serves as Director of Curatorial Affairs for the Timken Museum of Art in Balboa Park. Cartwright is currently a member of the Advisory Board for Murals of La Jolla. He teaches a wide range of courses at USD, from surveys of modern North and South American art to seminars on the history and theory of collecting.


Hugh M. Davies, PhD, is recognized in­ternationally as a scholar in the field of contemporary and modern art. Davies served from 1983 to 2016 as director of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and was named Director Emeritus by the museum’s trustees in 2016. Davies is currently a member of the Francis Bacon Authentication Committee, which published the artist’s catalogue raisonné in 2016. His doctoral dissertation on Francis Bacon was published by Garland Press, and he has subsequently published extensively on Bacon’s work.


Joan & Irwin Jacobs Music Room

Athenaeum Music & Arts Library

1008 Wall Street

La Jolla, CA 92037

Click here for directions


Individual tickets: $14 member / $19 nonmember

Series tickets: $36 member / $51 nonmember




Online tickets are subject to ticketing fees.