Turning Points: Epiphanies That Transformed Art

In 1907, Picasso went to the Trocadéro Museum in Paris. There, he saw a display of Congolese masks and experienced a revelation that would reset the course of modern art. It was then and there, he later recalled, that “I understood why I was a painter. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon must have come to me that very day––yes absolutely!” Four years later, in Munich, Wassily Kandinsky experienced an epiphany of his own when he went to a concert of music by a young composer named Arnold Schoenberg that inspired him to apply principles of atonal music to art. These are all but two examples of a vibrant history of life-changing personal events in the lives of extraordinary artists who radically changed modern art. In this course, we will seek to understand the major role epiphanies have played in shaping the artistic sensibilities of some of the greatest artists of the 20th century. For some, it was a dramatic event, for others a sudden insight. Quite often it was precipitated by traveling (Paul Klee in Tunisia; Anni Albers in Mexico). In other cases, it happened through intense study (Marcel Duchamp and chess; John Cage and Zen), and some experienced epiphanies through contact with spirits (Hilma af Klint; Emma Kunz) and hallucinations (Salvador Dali; Yayoi Kusama). In every case the artist was set onto a new path of what Duchamp called “complete liberation.”

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You'll Walk Away with

  • Knowledge about the inspiration for important art works of the 20th century
  • Familiarity with famous 20th century artists

Ideal for

  • Art enthusiasts
  • Prospective and practicing arts professionals
NO open sections available for this course at the moment. Please check back next semester.