Civilisations – BBC

Pt 1

Ancient history and recording animals 30 000 + years ago. musical instruments found at the same time link music to art. Creativity.

Are these memories, or wishes for the future, or wishes to be remembered by the artists?

Minoans from Crete. Islands still covered in architecture, spaces created for ceremony

recorded social art, decorative work to continually entertain, bull jumping as a national sport reproduced for posterity. Seal stones beautifully decorated in miniture then set in jewellery.

Greece Mysenaeans. Grave goods, grand gold rings + 1500 seperate objects decorative things and first fight scene carved into a seal stone 1.5″

Petra built by Nabataean carved into sandstone 4bc nomads trade in incense

Mexico and myans built theatres of political and religious significance. Gruesome bunch.

Mayan gods made small and large, and glyphs, very decorative.

Honduras, Copan(?) 16 generations of kings survived until the civilisation suffered years of drought and drifted away.

Pt 2 How do we look?

Almec 20′ high carved stone head. leading into looking at our socially predefined views on good looks?

Hadrian (?) goes to look at an ancient stone statue and record the experience in graffiti on the statue by a lady in waiting in the party through verse.

Ancient Greece, Athens art devoted to athletic human form. pottery covered in images that show them how to be Athenians. Athenian wives were for making babies and creating wool.

Wine container shows the line between man and beast (pissed blokes). “Deeply gendered and hierarchical.” Statue as memorial.

Roman Egypt portraits painted on coffins. individual likeness, layers of paint for flesh and highlights in the eyes. Silhouette created on a wall as a memory of a travelling love.

China, Emperor Chin 1974 discovery of terracotta army 7000 pieces all different, individual.

Pharaohs of Egypt and monumental statues. Even hidden in temples away from propaganda positioning. Carved for the pharoah himself? to help remind him of his own power?

Naxos, Greece. Marble used to carve huge statues, one half hewn and left in the quarry.

This leads to the greek style of statuary that has movement and muscle, anatomicly correct. Boxers statue, worn and tired he sits in his injuries head turned to the light. Made in Bronze to portray a character in a story, a forgotten person who is not the young athlete of most Greek art (lost in his own world).

Back to Frassiclaya(?) looking you in the eye with honesty.

a few hundred years later, and the female form is an object not doing anything, just to be looked at. And so it began…

Erotic, her hands hiding her form or teasing? Assumed male viewer in western art.

Syon House, England. resting place for antiquities brought there by its rich owners. Dying Gaul(?) opposite replica Apollo Belvederi(?) pleasing youth embodies a higher civilistation. Nude figures of humans doesn’t show a higher civilisation. it just defines how we see ourselves. She’s right, it is narrow.

Amlec wrestler using a greek style of proportion view of classical form in western way of seeing. expressive twist of body – realistic face.

Pt 3 Picturing Paradise

Painting landscapes to give yourself a space. Mu Xin under house arrest drawing the landscape he could remember.

Painting not as the world is, but as we would like it to be.

To be civilised meant to paint landscapes.

Scrolls unroll to tell stories.

Carpets show images of the structured garden.

Virgil extolling the rustic life.

Villa Barbaro(?) Building and architecture filled with painted friezes. Trompe l’oeil. Mixing man with gods. A paradise painted up that didn’t exist. “Buccolic Dreamscape”.

1500’s Bovaria Albrecht Altdorfer Landscape overtook the myth he inserted into a background. I think the link between a tree and a crucified Christ is a bit thin. Start of the reformation and the end of religious painting on the scale there was before. Also, aas a picture made with either a really fine set of brushes or a dip pen, I think Schama is wrong to atribute its creation to that level of energy over the control to make that delicately and it is a tight little picture.

Pieter Bruegel the elder 1560’s(?) from Antwerp credible depiction of country life. mixed his geography giving it a fairytale quality? “whole picture laid out as a moment… the whole human condition and our place inside it”…

Jan Van Guyen Landscape jobbing artist. pride in the flat lands the people had created. honest pictures of mud.

This progressed on to a more oppulent time and the landscapes moved on too, the clouds become dramatic high theatre in a painting of a windmill. 1670 Dutch going it alone in Europe.

1860’s American civil war Frederic Edwin Church Thomas Moran Propoganda p

Winslow Homer the veteran in a new field. a man cuts the corn in a field filled with ripe harvest. Painted shortly after a bloody battle and the assassination of a president. Solitary man many corn stalks.

Ansel Adams. used a red filter to darken the sky. His photos where his view of the landscape, twisted with filters burning and dodging the large scale negatives.

Pt 4 The Eye of Faith

Spring equinox Cambodia sunrise at temple at Angkor Wat. Heavily carved Hindu temple 12thC building built to unify man and devine world.

Dilemas religions face when they try to show god in real world?

Religious awe or curiousity peeking into world of devine. How do they work?

Ajunta caves? 200bc Buddha carved out of the rock. Earliest Buddhist painting in the world recorded. Redefined them as Italian renaisance rather than Indian art, a culture apart. You need to understand the significance of the art int eh spaces they were created for, not in galleries.

The eclectic path of the painted stories on the wall mean you should know the stories to find them. Seek out the message for themselves and find there own path to enlightenment.

Christian conquest of pagan Rome. Mosaics show stories from the bible. Shows unity of church state and military.

Jesus at the heart of early Christian battles.

How devine was he? was he made of the same stuff as God? shown in 3 states, younger, as the lamb and older as the man with a beard.

Venice. Coula di San Rocco. Religious meeting house, opulent place  for the rich to remember to give to the poor. C16th Tintoretto.

Overwhelmed by size, distracted by busy detailed. contrast by light and shade. Emotion Ruskin said it was to hard to analyse.

Some where C16th dress to bring the observer into the painting, Crucifixion is a historic part of our time and a religious event that is still relevant. However it was painted while the brotherhood was being criticised for paying for the opulence over the good deeds.

However, perils of vanity in religion abound…

Seville Church of the Macarena Madonna crying at death of Jesus, intended to have an aura of humanity. added to over years, dressed in a vast wardrobe. Festival of our lady in Easter. Idolatry? uncomfortably close to worship of images over faith.


Sancaklar Mosque religious space stripped of all the non essential. reminiscent of cave of Hera(?) Islam as a faith of the word. Istanbul different view of Islam. Rich patterned tiles/carpets, the writing as decoration.

Aysha Makes a wall art which isn’t allowed by Mohammed but she is ok to cut it up and use it as cushion covers.

Calligraphy. graphic, balance.

Blue Mosque C17th no idols or living creatures, walls covered with plants and flowers on ceramic tiles and monumental calligraphy. which when it was made most of the viewers would have been illiterate and the script is high above your head and almost unreadable, go to absorb some of the blessing. Image becoming the word and word becoming the imagery.

Jewish Bible. patterns around text warning of idols and images. Jewish artists celebrating islamic patterns from medieval age, cultural blending Christian tradition of image of King David.

Ely Cathedral. Jewel of Gothic architecture Paint still visible. high arches Oliver Cromwell hacking off bits of statues. worship of images as a distraction from God. Saints, life of the Virgin, removing whole statues or heads and hands. Iconoclasm.

Artful narrative of religious conflict.

Muslom armies invaded India, Hinduism was a bit of a shock, many Gods and much idol creation. Dehli first mosque. 1190’s ornate colonnade. Hindu structures taken apart and used in its construction. to assert conquest by Islam? built the right way up as respect for the human image?

The Parthenon, Athens originally for Athena. Where do I come from what is my place in history. modern faith is civilisation. grand narratives bringing people together in shared believes.

What is civilisation? Little more than an act of faith.

Good answer.

Pt 5 The Triumph of art

Italian renaissance wasn’t the start of art being amazing, look further back to eastern art and you can see links between two. Istanbul, the higher sphere built as part of a christian church. It was then converted into a mosque. .

Great Fridays Mosque the engineer was born a Christian. Indivisibility of space. all in it together. Islam is a religion of law and simple faith. weightless dome raised on 4 pillars.

Rome St Peters Basilica Dome seated on a drum with a colonnade around it

1506 building started. Michealangelo took over. This was being built at the same time as the mosque.

Michelangelo threw a party as the cornice below the dome was complete.

Knave added as it looked far to pagan. Taller than other domes.

Florence, Cellini goldsmith trying to talk up his artistry to the same level as Michelangelo.

created Perseus holding up the head of medusa in one cast. Pointed it across the courtyard from David so it looks like its turned Michelangelo’s work to stone.

Hindu temple built with Indian ideas and some from Persia. Akbar as a ruler could paint so this dictated the rise of art in his time.

However, the art was a touch derogatory of the other rulers, like Turkish and English, seen below feet of emperor

European art got bigger and better. Carravagio.

Madonna di Loretto, madonna bares her feet, her neck and decollage in a (at the time) contemporary Italy.

Artemisia Gentileschi painted the allegory of painting in a self portrait as a female artist.

Valazquez Painted the royals, Las Meninas paints himself in it. who or what controls the way we look. Role reversal King and queen as a faint potential painted reflection at the back of the room.

Rembrandt’s The Night Watch as a theatrical enactment about to move off the canvas. watch out art, but watch out the world.

He copied Indian miniatures in pen and ink, sketchy little images, shows styles also moved from east to west.

Taj Mahal. took 20 years to complete as a monument. But was preceded by another tomb 10 years earlier, filled with a created garden.

These ideas then spread across to England with the empire.

Pt 6 First Contact

In the west, the issue with African art being possible when the Victorians believed them to be lesser.

Loss as the bronzes are in The British Museum in London not in Nigeria

Portuguese where there first a few centuries earlier. They went to trade, not conquer.

Met a civilisation that wasn’t in isolation.

Benin itself had a deep history which continued to develop. They took on Portuguese elements and represented them. Carved ivory head of a queen mother with a headdress of Portuguese heads backing up her knowledge.

Art sold West recognisable 16th C europeans carved on salt cellers.

The portuegeues became more outward looking, their architecture took in African ideas, including a rhino.

Albrect Durer created a woodcut from a sketch of another artist and sold thousands of images of this rhino.

Artist unknown the Kings fountain. Lisbon near the water, traders, and all class of white and black people that mingle.

Aztecs Mayan calendar and sacrifice for appeasement of gods and continuation of life.


1519 Tenochtitlán . Cortez and Montezuma meet. Cortez was gifted a Turquoise covered two headed snake (which I’ve helped yr 3 remake as a mosaic before). Spanish only wanted gold and mostly beet the Aztecs with European diseases.

aztec statues and temples raised and burned. the people forced into Catholicism to get rid of the sacrificing.

A book created for Spain by Aztecs to help understand them before overtaking them.

Day of the dead, a mix of Catholicism and Aztec. Not a western concept of negative view of death.

Spain got rich on gold they stole

El Greco brought to Spain the greek authodox art 1596 view of Toledo rich depiction of cathedral rising above landscape. Sacristi disrobing of Christ His crucifixion is raw.

Japan, Feudal society to robust to be conquered, Porteguese sailers driven there by storm. Highly sophisticated culture. So they traded with them instead.

Folding screen Namban screen(?) japan wasn’t impressed with european standards of hygene etc. Screens show the traders with exotic wears, the poeple shown, Africans, free and enslaved, Arabs and Europeans.

As missionaries arrived, the ne dynasty closed rank, killed off Christians and shut the kingdom off from the rest of the world. They instigated a revival of their own culture and banned travel.

Dutch merchants lived on an island in a harbour as inofensive traders who werenot interested in forcingthier religion on Japan, this way technology could travel to the kingdom.

Japans art took in new tech, ocular aids to help art become more three dimensional. Maruvama Okvo Bamboo in wind and rain (c1776) Room dividing screen, one side bamboo painted as if in wind, the other its painted as if in rain, layers of bamboo fading into distance.

Cracked ice (late c18) subtle painted on paper cracks painted with depth into distanc, budism imperfection and impermanence Beauty and perfection important to western art. there’s the link.

From Dutch point of view, it was one of many trading partenrships.

Amsterdam. centre of trading. Blue and wite chinese pottery, Japanese laquerware, clothes of fine silk from persia.

Dutch art comodified, art trading became a ‘thing’. wanted art that showed themselves.

Jan Vermeer paintings set in the Dutch home, ordinary life the rest of the world outside. shown in the objects in the paintngs, wall hangings, chinese pottery on the table, oriental rugs, silk robes on the people.

Maria sevilleraion. a Botnist who illistrated her findings. Showed lifecycles of bugs and plants they ate, created a big book of her pictures to fund her travels to where the Dutch had traded to sketch indiginous creatures.

Johan Zophany Calcutta, East India company Colonel Mordents cock match(1786) Painting on canvas fight put on for moab of oud(?)British cockeral is on the verge of killing the Indian bird, British walking off with the with Indian woman.

Company paintings commisioned by men of the company who had gone native, uncomfortable association with the interloperd.

Ghulam Ali Khan Colonel James Skinner () Painting of a mixed race chap in his military finery  Also painted architecture before western culture overtook that too. Calcutta headquarterd Govenrment house 1803 in British style.colonades a picture fronted palace. to show superiority. Political theatre, shock and awe.

Pt 7 Radiance

Gothic cathedral and stone, cold bleak colour. Some painted and bright light of gospel, light of creator, light throgh stained glass windows, showing pictures of bible stories so illiterate could understand. Believed gems could emit light and transport you to heaven, stained windows as a result showed visions of paradise.

Venice took the silks and rugs from the east to decorate itself.

Drawings to precede larger pieces separated Venice from the low arts. Saw drawing as the best solution and colour as pleasing the masses. The sacred conversation Bellini G, draped fabrics crisp rounded, colour balancing the picture

Titian a man with a quilted sleeve, fabrics painted in expensive ultramarine for a none religious painting. Titian Bacchus and Ariadne seperates the natural and earthy in browns to the higher ideals in the blue.

1750’s Joh Baptista Tiepalo 4 continents fresco releals earth over the heavens the higher up the stairs you go. The earth painted for the humans over the rulers and the religion.

India, Celebration of Holi artist unknown (c. 1775) Death of Vali; Rama & Lackshmana Wait Outside the Monsoon., picture created to be carried into court and shown alongside the reading of a poem about the picture. Bulaki Three Aspects of the Absolute, 3 images backed in gold, as a start in nothing but blank gold, the next the nearly perfect person centred in the gold  and the third the ‘physical material of the world’ is coming into being in silver. calming depiction of creation.

Madris, Goya 1788 The anual festival of Saint … the pursuit of happiness as people enjoy festival. next year Goya painted same picture but a more gutteral version light and joy gone. the San Isidro Pilgrimage (c. 1820-3) pain evident on the raw faces on the large panoramic canvas Napolean in the centre and his invasion of Spain. torture and horrors of war drawn out by Goya. in his 70’s Goya painted 14 pictures on the walls of his home as his response. Saturn devouring one of his children. Not a child, a shrunken naked woman.  Lights on in painting as 2 peasants fight to the death with sticks, beating each other. Goya is Godless in these paintings. Painting of dog on own looking up into empty sky. Dog without a master.

Japan, wood block print.Suzuki Harunobu, A Woman Running to Escape a Sudden Shower  (c.1765) up to 12 layers of colour, current and local and commercial for entertainment. Kitagawa Utamaro, The Oiran Yoso-oi at Her Toilet (c. 1799) courtesans waiting for customers, block prints of porn. Katsushika Hokusai 36 prints of mount Fuji beautiful blues. Waves in Kajikazawa in Kai Province (c. 1831), nearly overwhelming the land, all lines in blue, foam on top of waves, fisherman pulling in his lines. Fuji as a talisman of immortality, not just postcards but as a calming spirituality.

Giverny France Monet had 231 of the Japanese prints, painting the light not the object. Impressionism reshaping space and depth. painting modern art (at the time) of the peolpe around them observing nature over suburb. a series, many paintings of the same subject at different times and angles, Monet took this in, Rouen Cathedral, 30 versions. all with different light.  no object in the building is important, only how we see them. Deconstruction?

Van Gogh. Pere Tanguy (1888) the Harvesters woodblock colour and a rural setting. Starry night over the Rhone (1888) night scene, lights reflected in water, use of colour brings pallete throughout the picture, stars shiing brightly. Gas lights illuminate the waterside. radiance of here and now.

Matisse, Tangier Morocco. Islam pulls him, people of Tangiers surrounded by art Moroccan Tryptich as his view of Tangiers, blue green in all 3 paintings.

Back in France, his collages utilised colour and shape that came with him in his travels. The ROsary Chapel, stained glass light and colour tiles with depiction of Mary and Jesus as a mother and child over deity. Stone picked because shells are visible in it. Islamic pattern in hte glass, african pattern in wall art.

great art gives bolt of illumination.

Pt 8 The Cult of Progress

19 century industrial revolution and western civilisation believing theirs was the best way to go everyone else was primitive.

18th C harness nature. IR middle England, Architecture revolving around the factory. Joseph Wright of Derby painted this first cotton mill for it’s owner. Wright fascinated by this new. Progress. An Experiment on a bird in a bell pump. Oil painting of a science experiment, shows the peoples views and a bird dies, showed the fears of the age.

French army Napoleon invaded Egypt because he thought he was taking modern civilisation back to its original home.

Took artists along for ride, documented lost world and hieroglyphs. Dug for victory and took it away for betterment of wider world, became fascinated by Egypt and used designs round Europe.

Wanted to reeducate Muslim world, he failed to the brits who took over, We became obsessed with an imaginary view of exotic people and places.

Delacoix painted oriental world. Only he never saw the women of Arab household so he probably painted Jewish Parisian models. He made it up.

Nude women portrayed as a common site, European fantasies to escape industrialisation.

Europe changed, Turner painted it, old destroyed as new grew. Cities showed human cost of mechanisation.

USA new country and forged in enlightenment, Virgin territory art showed this god blessed country Thomas Cole Brit born Artist Landscapes took place of ruined Architecture added indigenous people, scene shrink them into features. Noble Savage of uncorrupt to be tamed.

His best work was allegorical view of rise and fall of civilisations on the principle that this happened to all civilisation. 5 paintings.

Manifest destiny, take their view of civilisation to furthest destinations. Indigenous coralled and hounded into being a disappearing culture George Kattling(?) painted portraits of real people, created an Indian gallery of paintings. still thought they were “doomed and must perish”.

Ignored the art of the native Indians which began to show the effect of the westerners

New Zealand. Gottfied Lindoer arrived in New Zealand from Czech to record Maori  1890’s however, Moaori were on increase. so they got Lindoer to paint them how they wanted to be painted, in a western style. and mixed western Maori dress.

Moari architecture, houses faced with patterns and characters, tattoos to link with ancestors and cultures. Tamoko

Camera and photo long exposure to start with.

Houseman transformed Paris from medieval  crammed housing to boulevards Nedar photo’d change and portraits of his time

Painters started to record human experiences Impressionism, light and colour

Flaneur  Monet recorded train station as modern France and Paris, golden age. tried to record dislocation of modern city Gustav Caillebotte paints disconcerting Paris no eye contact within or outside of rain soaked city street

Mary Cossatt painted someone looking at stage while being looked at by another audience member, male gave

A Bar at the Folie-Bergere Bored bar maid. see reflection of society lapping it up behind her. Social comment., maybe she is a commodity and prostitute.

a masterclass in ambiguity. everything is for sale doesn’t bear close scrutiny.

exposition universe, Eiffel Tower also colonial exhibitions people shown in mock cities with their art shown with superiority of France.

Paul Gauguin escaped modern life to Arles but kept going back, after exposition, left for Tahiti. 1891 local elite did well, then locals had war disease and alcohol, west arrived and decimated culture.

Gauguin found 13 year old lover and muse acknowledges modern issues with relationships, praises new style of painting. recorded decline of a culture . while searching for his mixed cultural self.

turn of 20th century Cubism? African mask Picasso. Primitive art was the basis of Cubism. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, uses African mask stylisation in painting for female faces  (prostitutes)  barbarity of European culture.

Flanders reduced to some primitive level. Otto Dix spent 3 years on westerner and eastern from partially in machine gun base, drew horrors he saw German artist no consolation of victory war cemetery. gas mask icon of total war home grown barbarism war triptych as paradox against religious painting, panel show before and after war, broken bodies traumatised, central panel wasted western front, rotting flesh skeleton referring to crucifixion, PTSD transferred onto art.

Pt 9 The vital Spark

1941 concentration camp for Jews Brandheis took art materials into camp and taught them art. momentary escape into imaginations. post war 2 suitcases containing more than 4000 pieces of art made by children where found. Poignant. What does art do in the face of war? does it have a place in this time or is it just a commodity.

Japan, Naoshima created art island, a place to view art chi chu(?) art museum.

Mondrian, Line form and colour, (negative form?) lines of abstract form to create the ocean. simplified and magnified. flat lines and calibrated for balance. Then in the 40’s Mondrian moved to New York and his art livened up. lost the black lines that weighed the art down and abstraction after the war took off, Jackson Pollocks splatter paintings.

Warhol pop culture. Du champs anything can be labelled art.

Keifer. War child (same as Scharmer) Heard Hitlers voice repelled by it so started journey. posing in a provocative way photo’d in places relevant to the salute. His major works where huge physical pictures of the desolation of war. Walhalla as a resting place of great names used by the nazis and reborn by Keifer as a hospital ward. Soiled and smoking landscapes.

Covers lead strips with film images as spools.

Stone mountain Georgia carved relief about the supporters of slavery, KKK founded in 1950’s here. Paper silhouette cut outs Kara Walker uses to show a culture abused by slavery

Ink wash and drawing murals of modern violence hark back to Goya’s depiction of war How do we do these deeds, how do we look at them. A series of racist events?

El Anatsui creates sumptuous huge fabrics from waste. flattened bottle tops (his father in Ghanaian wove Kentei(?) fabric for celebrating, so a continuation?) strongest modern art has magical power of transformation take last mights rubbish and turn it into something enduring.

Gunpowder Fireworks used to create art through explosions enduring art on paper. Lays out stencils on canvas. covers with coloured gunpowder adds real plants over top then lays card over and weights, which restrict explosion stencils protect the white. resets with black gunpowder and covers with blank canvases lights fuse layers of history hiding a lightness.

plus ghost on blank canvases

Ai Weiwei huge sculpture of refugees on an oversized blow up dinghy.

suspended up high with bodies lost floating on the floor. much like terracotta army created to accompany emperor into afterlife. the dispossessed a repeating cycle.

Mikal Rovner long lines of animated figures walk never endingly across the wall, projections of people like runes moving on stone tablets.  New building made from detritus of Israeli and Palestinian homes

Can art do something about it? can it heal a rift based on more people than are involved in creating the art?



Shared humanity is the message of the series





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s