Course Description

The Many Stories of Modern Art
Thursdays, 10-11 a.m. (Oct. 1 – Nov. 5)
Instructors: CMA staff TBD
Artists like Édouard Manet, Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock loom large over the dominant history of modern art, leaving other figures under-recognized. If we chart this history without them, what new subjects and ways of telling the story of modern art emerge?
This six-session course offers a chronological overview of key moments and themes in modern art through in-depth analyses of significant works in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s collection by artists such as Berthe Morisot, Wilfredo Lam, Jacob Lawrence and Lee Krasner.
The course begins with the “textbook” story of modern art, from French Realism to Abstract Expressionism. The five subsequent sessions will counter this dominant history, each addressing equally important modern artists who represent different experiences, backgrounds and perspectives and together present an alternate history of modern art.

Course Outline

Session 1:

Modern Art, According to the Textbook

Oct. 1

One story of modern art, as told by the collections of institutions like CMA and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, focuses on the development of abstraction in painting. Beginning with French Realist painter Édouard Manet, successive generations of artists increasingly focused on the abstract language of painting. Artists discussed include Manet, Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, André Masson and Jackson Pollock.


Session 2:

The Impressionisms of Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt

Oct. 8

Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt were important members of the Impressionist circle. They exhibited widely with the group, had close friendships with male members of the group like Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas, and were equally innovative in terms of style and subject. How does our historical understanding of this movement change by focusing on the work of two women artists?


Session 3:

What If Modern Art Were Taught Without Picasso?

Oct. 15

Pablo Picasso experimented with a range of different styles across his career, from his Expressionist use of color in the Blue Period to the geometric language of Cubism and organic forms of Surrealism. For that reason, Picasso looms large over the history of modern art. But can we chart an alternate one that focuses on the artists he overshadowed? Discover under-recognized figures such as Paula Modersohn-Becker, Gabriele Münter, Wilfredo Lam, Alexandra Exter and Dora Maar.

Session 4:

African Art and Modernism

Oct. 22

What if the story of modern art began with the West and Central African artists who inspired it? African art objects greatly influenced Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and many other modernists of the early 20th century. Participants will not only learn about African art and the artists who made these works, but also how Europeans of the time like Picasso and Matisse understood African art.


Session 5:

Modern Art in the United States: Focus on the Harlem Renaissance

Oct. 29

Modern art took a specific course in the United States, with realist and abstract currents coexisting in the first four decades of the early 20th century. To understand this distinctly American approach to modernism, participants will explore the artists of the Harlem Renaissance — a moment of great artistic development in New York’s African American community. Key figures include photographer James Van Der Zee, sculptor Augusta Savage, and painters Jacob Lawrence and Aaron Douglas.

Session 6:

Abstraction in 1950s New York: Lee Krasner, Louise Nevelson and Norman Lewis

Nov. 5

The 1951 photograph The Irascibles shows the 15 artists who were most associated with the 1950s New York art scene, including Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. Only one woman, Romanian emigre Hedda Sterne, is included in the group. However, women and artists of color were a vibrant part of this scene. Learn about other significant artists active in 1950s New York, including Lee Krasner, Louise Nevelson and Norman Lewis, charting an alternate history of abstraction.




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Section Title
The Many Stories of Modern Art
11:00AM to 12:00PM
Oct 01, 2020 to Nov 05, 2020
Schedule and Location
Contact Hours
  • Online
Delivery Options
Virtual Instruction  
Course Fee(s)
Course Fee non-credit $79.00