1. The Classical Ideal
Part I: Traces the origins of humanism and the immortal classical style to Ancient Greece. Part II: The genius of Roman engineering and architecture was used to build an empire, while portrait sculpture exalted its rulers.
2. A White Garment of Churches — Romanesque and Gothic
Part I: With the fall of the Roman empire, Christianity flourished with the Church as patron of monumental Romanesque architecture and sculpture.
Part II: The origin of Gothic architecture is found in the choir of the Abbey Church of St. Denis and the Chartres Cathedral serves as a model of High Gothic style.
3. The Early Renaissance
Part I: The rebirth of classical themes and humanistic ideas marked the Renaissance in Italy, as seen in Florentines Brunelleschi, Masaccio, Ghiberti, and Botticelli. Part II: Glowing color — made possible by the new medium of oil paint — and minute detail set the work of the Flemish masters Van Eyck and Grunewald apart from the Florentines.
4. The High Renaissance
Part I: Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael displayed extraordinary talent working in a variety of media and elevated the status of the artist in Italian society. Part II: Venetians like Titian, Tintoretto, and Palladio readapted the classical style with a theatrical flourish.
5. Realms of Light — The Baroque
Part I: The Church's campaign to counter the Reformation relied on dramatic depictions of religious scenes, such as those of Caravaggio and Bernini. Part II: The royal courts in Spain and the wealthy burghers in the Netherlands commissioned major paintings by Velazquez and Rembrandt and shaped their content.
6. An Age of Reason, An Age of Passion
Part I: The playful fantasy and provocative subjects of the Rococo style practiced by Watteau, Fragonard, and Boucher gave way to strict Rationalism, which insisted on morality in art and the purity of classical form, as seen in the works of David. Part II: Striving for individual expression, Romantic painters Goya, Gericault, and Delacroix demonstrated a range of styles and subjects.
7. A Fresh View — Impressionism and Post-Impressionism
Part I: Courbet and his followers rejected the standard academic themes and techniques, Manet shocked Paris, and Impressionists represented the world bathed in color and changing light. Part II: Post-Impressionists Seurat, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Cézanne broke new ground with daring and imaginative use of color and approaches to form.
8. Into the Twentieth Century
Part I: With modernity came new energy and forms in Viennese building and painting. Paris saw the emergence of the Fauves, and of Picasso and Cubism. Kandinsky and others experimented with color abstraction. Part II: Modernism spawned not only Cubism, but also the abstract and the surreal. Le Corbusier and Wright applied the abstract principles to buildings. Dada responded to the devastation of WWI with nihilism; surrealists Dali, Magritte, and Miro showed Freudian influence.
9. In Our Own Time
Part I: The Abstract Expressionist movement established New York as a center for the visual arts. Works by Pollock, Warhol, Lichtenstein, and the sculptor Oldenburg are examined. Part II: With many of the rules tested and discarded, the art world has become international. Art is now accessible to everyone to create and appreciate. Host Michael Wood looks over the past and forward to implications for the future.