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The Athenaeum presents various series of art and music lectures, including topics in classical music and jazz, visual art, art history, and architecture, with speakers from San Diego and beyond.


Concert Lecture

Art and Music of the Baroque: From Ecstasy to Enlightenment
with Victoria Martino and Music Pro Arte Ensamble

Tuesdays, March 17, 24, 31, April 7, 14, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Series: $90 members, $115 nonmembers

Individual lectures: $20 members, $25 nonmembers

March 17: 15801620 in Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands

Around 1600, the idealistic medieval worldview came to an end. Sensual and emotional experiences became the impetus for new artistic creation. Temporal changes (such as morning and evening) and human actions were now intensely felt and depicted. The play of light on surfaces became one of the main sources of painterly inspiration. In music, the emotional element came fully to the fore, not only in melodies and harmonies, but, above all, in a new dynamic and rhythmic structure and brilliant runs. These developments found their finest outlets in the creation of opera in Italy and the renewal of religious music in the North. The painters, Michelangelo da Caravaggio, the brothers Caracci, and Peter Paul Rubens, found their musical counterparts in the composers, Claudio Monteverdi, Giulio Caccini, and Heinrich Schütz.

March 24: 16001700 in Italy

In the course of a century, a dramatic stylistic metamorphosis took place. New visual and musical ideas, at first stated with objective clarity, were transformed by powerful emotions, sustained through dramatic intentions, and finally executed on a grander and more powerful scale, which eventually was formalized, becoming more dogmatic. The art of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Guido Reni, and Pietro da Cortona was matched by the music of Claudio Monteverdi, Dario Castello, Girolamo Frescobaldi, and others.

March 31: 16001660 in Holland

The Dutch confederation was one of the most progressive and tolerant nations in the 17th century. Rembrandt is the greatest artist to represent the rise of the individual in an environment dominated by religious fervor. His countryman, the blind organist Jakob van Eyck, absorbed the popular music of England and the European continent, transforming simple melodies into complex and elaborate sets of variations. Van Eyck’s source material for his music reflects the configuration of Europe during that time, divided by powerful religious, social, economic, and political differences.

April 7: 16501700 in France and Germany

The 17th century marked the ascendancy of France under the reign of Louis XIII and Louis XIV, becoming the dominant cultural force in Europe. At the same time, the German Empire gained new strength through conquests in eastern Europe. French artists such as Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain were paralleled by composers Denis Gaultier and Louis Couperin. Jean-Baptiste Lully was a great innovator in the realms of opera and ballet. In Vienna, international composers, such as Marc Antonio Cesti and Jakob Froberger, were active in the court. In the North, Protestant churches rose to prominence, producing composers such as Dietrich Buxtehude.

April 14: 16801750 in Europe

At the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century, Europe consolidated into a somewhat more peaceful and stable configuration. Consequently, the arts flourished as never before. The works of painters Johann Quirin Asam, Antoine Watteau, and Sebastiano and Marco Ricci reflected in visual terms the musical discoveries of Georg Friedrich Händel, Johann Sebastian Bach, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Domenico Scarlatti, and Antonio Vivaldi. Through the arts one could experience the new self-assured image of humanity arising from the previous century and creating the foundation for the coming Enlightenment.


Art History Lecture

Stories Mona Lisa Could Tell: Fascinating Tales of the Lives of Famous Artworks
with James Grebl, Ph.D.

Thursdays, May 14, 21, 28, June 11, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Series: $50 members, $70 nonmembers

Individual lectures: $14 members, $19 nonmembers

Where did Mona Lisa hang after Leonardo da Vinci brushed the last dab of paint on her enigmatic face? How did she come to be in the Louvre? Why was she stolen in 1911 and how was she recovered? What happened to her during World War II? The answers to these questions may not be readily known to the casual observer, yet they form the fascinating life story of perhaps the world’s most famous painting. Every work of art has a similar history of past ownership and events affecting its condition, appearance and accessibility, which often reads like a detective story. Join art historian James Grebl for a four-part lecture series that explores an intriguing array of these art history tales, often revealing astonishing episodes of lust, greed, crime, misadventure and tragedy.

May 14: Heist of the Century

On March 18, 1990, the life story of Vermeer’s Concert changed radically when it was stolen—along with 12 other masterpieces valued at $500 million—from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Some of the most compelling tales that artworks can tell involve notorious thefts, from the Gardner treasures to the Mona Lisa to the Cellini salt cellar, which will be among the topics discussed in the first lecture.

May 21: A King Beheaded

In 1649 King Charles I was beheaded by Parliament during the English Civil War and his remarkable art collection was sold off by Cromwell. When civil war and revolution strike, the prized possessions of the overthrown rulers are often dispersed, whether it’s King Charles’s pictures, the treasures of the Romanov tsars, or the furniture and jewels of Marie Antoinette, highlights of which will be investigated in the second installment.

May 28: A Smuggled Goddess

In March 2011 the J. Paul Getty Museum returned a seven-foot-tall statue of Aphrodite to Italy, where it had been illegally excavated, smuggled, and sold in 1988. The news in recent years has been full of similar stories of illegally exported antiquities returned by museums, such as the Euphronios krater from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a Cambodian deity from the Norton Simon Museum, which will be among the stories featured in the third presentation.

June 11: A Gift Fit for the Gods

The National Gallery of Art in Washington received a remarkable gift in 1942 from Joseph E. Widener—Giovanni Bellini’s luminous Feast of the Gods—along with 2,000 other artworks. Many prominent works of art have changed hands as gifts sometime during their lives, whether from monarch to monarch or from a collector to a museum, including such masterpieces as Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait and Titian’s Diana and Actaeon, both subjects of the final talk.



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