Explore Art and Enlightenment at Colloquium

Picture of an unfinished painting "The Jeu de Paume Oath" by Jacques Louis David
Sketch for "The Jeu de Paume Oath" by Jacques Louis David

The annual Templeton Colloquium in Art History at UC Davis will explore how art made during the Enlightenment doesn’t always fit neatly into commonly held ideas about the period. Titled “Art and the Enlightenment,” the colloquium on Feb. 22 will look at how 18th-century paintings are frequently at odds with Enlightenment ideals of reason, equality and beauty.

“The Enlightenment is thought of as uber-rational, but it had a whimsical aspect to it as well,” according to John Lopez, assistant professor of art history and coordinator of the symposium. “Study of painting of this period demonstrates that the art could be wildly hubristic, overambitious, and even went as far as rejecting tenets of the Enlightenment. We’ll be looking at the nuances. There are new perspectives that are out of the box.”

Featured speakers will be Mark Ledbury, Power Professor of Art History and Visual Culture and director of the Power Institute at the University of Sydney, Australia, and Amy Freund, associate professor and Kleinheinz Family Endowed Chair in Art History at Southern Methodist University. Presented by the College of Letters and Science’s Department of Art and Art History, the colloquium runs from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art. It is free and open to the public.

painting of man with dog and dead bird by Jean-Baptise Oudry
“Henri-Camille, Chevalier de Beringhen” 

Ledbury’s talk, “Painting, Ambition and Enlightenment,” will use what he describes as the “excessive and outsized history paintings” of Charles Le Brun, Jean-Baptiste Greuze and Jacques-Louis David to explore the dynamics of history painting and Enlightenment ideals of perfection.

Freund’s presentation, “Men, Dogs, and Guns: Painting Against the Enlightenment,” will analyze Jean-Baptiste Oudry’s painting “Henri-Camille, Chevalier de Beringhen” to show how hunting art of the time presents a “visual culture of violence, death, and the raw exercise of power.”

The colloquium is made possible through an endowment established by Alan Templeton (B.A., art history and psychology, ‘82).

— Jeffrey Day, content strategist in the College of Letters and Science