This course will look at western writers and artists who celebrated ‘primitive’ and ‘oriental’ writing and art. We will consider and discuss the nature of this celebration and influence.
This course will look at writers such as W. B. Yeats and Ezra Pound, and artists from Paul Gauguin to Pablo Picasso to Hannah Höch, as well as examples of the ’primitive’ and ‘oriental’ writing and art they were inspired by, to consider how, while the spirit of such work is celebratory, it could also be seen as problematic. We will compare the western writing and art with its influences and sources, to look at how things such as race, nature, the idea of the exotic and women are represented.
The sessions will be highly interactive and our discussions will be in response to examples of writing and visual art. In the first sessions we will look at some early 1900s and later source documents to consider what has been meant by the idea of ‘primitivism’ and how this has changed across time. Then in each subsequent session we will focus on the writing and visual pieces of 1 – 2 artists in order to build on, develop and interrogate our understanding of the uses, influences and western responses to primitive art. If possible, and if there is demand, there will be a session/extra session in the Sainsbury Centre in order to look at and discuss some first hand examples of such art. We will finish by considering how and whether an idea of the primitive might have a place in discussions about art and writing today.