Lifelong Learning Center City Philadelphia

Fall 2016:

Seven Great Paintings (LLS 174PHL)
Meets Mondays, 6:30 – 9 p.m.
Sept. 12, 19, 26; Oct. 17, 24; and Nov. 7
3000 Two Logan Sq. (18th & Arch St.’s), 31st floor, Pepper Hamilton LLP

Meets at the Glencairn Museum in Bryn Athyn on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 2

Meets at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 30

No meeting on Monday, Oct. 10


After an introduction to art historical interpretation in the first meeting, this course probes the nature and significance of seven extraordinary paintings, one per week. The paintings were produced in different geographical locations, using different media, but each expresses the cherished values and ideas of different cultural situations.

These seven have been chosen to represent diversity of form, subject, and context; what they have in common is a grounding in central cultural themes. They include an ancient Egyptian tomb mural, a prehistoric painted bowl from the American Southwest, a panel from a Gothic stained-glass window, an illustration from a royal Safavid book, two fifteenth-century Flemish paintings, and a revolutionary canvas by Caravaggio.

Our objectives are to explore and savor a manageable set of undisputed masterpieces, and to understand the way historical explanation enhances our encounter with works of art produced in the distant past. Two of the class meetings will take place in local museums to allow a direct experience with the works themselves, a rare opportunity made possible by our location in a city full of fabulous paintings.


The professor:

Michael W. Cothren, Scheuer Family Professor of Humanities, has taught art history at Swarthmore since 1978.  For decades his research has focused on French Gothic stained-glass windows, but recently he has turned his scholarly attention to painted bowls produced by eleventh- and twelfth-century artists of the Mimbres culture of Southwest New Mexico.  He also co-authors a textbook used in introductory art history survey courses.  In Lifelong Learning at Swarthmore he previously taught “An Introduction to Art History,” “Pyramids, Temples and Cathedrals,” and “Renaissance and Baroque in European Art.”

Lifelong Learning is now on Facebook! Like our page and join the On-campus event for updates and reminders.