Hope and Hopelessness: Pandemic Paintings in Western Art

Conference: The Barcelona Conference on Arts, Media & Culture (BAMC2021)
Title: Hope and Hopelessness: Pandemic Paintings in Western Art
Stream: Interdisciplinary, Multidisciplinary & Transdisciplinary Education
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Alan Garfield, University of Dubuque, United States


Ever since the 1347 plague (what Roosen and Green’s 2020 bibliography on the state of Black Death research in the era of COVID-19 called Mother of All Pandemics) arrived on the doorstep of Boccaccio (the 34-year-old struggling writer living at home in Florence with his parents), pandemics have become a strange, perplexing stepchild of the arts. As a serial, cyclical repeater, plagues (flu, diseases, and viruses in various forms) have effected individuals and entire armies, artists and nobility. In art, its iconography has developed a contrasting expression of hope and hopelessness. With our own Covid-19 in mind, we will look back to examine how various Italian Quattrocento thru Seicento and Northern Renaissance to Baroque artists have dealt with the subject of a deadly, mysterious pandemic. We will view work, among others, by Piero della Francesca, Albrecht Durer, Titian, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Salvador Rosa and Sr. Caterina de Julianis.

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