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A History of European Art

Take in the full sweep of European art from Gothic cathedrals to Cubism in this spellbinding and visually-dazzling course taught by an acclaimed art-historian.
A History of European Art is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 149.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from So Well Done` Besides the technical aspects and obvious expertise, listening to this presenter feels like like a spa day. He's very, very good. I've watched a ton of courses and enjoyed none as much as this.
Date published: 2024-02-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful course, comprehensive survey Wow! The sheer quantity and quality of European art through the ages that I have been exposed to are mind-altering. I went from familiarity with a small number of the paintings described in this course to overall knowledge of European history and its corresponding artworks. I am planning a trip to Europe in a couple of years with the primary intent of seeing many of these works in person.
Date published: 2023-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exquisite Majestic, poetic odyssey from the Bayeux Tapestry to the Guernica, by a teacher who loves art, understands it, and communicates it. Simply enriching.
Date published: 2023-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Favorite lecturer on art history I have bought all the courses that Professor Kloss has made with the Great Courses, and have watched them repeatedly. I especially enjoy the ones that were filmed before a live audience. Every one of the courses have been excellent in content, delivery, insight, wit...all the things that make the lectures enlightening and very interesting. I personally like Professor Kloss's presentation...he has professionalism and a style which I find very attractive. It's obvious that he is deeply knowledgeable about whatever aspect of the history of art he is lecturing on, and that he cares about this wide-ranging subject, and he conveys that understanding and enthusiasm. I'm so grateful that I'm able to watch these lectures and continually feed my love of art.
Date published: 2022-08-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Typical Artists and Paintings First, this course is at least 12 years old at the time of this review, so the graphics used were not the crispest and clearest that could be used if it were made today. They really should consider redoing some of the older courses, especially ones like this, to get the clarity we have now with technology. I don't have a degree of any kind in art but I agree with many others that the presenter was stuffy. He seemed rather pleased with using words that most people don't use daily which can be off-putting for people who are learning a subject and don't understand the meaning of what he's saying. I would have liked to see different artists and paintings and sculptures by them and not the standard go-to artists and paintings and sculptures, although there were a few. There were a few times I felt he was a bit all over the place, but for the most part he kept the periods together. I expected there to be more information on how changes in the world affected the art at the time than there was. If you're new to art, know very little about any artist, this would be a good course to get you started. But be aware there's a lot to take in. Don't be afraid to pause it and just look at a painting or sculpture.
Date published: 2022-05-06
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Typical Anglo-American approach to Europe The problem with this course offering is not what is included, but what is glaringly omitted. How can anyone entitle a course "History of European Art" and exclude the myriad Spanish contributions to painting and architecture is beyond me. Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Early Modern period, nothing. So typically Anglo-American!
Date published: 2022-04-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it Great course, very informative, well presented. For me as a novice in the subject motivating to learn more about art.
Date published: 2022-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic. Even though this series was done in 2004 and I am enjoying it in 2021 as a pandemic pastime, the content, as well as the references, delivery, and all the wonderful examples, are timeless. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy this series and Dr. Kloss's presentation, I also learned an enormous amount of art, cultural, and European history. I loved this and will likely refer to it many times in the future. And ending with Guernica was absolutely perfect IMO.
Date published: 2021-10-13
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The development of the arts in Europe from the Middle Ages to the modern era is an astonishing record of cultural achievement, from the breathtaking architecture of Gothic cathedrals to the daring visual experiments of the Cubist painters. A History of European Art is your gateway to this visually stunning story. In 48 beautifully illustrated lectures you will encounter all the landmarks you would expect to find in a comprehensive survey of Western art since the Middle Ages.


William Kloss

Standards of beauty are seemingly endless and contradictory, which is why the rather hopeless phrase 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' was coined.


Independent Art Historian

Professor William Kloss is an independent art historian and scholar who lectures and writes about a wide range of European and American art. He was educated at Oberlin College, where he earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Art History. He continued his postgraduate work on a teaching fellowship at the University of Michigan and was then awarded a Fulbright Fellowship for two years of study in Rome. As Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Virginia, he taught 17th- and 18th-century European art and 19th-century French art. Professor Kloss has enjoyed a long association with the Smithsonian Institution, presenting more than 150 courses in the United States and abroad on subjects ranging from ancient Greek art to Impressionism to the works of Winslow Homer. He has also been a featured lecturer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and for The Art Institute of Chicago. Professor Kloss serves on the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, a presidential appointment he has held since 1990. He is the author of several books, including Art in the White House: A Nation's Pride (2nd edition), which won the 2009 National Indie Excellence Award in the Art Category, as well as a 2009 USABookNews award for Best Book in Art. Most recently, he coauthored the United States Senate Catalogue of Fine Art. He also has written articles published in Winterthur Portfolio, The Magazine Antiques, American Arts Quarterly, and Antiques & Fine Art.

By This Expert

A History of European Art
A History of European Art


Approaches to European Art

01: Approaches to European Art

Professor Kloss introduces the course and outlines its content. His goal is to encourage viewers to develop habits that will enhance their enjoyment of art. To appreciate a work of art, one must look at it patiently, considering qualities such as subject, interpretation, style, context, and emotion.

30 min
Carolingian and Ottonian Art

02: Carolingian and Ottonian Art

Beginning with the year A.D. 800, you study illuminated manuscripts produced by Irish monks. Then you compare an example of early Byzantine church architecture with Charlemagne's Palatine Chapel. The lecture closes with two masterpieces of narrative art, including the famous Bayeux Tapestry.

30 min
Romanesque Sculpture and Architecture

03: Romanesque Sculpture and Architecture

This lecture explores examples of the Romanesque style such as the churches of St. Etienne and St. Trophîme. You also examine various sculptures found in churches across France, and you close with a look at the role of the pilgrimage roads in the establishment of Romanesque-style churches throughout France.

31 min
Gothic Art in France

04: Gothic Art in France

After examining the evolution of the Gothic style, you look at such examples as Notre-Dame de Paris, Chartres Cathedral, Rouen Cathedral, and Saint-Maclou.

29 min
Gothic Art in Germany and Italy

05: Gothic Art in Germany and Italy

Continuing the study of Gothic art forms and styles, you look at a famous sculpture on the Strasbourg Cathedral, then move to Italy to examine relief carvings in Pisa, and compare three paintings by Cimabue, Duccio, and Giotto of the Madonna enthroned with the Christ Child.

29 min
Giotto and the Arena Chapel-Part I

06: Giotto and the Arena Chapel-Part I

Giotto's frescos for the Arena Chapel in Padua are one of the supreme achievements of Western European art. After discussing the history of the chapel and highlighting the methods of fresco, the lecture focuses on several scenes that depict the life of the Virgin and the life of Christ.

30 min
Giotto and the Arena Chapel-Part II

07: Giotto and the Arena Chapel-Part II

You return to the Arena Chapel to study scenes from the life of Christ, noting Giotto's powerful renditions of Christian themes. Before Giotto, most artists were anonymous craftsmen. With Giotto, a new phenomenon arose: From this point on, the history of art is also the history of great artists.

29 min
Duccio and the Maesta

08: Duccio and the Maesta

In this lecture, you focus on Duccio's unquestioned masterpiece, the Maestà, which means "majesty," viewing its different parts including the altar and scenes from the pinnacles and predella. You also see how Duccio and his contemporary, Giotto, compare in terms of reputation and technique....

31 min
Sienese Art in the 14th Century

09: Sienese Art in the 14th Century

You explore the historical influence of the Italian city-state. Then you learn about some of Duccio's successors: Simone Martini, Pietro Lorenzetti, and Ambrogio Lorenzetti. Finally, you examine the Palazzo Pubblico, a civic building in Siena and a significant monument of the Italian Gothic.

32 min
The Black Death and the International Style

10: The Black Death and the International Style

This lecture describes the effects on art of the bubonic plague of the mid-14th century by comparing the same subject from works before and after the plague. You then follow the rise of the International Gothic style, which laid the foundation for the Italian Renaissance of the 15th century.

31 min
Early Renaissance Sculpture in Florence

11: Early Renaissance Sculpture in Florence

Why did sculpture rather than painting lead to the development of the Renaissance style? You probe this question by looking at works by several great sculptors of the early 15th century, including Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, Donatello, and Luca della Robbia.

30 min
Early Renaissance Architecture in Florence

12: Early Renaissance Architecture in Florence

You examine some spectacular and influential 15th-century architecture in Florence, focusing on buildings by Brunelleschi and Alberti. Looking closely, you can see how they solved major construction problems with new methods and inventions, which then changed the practice of architecture.

29 min
Masaccio and Early Renaissance Painting

13: Masaccio and Early Renaissance Painting

You continue your study of Renaissance art by looking at paintings influenced by Brunelleschi's linear perspective method. This lecture focuses on Masaccio, who applied the principles of perspective brilliantly in frescos for the Brancacci Chapel and Santa Maria Novella, both in Florence.

30 min
Jan van Eyck and Northern Renaissance Art

14: Jan van Eyck and Northern Renaissance Art

Turning to northern Europe, you focus on Jan van Eyck and his Arnolfini Wedding Portrait and Ghent Altarpiece. In addition, you note the major differences between the Italian Renaissance and Northern Renaissance....

30 min
Northern Renaissance Altarpieces

15: Northern Renaissance Altarpieces

Continuing the study of Northern Renaissance painting, you look at five altarpieces and one portrait by three artists: Robert Campin, Rogier van der Weyden, and Hugo van der Goes. You explore the symbolism and uncover various elements of Renaissance style and technique in these works.

29 min
Piero della Francesca in Arezzo

16: Piero della Francesca in Arezzo

You study two single works and a fresco cycle by a Renaissance painter whose fame did not become widespread until the 20th century, Piero della Francesca. You look at his The Baptism of Christ, the Resurrection, and the chapel with the Legend of the True Cross, exploring his geometrically defined style and his artistic influences....

30 min
Sandro Botticelli

17: Sandro Botticelli

With a lyrical style joined to innovative religious and allegorical subject matter, Botticelli is one of the best-known painters of the Renaissance. You explore the full span of his work, from the sensual rendition of Mars and Venus to interpretations of Christian themes such as the tragic Lamentation....

30 min
Andrea Mantegna and Giovanni Bellini

18: Andrea Mantegna and Giovanni Bellini

In this lecture, you focus on two artists in northern Italy, Mantegna and Bellini. Looking at Mantegna's famous frescoes in the Ducal Palace in Mantua, you can see the striking illusionism that influenced artists such as Bellini, whose work you compare and contrast with Mantegna's.

30 min
High Renaissance Painting in Venice

19: High Renaissance Painting in Venice

You continue to explore Venetian painting with Bellini, and then move on to his great pupils, Giorgione and Titian. First, you look at a portrait by Bellini and one of his altarpieces. Then you study Giorgione's Pastoral Concert and close with several works by Titian, including his vivid Bacchus and Ariadne....

31 min
The High Renaissance-Leonardo da Vinci

20: The High Renaissance-Leonardo da Vinci

The quintessential Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci was a universal genius in painting, sculpture, architecture, drawing, and the sciences of his day. After studying one of his drawings, you look at the influential innovations in three famous paintings: Madonna of the Rocks, Mona Lisa, and The Last Supper....

29 min
The High Renaissance-Raphael

21: The High Renaissance-Raphael

Renowned for his many graceful images of the Madonna and his amazingly lifelike portraits, Raphael's larger masterpieces were the frescoes decorating the papal apartments in the Vatican. You study the broad range of his work and the innovations he contributed to Renaissance painting.

30 min
The High Renaissance-Michelangelo

22: The High Renaissance-Michelangelo

In this lecture, you study the most famous works from the first half of Michelangelo's career: the Pietà, David, and the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Each displays a different element of his genius, and the stunning scope and brilliant execution of the Sistine Chapel ceiling made him the most influential artist in Europe....

30 min
Albrecht Durer and German Renaissance Art

23: Albrecht Durer and German Renaissance Art

Leaving the Renaissance behind, you explore two northern European artists. First, you look at an engraving by Martin Schongauer. Then you focus on Albrecht Dürer, examining his influences and his original blend of Renaissance and northern European artistic characteristics.

30 min
Riemenschneider and Grunewald

24: Riemenschneider and Grunewald

In this lecture, you explore the work of two more German artists. You look at Riemenschneider's Altarpiece of the Holy Blood and Grünewald's Isenheim Altarpiece, discovering the artists' contrasting styles and approaches to sacred subjects....

29 min
Netherlandish Art in the 16th Century

25: Netherlandish Art in the 16th Century

You look at four 16th-century artists from the Netherlands: Hieronymus Bosch, Joachim Patinir, Jan Gossaert, and Lucas van Leyden. You focus in particular on Bosch's famous triptych, Garden of Earthly Delights, which may have been commissioned for the private enjoyment of a nobleman....

30 min
Pieter Bruegel the Elder

26: Pieter Bruegel the Elder

You study the diverse and marvelous paintings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, which range from his imaginative depiction of the Fall of Icarus, to his vast landscape of Hunters in the Snow, to the political The Parable of the Blind Leading the Blind....

30 min
Mannerism and the Late Work of Michelangelo

27: Mannerism and the Late Work of Michelangelo

You explore Mannerism, which began in 16th-century Italy and spread throughout Europe. The lecture explains the characteristics of Mannerism and looks at representative artists, such as Jacopo Pontormo, Rosso Fiorentino, Parmigianino, and Agnolo Bronzino. You also study the later work of Michelangelo.

30 min
Annibale Carracci and the Reform of Art

28: Annibale Carracci and the Reform of Art

This lecture discusses the reaction against Mannerism exemplified by Antonio Correggio and the Carracci family of Bologna. Correggio is noted for his illusionistic paintings. The Carracci family founded a teaching academy that influenced many artists. In particular, you look at Annibale Carracci's famous decoration of the Farnese Gallery.

31 min

29: Caravaggio

You focus on a single artist of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, Caravaggio. Briefly outlining his scandalous life, the lecture shows why critics are confounded by his sexual undertones and profound reverence for sacred subjects. He is also noted for his distinctive treatment of light and dark.

30 min
Italian Baroque Painting in Rome

30: Italian Baroque Painting in Rome

Annibale Carracci and Caravaggio, covered in the previous two lectures, formed a bridge from art of the 16th century to the 17th century. They are also considered founders of the 17th-century style called Baroque. You study artists who embraced this style, which exemplifies the artistic revival in Italy after the religious and political disruptions of the 16th century.

32 min
Gian Lorenzo Bernini

31: Gian Lorenzo Bernini

You look at Bernini, the single greatest artist in Rome during the Baroque period. Bernini was a painter, architect, and above all, a sculptor. You focus on his sculptures, including Apollo and Daphne, and marvel at his sweeping piazza in front of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome....

29 min
Peter Paul Rubens

32: Peter Paul Rubens

A renowned and astonishingly prolific artist, Peter Paul Rubens painted grand works for patrons in Italy, Flanders, Spain, France, and England. In this lecture, you look at several of the most important, including three huge altarpieces, his Marie de' Medici cycle, and a selection of self-portraits and landscapes....

30 min
Dutch Painting in the 17th Century

33: Dutch Painting in the 17th Century

In the northern Netherlands, painting flourished in the open marketplace, where artists specialized in various genres. You look at these specific genres and a group of representative artists: Frans Hals, Jan Steen, Pieter de Hooch, Jan van Goyen, Jacob van Ruisdael, and Johannes Vermeer.

31 min

34: Rembrandt

Among the most celebrated names in the history of art is Rembrandt, whose work touched on almost every aspect of human life. You examine his profound religious paintings and his famous portraits and self-portraits. You study the remarkable effects he achieved in the art of etching, in which he has never been surpassed.

30 min
Poussin and Claude-The Allure of Rome

35: Poussin and Claude-The Allure of Rome

Rembrandt was deeply influenced by the art of Rome from the High Renaissance. Although he never traveled to Italy, he clearly admired and borrowed from its artists. Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain, too, took inspiration from Rome, and both of these French artists spent most of their lives there.

30 min
Baroque Painting in Spain

36: Baroque Painting in Spain

In this lecture, you look at four painters living and working in Spain in the "golden age" of Spanish art during the late 16th and 17th centuries. You examine the expressive distortions of form of El Greco, the powerful light-dark contrasts of Francisco de Zurbaran, the affecting painting of Murillo, and the brilliant illusionism of Velazquez.

29 min
Louis XIV and Versailles

37: Louis XIV and Versailles

You tour the architecture and gardens of the palace at Versailles and learn how these elements reinforced Louis XIV's self image as the "Sun King." Then you study the work of Watteau to appreciate the pervading sense of nostalgia in the transition from the Baroque to the Rococo.

31 min
French Art in the 18th Century

38: French Art in the 18th Century

After Watteau, French art reflected the much-changed atmosphere of the court of Louis XV and the increasing importance of the middle class. You look at variations to be found within this century, including the supreme still lifes and restrained genre pictures of Chardin, the moral sentiment of Greuze, and the Rococo frivolity of Boucher and Fragonard.

30 min
Neoclassicism and the Birth of Romanticism

39: Neoclassicism and the Birth of Romanticism

Artistic tastes veered into a more severe mode in the late 1700s, and the resulting style was called Neoclassicism. You study examples by the greatest sculptor of the day, Jean-Antoine Houdon, and by the painters Jacques-Louis David and Francisco Goya, who made realistic, sometimes horrific images.

30 min
Romanticism in the 19th Century

40: Romanticism in the 19th Century

You now turn to Romanticism-an outlook that can be expressed in more than one artistic style. You examine several artists' "brands" of Romanticism, including those of Theodore Gericault, Eugène Delacroix, John Constable, and William Turner.

31 min
Realism-From Daumier to Courbet

41: Realism-From Daumier to Courbet

In this lecture, you look at three of Realism's practitioners: Honore Daumier, Jean François Millet, and Gustave Courbet. You see their unrelenting depictions of the changes then taking place in France and across Europe.

32 min
Manet and Monet-The Birth of Impressionism

42: Manet and Monet-The Birth of Impressionism

In this lecture, you look at two French artists: Manet, who has been seen as the wellspring of Modernism, and Monet, whose Impression: Sunrise gave the name to the new style. You examine elements in their paintings that point to a radical break with art of the past....

30 min
Monet and Degas

43: Monet and Degas

You continue your study of Monet with his sequence of paintings of Rouen Cathedral and his water-lily series. Then you follow the career of Edgar Degas, one of the great draftsmen of the 19th century, who depicted contemporary scenes of the circus, ballet, and cafe life.

31 min
Renoir, Pissarro, and Cezanne

44: Renoir, Pissarro, and Cezanne

You review the characteristics of Impressionism, with the caution that you must see what an artist actually does, rather than look for the acting out of a theory. Then you study the careers of Renoir, Pissarro, and Cezanne, examining in detail a few representative masterpieces.

30 min
Beyond Impressionism-From Seurat to Matisse

45: Beyond Impressionism-From Seurat to Matisse

The ambiguity of the term Impressionism applies even more to the style called Post-Impressionism, which is not strictly speaking "after" Impressionism. You look at the careers and works of three of these artists, Seurat, Gauguin, and Van Gogh, who paved the way for the revolutionary style of Matisse.

30 min
Cubism and Early Modern Painting

46: Cubism and Early Modern Painting

This lecture covers the innovations of Picasso, Braque, and Matisse in the first two decades of the 20th century. In a period that was rich in artistic exploration, these pioneers produced works that had immense influence on other artists.

32 min
Modern Sculpture-Rodin and Brancusi

47: Modern Sculpture-Rodin and Brancusi

Turning to modern sculpture, you focus primarily on the works of Rodin. A lifelong student of the art of Michelangelo, Rodin developed an expressive style that influenced his more radical and minimalist successors, such as Brancusi and Naum Gabo, who you also explore in this lecture.

32 min
Art between Two Wars-Kandinsky to Picasso

48: Art between Two Wars-Kandinsky to Picasso

You look at a series of works influenced by events of the 20th century between the two world wars, including such styles as German Expressionism, Futurism, Dada, and Surrealism.

31 min