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Museum Masterpieces: The Louvre

Take a dazzling virtual tour through the Louvre's remarkable collection of European paintings from the late medieval period through the early 19th century.
Museum Masterpieces: The Louvre is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 133.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Art and Philosophy My wife, who has been to the Louvre, feels that the Guidebook Scope describes the Louvre experience exactly. In Brettell's words: after a tour, "memories are a confused blur of aesthetic sensations…difficult to sort or evaluate." This course, though incapable of describing millions of artistic objects, takes the confusion out of the most sought-after Louvre experience and frankly, is a lot less expensive. Lecture 1 (L1) discusses the Louvre's history. L2 includes Leonardo's "The Madonna of the Rocks". As a miniature painter, a blowup of the Madonna's face is the most majestic combination of geometric regions and shading I have ever encountered. It is useful in a 1-2" 3-D miniature’s "no mistakes" tiny facial (hair-width) painting surfaces. L3: separates out Florentine/Roman artists whose rigorous composition contrasted with Venetian artists' love of drama and color. The Titian's genius is evident in his "Crowning of Thorns" portrait of Christ that masterfully shows "…motion, of agony and human pain" and cleverly adds a contrasting cold, unmovable bust of Emperor Tiberius above the scene. Also appearing is Titian's overwhelming "Marriage at Cana" with its 134 life-size figures. L3 closes with Caravaggio’s “Death of the Virgin” a picture with such amazing light control that it seems photographic. L4 on the Spanish school might seem religiously over-wrought until Christian fears after just expelling their murderous Muslim masters are called to mind. The pomp of “The Disembarkation” (L5, Rubens) of Marie de Medici's port arrival well portrays a queen and imperial power but appears almost comical after the poignant humanity of Caravaggio's intense “Death of the Virgin”. L6 has a wonderful detective story: "Theophile Thore’s tracking down of the (shadowy) Dutch artist, Johannes Vermeer". His only Louvre painting is the tiny, marvelous “The Lacemaker from about 1670. L7’s comments on De La Tour’s "St. Joseph the Carpenter" may be adding to a fictional scene, but seem “spot on". “The Plague of Ashdod” by Poussin (L8) brings a biblical scene to life as Brettell meticulously discusses the frightful effort/research of its artist to create such deathly realism. In L8, Chardin’s “The Kitchen Main (1879) is a fabulous portrayal of the equality of all people, no matter their position or gifting. (L10) Brettell brilliant explanation of Fragonard’s 9x12 foot Roccocco painting “The High Priest Coresus Sacrifices Himself to Save Callirhoe” turns a melodrama into a painting that “almost emits the scents of pagan antiquity.” Greuze’s "The Punished Son" screams for attention by modern prodigals. The L11 story of an artist courteously "one upping" his spoiled high society “sitter” brought a smile. As a veteran medical officer, I greatly appreciated the inclusion of Gros’ "Napoleon Visiting the Pest House" whose compositional elements are marvelously described in the video. L12: Ingres' "Apotheosis of Homer" represents an ideal portrait of a "stabile, ideal world of important artists, writers…and philosophers" These contributed the view of culture as rooted "in the ancient Greek epics". What Ingre was referring to is Humanism (see Great Course “Renaissance, Reformation, and the Rise of Nations" Andres Fix, L3-5). It was originally a method of breaking the medieval pessimistic notion that Europe was living out "the last days" as a plague-ridden extension of the Roman Empire. By rethinking Roman classical study of Greek literature and emphasizing content over “Scholastic style”, Humanism wanted people to learn how to live well. This led to the "liberal arts" curriculum. COMMENT: Professor Brettell feels that preserving Holbein's 1523 painting of the Humanist Erasmus is (L5) "proof of the greatness of European intellectual life to this day". Professor Fix (L3-5) tells us: "Erasmus called for religious reform through a return to the apostolic church and reading of the church classics.” Unfortunately, the greatness of European intellectual life has evolved away from study of church classics into simplistic personal opinion. By Fix's L48, the contradicting opinions of later Humanistic philosophers become blatantly obvious and Brettell's "proof" is no longer related to today’s version of Humanism.
Date published: 2023-02-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from More than satisfactory Professor Brettell does a fine job of adding France’s turbulent history to his descriptions of a few key paintings. Already admirers of Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) and Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863), we were able to add a few new names to our list of interests: e.g., Jean Siméon Chardin (1699-1799) and Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721). A comprehensive course on the Louvre’s collection would be of impossible length. Brettell’s selections are quite sufficient for a 12-lecture tour. HWF & ISF, Mesa AZ.
Date published: 2022-09-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent lecturer The lecturer discussed the backgrounds in addition to the well selected pictures.
Date published: 2022-08-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disappointing Having little knowledge of art but having visited the Louvre, I thought this course would be interesting and informative. Although I gained a little more knowledge, I didn’t find the lectures interesting or inspiring. Unfortunately, out of the 10 Wondrium courses I’ve watched thus far, I’ve found this one to have been least engaging.
Date published: 2022-05-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Louvre - What's Not to Like? The Louvre - One of the most magnificent palaces and museums; I was very excited to see this course being offered. My excitement slowly vanished into disappointment. Had I written a review after watching four lectures, my rating and recommendation would be very different. Poor camera angles made this video painful to watch at times. Professor Brettell often interjects his own subjective ideas into the discussions, many in poor taste for a general audience. As I continued into the lectures, I adjusted my listening to tune out some of the comments, and only watch the screen when the art works were being shown. Professor Brettell shows an amazing number of art works, and releases a treasure trove of information on each painting. For many viewers, this course is not a "Pre-trip planner", but rather one's only connection with The Louvre. This course, as well as other Great Courses, often has a focus on "What to see when you visit", which I find annoying and unnecessary. Distractions aside, this course is a wonderful tribute to the paintings of The Louvre. Thank you.
Date published: 2022-04-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A missed opportunity If I had not already visited the Louvre before taking this course, I would think it would be a museum to avoid. Fortunately due to first hand experience I know this is not the case. The odd way this course was organized around only a few paintings and artists was disappointing. The Louvre is a treasure chest of great beauty. One would not guess this after the 12 classes.
Date published: 2022-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What a wonderful presentation I am very impressed with this man's UTTER fluency in the knowledge of this subject. I am reminded of the statement about London, "If one is tired of London, one is tired of life." One would have to have become a lifelong resident OF the Louvre, to even scratch the surface of its compelling, exquisite beautie.
Date published: 2021-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Ideal for visitors to the Louvre Prof. Richard Bretten clearly has a deep knowledge and appreciation of his subject. Before taking his course I considered myself generally familiar with the work of at least 30 of the great artists he had mentioned. However I learnt a great deal more about those artists and many more in Professor Bretten's information packed course. I learnt how to view and appreciate each painting, how the artist's background influenced their approach to painting, the interelationships between the artists. The background of the Louvre itself and last but not least how to get the most from my next visit to the Louvre and any other great National Art Gallery for that matter. In short I will be reviewing his course again shortly before I leave and taking it on my next trip to Paris! Wonderful too if you are thinking of taking your children to visit the Louvre for the first time. Thank you Professor Bretton for making these wonderful artists and their paintings come alive in my living room!
Date published: 2021-11-19
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Expert art critic Richard Brettell takes you on an unforgettable journey through one of the world's greatest art museums in Museum Masterpieces: The Louvre. This course provides a fascinating overview of the Louvre's colorful history as royal palace, art academy, and national showcase. But the main focus of these richly illustrated lectures are some of the beautiful examples from the museum's remarkable collection of European paintings from the late medieval period through the early 19th century. Whether you're an art novice or an expert, you'll find something that will enlighten and surprise you about this acclaimed institution.


Richard Brettell

Great works of art communicate across time.


The University of Texas, Dallas

Richard Brettell (1949–2020) was the Margaret McDermott Distinguished Professor of Art and Aesthetics at The University of Texas at Dallas. He earned his BA, MA, and PhD from Yale University. Prior to joining The University of Texas at Dallas, Professor Brettell taught at Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, Yale University, and Harvard University. Professor Brettell was the founding American director of the French Regional and American Museum Exchange, designed to promote the exchange of art and information between regional museums in France and the United States. He served as the McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art and advised and consulted for museums such as the Portland Museum of Art and the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. His museum exhibition work included Monet in Normandy (for the de Young Museum in San Francisco) and The Impressionist in the City: Pissarro’s Series (for the Dallas Museum of Art). He gave scholarly lectures at numerous museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art, and he wrote more than 25 books, including Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century European Drawings in the Robert Lehman Collection and Impression: Painting Quickly in France, 1860–1890.

By This Professor

Museum Masterpieces: The Louvre
Museum Masterpieces: The Louvre


Palace to Museum-The Story of the Louvre

01: Palace to Museum-The Story of the Louvre

This lecture provides an overview of the history of the Louvre, describes the layout of the building, and offers tips and strategies for making the most of a visit to this remarkable museum.

34 min
Leonardo and the Origins of the Collection

02: Leonardo and the Origins of the Collection

Francis I sparked an artistic revolution in the 16th century by attracting Leonardo da Vinci to France and creating a rivalry between French and Italian art. Leonardo's La Joconde (The Mona Lisa) serves as the anchor for a lecture exploring works by Italian painters, including Raphael, as well as earlier French painters....

31 min
Italian Renaissance and Baroque Painting

03: Italian Renaissance and Baroque Painting

This lecture explores the Louvre's immense collection of Italian painting dating from the medieval period through the early 17th century. Featured works include altarpieces and portraits by masters of the High Renaissance and Baroque era in Italy including Raphael, Giorgione, Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto, and Andrea Mantegna, as well as the religious and secular works by the mercurial Caravaggio.

33 min
Spanish School of Painting

04: Spanish School of Painting

The Louvre's collection of Spanish paintings is small but contains some fine examples that were highly influential on later French painting. Jusepe Ribera's Clubfooted Boy serves as the featured masterpiece for the lecture, leading to a discussion of selected Spanish painters from the deeply religious images of El Greco to the court portraits of Goya....

30 min
Rubens and Flemish Painting; Early German

05: Rubens and Flemish Painting; Early German

From the Rubens's immense canvas of The Apotheosis of Henry IV to Quentin Metsys's precise, quotidian portrait, The Moneylender and His Wife, this lecture surveys the Louvre's remarkable collection of paintings by Flemish and German artists....

32 min
Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Dutch Painting

06: Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Dutch Painting

This lecture discusses the major paintings in the collection by the three greatest Dutch artists of the 17th century-Rembrandt, Hals, and Vermeer-and explores the French interest in miniature Dutch cabinet pictures (Little Masters)....

31 min
De La Tour, Le Nain, and 17th-century Painting

07: De La Tour, Le Nain, and 17th-century Painting

This lecture initiates a broad survey of French painters that serves as the focus for the remainder of the course. De la Tour and the Le Nain brothers represent an original and indigenous style of French painting, which is contrasted to contemporary artists trained in Italy and the north.

31 min
Claude and Poussin-French Painters in Rome

08: Claude and Poussin-French Painters in Rome

The Grand Siecle (great century) of French painting-the 17th century-is represented by the works of two startlingly different artists: the intellectual painter Nicolas Poussin and the artist of tranquil landscapes, Claude Lorrain....

32 min
Watteau and Chardin

09: Watteau and Chardin

This lecture explores the state of French painting at the end of the reign of Louis XIV by contrasting the styles of two geniuses: the delicate, melancholy of Jean-Antoine Watteau and the earthy clarity of Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin.

31 min
Boucher, Fragonard, and the Rococo in France

10: Boucher, Fragonard, and the Rococo in France

Jean-Honore Fragonard's vigorous operatic painting and Boucher's delicate sensuality offer two versions of French Rococo painting and are contrasted to the classically inspired moralism of Greuze and their contemporaries.

32 min
Jacques-Louis David and His School

11: Jacques-Louis David and His School

As a painter who started his career in the final salons of the Ancien Regime to become the premier artist of the French Revolution, Jacque-Louis David embodied the social and political transformations of his time....

32 min
Delacroix and Ingres-The Great Dialectic

12: Delacroix and Ingres-The Great Dialectic

The course concludes with an examination of two contrasting style of early 19th-century art, as seen in the works of Eugène Delacroix and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.

34 min