In fall 2013 John Walsh, Director Emeritus of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, presented a popular semester-long public lecture series that took a close look at eleven important paintings from Yale’s art museums that represent scenes from history, myth, scripture, or literature. In every case the artist intended to do more than delight and entertain the audience. The paintings depict situations in which moral issues are at stake, usually acts of heroism of one kind or another. The lectures traced the tradition of “history painting”—the category to which all of these works belong—from the Renaissance on through its rise to official dominance, its fall from privilege in the eras of Realism in the 19th century and abstract art in the 20th, and its reappearances in the 21st. A recurring question is whether for a modern audience these works still pose moral questions that we ought to take seriously. Visit the page for each week below to learn more and to watch lecture videos.

A man has fallen from a horse which has been spooked by a figure in the sky

Benvenuto Tisi, called il Garofalo, The Conversion of Saint Paul  ca. 1525

Lecture Videos