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Imagining Hell, from Giotto to Grosz

Online / Art in Context

Mondays, October 10 – October 31, 6 – 8pm


Hieronymus Bosch. Temptation of Saint Anthony (detail), mid-16th century. BF962. Public Domain.

$220; members $198
(4 classes)

About the Class

Some artistic subjects are deliberately designed to disturb or even terrify viewers. This is the case with images of hell. Since the Middle Ages, artists have taken on the role of social reformers by giving fascinating visual expression to the horrors of hell and the reprehensible behaviors that lead one to it, sometimes even depicting their contemporaries as representatives of those actions.

This course will explore this imagery in relation to religion, politics, literature, and artistic movements, as well as the careers of the remarkable artists who made it. We will cover the following topics: medieval visions of hell, before and after Dante; Michelangelo’s Last Judgment and the age of Erasmus; hell as a theme for the aesthetic of the sublime, from Bosch to Baudelaire and Rodin; and modern dystopias from George Grosz and Käthe Kollwitz to Francis Bacon and Diane Burko.

The class is online-only. More about online classes.


Sheila Barker

Barker has a PhD in art history from Columbia University. She is director of the Jane Fortune Research Program on Women Artists at the Medici Archive Project and adjunct associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Her publications, including Artemisia Gentileschi (Getty, 2022), have advanced knowledge of pioneering female artists such as Plautilla Nelli, Lucrezia Quistelli, Giovanna Garzoni, and Teresa Berenice Vitelli.

Art in Context

Art in Context courses connect works of art to history: What was happening politically, socially, and culturally at the time a piece was made? How did these circumstances shape the artist’s formal choices?