Scholars have often resorted to a variety of familiar cliches to interpret the artistic movement known as modernism. With an emphasis on the Impressionist school of painting, this class will take on those inherited truths, exploring them to tease out their paradoxes and contradictions. Some of the key myths we will explore include the idea of the metropolis (especially Paris) as the center of individual freedom; the notion that artistic change, fueled by technological innovation, is inevitably progressive; and the concept of scientific observation as the basis of knowledge and artistic practice. We will look especially at the idea that art is an autonomous realm, and ask why this vision of art emerged in an era framed by civil war, military defeat, and the emergence of trade and travel across colonial networks--the Caribbean, North Africa and the South Pacific--during an extensively colonial era. Some artists we will look at include: Manet, Monet, Degas, Cassatt, Gauguin, and Pissarro. This seminar will include study trips to the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum, and to MoMA.