Art History

 Art History Courses

116.     Survey of Art History, Part I.

A survey of the historical development of art forms from Paleolithic times to the late Middle Ages. Emphasis is placed upon the relationship between the formal aspects of art and the political and social history of a culture. Fulfills the ART distribution requirement.

117.     Survey of Art History, Part II.

A survey of the historical development of art forms from the Renaissance to the present. Emphasis is placed upon the relationship between the formal aspects of art and the political and social history of a culture. Fulfills the ART distribution requirement. Also offered through European Studies.

202.     Art of the Italian Renaissance.

An exploration of painting, sculpture and architecture in Italy from the late Gothic period through the High Renaissance and Mannerism. The course surveys the changing forms, themes and imagery of Renaissance art, within the larger cultural and political worlds of Florence, Siena, Rome, Urbino, Mantua and Venice. The course also introduces various ways of interpreting Renaissance imagery, through the study of religious iconography, humanism and academically based artistic theory; and through approaches ranging from the social history of art to gender-based interpretations. Prerequisite: AAH 116 or 117 or permission of the instructor. Offered on rotation. Also offered through European Studies.

203.     Art of the Northern Renaissance.

A study of painting and sculpture in northern and central Europe from the late 13th to the late 16th centuries. This course focuses on such artists as Jan van Eyck and Albrecht Dürer, as well as such themes as the evolving representation of nature, witchcraft and other gendered imagery in art, and the early history of printmaking. Prerequisite: AAH 116 or 117 or permission of the instructor. Offered on rotation. Also offered through European Studies.

204.     Baroque and Rococo Art.

A study of painting, sculpture and architecture in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries. This course explores such artists as Velázquez, Bernini, Artemisia Gentileschi and Rembrandt, evocative images of nature and mystical experience, and major architectural and decorative programs. Prerequisite: AAH 116 or 117 or permission of the instructor. Offered on rotation. Also offered through European Studies.

206.     Art of the Middle Ages.

A study of European art history from the collapse of the Roman Empire to the 14th century. Individual sessions explore the history of symbols, saints’ cults, pilgrimages and popular piety, monasticism, medieval music, and the work of medieval stone masons, manuscript illuminators, metalworkers and sculptors. Prerequisite: AAH 116 or 117 or permission of the instructor. Offered on rotation. Also offered through European Studies.

207.    Nineteenth Century European Art.

This course deals with art in the context of the tumultuous political and social history of 19th century Europe.  Beginning with the French Revolution in the late 18th century, we will examine the ways in which art participated in the revolutionary, colonial, technological, economic, and gendered discourses of the era, covering well-known and often controversial works by such artists as David, Blake, Goya, Courbet, Manet, Cassatt, Degas, Rodin, Van Gogh, and Munch. Prerequisite: AAH 116 or 117.

210.     American Art.

A survey of American art from the 17th century to the eve of World War I. The emphasis is on painting, although other media are included. Prerequisite: AAH 117 or permission of the instructor. Offered on rotation.

211.    African-American Art and Visual Culture.

This course will examine the history of artworks produced by and about African Americans, while at the same time analyzing issues of the construction and contestation of racial and cultural identities through visual discourse.  How do images create (or help to create) identities, and to what extent can they be used to combat as well as reinforce stereotypes?  We will cover a wide variety of works by such artists as Edmonia Lewis, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Aaron Douglas, Archibald Motley, Jr., Palmer Hayden, Jacob Lawrence, Horace Pippin, Norman Lewis, Romare Bearden, Betye Saar, Adrian Piper, Kara Walker, Lorna Simpson, Glenn Ligon, and Carrie Mae Weems.  Prerequisite: AAH 116 or 117.  Fulfills the diversity requirement.  Offered on rotation. Also offered through African-American Studies.

212.     Icons of Islamic Architecture.

This course critically examines the past and contemporary reception of an icon of Islamic architecture – the Taj Mahal – in art, politics, and society.  Since its construction as a tomb of an influential empress, the Taj has become an object of fantasy for European travelers, a model for British colonial architecture, and a source of inspiration for visual artists, art collectors, the advertisement industry, film makers and musicians all over the world.  Its site is contested by religious and political groups with competing interests, archeologists, and conservationists.  Students study the synthesis of styles and techniques in this exceptional monument and use the Taj to discuss the political role of monuments in general and to think about gender roles in Islam, the place of Islam in contemporary India, effects of tourism and pollution, and issues of cultural heritage and identity.  No prerequisite.  Offered every spring.  Fulfills the diversity and humanities distribution requirements.  Also offered through Asian Studies.

215.     West African Arts.

This course deals for the most part with the traditional arts of West Africa. It explores the wide range of West African art forms, materials and functions as well as questions of production, ownership, utility, evaluation and change. Fulfills the diversity and humanities distribution requirements. Also offered through African Studies.

217.     Buddhist Art and Ritual.

This course explores the historical and contemporary practices of Buddhist art and ritual in multiple geographical, social and cultural contexts. Examples of monuments, sculptures, paintings and ritual objects made for use by practicing Buddhists across Asia are studied to address questions of patronage and identity in various time periods. A large part of the course focuses on analyzing the contemporary reception and reshaping of traditional Buddhist ideas and art forms by diverse audiences around the world. The course also considers the changing context for Buddhist art and practice in Asia in an era of globalization. Fulfills the diversity and humanities distribution requirements. Also offered through Asian Studies and Peace Studies.

218.     Arts of South Asia.

By examining sculpture, architecture, painting and film from South Asia, this course introduces students to the multiple cultural strands that contribute to the histories of countries such as Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. We also study art made by and for communities of South Asian origin in North America today. Issues of cross-cultural contacts, ethnicity and gender are emphasized and we look critically at current debates surrounding methods of studying, collecting and displaying South Asian art. Fulfills the diversity and humanities distribution requirements. Also offered through Asian Studies.

246.     Art and Politics in Nigeria.

This course examines the relationship between art and sociopolitical conditions and events in Nigeria since 1960, as reflected in the works of selected major cultural producers. Key figures in literature, music and fine arts are studied and, through their works and personal histories, the role of the artist in society is examined. Fulfills the diversity distribution requirement. Also offered through African Studies.

247, 248, and 347, 348. Special Topics in Art.

Topics relate to the history, practice or theory of art. Open to all students, but depending on the topic prerequisites may be required. Specific topics are announced in the Class Schedule each semester, when offered.

252.     History of Modern European Art.

A critical historical investigation of art production in Europe from 1900 to 1945. Special emphasis is given to the strategy and tactics of the avant-garde, the revolutionary potential of art, the public reception of modernist art, the politics of the art market, the problem of abstraction and issues of gender. Movements covered include Fauvism, Cubism, Expressionism, Constructivism, Dada, and Surrealism. Prerequisite: AAH 116 or 117. Also offered through European Studies.

254.     A History of Contemporary Art.

The aim of this course is to provide a historical basis for an understanding of the most important developments in post-WWII art of the U.S. and Europe. Beginning with the emergence of an avant-garde in New York in the 1940s, the course investigates how artists and their publics attempted to redefine the role of art in the West. Movements studied include Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Minimalism, Earth Art, Conceptual Art, Feminist Art, and Postmodernism. Prerequisite: AAH 117.

256.     Art and Nature.

An overview of nature as a subject of artistic representation, in ancient Mediterranean and Mesopotamian cultures, and in the West from the Renaissance to the present. This course explores the ways in which depictions of nature have both reflected and shaped constructs of the natural world, by reference to religions, philosophies and moral values. Works of art to be examined include obvious examples of nature in art, such as landscape painting, and less obvious ones, such as villas and portraits, as well as earthworks and other environmental art created by contemporary artists. This course requires no previous experience of art history. Also offered through Outdoor Studies.

319.     Gender Issues in Asian Art. 

This seminar-style course explores the following themes:  the representation of gender relations in art, architecture, and film; the influence of gender constructs on the making and viewing of art; changing roles of women in society; and the relationship of gender, art and religion.  A central learning tool is in-class student discussion and debate about art historical literature that takes a feminist approach to the interpretation of historical and contemporary examples of Asian art or makes gender roles their central research question.  No prerequisite.  Fulfills a diversity distribution.  Also offered through Asian Studies.

355.     Art Today.

Organized thematically rather than chronologically, this course engages with global contemporary art of the past two decades from a wide array of critical perspectives.  Issues addressed include the interrelationships of contemporary art practices with developing technologies or “new media,” globalization and postcolonialism, identity politics and the body, and debates about “postmodernism” and consumer culture.  Prerequisite: AAH 116 or 117.

389, 390. Special Projects in Art History, I and II.

Individual study for fine arts majors or especially qualified students. Prerequisite: consent of the supervising professor and department chair. Hours to be arranged.

430.  SYE: Critical Theory and the Visual Arts

Designed for senior Art and Art History majors who are interested in graduate school or careers in the arts, this seminar explores the ways in which contemporary critical and theoretical discourses have challenged and in some cases transformed the practice of art history and criticism. Students will practice incorporating (or challenging) within their written work theoretical perspectives including those of structuralism and semiotics, post-structuralism and deconstruction, and feminist, queer, and postcolonial theory.  Restricted to senior Art and Art History majors only.

489, 490. SYE: Independent Study.

An independent study for senior majors that builds upon the student’s prior work in art history and is directed toward developing superior skills in research and writing. A public presentation of one’s research project is required.  Written proposals are required and are due one week prior to course registration.  Prerequisites: permission of the instructor and department chair (must be obtained the semester preceding the course).

495, 496. Senior Project: Honors in Art and Art History.

Details of the program are available from the department chair. An honors project involves yearlong independent research, culminating in a public presentation of the student’s thesis.  Prerequisite: a minimum GPA of 3.5 in all courses in the major.  Proposals must be submitted spring semester of the junior year, one week prior to registration. Permission of the department is needed.