The major in art history introduces students to a broad range of issues, skills and practices in the field of visual studies with a focus on works of art and architecture. The curriculum is designed to familiarize students with some of the major periods in both Western and Non-Western art history as well as the compelling methodologies and questions of the art historian. Courses train the student in formal and visual analysis and guide them in examining works of art and architecture within appropriate contextual and cultural frameworks. Multiple opportunities to study works first-hand to conduct research are incorporated in the curriculum. The Senior LC includes a seminar, Contemporary Art (AH 491) or Imagining the Individual: What is Portraiture? (AH 490), an RFT based around field experiences and methodological research and an internship at a NYC museum, cultural institution or gallery. The major prepares students for careers in the arts including museums and art institutions as well as for entrance to graduate programs in the field, but is an excellent choice for any student who wishes to be visually literate, providing key skills useful in a variety of professions and life experiences.
Art Major Senior Learning Community
Our senior learning community consists of three courses: an RFT taken in the spring of both the junior and senior years and a Capstone Course in Art History taken in the spring of the senior year. The learning community is designed to offer students maximum opportunity for independent work. Each student will have access to their own studio space, where they will build their portfolio and prepare work for the senior year exhibit. Weekly critiques from both fellow students and professors help students hone their skills and interests while allowing them to develop as practicing artists. The capstone course gives students in-depth knowledge of art historical issues relevant to contemporary artists and the opportunity to write a sophisticated thesis. Junior Year: AR 400 Junior RFT Senior Year : AR 400 Senior RFT and Capstone Course (either AH 491: Contemporary Art or AH 490 Imaging the Individual: What is a Portrait?)
Art History Course Descriptions
AH 109 Art History or Histories?
One unit. This course introduces students to the major periods, issues, and methodologies in the field of art history. While learning to analyze visually works of sculpture, painting, and architecture, students will also examine the changing functions of artworks, and the changing role of the artist throughout selected periods in history. Stylistic development will be explored in relation to the social, cultural, and political contexts in which the works were created. Topics include: art and archaeology; art and propaganda; art and its public; who decides and problems in non-Western art. The course includes individual and group museum visits. Offered fall or spring semester.
AH 112 Art of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.
One unit. This course investigates selected issues in European Art from the eighteenth century to the contemporary period, Works of art are placed in the context of social, political, cultural, and philosophical developments, with a special emphasis on understanding the relation between artistic movements and historical changes. Specific issues and topics to be explored include: art as political propaganda; landscapes and nationalism; the rise of abstraction; the influence of “exotic” or foreign cultures on the development of modern styles; art in the Machine Age; art and the rise of mass culture, as well as many other topics. Periods and styles to be explored include Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, Symbolism, Expressionism, Cubism, Futurism, and others. Offered fall semester.
AH 118 Introduction to Art History: The Ancient World from a Non-western Perspective (I).
One unit. This course is designed to introduce students to the diverse variety of ancient material culture around the world. We will examine the artifacts, architecture, and art of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Aegean, Mesoamerica, Africa, India, China and Far East Asia, Greece, Rome, Byzantium, and the Islamic world. The lectures will follow a geographical and chronological framework, examining each culture from the early formative periods (third millennium BC), through classical antiquity (Greece and Rome included), up through the medieval periods. Throughout the course we will move from one region to another, and back again, comparatively analyzing cultures as they develop and come into contact with one another. The goal of the course is to leave the students with a basic knowledge of ancient and non-western civilizations, as well as the ability to compare the ancients’ use of visual expression to our modern concepts of art and architecture, and an introductory knowledge of art historical and archaeological methodologies. This course will consist of class lectures, visits to various museum collections, and class discussion. This course meets the College requirements for an International Perspectives Requirement.
AH 211: Renaissance and Baroque.
One unit. This course explores the painting, sculpture and architecture of the 13th-16th centuries in Europe. Works of art are set into their religious, political, social and aesthetic context. The early weeks of the course focus heavily on Florence, but we also explore the art of the Renaissance in the North. The second part of the course looks at Baroque art in Italy, Spain, Flanders, and Holland. Throughout issues of patronage, iconography, artistic identity and the developments of new functions for works of art are examined. Artists studied include Giotto, Donatello, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Brunelleschi, Rubens, Velazquez, Bernini and Carravaggio.
AH 212 Ritual, Religion, and Rulers: Art from Prehistory to the Middle Ages.
One unit. This course explores art in a variety of media, from cave painting, to masks, to Gothic cathedrals. Works are examined in relation to the religious beliefs and political structures of various Western and non-Western cultures. Sanctuaries, idols, representations of numerous deities, ruler portraits, temples, mosques, and cathedrals are visually analyzed and interpreted. Topics include: Egyptian art and the afterlife; African art and ritual; the palaces of ancient Crete; and the development of Christian iconography from Roman times to the Gothic period. Visits to museums and to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Offered spring semester.
AH 215 American Art History.
One unit. What does it mean to be an American artist? This course introduces students to the study of American art, from its origins until the present day including painting, sculpture, architecture, and photography. Selected topics and artists are explored in relation to the changing aesthetic, political, and cultural climate of the United States. Topics to be examined include: the rise of landscape painting and the notion of America as the New Eden; the question of national identity and connections with European art; the portrayal of African-Americans and Native-Americans in American art; the relation between “high” and “low” American culture; women artists in the United States; the impact of the Cold War and the flight to suburbia on artistic identity and production. Offered fall or spring semester.
AH 217 Medieval Art.
One unit. The art of the middle ages continues to enchant, inspire and move us. This course examines the full range of artistic production in the medieval period, from the fall of the Roman Empire, to the high Gothic period. We attempt to get a better understanding of what life was like in Middle Ages by studying the architecture, sculpture, stained glass, manuscripts, paintings, tapestries, reliquaries, and icons produced during the era. We range from the British Isles and central Europe to the eastern reaches of the Byzantine Empire and growing Muslim territories, and look at early Christian, barbarian, Byzantine, Carolingian, Ottoman, Romanesque, and Gothic periods. Works of art are examined against the social, political, and economic events of the time, from the founding of monasteries, to the Crusades, to the rise of chivalry and world, from nineteenth century paintings to recent films. Offered as required.
AH 218 Cities and Perversities: Art in Turn-of-the-Century Paris, Vienna, Berlin, and Barcelona.
(I) One unit. This course focuses on art in the fin-de-siècle in four major cosmopolitan centers: Paris, Vienna, Berlin, and Barcelona, with occasional stops in Belgium, Norway, and England. Styles discussed include Expressionism, Symbolism, Post- Impressionism, Art Nouveau, and Jugendstil. The art of the period is explored in relation to issues of national identity c. 1900 and as a response to the shock of metropolitan life, a phenomenon experienced by artists in all four cities. These issues include attitudes toward sexuality, the rise of the crowd, alienation, the impact of psychoanalysis, escapism, and the withdrawal to the interior. We will also study the interrelation between painting, sculpture, architecture, design, and the popular arts in this period. The course attempts to understand better the shared visual language of turn-of-the-century Europe, while illuminating the special contributions and characteristics of the art of each city. Offered as required.
AH 219 Egyptian Art and Architecture (I).
One unit. Ancient Egypt is unique among ancient world civilizations; it contributed seminally to artistic expression in both the western and nonwestern worlds. This course examines the birth and development of ancient Egyptian culture by examining major monuments of architecture, sculpture, and painting from the Predynastic Period through the New Kingdom. It places the development of the powerful and sometimes enigmatic forms of Egyptian art in the context of the culture that created them, considering such factors as religion, politics, and philosophy. Students will engage the material through lectures, reading material, writing assignments, and museum trips. This course meets the College requirements for an International Perspectives Requirement.
AH 220 Islamic Art and Architecture (I).
One unit. Islamic Art and Architecture is a field of study holding special relevance in today’s world. This course will cover the different periods of origin, early development and imperial climax of Islamic material culture through the Ottoman Empire (650-1800). The development of the visual world and material culture of Islam will be emphasized to the end that students will gain an understanding they can use to decipher the meanings and concepts inherent in that culture today. Various major regions of the ancient Islamic world will be covered: Central Asia, Iran, Iraq, Anatolia, Syria-Palestine, Egypt, North Africa (Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco), and Spain. Major monuments of Islamic architecture, sculpture, and painting will be explored as will the development of the powerful and sometimes enigmatic concepts of Islamic art within the context of the culture that created them, considering such factors as religion, politics, and philosophy. This course meets the College requirements for an International Perspectives Requirement.
AH 222 Ancient Mediterranean Art and Architecture (I).
One unit. The ancient Mediterranean is often cited as the birthplace of western civilization. In this course we will examine this concept while surveying the art and architecture of the three distinct but related cultures of the Bronze Age Aegean, Classical Greek and Roman civilizations. Students will learn about the vast material cultures of these civilizations through examinations of ceramics, sculpture, painting, and architecture. Minoan and Mycenaean palaces, Classical Greek temples, and Roman amphitheaters and villas are but a few of the agencies of monumental expression covered in this course. This survey will touch upon issues relevant to the disciplines of Art History, Archaeology, History, Literature, and Religion. Students will engage the material through lectures, reading material, writing assignments, and museum trips. This course meets the College requirements for an International Perspectives Requirement.
AH 223 Ancient Near Eastern Art and Architecture (I).
One unit. This course is a survey of the art of ancient Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). The region between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers is known as the ‘Cradle of Civilization.’ The first urban societies, monumental architecture, written language, and complex empires are just a few of the innovations that appeared here. From the fourth to first millennium BCE Mesopotamia gave the world its first glimpse of advanced human civilization. Through incorporation of introductory texts and scholarly literature students will enjoy discovering the major issues confronted by Archaeologists, Anthropologists, Art Historians, and Linguists as they examine the culture of ancient Mesopotamia. Class sessions will consist of slide lectures, discussion of scholarly texts and museum trips. This course meets the College requirements for an International Perspectives Requirement.
AH 224 Monumental Expression in the Ancient World (I).
One unit. Expression of power has long been the focus of propaganda for rulers. Such expression is commonly manifest in visually stimulating architectural programs sponsored by such rulers. Cultures of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Minoan Crete, the Classical and Islamic worlds, were all fueled by rulers’ drive to impress and hold power over the population through visual persuasion. Visual persuasion and expression of power was conveyed through architecture, imagery, and organization and control of space. This course will examine the use and incorporation of visual expression in various ancient cultures through detailed analysis of a few specific monumental architectural complexes. Palaces and temples, and the objects found inside these buildings will be analyzed to determine how messages were conveyed to the audiences of the ancient world. A major component of this class is conducting a research project on a specific complex of monumental architecture. Students will also come away from this seminar a more active member of the visual world that surrounds them; the use of written expression is vital in consideration of our world today. This course meets the College requirements for an International Perspectives Requirement.
AH 291 Special Topics
One unit. This course is offered to present new subject matter or to present possible new courses. Offered as required.
AH 301 Art and Narrative (I).
One unit. All great civilizations have a story to tell; great Assyrian kings bragged about military feats, Mayan nobles watched as champion athletes played a lethal ball-game, Renaissance painters illuminated biblical stories. In this course we will examine how these stories and ‘historical’ events found a place in the visual artistic tradition of multiple civilizations. We will examine the written tradition of narrative, analyzing the construction of stories, and look at how various stories are told. We will compare these texts to visual representations of stories, and dissect the imagery to better understand modes of visual narrative. Multiple cultures, from multiple time periods will be examined, including but not limited to: Ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Mesoamerica, China, Japan, the Islamic Middle East, the Byzantine world, and Renaissance Europe. This course meets the College requirements for an International Perspectives Requirement. Prerequisites: any other Art History course
AH 302 The Assyrian Empire (I).
One unit. The Assyrian Empire was one of the most powerful ancient civilizations, for a time holding sway over the entire region of the Ancient Near East. Ruling with great military might, the Assyrians constructed massive palatial complexes containing extraordinary narrative relief sculpture documenting their exploits. This class will examine these complexes, looking at the architecture, art, and writing that were integral parts of the buildings. Students will actively participate in critiquing various scholarly texts and objects from area museums and will be responsible for a series of writing projects dealing with these palaces and the context for which they were created. This course meets the College requirements for an International Perspectives Requirement. Prerequisites: any other Art History course
AH 324 Women in the Visual Arts.
One unit. This course explores the work of women artists, as well as representations of women throughout history, with an emphasis on the modern period. Issues of gender are examined in relation to the subject matter, stylistic preference, media, reception and criticism of female artists. Issues to be discussed include self representations by women artists; themes of motherhood, prostitution and female sexuality in the visual arts; the impact of the women’s movement on art; issues of the gaze and the gendering of vision; and the various obstacles and options facing the contemporary women artist. Painters, sculptors, and photographers to be examined include Artemisia Gentelleschi, Frida Kahlo, Berthe Morisot, Eva Hesse, Georgia O’Keefe, Cindy Sherman, Judy Chicago, Merritt Oppenheim, and Hannah Höch. Discussions also focus on major works created during the Renaissance, Impressionist, and Modern periods, as well as works in such diverse visual media as performance, cinema, and advertising. The course includes a trip to the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. Prerequisite: any other Art History or Gender Studies course. Offered spring semester.
CAPSTONE COURSE DESCRIPTIONS AH 491: Contemporary Art.
One unit. This course familiarized students with contemporary art practice, debates in art theory and criticism and the most important issues facing the artist today. We will examine the work of diverse artists in the context of larger social, political, economic and aesthetic issues. In addition, we will look at issues such as the role of the museum today, censorship and the impact of the internet on contemporary art making. The works of important contemporary critics and theorists are explored.
AH 490 Imaging the Individual: What is a Portrait?
One unit. A portrait is often thought of as a visual, naturalistic representation of an individual. However, this is only one definition. In this course, we will examine the concept of portraiture: what is a portrait? Does it have to portray the likeness of a person? Can a portrait contain other types of imagery? How does written text relate to visual portraiture? How is a portrait of a Mayan Lord different from that of a Japanese Samurai? How does a portrait of an Egyptian Pharaoh differ from a portrait of Andy Warhol? We will survey ‘portraits’ of individuals beginning with Paleolithic Venus figurines, and end with those of contemporary artists. We will look at self-portraits, paintings, sculptures, and even some works of monumental architecture.