This course will provide an introductory survey to the fundamental principles and canonical works of Western art history from the Renaissance to the present. With an emphasis on acquiring skills particular to visual literacy, this course will enable students to critically analyze works of art while contextualizing them historically, socially, and culturally with respect to significant periods and themes. We will explore major themes such as the changing status of the artist, the mechanics of patronage and the art market, and the impact of religion, politics, science and technology on art production. As we navigate through different time periods and geographical centers, we will more broadly address the ways in which artists, patrons, and publics defined themselves, through their images, in relation to an expanding world of trade, cultural encounters, political confrontation, and artistic exchange. In addition to introducing you to the history of visual culture, this course will also expose you to the methods and practices of art history--that is, the various ways in which historians have approached visual objects from the beginnings of the discipline to the present. Topics will include iconography, the social history of art, formalism and style, and feminism. Lectures and discussions will focus on the general issues of a given period of artistic production as well as individual artists, works of art, and artistic techniques. Reading assignments will include primary sources, as well as scholarly articles, and we will pay close attention to how art historians selectively regard the fragmentary material and textual remains from the past and incorporate them into a "story of art." Together with lectures, readings, and written assignments, participation in discussion will be a vital component of the course. We will take advantage of the privileged opportunity to visit local museum collections and learn from objects "in the flesh." By gaining a fluency in visual culture, we will develop critical thinking skills transferable to all disciplines. Estimated cost of materials: $50 or more, but less than $100.
Left: Andy Warhol, Mona Lisa, 1963, serigraph and right: Leonardo Da Vinci, Mona Lisa, ca. 1506-1513, oil on panel