Special Topics: Art of the Ashcan School
Th 1:00-4:00
270 Tappan
3 Credit Seminar

Just over a hundred years ago, a group of young artists moved to New York City and set about creating a new form of urban realism. Later dubbed the "Ashcan School," their aim was actually to capture as many aspects as possible of life in the new metropolis of the twentieth century. Our class will examine the work of the Ashcan artists in the broad context of changes in urban culture of their day, asking what art and social and cultural history can tell us about each other. In doing so we will consider how art historians from different orientations have interpreted the work and significance of the Ashcan School as urban document, as advancing or retarding modern art in the United States, or as part of international trends. We will consider the artistic and intellectual origins of the artists' concepts of "real art" and "real life" and study their art's relationship to representations of urban life in turn-of-the-century journalism, literature, social sciences and popular entertainment as well as art. We will also explore the Ashcan artists' encounter with social and cultural issues that other artists addressed at the time and that continue to characterize modern cities: class difference, immigration and ethnic and racial diversity, changes in gender definitions, changing patterns of work and leisure; spectacle, display and public life; consumerism and the urban gaze, and the nature of community and communication in urban society.

Weekly meetings will be dedicated to discussion of multiple, challenging readings made available through online reserves and to seminar reports based on original research by students.

A mandadory field trip to the DIA will take place during one class period and the return time is expected to be 1-2 hours after the end of class. The date is TBD. There will be a copay. Prerequisites: Instructor consent will be required. Because we will be discussing advanced readings intensively, it is recommended that students have done prior coursework in history of art; background in American Culture or literary modernism will also be helpful. TEXTBOOKS: Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (Norton annotated edition) and two RECOMMENDED TEXTS for students new to the field: Sylvan Barnet, A Short Guide to Art Erika Doss, Twentieth Century American Art (Oxford history of Art) Estimated cost of materials: $100 or less. D,4