HISTART 352-001

Art and Philosophy in the Renaissance Tradition

MW 2:30 - 4:00
3 Credit Seminar

Cross-listed with RCHUMS 346.001

This seminar investigates fundamental questions raised during the early modern period in Europe about the nature of art as an ethical practice and as a way of knowing the world. What is the purpose of art? Where do artists find their ideas? Why do objects exert effects upon viewers? What is the relationship between ars and ingenium—that is, between rules and creative license? What is the role of practical knowledge and what is the role of divine inspiration in the process of artistic creation? During this period (roughly from 1400 to 1780) we find that many different kinds of people—artists, poets, academicians, princely secretaries, clergymen—offered answers to such questions. The Humanist revival of ancient Greek and Roman literature and philosophy in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was crucial to the early modern idea that the making and enjoying of visual art should be considered a philosophical activity. From the fourteenth century onward, treatises, dialogues and poems aimed at general educated readers fueled the discussion of how visual art affects our moral lives and how it reveals truths about the natural, human and divine worlds. The belief that art has an ethical purpose, that it engages the higher faculties of the mind, that it offers instruction as well as delight, contributed fundamentally to the modern conception of visual art as a guide to understanding and means of representing the human condition. Artists themselves often reflected on their activity in their works and expressed their ideas by pushing the limits of what could be stated in material form. This seminar will offer an introduction to early modern European thought about visual art on the basis of selected writings in English translation and the evidence of paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints, some of them in the University of Michigan Museum of Art. Emphasis will be given to works by Italian, German, Dutch and English artists. Readings will be drawn from Giovanni Boccaccio, Leon Battista Alberti, Leonardo da Vinci, Baldessar Castiglione, Albrecht Dürer, Lodovico Dolce, Giorgio Vasari, Giovan Pietro Bellori, Johann Joachim Winckelmann, among others.

Textbooks/Other Materials:
• Michael Harvey, The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing, 2nd ed., Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2013. ISBN: 9781603848985
• Leon Battista Alberti, On Painting, trans. C. Grayson, Penguin, 2004: ISBN 0140433317.
• Leonardo da Vinci, Leonardo on Painting: An Anthology of Writings, trans. M. Kemp and M. Walker, New Haven: Yale Nota Bene, 2001: ISBN 0300090951.
• Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists, Volume I, trans. G. Bull, Penguin, 1987: ISBN 0140445005

Course Requirements: Three short papers (30%), two short slide-essay exams (20%), term paper draft (15%), term paper (25%), participation (19%)

Intended Audience: Upper level undergraduates

Class Format: Two 80-minute seminar meetings per week, lecture and discussion

Estimated Cost of Materials: $50-100

HISTART Distribution Requirements: 3. Early Modern, 4. Modern and Contemporary, D. Europe and the US

This course fulfills the Upper Level Writing Requirement in the College of LS&A.

This course fulfills the LSA Humanities Distribution Requirement