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Art History Course Descriptions

ARTH 1100: INTRODUCTION TO ART HISTORY: ANCIENT THROUGH MEDIEVAL (4 credits)

This course is an introduction to the history of Western art from prehistory through the Middle Ages. Beginning with the cave paintings of prehistoric France and Spain, this course surveys the visual arts and architecture of ancient Egypt and the ancient Near East, the Classical Greek and Roman worlds, and finally medieval Europe. It considers a variety of media (sculpture, pottery, wall painting, mosaics, and manuscripts as well as architecture) as meaningful expressions of their historical contexts. Questions surrounding how art and architecture function in society are explored throughout, and the basic principles of visual analysis are taught and utilized. Offered occasionally.

ARTH 1110: INTRODUCTION TO ART HISTORY: RENAISSANCE THROUGH MODERN (4 credits)

This course is an introduction to the history of Western art from the early Renaissance in Europe to the present in Europe and the U.S. It surveys the artists, architects, and art movements that constitute the canon of Western art since the Renaissance with an eye to examining how society influences artistic production and vice versa. The role of patronage, individual artistic personalities, religion, war and peace, and attitudes about gender are explored throughout. The basic principles of visual analysis are taught and utilized; students are also introduced to fundamental methods of art history such as iconography, formalism, and social art history. This course also includes a visit to, and analysis of an artwork in, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Offered annually.

ARTH 1150: WAYS OF SEEING (4 credits)

If the sense of sight is the primary means by which we experience the world, then how do what we believe and what we know determine how we see our culture and those different from our own? John Berger put this question to his readers in 1972 when he first published "Ways of Seeing." This course intends to bring Berger’s question to bear on the experience of art, history, and visual culture in the early 21st century. As an introduction to the history of the visual arts and culture, this course will also hone your visual and critical thinking skills. Specific and timely themes that cut across historical and geographical boundaries will narrow our focus through consideration of specific artists, artworks, buildings, and media images as well as relevant essays, books, and films on a given topic. These include, but are not limited to art and ideology, beauty and art, the female body and the gaze, piety and religious spaces, museums, art and illness, popular culture, consumer culture, and social change. Offered annually.

ARTH 2650: MODERN ART HISTORY (4 credits)

The major artists, movements, and ideas of modern art (primarily in Europe, but also in the U.S.) are investigated in this course. Beginning around 1880 and ending in the early 1950s, this course tracks the emergence and development of avant-garde movements such as Post-Impressionism, Fauvism and Expressionism, Cubism and Constructivism, Dada and Surrealism and finally Abstract Expressionism in New York. More specifically, it examines how gender, class, race and ethnicity influence artistic production while also exploring the impact of WWI and WWII on modern art. This is a writing-intensive and required course for studio art, visual art education and art history majors. Offered annually.

ARTH 2670: CONTEMPORARY ART IN THE UNITED STATES (4 credits)

The social movements of the 1960s effected significant changes in the visual arts. This course examines key artists and ideas that emerged out of that historical period in the U.S. and tracks the erratic evolution of contemporary art from around 1970 to the present. Beginning with a rejection of Modernism, Postmodern artists embraced a variety of ways of visualizing their engagement with society through performance, video, installation, and conceptual art as well as through traditional media such as painting and sculpture. Although there is a textbook for this course, consideration of primary sources such as short exhibition reviews, artist’s statements and interviews, and theoretical texts as well as videos and film excerpts will be central to course content and discussion. Visits to either the Walker Art Center and/or local contemporary art galleries are integrated into the course schedule and writing assignments. Offered alternate years.

ARTH 2900: LATIN AMERICAN ART (4 credits)

Divided into two parts, this survey course considers the art and architecture of pre-Columbian societies and the influence of modernism on Latin American art from the late 19th century to the present. The first half of the course examines the art and architecture of prominent ancient Mesoamerican societies (e.g. the Olmec, Aztec and Maya) and Andean societies (e.g. the Inca). The second half covers modern and contemporary developments in art in various Latin American countries, contemplating artists such as Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Maria Izquierdo, Wifredo Lam, Vik Muniz, and Jac Leirner, among others. The relationship between art and society is emphasized throughout. Offered in alternate years.

ARTH 3630: WOMEN IN ART (4 credits)

Women artists of the 20th and early 21st centuries play significant roles within and outside of the mainstream art world. This course considers many of these artists with attention given to the historical, social, and theoretical issues that attend their work. Western and non-Western artists and contexts are explored with an eye to thinking about the impact of race, ethnicity, nationality, class and sexual orientation on artistic production and reception. This course wrestles with questions raised by the artists and their work--questions surrounding the female body, identity, motherhood, spirituality, violence and sexual orientation. Key documents of feminist thought from the periods of First- and Second-Wave Feminism are discussed as well as the most current feminist scholarship in art history. Also offered as CRST and WOST. Offered in alternate years.

ARTH 3700: RENAISSANCE AND BAROQUE (4 credits)

This course traces developments in painting, sculpture and architecture in Italy from the 14th century to the 17th century. The lives and works of Giotto, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo are considered in advance of their creative offspring in the Baroque period, artists and architects such as Caravaggio, Gentileschi, Bernini and Borromini. Discussion of these artists and their creations will center on their materials and methods, reception, patronage and functions in society. The impact of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation on the visual and plastic arts of these periods will also figure prominently. Offered every three years.

ARTH 3730: NINETEENTH CENTURY ART (4 credits)

Beginning in 1789 with the French Revolution, this course will trace the major developments in art and architecture from Neoclassicism to Romanticism, Realism to Impressionism, and the invention of photography. The artists and architects are primarily based in Europe, but key personalities in the U.S. are also considered. The social function of art and architecture is especially integral to this period, which witnessed tremendous social upheaval by way of the industrialization and urbanization of Europe and the U.S. Textbook readings are complemented by a variety of translated primary sources from philosophy, art criticism and literature. Offered every three years.

ARTH 4000: METHODS IN ART HISTORY (4 credits)

This course provides students of art history with a toolbox of methodologies that enhance our understanding of art and architecture. It explores object-based methods such as connoisseurship, formalism, and iconography as well as methods that emphasize the various contexts in which artworks and buildings are created and understood: these include social art history (including Marxist and Feminist approaches), structuralism and post-structuralism, psychoanalysis and reception theory. Although methodological theories are the primary objects of study in this seminar-style course, applications of these theories in case studies are emphasized. Required for art history majors.

ARTH 4684: DIRECTED STUDY - ART HISTORY (4 credits)

Directed study is provided for students whose unusual circumstances prohibit taking a regularly scheduled course but who need the material of that course to satisfy a requirement. Availability of this faculty-directed learning experience depends on faculty time and may be limited in any given term and restricted to certain courses. Prerequisites: Faculty, department chair and dean approval.

ARTH 4952 or 4954: INDEPENDENT STUDY - ART HISTORY (2 or 4 credits)

Independent studies presuppose a measure of experience in the area of study and the intent to go beyond the content of scheduled classes. Prerequisites: Faculty sponsorship and department chair approval.