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AH112: Introduction to Art History

This class is designed as a survey of western art, which means we will cover a range of periods and regions in artistic and architectural production from prehistory to the current century over the course of two blocks. We will consider the formal elements of works representative of selected regions and eras, as well as the context in which the work was produced. This means we will consider the historical circumstances of featured objects including their political, religious, economic, and social valences.

An exciting project that will occupy our time throughout both blocks, but the second block in particular, is curating an art exhibition for the Unblocked Gallery space at the Fine Arts Center. This exhibition will make use of the museum’s rich collections and will reflect your engagement with the content of the course as developed from your collective and individual interests. In other words, you will work together to create the theme, select the works of art to be featured, write the wall labels, and produce a catalogue of essays that will accompany the installation. We will spend multiple days a week in the gallery space and working with the museum’s collection as you complete various phases of the project. During the final days of Block 2, we will invite the college community and the wider public to come listen to your presentations and enjoy refreshments as they peruse the exhibition.

At the close of this course, you will understand the changing role of the artist and art object, how the needs and desires of patrons shaped the production of art and architecture, and the ways in which the stylistic concerns of artists and patrons changed over time and across geographical regions. You will be expected to develop a “visual literacy”, which will enable you to successfully analyze and compare works of art and form compelling written arguments that take into consideration relevant contexts and artistic motivations.

Big questions to consider: What is art and how does it inform our sense of place and our perspectives? How have works of art and artists been categorized over time? What role does the canon play in our understanding of the history of art, and how might it be productively modified adjusted, and reorganized?