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Art East and West


Block 1: Tamara Bentley (Introduction to Asian Art)

Block 2: Rebecca Tucker (Introduction to Western Art)

The two-block course fulfills one unit of the Global Cultures requirement or the two-block West-in Time requirement, but not both.

This course aims to present students with the opportunity to engage with the history of art in a global context. Students will study art objects from both Eastern and Western traditions. They will learn how to place objects within their social, historical and cultural context in order to acquire a richer understanding of art as a means of communication and expression. In class, discussion, field trips, and on-site visits, students will master the skills of visual observation, analysis, and critical thinking and broaden their understanding of the ways art captures the human experience.

Block 1: Introduction to Indian, Chinese, and Japanese art, investigating interrelationships between art, literature, religious philosophy, and politics. Considers relationships in art among India, China, and Japan, as well as other cultural traditions. Media covered include jades, bronzes, tomb art, architecture, sculpture, ceramics, paintings, and prints. Topics of particular interest include: early religious philosophies and their visual imagery; ideologies of landscape in China; political symbolism in all eras; Zen aesthetics in the arts; and the broadening market for art in the early modern era. Both lecture and discussion formats are used. There will be one quiz, two tests, and two papers for the class.

Block 2: This course focuses on the visual language and the history of art in Western Europe and the European colonies in the Americas. In this block, we will examine key artistic monuments (including painting, architecture, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and performance) and crucial themes in Western art history, touching on the major periods from antiquity to contemporary art. Themes of the course include the relationship between art and power; the role of the artist and market in the production of art; the representation of nature; and the use of art for religious devotion in different cultures. Required course work includes tests, papers and research projects, and oral presentations, in addition to daily reading, image study, and discussion.

Goals for this sequence of courses include:

1. Acquiring an understanding of important works from the global history of art, their chronology, and their cultural circumstances

2. Mastering the skills of visual observation and how to transform the visual into textual and oral analysis

3. Developing the research and writing skills necessary to art history

4. Effectively forming interpretations and arguments based on evidence

5. Understanding the different ways art history is presented and codified in Eastern and Western culture, including by way of museums and other institutions

6. Developing skills at identifying, analyzing, and interpreting cross-cultural themes, structures, and motifs

Two linked blocks, with two professors. One grade will be given for the course as a whole.


  • This course is a gateway for majors in Art (Art History or Art Studio concentrations) and/or Asian Studies.
  • No prior experience in art history is necessary; no prerequisites.
  • There will be several local field trips over the course of the two blocks.