Art History Immersion

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In the art history immersion students explore the history of art and architecture across multiple cultures and eras. Art historians examine a culture’s artistic production, analyzing form, content, and creative context to better understand how art expresses the intent of the artist, the interpretation of the viewer, or particular cultural values and ideals. Students will use art historical methodologies to evaluate works of art, formulate a history of artistic style, analyze art in relation to its historical context, and engage with the world of contemporary art. 

Notes about this immersion:

  • This immersion is closed to students majoring in 3D digital design, , film and animation, graphic design, illustration, industrial design, interior design, medical illustration, museum studies, new media design, photographic and imaging arts, and studio arts-all options.

The program code for Art History Immersion is ARTHIS-IM.

Curriculum for Art History Immersion

Choose three of the following:
   Art and Architecture of Italy: 1250-1400
The subject of this course is painting, sculpture and architecture of the second half of the Dugento and the Trecento in Italy and its aim is to provide insight into the ways in which society and culture expressed its values through art; 1250 marks the death of the last Hohenstaufen Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and 1401 is considered by many to mark the beginning of the Early Renaissance, with the competition for the second set of bronze doors for the Baptistery of Florence. Artists students will study will include Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, Arnolfo di Cambio, Cimabue, Pietro Cavallini, Giotto, Duccio, Simone Martini, Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Tino da Camaino, Andrea Pisano, Orcagna, Andrea Bonaiuti, Giusto de’ Menabuoi, Altichiero, and Paolo Veneziano. The works students will study will include altarpieces, private devotional images, mural cycles, tombs, churches, chapels, town halls, palazzi and piazze. Questions for consideration will include: the nature and meaning of this proto-Renaissance, the importance of antique and medieval precedents, the increasing attention to the effects of nature, the role of the patron, and the relevance of documents, literary sources and visual precedents for our interpretation of images.
   Art and Architecture of Italy: 1600-1750
This course will focus on Italian artists working in Italy from circa 1600 to circa 1750 and to provide insight into the ways in which society and culture expressed its values through art. Students will explore painting, sculpture, and architecture, and more or less chronologically in each major artistic center of Italy. Students will also have the opportunity to explore how these different media coalesce to create an overwhelming visual experience. Students will pay particular attention to major commissions given to Annibale Carracci, Michelangelo da Caravaggio, Gianlorenzo Bernini, Alessandro Algardi, Francesco Borromini, Pietro da Cortona, Guarino Guarini, Filippo Juvarra and Giambattista Tiepolo, as we seek to define the nature and meaning of the Italian Baroque and Rococo.
   Art and Architecture in Florence and Rome: 15th Century
The subject of this course is 15th century painting, sculpture and architecture in Florence and Rome and its aim is to provide insight into the ways in which society and culture expressed its values through art betwee 1401, the year when the Calimala Guild announced a competition for a second set of bronze doors for the Baptistery of Florence, and 1500 the year when Michelangelo completed work on the Roman Pietà. Artists students will study include Filippo Brunelleschi, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Donatello, Nanni di Banco, Luca della Robbia, Michelozzo, Leon Battista Alberti, Lorenzo Monaco, Gentile da Fabriano, Masaccio, Fra Angelico, Fra Filippo Lippi, Paolo Uccello, Bernardo and Antonio Rossellino, Andrea del Verrocchio, Antonio del Pollaiuolo, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico del Ghirlandaio, Leonardo da Vinci, Filippino Lippi and Michelangelo. The works students will study will include altarpieces, private devotional images, portraits, mural cycles, paintings and sculpture of mythological subjects, allegories, ceilings, doors, tombs, churches, chapels, palazzi, villas and piazze. Questions for consideration will include: the nature and meaning of the Early Renaissance, developments in artistic theory and practice, the importance of Antique and Medieval precedents, the increasing attention to the effects of nature, the role of the patron, and the relevance of documents, literary sources and visual precedents for our interpretation of images.
   Art and Architecture in Florence and Rome: 16th Century
The subject of this course is 16th century painting, sculpture and architecture in Florence and Rome and its aim is to provide insight into the ways in which society and culture expressed its values through art between 1501, the year when Michelangelo returned from Rome to Florence to begin carving the colossal marble David, and 1600 which marks the emergence of the Baroque style in Rome. Artists students will study include Leonardo da Vinci, Bramante, Michelangelo, Raphael, Sebastiano del Piombo, Jacopo Sansovino, Baccio Bandinelli, Jacopo Pontormo, Agnolo Bronzino, Benvenuto Cellini, Bartolomeo Ammannati, Giorgio Vasari, and Giovanni Bologna. The works students will study will include altarpieces, private devotional images, portraits, mural cycles, paintings and sculpture of mythological subjects, allegories, ceilings, tombs, churches, chapels, palazzi, villas, piazze, fountains and equestrian monuments. Questions for consideration will include: the nature and meaning of the High Renaissance, Mannerism, and the late Renaissance, developments in artistic theory and practice, the importance of antique and medieval precedents, the increasing attention to the effects of nature, the role of the patron, and the relevance of documents, literary sources and visual precedents for our interpretation of images.
   Art in Paris
Students will study the history of artistic production and display in Paris, a city long regarded as a capital of the art world, from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. The class will explore issues related to artistic production and display in Paris, including Paris as a center for Gothic production, art and the royal court, the intersection of classicism and French art, art and revolution, art and public space, Paris as a center of modernity, the role of historic conservation, and the role of museums.
   18th, 19th Century Art
This course will examine Western art in the period leading up to the French Revolution and the early “Modern” period – generally, the mid-19th century. This process will include a close examination of the works and careers of individual artists who have been considered some of the best-known representatives of the most significant art movements of the era, such as Rococo, Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Realism, and Impressionism. Students will learn a new vocabulary for discussing visual representations and will situate issues within political, religious, literary, and historical contexts. Throughout the course, a series of questions about art will be presented and students will assess how the nature of those questions affects the way they see images.
   20th Century Art: 1900-1950
A critical study of the art and visual culture of the first five decades of the twentieth century. Major stylistic movements in Europe and America will be examined with special attention to innovations in materials, subject matter, and philosophy. Central themes include: the relationship between art and politics, abstraction vs. figuration, primitivism, anti-modernism, and the search for origins, reactions to modernity and the rise of technology, the tension between the avant-garde and popular culture, utopian and dystopian views of art and society, the institutional critique, artistic responses to Phenomenology, Existentialism, Nihilism, and the special role of art and artists in modern society. Part I of a two-semester historical sequence devoted to 20th century art.
   20th Century Art: Since 1950
A critical study of the art and visual culture of the second half of the twentieth century. Major stylistic movements in Europe and America are examined with special attention to innovations in materials, subject matter, and philosophy. Central themes include: Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, West Coast Junk, Funk and Beat, Nouveau Réalisme, CoBRA and Situationism, Arte Povera, Earthworks, Site Specificity, Allegory, Conceptualism, Minimalism, Feminism, Performance, Happenings, Installation, and New Media. Part II of a two semester historical sequence devoted to 20th century art.
   Art of the Last Decade
A critical study of the art and visual culture of the last decade with a strong emphasis on the current American and international scene. The primary focus will be on living artists and artists who remain crucial to contemporary debates with special attention paid to recent, current, and forthcoming exhibitions, their methodological frameworks, and historical context, as well as the key critics, theorists and curators who are shaping the visual culture of the present.
   Baroque Painting in Flanders
Students will study the history of Baroque painting in Flanders from the mid-1500s to 1700 with a specific focus on women, gender and illness, and the birth of Early Modern Europe. Students will consider the meaning of the Flemish Baroque, the observation and recording of natural appearances (still-life paintings), “hidden symbolism” and sacramental themes and connections between Flemish and Italian art. Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony Van Dyck are among the major artists to be studied in addition to those who are lesser known.
   Renaissance Painting in Flanders
The history of Renaissance painting in the Southern Netherlands from the beginning of the 15th century to the end of the 16th century with specific focus on women, gender, and illness and the birth of Early Modern Europe. We will consider the meaning of the Renaissance in Flanders, the observation and recording of natural appearances, “hidden symbolism” and sacramental themes in Early Netherlandish painting, the connections between Flemish, German, and Italian art, the development of new genres in the 16th century, “originality” and artistic progress.”
   Theory and Criticism of 20th Century Art
A critical study of some of the major theoretical and philosophical texts that ground twentieth century art as well as their impact on artists and art historians/critics. Taken together they constitute what is presently called critical theory across a wide range of the humanities and social sciences, as well as the emergence of an alleged postmodernism. Major issues include: the theory of autonomy and self-reflexivity, the structuralist paradigm, post-structuralist and Marxist critiques of modernism, feminist approaches to spectacle, semiotics, and the theory of the sign, spectatorship, and commodity fetishism, the relation of vision to constructions of identity and power. Key authors to be discussed include: Lessing, Kant, Greenberg, Foucault, Barthes, Benjamin, Saussure, Pierce, Levi-Strauss, Lacan, Lyotard, Bataille, Debord Baudrillard, and Ranci.
   Art and Activism
This course will focus on artists who use their work for the explicit purpose of changing society, and who subscribe to the belief that all representation is ideological. It considers work by both individual artists (and artists working collectively) that cause critics, art historians, other artists, and the viewing public to ask if what they are doing is truly art. Although there will be forays back to the 19th and early 20th centuries, most time will be dedicated to the last three decades. Students will examine texts that propose a form of activism and persuade artists to be responsible for the way they represent the world – and perhaps, even determine if the goal of art is not to represent it in the first place. “What is Art?” “What should Art do?” “How can Art incite social change?” “Does the artist have any social responsibility?” are just some of the questions raised when art comes into contact with the political sphere– especially when that art proposes to make a political or social change – i.e., when art becomes action. Although these questions may not seem immediately answerable, it is our responsibility to ask them, and then attempt to answer them as best we can. The artists and theorists that we will discuss are concerned with problems in our society that effect gender, race, sexuality, poverty, labor issues, and the environment. Most of the theorists and artists can be classified as angry and confrontational, or at least evoking a form of contestation, their art and ideas are reflective of these positions. Key artists to be discussed include Martha Rosler, Kara Walker, David Hammons, Allan Sekula, Mel Chin, Barbara Kruger, Hans Haacke, Fred Wilson, General Idea, Guerilla Girls, Adrian Piper, and Alfredo Jaar.
   The Image
The image remains a ubiquitous, controversial, ambiguous and deeply problematic issue in contemporary critical discourse. This course will examine recent scholarship devoted to the image and the ideological implications of the image in contemporary culture. Topics will include: the modern debate over word vs. image, the mythic origins of images, subversive, traumatic, monstrous, banned and destroyed images (idolatry and iconoclasm), the votive and effigy, the mental image, the limits of visuality, the moving and projected image, the virtual image, image fetishism, the valence of the image, semiotics and the image, as well as criteria by which to assess their success or failure (their intelligibility) and their alleged redemptive and poetic power.
   Art and Architecture of Ancient Rome
Students will examine the visual culture of ancient Roman civilization from the foundations of Roman culture through the Late Imperial era. Rome was heavily reliant on images as a means of transmitting concepts of lineage, status, and power; students will learn how these images may have been perceived in the context of Roman social and political history, and how style may have been used as an ideological tool.
   Illuminated Manuscripts
Students in this course will examine the history of illuminated manuscripts, learning about the working methods of artists as well as the cultural significance of the illuminated book. Issues of production, style, function, and patronage will be introduced, and students will explore the relationships between images, texts, and readers.
   Topics in Global Art and Architecture:
This course will focus on a critical examination of a select theme within art and architecture beyond the traditions of Europe or modern North America. A topic description will be posted each term the course is offered. This course can be taken multiple times for credit, but Individual topics must be different.
   Topics in Art History
A focused, critical examination and analysis of a selected topic in Art History varying according to faculty teaching the course. A subtopic course description will be published each term course is offered. This course can be repeated.
   Topics in Medieval Art and Architecture
A critical examination of a select theme within the field of medieval art and architecture. A subtopic description will be posted each term the course is offered. This course may be repeated for credit, but students may not repeat a topic.
   Art Comics
This course will explore how the comics medium has figured into the history of modern and contemporary art and visual culture. Students will explore how cartooning, drawing, and printmaking in the 19th century led to the development of early comics and the newspaper comic strip, how early 20th-century comics fit into the modernist avant-garde, how postwar artists began to use the comics medium as both source material and as a medium unto itself, how comics have been incorporated into contemporary art museums and galleries, and how contemporary comics artists engage with abstraction, medium specificity, seriality, and the archive. The course will draw from an interdisciplinary range of methodologies, from art history and visual culture to literary studies and museum studies.
   The Gothic Revival
This class covers the Gothic Revival of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Issues to be examined include the question of stylistic revival vs. stylistic survival; the origin and meanings of Gothic as a stylistic category; the impact of antiquarianism on the Gothic Revival in the 18th century; Gothic and 18th century modes of vision; Gothic in the private and public spheres; Gothic's associations with science, gender, nationalism, and morality; the Gothic Revival and the Pre Raphaelites, and major figures within the movement such as A.W.N. Pugin and John Ruskin.
   Latin American Art
Students will explore the historical development of art of Latin America from colonial times to the present. Included will be a consideration of painting, sculpture, architecture, graphic, and photographic arts. Potential themes to be addressed include the dependence on the European neo-classical academic model; indigenism; nationalism and the resurgence of popular art; the role of the visual arts in the construction of history; the conflicts and tensions involved in the search for a cultural identity.
   Modern Architecture
Students will explore the history of world architecture from the late nineteenth century to the present. Issues to be considered include the definition of modern as it applies to the built environment; new building types; historicism; stylistic movements; urban development; housing; modern materials; critical theory and its impact on design; and architectural representation.
   Art and Technology: from the Machine Aesthetic to the Cyborg Age
Students will explore the link between art and technology in the 20th century with special focus on the historical, theoretical, and ideological implications. Topics include the body in the industrial revolution, utopian, dystopian, and fascist appropriations of the machine, engendering the mechanical body and machine-eroticism, humanism, the principles of scientific management, the paranoiac and bachelor machine, multiples, mass production, and the art factory, industrial design and machines for living, the technological sublime, cyborgs, cyberpunk and the posthuman. Key theorists to be discussed include: Karl Marx, Norbert Weiner, Reyner Banham, Siegfried Gideon, Marshall McCluhan, Michel Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, Donna Haraway, and Martin Heidegger, as well as examples from film (Modern Times, Metropolis, Man with the Movie Camera and Blade Runner) and literature (Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Zamyatin’s We). Artists covered include: Tatlin, Rodchenko, Malevich, Moholy-Nagy, Léegr, Sheeler, Picabia, Duchamp, Calder, Ernst, Le Corbusier, Klee, Tinguely, Oldenburg, Rauschenberg, Warhol, Beuys, Kiefer, Lewitt, Fischli and Weiss, Acconci, Nam June Paik, Survival Research Laboratories, Bureau of Inverse Technology, Stelarc, Orlan, Dara Birnbaum, Roxy Paine, Marina Abramovic, Kac and Bill Viola.
   Art of the Americas
This is a survey course of native north and South American visual arts within an historical and anthropological framework. Included will be an examination of the development of principal styles of Ancient American architecture, sculpture, painting, and ceramics up to the 16th century when the Spanish conquistadors defeated the Aztec and Inca empires and imposed colonial rule. Consideration is also given to materials used, techniques of construction, individual and tribal styles, as well as to the meaning and function of various art forms within Native American societies.
   Conceptual Art
This course examines the widely influential mid-1960s art movement that questioned the fundamental nature of art itself by renunciating the material art object as well as the phenomenon of art making. The definition of art as well as its institutional framework was thereby expanded, and the idea, concept, or intellectual dimension of the work was underscored. Students will be acquainted with the philosophical foundations and critical implications of this global movement across a wide spectrum of works and practices (paintings, performance, installations, books and texts, photography, film, and video) and its relevance to contemporary concerns.
   Dada and Surrealism
Students will examine the widely influential Dada and Surrealist movements in Europe and the United States from 1916 through the post-World War II period as well as their relevance to contemporary concerns. Emphasis is on identifying the major works of artists involved in these movements as well as their philosophical foundations, critical implications, as well as the broader literary and ideological contexts (e.g., Freud, Breton, Lautréamont, Leiris and Bataille). A wide range of works and practices (paintings, performance, installations, literary texts, photography, film, and ephemeral objects) will be studied, and the work of certain key artists (Höch, Heartfield, Schwitters, Duchamp, Picabia, Dalí, Ernst, Giacometti, Man Ray, Bellmer, Cahun, Cornell, Magritte, Miro, Oppenheim, Toyen and Picasso) will be analyzed in depth.
   Modernism and Its Other: Realism in the Shadow of Expressionism
This course is an inquiry into one of the major debates of modern art; this debate had a seemingly clear victor. The idea that the artist expresses his/her individuality and then communicates that “self” to the rest of “humanity” through a higher, transcendental, language has dominated the discourse and practice of modernist art. In retrospect, the art that dominated most of the first half of the 20th century was of an expressive nature. On the other hand, art that in anyway addressed direct and specific social issues was banished by art’s major institutions. Realism was dead. Students will look at the circumstances of how Realism became subordinated to expressionism. The course will address the question of what exactly constituted the practice of realist art. Examining the roots of both movements, taking us at times into the 18th and 19th centuries, but we will concentrate on how institutions like the Museum of Modern Art helped to define how we see the history of 20th century art as being pre-determined and following teleology. Students will explore how modernism’s “other”, namely Realism, survived and gained new currency in practices of late 20th and early 21st century art.
   Displaying Gender
This course brings together two of the most significant strains of recent art historical scholarship: the study of gender in representation and the critical examination of exhibitions and museums with particular focus given to key examples of curatorial practice from the late 19th century to the present day. Through readings, possible museum visit(s), class discussions, and guided individual research, questions of gender in exhibitions will be considered in relation to other aspects of identity including sexuality, race, and class.
   Edvard Munch
The Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944) continues to generate a great deal of popular interest, critical scholarship, and reflection. The 4-volume catalogue raisonné of his paintings was published in 2009, and the graphic work appeared in 2001. A painter, printmaker, photographer, and filmmaker, Munch was also a prolific writer, well acquainted with the symbolist poets and playwrights, as well as the broad intellectual drift of the fin-de-siècle. He is the one Scandinavian artist included within the Modernist canon and his image, The Scream (1893), is an icon of the modern age. Munch traveled widely throughout Europe and his work was exhibited in North America beginning with the famous 1913 Armory Show. Students will examine recent scholarship devoted to Munch and the critical issues that his work addresses. It will also place him within the broader cultural context of Scandinavian and European modernism, while examining his impact on subsequent generations.
   Installation Art
This course will introduce students to historic, contemporary, and critical issues surrounding installation art. There will be an introduction to the development of installation art as a genre. We will examine the changes, which have developed over the past three decades, of object sculpture to non-object. There will be an emphasis on the development of the concept of an installation project and its relationship to site and/or audience. Both public and gallery spaces will be discussed.
   Scandinavian Modernism
Students will examine the decorative arts and visual culture of modern Scandinavia from 1860 to the present, with special emphasis on the social, economic, and political impulses that have shaped them. Scandinavian Modern design plays a significant role in the postwar epoch; it is equated with such leading brands as Volvo, Saab, Ericsson, Nokia, H&M, Electrolux Orrefors, Georg Jensen, ARTEK, Iittala, and IKEA and the idea of progressive, social democracy. The myths and realities of its success will be examined and related to emerging cultural and national identities, as well as its impact on contemporary design.
   History of Things: Studies in Material Culture
This course is an examination of techniques and materials together with a historical overview of the artistic achievements of craftsmen and women in the past, with particular emphasis on ceramics and metalsmithing. It includes study of Renaissance and early modern earthenware and stoneware as a prelude to the consideration of the history of porcelain and explores creative thinking and designing in other traditional craft areas such as fiber, glass, and wood.
   Symbols and Symbol-Making: Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Art
Students will explore the links between psychoanalytic theory, art history and visual culture with special focus on the work of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and their followers. A central aim is to examine the way in which psychoanalytic theory has been employed by art historians and theorists as a mode of interpretation, as well as to study how, why, and what several of the most notable psychoanalysts have written about art. Topics include the interpretation of dreams, transference, the Oedipal myth, melancholia, narcissism, abjection, the structure of the unconscious, the fetish, Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, as well as outsider art, and the art of the insane. Key theorists to be discussed include: Freud, Jung, D.W. Winnicott, Melanie Klein, Jacques Lacan, Otto Rank and Julia Kristeva; individual artists studied include: Albrecht Dürer, Leonardo da Vinci, Edvard Munch, Lars Hertervig, Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock, Antonin Artaud, Louise Bourgeois, Mary Kelly and Victor Burgin; in addition to examples from film (Maya Deren, Luis Bu–uel and Salvador Dali, and Stan Brakhage).
   History & Theory of Exhibitions
Art exhibitions are organized around a curatorial premise, a statement that articulates an idea allowing for the selection of work included in an exhibition. This course begins with an overview of exhibition history, starting with the transformation of the Louvre into the first public art museum following the French Revolution, where art history, a discipline developed in the 19th century, was enlisted to organize exhibition. The course then examines the proliferation of types of exhibitions that accompanies modernism, up to the present, paying close attention to the curatorial premise animating the exhibitions.
   Art of Dying
This course explores the experience of dying a profoundly human and universal experience as it is represented by artists who are themselves facing immanent death. The unique and deeply personal process of each dying artist is crucially informed by social, cultural and historical as well as artistic contexts. The course will focus primarily on visual artists and writers living with and dying of disease - such as AIDS, cancer and cystic fibrosis as well as mortality and age. Topics such as aesthetics, artistic media, representation, grief, bereavement, illness, care-giving, aging, and the dying process will be considered within the context of issues of race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, gender and community values. Some of the artists covered will be Jo Spence, Hannah Wilke, Elias Canetti, Bob Flanagan, Herve Guibert, Tom Joslin, Laurie Lynd, Audre Lorde, Charlotte Salomon, Keith Haring, Frida Kahlo, Bas Jan Ader, Ted Rosenthal, Felix Gonzalez Torres, Keith Haring, Eric Steel, Derek Jarman, Eric Michaels, and David Wojnarowicz. We will also explore some of the critical theory of Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Elaine Scarry, Susan Sontag, and Ross Chambers.
   Gender and Contemporary Art
This course traces the historical development of women’s activism in the art world from the 1970s to the present. We will interpret how this art activism, which artists and scholars alike have referred to as the feminist art movement, has examined how gender informs the ways art is made, viewed, conceptualized in history and theory, and exhibited in museums and visual culture, in a range of cultural contexts. We will also analyze how current artists, critics, and curators continue to build on this history, in particular how they use the concept of gender intersectionally to develop a variety of new creative practices, theories, modes of exhibition and social engagement.


* Students may take a maximum of one course from the "FNRT" discipline.