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VAPA Courses

The courses below fulfill the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) requirement of the undergraduate Core Curriculum.

Details below are subject to change. Please confirm all information in the official Course Schedule.

Spring 2019 Courses

ARH 301
Introduction to the Visual Arts

VAPA • Global Cultures flag



Astrid Runggaldier
MWF 12–1
Unique #19595

Introduction to the Visual Arts covers a wide range of media and approaches studied in the discipline of Art History. In this course, we will focus on art and architecture across different continents and time periods, starting with an analysis of visual elements, and then focusing on materials, media, and thematic approaches. We will explore the course content through lectures, hands-on activities, and written exercises meant to encourage “slow” observation, raise awareness of the visual elements in your surroundings, and help you develop visual literacy skills. While the topics at times follow a roughly historical timeline, the primary focus of this course will be on appreciating notable artworks and the ways in which they reflect their unique cultural, historical, and artistic contexts. This introductory course is meant to offer you a global survey of world arts constrained by a focus on key monuments, diagnostic cultural centers, or themes with particular relevance to contemporary issues in living with and preserving art. Some of the topics address ancient art, non-western art, antiquities, museums, collections, illicit trade, iconoclasm, looting, and understanding the role arts from all time periods play in the establishment of our social and cultural identities.



Jeffrey Chipps Smith
TTH 2–3 (plus weekly discussion section)
Unique #19615–19670

This is a one-semester survey of some of the principal monuments and artists mainly, but not exclusively, of the western cultural tradition. The class will teach the student how to look at art and how to understand painting, sculpture, prints, and architecture. This course does not pretend to offer a complete survey. Instead we shall focus on specific buildings (e.g. - the Parthenon or Chartres Cathedral), or cities (e.g. - Rome under Emperor Trajan or Paris during the nineteenth century), artists (e.g. - Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Picasso, or Frank Lloyd Wright), or ideas (e.g. the evocative line or iconoclasm and censorship) as case studies for understanding the dynamics of each period. This course includes a small discussion section each week in which original works from the art and architecture at the University are analyzed. There will be two tests, two short papers, and a discussion section grade.



Instructor TBA
MWF 2–3
Unique #19600

Instructor TBA
MW 4–5:30
Unique #19610

Instructor TBA
TTH 3:30–5
Unique #19605

A broad survey of selected traditions of art with an emphasis on understanding their visual elements and cultural significance.

ARH 302
Survey of Ancient through Medieval Art

VAPA • Global Cultures flag



Stephennie Mulder
TTH 11–12 (plus weekly discussion section)
Unique #19675–19700

In candlelight 30,000 years ago, a group of early humans gathered inside a cave and painted exquisite, lifelike images of animals on the walls. Thousands of years later on the other side of the world, a Chinese potter threw an elegant celadon bowl, bound for shipment along the Silk Route to a Middle Eastern market hungry for such objects. At the same time, in southern India, a temple is rising, its walls an exuberant display of joyous, intertwined human figures. In a monastery in northern France sometime during the thirteenth century, monks bent over codices bound with animal hide and applied paper-thin gold leaf to delicate, jewel-toned manuscript paintings. Images, objects, and buildings tell stories which are immediate, profound, and deeply evocative of the human condition. Our object this semester will be to learn how to look, and how to communicate about what we see and experience when we are looking. To do this we will begin with the premise that works of art are visual conversations, and that each part of a work of art is one element in an ongoing dialogue between the maker and the viewer, each conversation ultimately an attempt to express something about what it means to be human. In this course we will explore this dialogue across time and space in order to understand art and its history in global context.



Penelope Davies
TTH 2–3 (plus weekly discussion section)
Unique #19705–19715

This course examines the interrelationship of art and political and social power in diverse cultures around the world. Lectures start with the cave-paintings and megalithic architecture of the prehistoric era, and move onto the ancient cultures of the Near East, with their ziggurats and early visual narratives; China, famed for its ritual bronze vessels, the Great Wall and terracotta soldiers; India, with its Buddhist Stupas and Hindu temples; the pyramids of Egypt; and the classical ages of Greece and Rome. The course ends by assessing Byzantine iconoclasm, the spread of Islamic mosque and palace architecture, and the construction of vast cathedrals in medieval Europe. Discussion sections focus on selected art historical issues related to the lectures.

ARH 303
Survey of Renaissance through Modern Art

VAPA • Global Cultures flag



Susan Rather
MW 12–1 (plus weekly discussion section)
Unique #19725–19780

This course offers a thematically structured introduction to Western art (Euro-American traditions) from the 14th century to the present. Within each of four chronological units, we address a recurring set of topics—place, style or movement, an individual artist, individual work of art, type of subject matter, prints/photography/mass media, the status of artists, and patronage. Content for each iteration of a topic has been chosen to illuminate the broad cultural change that survey classes are designed to address. While art can be (and routinely is) approached without any prior knowledge, the course introduces the fundamental disciplinary premises that the appearance of an artwork depends on when, where, why, how, and by whom it was made and that understanding those conditions is essential to making the past speak, while offering insights into who we are now.



Instructor TBA
MWF 9–10
Unique #19720

Instructor TBA
TTH 5–6:30
Unique #19785

A study of selected visual works throughout the world from 1400 CE to the present.

ARH 327N
Art and Politics in Imperial Rome

VAPA • Global Cultures flag

Penelope Davies
TTH 11–12:30

This survey of the public art of Rome begins with Augustus’ accession to power (27 BCE) and ends in the late antique period in the early fourth century CE. Lectures are primarily concerned with state or imperial works of architecture and sculpture in Rome. The works are assessed within their cultural, political and topographical contexts as vehicles for propaganda, commissioned and designed by the powerful elite, often in the interests of confirming legitimacy. Politics and power changed the face of Rome through these monuments, which in turn provided sculptural, architectural and urbanistic models that influenced western cultures for centuries to come.

ARH 327R
Art in the Lives of Ordinary Romans

VAPA • Global Cultures flag

John Clarke
MWF 11–12

What did art and architecture mean to the ancient Romans living between 100 B.C. and A.D. 315? We will try to answer this question by looking at specific examples of art and architecture from the point of view of ordinary Romans: the individuals who had no access to elite society. These non-elite individuals, including slaves, former slaves, the freeborn workers, and foreigners, often had enough money to commission works of art. These artworks reveal much about their lives. This course begins by defining ordinary Romans in the public sphere, and in relation to civic monuments. It then goes on to examine art paid for by non-elite Romans and found at archaeological sites including Pompeii, Chieti, and Ostia. We will examine these artworks by themes, including religion, work, spectacle, humor, death, banquets, and portraiture in the home. A special section will be devoted to investigating the culture of the Roman house using an interactive CD-ROM developed especially for this course. The principal objective of the course is to gain an understanding of the ways that analysis of visual representation can inform us about the daily lives, beliefs, tastes, and social practices of people who lived very differently from us. Secondarily, the course should provide a good introduction to the methods of Roman archaeology and art history, demonstrating how to interpret the information about town planning, uses of buildings, and the meanings of wall paintings and sculptures found in archaeological digs.

ARH 330G
Art of the Gothic Courts

VAPA • Global Cultures flag

Joan Holladay
TTH 12:30–2

In a twist on the traditional survey of Gothic art, this course will examine many of the same monuments — including the abbey church of Saint-Denis, the Sainte-Chapelle, and the Très Riches Heures — but from the particular viewpoint of court culture. The development of Gothic architecture near Paris in the middle of the twelfth century is clearly associated with the French royal house. Using the abbey of Saint-Denis as a starting point, we will continue with several other case studies, examining the changing manifestations of Gothic art and architecture at selected court centers to about 1400. These will include royal courts in France, England, and Bohemia as well as the courts of lesser nobles in France and Germany. At all these courts descent from prestigious distant ancestors and immediate predecessors created legitimacy and for that reason was given visible form; buildings and works of figural art associated with earlier rulers were rebuilt, remodeled, and quoted in order to reference specific moments in the past. A short unit on the papal court at Rome, a court of elected rulers, in the years around 1300 provides a counter-example illustrating how elected rulers “used” the image of the past in ways both similar and different. We will be particularly interested in how monumental architecture, painted and sculpted works, and even literature were used to create what are perceived as appropriate court environments at different times and places and how they carried more specific messages relating to the political problems and goals of individual rulers, their queens, and other family members.

ARH 330J
The Gothic Cathedral: Amiens

VAPA • Global Cultures flag • Writing flag

Joan Holladay
TTH 9:30–11

Using the cathedral at Amiens, built between 1220 and 1269, as a paradigm, we will study High Gothic art and architecture from a variety of angles. After investigating the meaning of the cathedral as an earthly vision of the heavenly Jerusalem, we will examine the building history, considering both the structural and technological aspects of the construction and the political and financial settings for the erection of the building. How were the political and devotional concerns of the builders and patrons reflected in the decorative programs, specifically the façade sculpture and stained glass? Finally we will look at contemporary perceptions of the cathedral as evidenced in its immediate influence on other buildings in both France and Germany and in renovations to the structural fabric between 1300 and 1380. Our goal is to understand one building in all its complexity

ARH 332K
Northern Renaissance Art, 1350–1500

VAPA • Global Cultures flag

Jeffrey Chipps Smith
TTH 9:30–11

This course traces the origins and first flowering of the Renaissance in Northern Europe from the late Gothic course of France and Bohemia to the apocalyptic visions of Hieronymus Bosch. The class will concentrate upon Netherlandish art, especially the works of Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, and Bosch. Since much of the surviving art is religious, we shall examine its liturgical and theological functions and how the art relates to the ideas of Thomas à Kempis and the Modern Devotion movement. This brilliant period witnessed the invention of prints and book publishing, developments that transformed contemporary attitudes about art and its purposes.

ARH 338J
Performing Art History: Joan Jonas

VAPA • Independent Inquiry flag • Writing flag

Ann Reynolds
TTH 9:30–11
(enrollment requires consent of instructor; contact Reynolds directly)

This course has a number of overlapping goals: to engage with the work of the performance, film, video, and installation artist, Joan Jonas; to use Jonas’ work as a case study for developing ways of writing about time-based media, and to consider a wide variety of approaches both within and beyond art history that might provide tools for doing so. You will be assigned weekly readings and several screenings and 2-3 page bi-weekly reading response papers based on these readings and screenings. You will also be expected to create an archive related to a specific work by Joan Jonas. Periodically, you will be asked to present aspects of your archival practice to the class. These contributions and your work on your archive will result in an in-class presentation, a written narrative of your practical and conceptual research process and a working outline of a larger project that it might become.

ARH 338M
Art and Culture: 1968 and After

VAPA • Cultural Diversity flag

Ariel Evans
TTH 2–3:30

This class surveys the recent history of art and culture from 1968 to today. The course begins in New York and Los Angeles with artists who consciously began to “break” from earlier artistic traditions to rethink the role of the artist and the purpose of art in the late 1960s. Considering major social and cultural shifts over the past half-decade such as civil rights, the rise of the MFA degree, and Reaganomics, we will also study the development of new forms for art’s production and distribution, such as video, magazines, and the Internet. While we focus on American art, we will expand ― as the U.S. art world did by the 1990s ― to consider a range of artistic and philosophical ideas from around the globe.

ARH 339N
Painting in America to 1860

VAPA

Susan Rather
TTH 12:30–2

This course considers American painting and painters — and the cultural work that both perform — from the seventeenth through the mid-nineteenth centuries. The first half of the semester engages portraiture, the dominant subject in British colonial North America. Portraits reveal a great deal about social, economic, political, and gender and race relations, and excavating those meanings will be our aim. In the early United States, a newly expanded conception of “artist” facilitated greater diversity of painting subjects, from grand historical tableaux to deceptively modest still lifes, both seen as having roles to play in shaping the body politic. By the later 1820s, landscape and genre (scenes of everyday life) emerged as the most compelling expressions of national identity, and the course concludes with them. Throughout the semester, the education, social status, and shifting identities of painters remains a constant focus; this course is as much about American artists as it is about American art.

ARH 339P
American Painting 1860–1913

VAPA

Susan Rather
TTH 3:30–5

This course offers a selective examination of American painting during the half century from the Civil War to the infamous New York exhibition of modern art known as the Armory Show. During that period, the United States was transformed from an agrarian nation to the world's leading industrial power. Against this background, we examine such issues as the demand of America's moneyed elite for the trappings of European high culture and its effect on native artists, the increasing pressure on artists to gain European training and experience, the dialogue between commerce and aestheticism, and the valorization of masculinity in what came to be seen as a distinctly American aesthetic. Particular emphasis will be given to Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, James McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent, and Mary Cassatt.

ARH 339Q (AMS 330)
Modernism in American Design/Architecture

VAPA

Jeffrey Meikle
TTH 2–3:30

This lecture course is intended to provide a broad knowledge of major issues in the history of American design and architecture from about 1880 to the present. The central assumption of the course is that our environments both shape us and reflect what manner of people we are. The term design is understood to include all elements of the built environment ranging from the smallest artifacts and products through buildings (whether vernacular or elite) to the shape of suburban and urban landscapes. Students are encouraged to consider design in the context of social and cultural history. Among topics to be considered are methods of cultural analysis of material artifacts; the rise, triumph, and fall of functionalism and the International Style; the emergence of uniquely American varieties of commercial design in a consumer society; the interactions of technology, economics, and design; the impact of the automobile on all levels of design; the rise of postmodern design and deconstructive architecture as counters to the modernist tradition; and design for the information age. Among problems to be considered are tensions between tradition and novelty, between functional and expressive theories of design, between elite ideologies and popular desires, and between European and American design.

This is a cross-listed course.

ARH 347L
Mesoamerican Art

VAPA • Global Cultures flag

Julia Guernsey
TTH 9:30–11

This course surveys the art, architecture, and material culture of a number of the ancient civilizations of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, which flourished in what are now the modern countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras. The course spans the time of the Olmec through that of the Aztecs, or from the 2nd millennium BC until the arrival of the Spanish in 1519. The goal of this course is to provide students with a general knowledge of the history, ritual traditions, and belief systems of ancient Mesoamericans, as expressed through sculpture, painting, architecture, archaeological remains, and ancient writing systems.