Art History Courses

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

Spring 2020 Courses

ARH 301
Introduction to the Visual Arts

VAPA • Global Cultures flag

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 a specific building (e.g.–the Parthenon or Chartres Cathedral), or city (e.g.–Rome under Emperor Trajan or Paris during the nineteenth century), or artist (e.g.–Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Picasso, or Frank Lloyd Wright) as case studies for understanding the dynamics of each period. This course includes a small discussion section each week in which works from the art of the University are analyzed. The students will explore the artistic riches of the University’s collections, such as Blanton Museum of Art.

Multiple Sections

Instructor TBA
MW 4–5:30

Moyosore Okediji
MWF 12–1

Instructor TBA
MWF 2–3

Jeffrey C. Smith
TTH 1–2 + Discussion Sections

Instructor TBA
TTH 3:30–5

ARH 302
Survey of Ancient through Medieval Art

VAPA • Global Cultures flag

Stephennie Mulder
TTH 4–5 + Discussion Sections

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.

ARH 303
Survey of Renaissance through Modern Art

VAPA • Global Cultures flag

Art is a language: how do we decode its meaning, its intent, and its extraordinary effect on us, the viewers? In this course, we explore an astonishing array of Western art and architecture. Our course begins c. 1250, in the early Renaissance of Western Europe, and concludes with global artistic trends and issues that are at the heart of the art world in 2020. While we will concentrate on the familiar media of painting, sculpture, and architecture, we will also be looking at manuscripts, drawings, prints, photography, the decorative arts, garden planning, ceramics, earthworks, and installation art.

Multiple Sections

Louis Waldman
MW 11–12 + Discussion Sections

Instructor TBA
MWF 9–10

Instructor TBA
TTH 5–6:30

ARH 321
Problems in Art Historical Research

Independent Inquiry flag

Ann Reynolds
TTH 9:30–11

How does a magazine constitute an archive? Do its temporal and material limit-terms constitute a viable frame for the writing of history? These are two of the primary questions we will be addressing in this seminar along with an in-depth look at the contents of individual issues of the quarterly magazine View and its editors, Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler. Because the Harry Ransom Center has a significant amount of archival material related to the magazine and its editors, Ford and Tyler, we will be spending some of our class time working with these archives as well. This magazine functioned as crucial source of information and forum for discussions about the fate of avant-garde culture, and surrealism in particular, in Europe and the United States during World War II and its immediate aftermath. Most of the now well-known European artists living in the United States during this period contributed to the magazine as did their American counterparts, but the magazine also contains images, essays, and evidence of debates and cultural relationships across media and between individuals and groups that are less familiar from the point of view of the present and that are rarely mentioned in more recent histories of this period. So this seminar will also address how View provides a sense of what its editors and contributors thought was culturally significant about the moment in which they lived.

ARH 333L
The Age of Rembrandt and Rubens: Northern Baroque Art

VAPA • Global Cultures flag

Jeffrey C. Smith
TTH 9:30-11

This course explores Northern European art between 1580 and 1720. The focus will be on the Golden Age of Netherlandish art and culture as we investigate the creativity of Rembrandt, Jan Vermeer, Frans Hals, Judith Leyster, Rubens, and Anthony van Dyck, among other great masters. We shall discuss other major artistic centers, such as Paris and Versailles during the reign of King Louis XIV.

ARH 335F
Art, Culture and the Moral Law

Writing flag

Michael Charlesworth
MW 10-11:30

Artists and poets who contested or became entangled with the moral law in 19th century Europe include William Blake, Goya, Charles Baudelaire, Manet,Gauguin, Rossetti, William Morris, Holman Hunt, Burne-Jones, Walter Pater, and Oscar Wilde. This course considers some ways in which works of art can reveal more profound insights into certain human problems than is possible under the Law. Assessment will be through writing assignments and essential readings will be collected in a course packet.

ARH 341K
Modern Art of Mexico

VAPA • Global Cultures flag

George Flaherty
TTH 12:30-2

Mexican art and visual culture from the late nineteenth century through the 1950s, a period characterized by rapid modernization but also violence and glaring social and political injustices. With the Mexican Revolution, the first major social upheaval of the twentieth-century (1910–20), the country became a beacon for politically committed art throughout the Americas and beyond. Emphasis will be on emergence of cosmopolitan avant-garde artists and their relationship to government and society. Mixing native and international influences, these artists, writers, and intellectuals contributed to notions of national identity (lo mexicano) that still resonate today.

ARH 341N
Other Modernities: Latin American Art

Global Cultures flag

Adele Nelson
TTH 11-12:30

This course examines the development of modern art in Latin America from 1900 to 1945 in relationship to momentous changes in the region, including the recent abolition of slavery, the events of the Mexican Revolution, World War I, and World War II, and democratic and dictatorial transitions. We will take advantage of the University’s rich collections of Latin American art and the major loan exhibition The Avant-garde Networks of Amauta: Argentina, Mexico, and Peru in the 1920s at the Blanton Museum of Art. Some questions we will consider: What strategies did visual artists develop to assert their modernity from a region their Euro-American contemporaries often considered a cultural backwater? How did artists represent racial difference and emerging national identities in their work?

ARH 345L
Diaspora Visions

Global Cultures flag

Moyosore Okediji
MWF 9-10

Border crossing by cultures and groups from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas, and the Caribbean islands has generated the production of images by immigrants, exiles, and nomads in alien lands. With examples drawn from various continents, class investigates art across borders in the contexts of the cultural circumstances that produced the diasporas. Students will investigate the arts of voluntary, forced, colonial, distant, and recent diasporas. Illustrations will draw on images, music, and videos.

ARH 345M
Visual Arts of the English-speaking Caribbean

Global Cultures flag

Eddie Chambers
MWF 12-1

Consistently framed, in some quarters, as little more than a holiday destination, the Caribbean is in actuality one of the world’s most fascinating and complex regions. The countries of the Caribbean, at once united and divided by the great expanse of the Caribbean Sea, are home to a wide range of religions, cultures, nationalities, ‘races’, and peoples. Whilst Spanish-speaking Cuba and French-speaking Haiti are in some ways the artistic giants of the region, equal stature can be attached to the biggest English-speaking island of the Caribbean, Jamaica. Together with its neighbors such as Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and Guyana, the English-speaking Caribbean has produced much of the most dynamic art to come out of the region during the course of the 20th century.

This class will look at the work of a fascinating group of modern and contemporary Caribbean artists. The history of the region is a compelling and fascinating one, embracing as it does a variety of factors including the trans-Atlantic slave trade, 20th century patterns of migration and travel, and ‘New World’ sensibilities. This class will examine the work of a range of Caribbean artists whose practice came to the fore over the course of the 20th century, from the 1920s right up to the present time. Artists to be studied include practitioners such as Edna Manley, Barrington Watson, Albert Chong, and artists with substantial links to the Caribbean such as Jean-Michel Basquiat. In addition, the class will critically explore the visual culture of the region, through the mediums of film, documentaries, record sleeves, and tourist imagery. Visual Arts of the English-speaking Caribbean will be invaluable to those students looking to broaden their understanding and familiarity with Caribbean artists, those living within the region and those who have moved away and are now practicing in countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States.

ARH 347K
Art and Archaeology of Ancient Peru

VAPA • Global Cultures flag

Astrid Runggaldier
MWF 11-12

This course is intended to provide a comprehensive survey of the cultures that occupied the Andean coast and highlands prior to and immediately following the Spanish Conquest in the 16th century. Given the lack of written history prior to the Spanish arrival, investigations of the ancient Andean visual arts—the elaborate textiles, fine ceramic vessels, carved stone sculptures, and monumental architecture—have advanced through multidisciplinary approaches. We will thus examine various culture groups by engaging both the iconography and archaeology of the regional traditions. In this course, we will address pertinent environmental and ecological factors, evidence of ritual practices, such as human sacrifice and water management, techniques and materials of manufacture of art and architecture, and issues in the looting and collecting of antiquities.

ARH 347L
Mesoamerican Art and Culture

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.

ARH 348P
Art in the Himalayas: Lost in Tibet?

Global Cultures flag

Janice Leoshko
TTH 5-6:30

This course examines the stunning developments in Tibetan and Nepalese art that included diverse terrifying forms and sexual imagery in addition to more commonly encountered Buddhist subjects. How do these visual works reflect Buddhist practices in the Himalayas, the area designated by the impressive mountain range dividing the plains of the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan plateau? Assessing the relationship between art and religion in the Himalayas is a key to understanding how distinct visual practices evolved over time as Buddhism spread through Asia from its home in India. Learning about Tibetan artistic traditions as well as how they have been studied allows reflection upon broader questions about defining art and its roles in society including political factors.

The legacy of earlier views that emphasized the region’s mysterious and other-worldly character is also considered in this class. Why, for example, does the Dalai Lama, one of the most admired individuals in the world, repeatedly identify himself as just a simple Buddhist monk and also a significant supporter of Western collections of Tibetan art? And what is the impact on Tibetan art created still today?

ARH 361
Beyond Carnival: Contemporary Brazilian Art

Writing Flag • Global Cultures flag

Adele Nelson
TTH 2-3:30

Brazil, the fifth largest nation in the world, is also among the most culturally and ethnically diverse in the world. This course surveys Brazilian art from the first moments of cultural collision through the long periods of colonial and modern history before focusing on the contemporary arts of Brazil of the last several decades. The art and visual culture we will be studying is wide-ranging: indigenous terra-forming and ceramics; Tupí featherwork; art and architecture created when Brazil was a colony and subsequently the seat of the Portuguese Empire; and avant-garde and experimental modern and contemporary art. Together we will study how artistic practices have contributed to the representation of Brazilian national identity, as well as the ethical, aesthetic, political, and/or social repercussions of those representations.

ARH 364
Art, Geology and Place in Italy

Writing Flag • Global Cultures flag

Ann Johns
TTH 3:30-5

The most casual visitor to Italy immediately notices the tremendous diversity of “place” within the Italian peninsula: the hills of Rome, the canals of Venice, the hilltop cities of Siena and Orvieto, the flat expanses of the Po valley, and the dramatic and urgent volcanism of the region of Naples and the island of Sicily. In this course, we’ll explore the unique intersection of art, geology, and the geographic notion of “place” in Italy with a thematic rather than chronologic approach. While historical events and politics have unequivocally shaped the art and architecture of the various and highly distinct regions of Italy, geological geographic, and climatic elements have also profoundly shaped both the landscape and the architecture, which in turn is manifested in the art.

ARH 366N
The 4th Dimension in 20th Century Art and Culture

Writing flag

Linda Henderson
TTH 3:30-5

“The fourth dimension” has had many meanings from the late 19th century into the 21st century. Initially the term signified a higher, invisible dimension of space, of which our world might be merely a section; with the rise of Einstein after 1919, however, the fourth dimension was redefined as time in the space-time continuum of Relativity Theory. That meaning remained dominant until the rise of string theory in physics and computer graphics in the 1980s, after which the spatial fourth dimension and the four-dimensional “tesseract” [hypercube] returned in popular culture. Throughout the 20th-century as well as now, artists have responded creatively to the fourth dimension in its various guises, a subject that forms the core thread of the class.

ARH 375
Art Historical Methods

Writing flag • Independent Inquiry flag

Janice Leoshko
M 3-6

This course provides an introduction to the discipline of art history and to some of the most significant methodological approaches and challenges to the study of art and visual culture. It does not follow a lecture format but instead focuses on class discussion, active participation, and collaborative learning. Our goal is to become familiar with the fundamental characteristics and objectives of various methods and traditions in art history, and to create a productive environment in which to analyze, critique, compare, and utilize them. Emphasis will also be placed on a series of written assignments and papers that enable the student to more fully research and explore a topic of particular art historical interest to her or him.

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