Art History

Curriculum & Classes

Class descriptions

Below is a sampling of courses offered in the art history department.

Topics in Modern Art: Constructivism and the Bauhaus

This course will focus on the revolutionary culture, politics, and interrelations of the Russian Constructivists and the German Bauhaus in the years surrounding the two World Wars. We will discuss the utopian ideals and perhaps inevitable demise of these wildly influential groups of artists and intellectuals. The course will focus on the gallery arts, performance, design, and writings of Constructivists such as Varvara Stepanova, Aleksandr Rodchenko, and El Lissitzky, and Bauhaus artists such as Walter Gropius, Marianne Brandt, Marcel Breuer, Wassily Kandinsky, and Josef and Anni Albers.

Topics in Film History: Pulp Cinema: B Movies

Within each film genre, one can find movies that have received negative critical press, bombed at the box office, or have simply gone unnoticed. Some of these films have been celebrated as masterpieces. This course analyzes a selection of movies from various genres—comedy, film noir, horror, melodrama, etc., rising from B status to serious attention through the dedication of film fanatics, revision of history, or changing cultural interests. In the words of Danny Peary, this course will examine “the classics, the sleeper, the weird, and the wonderful.”

Topics in Art and Religion: Spiritual Landscapes in Art

Secular landscape painting emerged as a genre of painting during the Renaissance and Baroque periods and often could be interpreted on a spiritual level. Even earlier, Chinese and Japanese artists used brush and ink to express intangible relationships between man and nature. In this course, we will discuss spiritual associations within these early landscapes (Western and Asian), as well as the broad range of spiritualized landscape conceptions from the 18th and 19th Century Dutch painters invested with notions to sublime to the 20th Century expanses of Newman and Rothko. Discussions will focus on issues of construction, artificial and natural boundaries, individual journeys and cultural memory.

Topics in Fiber: History of Costume

Throughout history, people have defined themselves in many ways, one of which includes the ways in which they have dressed. Dress distinguishes (or disguises) gender, social position, sometimes politics, sometimes religion, sometimes occupation, etc. Putting on costume does in some significant ways alter our behavior: the way we move, how we breathe, how we present ourselves as sexual (or asexual) beings, and generally the way we present ourselves to the world. In this course we will examine the physical aspects of dress as well as psychological and sociological implications.

Topics in Asian Art: Japanese Prints

This course is a survey of Japanese woodblock prints from the seventh to the 20th centuries. The main focus, however, will be on the ukiyoe prints of the 17th to the 20th centuries. We will study the history of prints, their subject matter, printmaking techniques, connoisseurship, and the connection of prints to kabuki, sumo, and other cultural and historical issues. The influence of woodblock prints on Western art, especially at the end of the 19th century, will also be discussed, as will the growing internationalization of Japanese prints during the 20th century. In addition to classroom study, we will work with prints from the collections of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and/or the Spencer Museum of Art.

Topics in Ancient Art: Bronze Age Aegean

This course will cover those civilizations of the Bronze Age, which have come to be known as Minoans and Mycenaeans. The civilization that Sir Arthur Evans unearthed on Crete reveals a startlingly sophisticated culture, which appears to have peacefully coexisted with the warlike Mycenaeans on the mainland of Greece. Both Evans’ excavations and Schliemann’s at Troy, Mycenae and Tiryns, and the artwork revealed, will be studied within the context of mythology and history.

Class schedules and course requirements

For a list of class schedules, click here.

For a list of major academic requirements, click here.


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