courses

Introduction to the Visual Arts

This course introduces students to “visual language.” All cultures communicate through gestures, clothing, appearance, actions, symbols, and artworks. Because these modes of information powerfully persist throughout human experience, students understand visual cues which are incorporated into broader customs and styles. In our world today, art and design increases in significance since much information is generated, replicated, and taught through digital images. As they learn about artistic techniques and critical values, they see how the visual plays a central role in their daily lives. By practicing analytic and communication skills, it is hoped that students become more self-aware, perceptive thinkers. These are the main goals:

  1. to apprehend fundamental terms used in communication about art;
  2. to learn how to “read an image” and determine its key features, e.g. purpose, date, geographical origin, materials, etc;
  3. to develop critical thinking and oral skills when dealing with visual art.

Survey of Western Art I

A selection of significant monuments are examined, dating from around the time of the invention of writing around (3500 B.C. in Mesopotamia and Egypt) to the end of the Middle Ages in western Europe (around 1400 after Christ). By studying architecture, sculpture, paintings and other media, students learn to place styles and monuments in their historical context, connecting them to specific civilizations and cultures. We focus on artworks that are considered masterpieces and the best representative of the highest quality craftsmanship of each civilization (Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greek, Roman, Jewish, Islamic, Medieval). These are the main goals:

  1. to learn the meaning of art historical terms, the basic chronology of the civilizations and principal “sub-periods,” the style of each era, and select facts and ideas regarding artists and architects;
  2. to develop critical thinking and oral skills when dealing with ancient and medieval art; and
  3. to learn some methodological approaches of archaeologists and art historians dealing with the monuments examined in this course, including formal analysis, iconography, and historiography.

Survey of Western Art II

An examination of Western art and architecture, from early-Renaissance Italy to the late-twentieth century America. The course is structured as a series of case studies covering the wide variety of artistic practices: from frescoes to printmaking; from cathedrals to private houses; and from public state commissions to the private sketches of modern artists. The course will also provide an opportunity for surveying a variety of methodological approaches, from formalism and iconography to social-contextual readings, especially critiquing Marxism and feminism. We also discuss how cultural institutions, like Roman Catholicism, and political movements helped shape visual language.

Ancient Greek Art & Archaeology

This course introduces students to significant monuments dating from the Bronze Age (3000 BC) to the end of the Hellenistic Period (100 BC). Geographically, we will cover monuments from the Southern Europe, the Near East, and around the Mediterranean Sea. By examining buildings, sculptures, paintings, and other material culture, this course guides them in understanding how visual communication manifests itself in societal, cultural, and historical contexts; paying close attention to gender roles, social hierarchy, and belief systems. We will focus on three major artistic developments: human representation, architectural orders, and philosophical influence on art production.

Roman Art & Architecture

Students are presented with significant monuments dating from the Roman Republic (600 BC) to Late Antiquity (400 AD). Geographically, we examine monuments from around the Mediterranean Sea and the Near East. By examining buildings, sculptures, paintings, and other material culture, this course will guides students in understanding how visual communication manifests itself in societal, cultural, and historical contexts. We will focus on three major artistic developments: human representation, architectural innovation, and the rise of Christianity. These are the main goals:

  1. to learn the meaning of art historical terms, the basic chronology of the political events and principal “sub-periods,” the style of each period, and selected facts and ideas regarding artists and architects;
  2. to develop critical thinking and oral skills when dealing with Roman art and Architecture; and
  3. to learn methodological approaches that art historians and archaeologists use in investigating the past, including formal analysis, iconography, and historiography.

The Archaeology & Architecture of the Holy Land

Students are introduced to the significant monuments of the Holy Land dating from the rise of civilization (3000 BC) to the end of the Crusades (1204 AD). We will study the art, architecture, and cities along with their relevant historical and literary texts, which will provide an in-depth overview of the rich history of the Middle East. Special emphasis will be placed on how religious beliefs were manifested in social practices, as indicated by artifacts and artworks, and buildings. This course is designed with a study abroad component.

The Art & Architecture of Eastern Christianity

This course focuses on the development of the Christian art of Eastern Europe, northeast Africa, and Asia. The geographic and political changes in this region allowed a different style to emerge in these areas, distinct from developments of Western Europe. The eclectic and innovative artforms would influence modern communities of faith (such as the Eastern Orthodox, Coptic, Maronite, Melkite, Georgian, Armenian, Nestorian, Nasrani, etc.), while contributing to modernist style beginning in the nineteenth century.

Art of Late Antiquity

One of the most fascinating periods of human history is the transition from the Late Roman Empire to the Middle Ages. The Empire’s global and pluralistic society facilitated various eastern religions and philosophies to challenge with Roman imperialism and traditional paganism; moreover, external conflict with northern Germanic tribes and eastern Persians, led to internal unrest. This dynamic tension led to innovation in artistic representation and architectural design. By studying key monuments and artworks, students will better understand the genesis of style and cultural change.

Illuminated Manuscripts: East and West

Students are introduced to a selection of significant illuminated manuscripts, spanning from the invention of writing around (3500 BCE in Mesopotamia and Egypt) to the end of the Middle Ages in Western Europe, covering the continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe. Students will investigate how writing developed from and alongside the visual arts. The course emphasizes a cross-cultural comparison of formulas, techniques, and formal qualities while exploring artistic intent, whether narrative, instructional, or aesthetic. We will touch on issues of calligraphy, paleography, illustration, musical notation, and textual transmission.

Iconography of Christian Art (I & II)

As a method of scholarly research in art history, iconography strives to find the thought from which a given artistic convention has arisen. Usually a message or symbol was formulated in a text or emerged as “the first image,” from which a tradition of a pictorial representation originated and further developed, forming an iconographical tradition. In a broader sense, a particular intellectual, religious, and even social and political climate can generate the need for a new language of signs, symbols, motifs, themes, and narratives which could best express it.

In art history, the importance of identifying subject matter and symbols in art (rather than just form) is central to interpretation. The objective of iconography is to provide the history of various representations, to note their prevalence or absence at some particular time or place, and to interpret their significance for a specific culture and religion which created artistic formulations of its beliefs.

This course will focus on the rich and varied growth of Christian iconography from its beginnings ca. 200 AD in the catacombs until the Reformation period in the late 15th century when considerable changes in Christian themes took place. The course is organized thematically. We will study images of Christ, episodes from the life and passion of Jesus (e.g. the Nativity, the Descent from the Cross, the Pieta), and the iconography of the Virgin: Marian themes (e.g. the Sacred Conversation, the Visitation, the Coronation, the Assumption).

The objective of this course is to enable students to:

  • gain insight into development of traditional Christian themes;
  • identify and interpret Christian signs, symbols, motifs, and narratives in art; and
  • independently engage in an iconographical analysis of an original artwork using iconographical dictionaries and primary sources.

Early Jewish, Christian, and Byzantine Art

This course surveys of the art and culture of Judaism and Christianity as it emerged within the Hellenic and Roman world. Students will explore how: ideas were manifested in symbols; ritual practices embedded within sacred space; and, visual language corresponded to philosophical, religious, and political programs. Emphasis is placed on three of the most dominant religious movements in world history: Paganism, Judaism, and Christianity. Key topics highlight the points of influence, interaction, and conflict between the three cultures as expressed in the images, urbanism, and architecture.

Islamic Art and Architecture

Students survey how Islam manifested its belief system in visual forms and architecture. From the Arabian Peninsula Islamic teaching would spread, reaching as far west as Spain to as far east as the Philippines. We will especially focus on the period between the seventh and thirteenth centuries, when Muslim identity and expression began to develop in different regions, according to the local geography and cultures that preceded it. We will examine painting and architecture, as well as portable arts including textiles, ceramics, metalwork, and illuminated manuscripts. Our discussions will cover abstraction, calligraphy, secularism, social hierarchy, and the difference between public and private art.

Early Medieval Art

Students are introduced to the most significant monuments dating from the Late Roman Empire (250 AD) to the end of the Ottonian Dynasty (1024). Geographically, we will cover artworks from the Near East and Western Europe. By examining buildings, sculptures, paintings, and other material culture, this course will guide you in understanding how visual communication manifests itself in societal, cultural, and historical contexts. Special emphasis will be placed on the development of abstraction, decorative arts, and architectural space. We also focus on the artworks of the British Isles and Scandinavia.

Late Medieval Art (Romanesque and Gothic)

Students are introduced to a selection of significant monuments dating from the Romanesque Period (ca. 1000) up to the Late Gothic (ca. 1450). Geographically, we will cover monuments from the Near East and Western Europe. By examining buildings, sculptures, paintings, and other material culture, this course will guide you in understanding how visual communication manifests itself in societal, cultural, and historical contexts. Special emphasis will be placed on the development of human representation, scholastic philosophy, manuscripts, and architectural space. The course goals is to:

  1. learn the meaning of art historical terms, the basic chronology of medieval history, the style of each period, and select facts and ideas regarding artists and architects;
  2. develop critical thinking and oral skills when dealing with Western medieval art; and
  3. learn some methodological approaches that art historians use, including formal analysis, iconography, and historiography.

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