Art History Courses and Seminars

Students look around a mosque. See ARTH-396, Washington, DC Architecture.

See ARTH-396: Washington DC Architecture.

For current class offerings, times, and additional information, visit the Office of the Registrar.

ARTH-105 Art: The Historical Experience 1:1 (3)

An introduction to Western art and architecture from ancient times to the 20th century, with some discussion of non-Western cultures. Case studies of major works and artists such as the Great Pyramids, the Parthenon, Chartres Cathedral, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Picasso provide a foundation for understanding art in its aesthetic, historical, social, and political contexts. Also covers materials, techniques, and practices of art-making; introduces key stylistic innovations. Usually offered every term.

ARTH-201 Mediterranean Art (3)

Offered ONLY as part of the AU Abroad Madrid and the Mediterranean program. An introduction to Mediterranean history and art, centered chronologically on art movements with emphasis on the differences between Spanish art and its Mediterranean counterparts. An in-depth study of painting, sculpture, and architecture that includes stylistic as well as thematic manifestations, examining art in the Mediterranean from cave paintings to the twentieth century from a variety of cultures and geographic regions, and introducing students to stylistic periods, major works and artists, and the traditional methods of art history. Usually offered every fall.

ARTH-205 Art of the Renaissance 2:2 (3)

Architecture, sculpture, painting, and prints of renaissance Italy and Northern Europe. Considers the interplay of art with philosophy, theology, and social change, and examines the artistic legacy and rich creative achievements of a culture inspired by classical antiquity. Usually offered every term. Prerequisite for General Education credit: LIT-125 or HIST-100 or HIST-110 or WGSS-150.

ARTH-210 Modern Art: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries 1:2 (3)

Introduction to the art of the modern period primarily in Europe. Presents major artists in aesthetic, cultural, historical, and political contexts. Addresses issues of avant garde change, critical imagination, and gender difference in relation to expanding conceptions of creative self-expression. Usually offered every term. Prerequisite for General Education credit: ARTH-105 or COMM-105 or LIT-120 or LIT-135.

ARTH-225 Buddhist Arts of Asia (3)

An introductory survey of Asian art that emphasizes Buddhist painting, architecture, calligraphy, and sculpture of India, China, Korea, and Japan from ancient to contemporary. Explores religious meaning, spiritual "aesthetics," and the re-invention of religious tradition. No past experience in Asian art or art history necessary.

ARTH-250 Art History of the World Regions (3)

Offered ONLY through AU Abroad programs. Topics vary by section, may be repeated for credit with different topic. In context of various AU Abroad programs, courses include analysis of major artists, groups, and stylistic developments of a specific region and time period, exploring artists and works in their historical, cultural, and social contexts May focus on several forms of visual art/culture, including architecture, sculpture, painting, prints, and installations, and include on-site visits to museums and galleries, as well as architectural and archeological locations.

ARTH-303 Medieval Art: Romanesque and Gothic (3)

Surveys painting, sculpture, architecture, the book arts, and stained glass across Europe from the tenth to the fourteenth centuries. Examines relationships between the visual arts and the social, political, and religious fabric of specific historical moments. Demonstrates the material and stylistic complexities of art-making, as they relate to interpretation, within specific historical settings. Explores transnational interactions and influences. Usually offered alternate spring semesters. Prerequisite: ARTH-105.

ARTH-307 International Baroque Art (3)

Explores developments in seventeenth-century Northern and Southern European art (Italy, France, England, Spain, Netherlands), including works by Bernini, Artemisia Gentileschi, Rubens, Rembrandt, Velazquez, and Poussin. Evaluates rise of "Baroque" art through intersecting cultural and social ideologies: including religion, politics, economics, race, gender, and art theory. Usually offered every fall. Prerequisite: ARTH 105 or ARTH 205.

ARTH-335 Twentieth Century Women Artists of the Americas (3)

Focuses on women artists' contributions to twentieth century art in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Latin America. It examines women's struggles and successes, their iconographic and stylistic interests, and the analysis of their works in relation to theories of gender, feminism, postmodernism, and postcolonialism. Usually offered alternate fall semesters. Prerequisite: ARTH-105 and ARTH-210 or permission of instructor.

ARTH-350 Regional Studies in Art History (3)

Offered ONLY through AU Abroad programs. Topics vary by section, may be repeated for credit with different topic. In context of various AU Abroad programs, courses include analysis of major artists, groups, and stylistic developments of a specific region and time period, exploring artists and works in their historical, cultural, and social contexts May focus on several forms of visual art/culture, including architecture, sculpture, painting, prints, and installations, and include on-site visits to museums and galleries, as well as architectural and archeological locations.

ARTH 396: African-American Art: Colonial to Contemporary

Nika Elder

Spanning the 18th century through the present, this course examines how and why black artists working in the continental United States have used painting, sculpture, photography, print, and mixed media to assert and question personal, racial, and national identity.

ARTH 396: Washington DC Architecture

Joanne Allen

Washington DC, the nation's capital, is rich in architectural treasures that communicate power and influence, revive historical styles, and show daring innovation. In this course, which puts DC architecture within a broad context of historical styles, site visits allow students to view buildings up close, analyze their design and construction, and experience how well they function.


Note: 400-level courses generally meet with 600-level courses. Registration at the 600 level implies graduate-level assignments and higher expectations regarding performance.

ARTH-401 Italian Art: Early Renaissance (3)

Developments in Florence, Siena, and Venice in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, including the classical revival, narrative, linear perspective, and the role of social and theoretical factors in the practice of art. Emphasis on major figures such as Giotto, Duccio, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, Botticelli, and Giovanni Bellini. Meets with ARTH-601. Usually offered every third semester. Prerequisite: two art history courses including ARTH-105 and ARTH-205 or equivalent.

ARTH-402 Italian Art: High Renaissance (3)

Development of high Renaissance and early Mannerist styles in Rome, Venice, and Florence in the first half of the sixteenth century. Major artists emphasized include Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Giorgione, and Titian. Includes consideration of issues such as the elevation of artists' social status and the emergent concept of artistic genius. Meets with ARTH-602. Usually offered every third semester. Prerequisite: two art history courses including ARTH-105 and ARTH 205 or equivalent.

ARTH-403 Italian Art: Late Renaissance and Early Baroque (3)

Examines Italian art from the mid-sixteenth through early seventeenth centuries, considering the flourishing of art theory, late Mannerist and early Baroque style, and the significant emergence of female artists. Artists include Bronzino, Vasari, late Titian and Michelangelo (sculpture and painting), Tintoretto, Veronese, Sofonisba Anguissola, the Carracci, Caravaggio, and Artemisia Gentileschi. Meets with ARTH-603. Usually offered every third semester. Prerequisite: two art history courses including ARTH-105 and ARTH-205 or equivalent.

ARTH-411 Modern European Art: Rococo to Realism (3)

This course surveys European art from 1760 to 1848, a period known as the "age of revolutions." In our look at these years we will focus on the social and political contexts in which artworks were produced, exhibited, and understood, discussing as we go the political and industrial revolutions that profoundly changed Europe; the rise of nationalism and the establishment of European colonies in Africa and the Middle East; the founding of art academies, regular public exhibitions, patronage and the emergence of a mass market for art. As the city of Paris was the primary artistic center during this period, we will focus mostly on France, with some discussion of artists and movements in Britain, Germany, and Spain.

ARTH-412 Modern European Art: Impressionism and Post-Impressionism (3)

Focus on major Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists including Manet, Monet, Degas, Cassatt, Morisot, Seurat and the Neo-Impressionists, Cézanne, Gauguin and the Symbolists, and Van Gogh. Also studied are Toulouse-Lautrec, Bonnard, and Vuillard. Usually offered alternate years. Meets with ARTH-612. Prerequisite: two art history courses including ARTH-105 and ARTH-210 or equivalent.

ARTH-413 Modern European Art: Expressionism to Surrealism (3)

Analyzes the development of Fauvism, Cubism in the art of Picasso and Braque, Sonia and Robert Delaunay, and the Italian Futurists. Also studied are Munch and the German Expressionists, the non-objective styles of Kandinsky and Mondrian, and the Dada and Surrealist movements. Meets with ARTH-613. Usually offered alternate years. Prerequisite: two art history courses including ARTH-105 and ARTH-210 or equivalent.

ARTH-414 Women and the Avant-Garde (3)

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries witnessed increasing professional opportunities for women artists, yet the status of women in Impressionism, Expressionism, Constructivism, and Surrealism remained ambivalent. This class explores the complex experiences of such avant-garde artists as Berthe Morisot, Julia Margaret Cameron, Camille Claudel, Sonia Delaunay, and Frida Kahlo. Meets with ARTH-614. Prerequisite: two art history courses including ARTH-105 and ARTH-210 or equivalent.

ARTH-415 Museums and Society (3)

Juliet Bellow

When you visit a museum, do you think critically about how the museum communicates messages about itself and its contents? This course will help you to analyze all facets of the museum: as a physical space, as a cultural institution, and as a political, economic, and social entity. Prerequisite: two art history courses including ARTH-105 and ARTH-210 or equivalent.

ARTH-423 East West Photography (3)

Examines the emergence of photography and the medium's pivotal role in shaping relations between Asia and the West. Examines early portraiture, architectural sites, colonial tourism, photojournalism, family photographs, and contemporary photography. Meets with ARTH 623. Usually offered alternate years. Prerequisite: two art history courses including either ARTH-220 or ARTH 320.

ARTH-424 Envisioning the Nation. Modern and Contemporary Art in Asia (3)

Explores how nationhood, nationalism, and the body politic have been addressed in art and visual culture in Asia. Focuses on modern and contemporary art in China, Japan, India, and other parts of Asia, including film, prints, painting, photography, architecture, performance art, and propaganda. Meets with ARTH-624. Usually offered alternate years. Prerequisite: two art history courses including either ARTH-220 or ARTH-320.

ARTH-431 Visual Arts in the United States to 1890 (3)

Covers portraiture, landscape, and genre painting from early Colonial period to Gilded Age. Examines Colonial portraiture (Copley, Peale), Hudson River School and Luminist landscape (Cole, Church), sculpture, photography, and late 19th century artists (Eakins, Homer, Sargent, Cassatt). Emphasizes cultural politics of colonialism, slavery, Native Americans, gender issues, and transnational art. Meets with ARTH-631. Usually offered alternate falls. Prerequisite: Two art history courses including ARTH-105 and ARTH-210 or permission of instructor.

ARTH-432 Visual Arts in the United States: 1890 to 1935 (3)

Covers art from Gilded Age through mid-1930s. Examines American Impressionism, Ashcan School, American modernist abstraction, Harlem Renaissance, Mexican muralists, Regionalism, WPA art and photography. Focuses on relation to European modernisms and U.S. cultural politics, including gender and racial issues and the rise of major museums, dealers, and collectors. Meets with ARTH-632. Usually offered alternate springs. Prerequisite: Two art history courses including ARTH-105 and ARTH-210 or permission of instructor.

ARTH-433 Visual Arts in the United States: 1935 to 1970 (3)

Covers changing modernisms in mid-twentieth century: geometric modernism, Abstract Expressionism, New Realism, Pop Art, and photography. Considers cultural politics of WW II and Cold War, gender, and racial difference, pop culture and kitsch, and contributions of art critic and dealers. Meets with ARTH-633. Usually offered alternate falls. Prerequisite: Two art history courses including ARTH-105 and ARTH-210 or permission of instructor.

ARTH-434 Contemporary Visual Art and Postmodernism (3)

Covers contemporary art since 1970 created in United States by American and international artists. Examines movements including Minimalism, Earth Art, Photorealism, Neo-Expressionism, feminism, new abstraction, identity politics, installation and performance art. Emphasizes critical understanding of postmodernist theory related to multiculturalism, racial/ gender difference, queer theory, censorship, ecology, and social/political critique. Meets with ARTH-634. Usually offered alternate springs. Prerequisite: Two art history courses including ARTH-105 and ARTH-210 or permission of instructor.

ARTH-490 Independent Study Project in Art History (1-3)

Prerequisite: permission of instructor and department chair.

ARTH-491 Internship (1-3)

Prerequisite: Four art history courses and permission of Art History Internship Coordinator.

ARTH496/696: Gender in Modern East Asian Visual Culture

Ying-Chen Peng

What did it mean to be a modern man or woman in fin-de-siècle East Asia? This seminar discusses how artists used visual culture to confront and adapt traditional social values to the Western definition of gender.

ARTH496/696: Gender in Modern East Asian Visual Culture

Ying-Chen Peng

What did it mean to be a modern man or woman in fin-de-siècle East Asia? This seminar discusses how artists used visual culture to confront and adapt traditional social values to the Western definition of gender.

ARTH-500 Approaches to Art History (3)

Reading, discussion, and written work based on subjects such as style, iconography, semiotics, the art museum, and social, psychological, and feminist approaches. Attention to critical interpretation and writing research papers. Usually offered once each year. Prerequisite: four art history courses or graduate standing.

ARTH 517: Northern Renaissance Art: Sex and Gender

Andrea Pearson

This seminar investigates the contours of gender and sexuality in northern European art of the later Middle Ages and Renaissance. Critical thinking skills will be sharpened by analyzing scholarship that explores these themes through prisms such as identity, agency, compliance, and transgression.

ARTH-520 Seminar in Art History (3)

Topics vary by section and rotate among art historical fields (Renaissance/Baroque Art, 19th-20th European Art, America/Contemporary Art, and Asian Art). May be repeated for credit with different topic. Critical discussion of assigned weekly readings followed by student reports and research papers. Usually offered in spring semester. Prerequisite: five art history courses or permission of instructor.

ARTH-590 Independent Reading Course in Art History (1-3)

Prerequisite: permission of instructor and department chair.

Note: 400-level courses generally meet with 600-level courses. Registration at the 600 level implies graduate-level assignments and higher expectations regarding performance.

ARTH-601 Italian Art: Early Renaissance (3)

Developments in Florence, Siena, and Venice in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, including the classical revival, narrative, linear perspective, and the role of social and theoretical factors in the practice of art. Emphasis on major figures such as Giotto, Duccio, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, Botticelli, and Giovanni Bellini. Meets with ARTH-401. Usually offered every third semester. Prerequisite: two art history courses including ARTH-105 and ARTH-205 or equivalent.

ARTH-602 Italian Art: High Renaissance (3)

Development of high Renaissance and early Mannerist styles in Rome, Venice, and Florence in the first half of the sixteenth century. Major artists emphasized include Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Giorgione, and Titian. Includes consideration of issues such as the elevation of artists' social status and the emergent concept of artistic genius. Meets with ARTH-402. Usually offered every third semester. Prerequisite: two art history courses including ARTH-105 and ARTH 205 or equivalent.

ARTH-603 Italian Art: Late Renaissance and Early Baroque (3)

Examines Italian art from the mid-sixteenth through early seventeenth centuries, considering the flourishing of art theory, late Mannerist and early Baroque style, and the significant emergence of female artists. Artists include Bronzino, Vasari, late Titian and Michelangelo (sculpture and painting), Tintoretto, Veronese, Sofonisba Anguissola, the Carracci, Caravaggio, and Artemisia Gentileschi. Meets with ARTH-403. Usually offered every third semester. Prerequisite: two art history courses including ARTH-105 and ARTH-205 or equivalent.

ARTH-611 Modern European Art: Rococo to Realism (3)

A survey of European art from 1900-1945, focusing on stylistic and conceptual innovations within their social and political contexts: changing definitions of modernity and modernism; "primitivism" and colonialism; the rise of abstraction; "high" art's relation to mass culture. Artists include Wassily Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Hannah Höch and Marcel Duchamp. Meets with ARTH-411. Usually offered alternate years. Prerequisite: two art history courses including ARTH-105 and ARTH-210 or equivalent.

ARTH-612 Modern European Art: Impressionism and Post-Impressionism (3)

Focus on major Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists including Manet, Monet, Degas, Cassatt, Morisot, Seurat and the Neo-Impressionists, Cézanne, Gauguin and the Symbolists, and Van Gogh. Also studied are Toulouse-Lautrec, Bonnard, and Vuillard. Usually offered alternate years. Meets with ARTH-412. Prerequisite: two art history courses including ARTH-105 and ARTH-210 or equivalent.

ARTH-613 Modern European Art: Expressionism to Surrealism (3)

Analyzes the development of Fauvism, Cubism in the art of Picasso and Braque, Sonia and Robert Delaunay, and the Italian Futurists. Also studied are Munch and the German Expressionists, the non-objective styles of Kandinsky and Mondrian, and the Dada and Surrealist movements. Meets with ARTH-413. Usually offered alternate years. Prerequisite: two art history courses including ARTH-105 and ARTH-210 or equivalent.

ARTH-614 Women and the Avant-Garde (3)

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries witnessed increasing professional opportunities for women artists, yet the status of women in Impressionism, Expressionism, Constructivism, and Surrealism remained ambivalent. This class explores the complex experiences of such avant-garde artists as Berthe Morisot, Julia Margaret Cameron, Camille Claudel, Sonia Delaunay, and Frida Kahlo. Meets with ARTH-414. Prerequisite: two art history courses including ARTH-105 and ARTH-210 or equivalent.

ARTH-615 Museums and Society (3)

Juliet Bellow

When you visit a museum, do you think critically about how the museum communicates messages about itself and its contents?  This course will help you to analyze all facets of the museum: as a physical space, as a cultural institution, and as a political, economic, and social entity.

ARTH-623 East West Photography (3)

Examines the emergence of photography and the medium's pivotal role in shaping relations between Asia and the West. Examines early portraiture, architectural sites, colonial tourism, photojournalism, family photographs, and contemporary photography. Meets with ARTH-423. Usually offered alternate years. Prerequisite: two art history courses including either ARTH-220 or ARTH 320.

ARTH-624 Envisioning the Nation. Modern and Contemporary Art in Asia (3)

Explores how nationhood, nationalism, and the body politic have been addressed in art and visual culture in Asia. Focuses on modern and contemporary art in China, Japan, India, and other parts of Asia, including film, prints, painting, photography, architecture, performance art, and propaganda. Meets with ARTH-424. Usually offered alternate years. Prerequisite: two art history courses including either ARTH-220 or ARTH-320.

ARTH-631 Visual Arts in the United States to 1890 (3)

Covers portraiture, landscape, and genre painting from the early Colonial period to the late nineteenth century. Examines major artists and movements including Colonial portraiture (Copley, Peale), Hudson River School and Luminist landscape (Cole, Church), sculpture, photography, and late 19th century artists including Eakins, Homer, and Cassatt. Emphasizes cultural politics of colonialism, slavery, Native Americans, gender issues, and relationships between American and European art. Meets with ARTH-431. Usually offered alternate falls.

ARTH-632 Visual Arts in the United States: 1890 to 1935 (3)

Covers art from the Gilded Age through mid-1930s. Examines major artists and movements, including American Impressionism, Ashcan School, American modernist abstraction, Harlem Renaissance, Mexican muralists, Regionalism, WPA art and photography. Focuses on relation to European modernisms and U.S. cultural politics, including gender and racial issues and the rise of major museums, dealers, and collectors. Meets with ARTH-632. Usually offered alternate springs. Meets with ARTH-432. Usually offered alternate springs.

ARTH-633 Visual Arts in the United States: 1935-to 1970 (3)

Covers dramatic changes in realism and modernism in the mid-twentieth century including WPA art and leftist politics, the Great Depression and federal support, geometric modernisms, Abstract Expressionism, New Realism, Pop Art, and photography. Emphasizes major artists and cultural politics including the New Deal, Cold War, gender and racial difference, and contributions of art critic and dealers. Meets with ARTH-433. Usually offered alternate falls.

ARTH-634 Contemporary Visual Art and Postmodernism (3)

Covers contemporary art since 1970 created in the United States by American and international artists. It examines movements including Minimalism, Earth Art, Photorealism, Neo-Expressionism, feminism, new abstraction, identity politics, installation and performance art. Emphasizes critical understanding of postmodernist theory related to multiculturalism, racial/ gender difference, queer theory, censorship, ecology, and social/political critique. Meets with ARTH-434. Usually offered alternate springs. ARTH-690 Independent Study Project in Art History (1-3) Prerequisite: permission of instructor and department chair.

ARTH-691 Internship (1-3)

Prerequisite: permission of Art History Internship Coordinator.

ARTH-792 Thesis Research Seminar (3)

Required for all second year MA students. Research seminar to develop thesis topic proposal (to be approved by thesis committee), do literature review for proposed topic, and begin thesis development with goal of completion by following spring semester. Participants will develop ability to do serious research and share project critiques. Offered every fall. Prerequisite: for MA students only.

ARTH-797 Master's Thesis Research (3)

Independent thesis research to develop and complete full MA thesis on approved topic. Work under direction of thesis adviser and second reader. Prerequisite: ARTH-792. Thesis Research Seminar or permission of Thesis adviser and Art History Program Director.

Listed below are a sampling of seminars that have been offered by current professors. Usually two seminars in different fields are offered in any academic year.

Joanne Allen

Gothic Architecture: Structure, Space and Spectacle

This course will explore the creation, function and meaning of European medieval architecture. Emphasis will be placed on Gothic cathedrals — the largest and most innovative structures built for centuries — as well as civic and domestic architecture from across Europe. Beyond discussion of the fundamental relationship between form and function, we will investigate wide-ranging issues concerning artistic imitation and influence; engineering and numerology; philosophical and theological interpretation; and patronage and societal control.

Juliet Bellow

Revolutionary Aesthetics: Art and Politics in Nineteenth-Century France

The 19th century has been called "the age of revolutions." This course examines four revolutionary moments during the "long nineteenth century" — 1789, 1830, 1848, and 1871 — focusing on the ways in which, in these turbulent times, actions inspired images and images inspired actions. We will discuss such themes as the centrality of the live body to revolutionary art and its role in shaping a body politic; the concept of "the masses" and its relationship to artistic elites; and the gendering of such abstract ideas as "liberty" and "the nation."

Kim Butler

Renaissance Bodies

This seminar explores representations of the body in Italian Early Modern Art. The issue of corporeality in art will be examined in a range of signifying categories, including gender, sexuality, sanctity, criminality, classicism, and exoticism, as well as from multiple interdisciplinary perspectives, including literary, scientific, theological, and artistic.

Andrea Pearson

Northern Renaissance Art: Sex and Gender

This seminar investigates the contours of gender and sexuality in northern European art of the later Middle Ages and Renaissance (c. 1300-1550). Topics include images of women and men across court, urban, and monastic contexts; pictorial constructions of femininity and masculinity; relationships between the sexes; sexual practices and prohibitions; and gendered artistic expressions and formats. Various possibilities for understanding images via feminist and same-sex perspectives are raised; identity, agency, compliance, and transgression are interrogated across the artistic media.

The Photographer by Jacob Lawrence

See ARTH 396: African-American Art: Colonial to Contemporary.