Art History Curriculum

An Area of Concentration in Art History at New College typically includes the following:

• A broad selection of courses in the discipline covering all of the major periods and emphasizing the field in which the senior thesis will be written. This involves taking no fewer than 12 courses and/or tutorials in the discipline, with two each in the Ancient/Medieval, Renaissance/Baroque and Modern periods. Two studio courses or their equivalent are also required.
• Breadth beyond the discipline is stressed. Courses in literature, history, philosophy, music, religion, psychology, the sciences, and other disciplines should be chosen to constitute a coherent and directed program of study. At least one course must be taken in each of the divisions outside of the humanities.
• A minimum of three terms of foreign language study (normally French or German) is required.
• Travel abroad and off-campus study are highly recommended.
• A student should apply to the art history faculty in the fifth semester for approval of Art History as an Area of Concentration. Acceptance will depend upon a review of the student's papers and evaluations in the discipline and on a brief statement of his or her purposes for choosing the major.
• A senior thesis in the field.

Here’s a list of recent course offerings in Art History:

American Painting of the Twentieth-Century
This course will survey American Art from the beginning of the twentieth-century to the present day. In a roughly chronological order we will cover: The Ash Can School, The Steiglitz Circle, American Regionalists, Social Realists, painters of the American Scene, Magic Realists and Hyperrealists, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Photo-Realism, the pluralism of the present, and Postmodernism.
Emphasis will be placed on what is American about American Art and how it differs from European Art. We will explore a number of issues in American Art: the American Landscape Tradition and the Vision of the City; the fascination with realism on the one hand and the tendency to abstraction (influenced by avant-garde European Modernism—especially Cubism and Non-Objective Abstraction) on the other; and finally the relationship between high culture and popular culture. These topics will be explored with an emphasis on the scholarship and art theories by both artists and critics.
A term paper, which should develop a clear thesis or theoretical framework, will be required. Since extensive research is critical, the idea for the term paper will need to be submitted by the end of the second week of the term. The development of bibliographies will be stressed with a particular emphasis on reviewing the literature. Two exams or several quizzes will allow students to demonstrate their command of the artists covered. Students who are interested in exploring contemporary art and issues related to postmodernism are certainly welcome. However they may do so only when there is a sufficient amount of published (articles and monographs) and visual material available. (This cannot include material from the Internet.) In previous classes, students worked on a wide range of topics from: Thomas Hart Benton's Regionalism, Man Ray's Surrealism, F. L. Wright's local architecture, Images of Food in Pop art, and finally contemporary art such as Conceptual Art, Basquiat and David Salle. Prerequisites: Preference will be given to students who have had "Introduction to Twentieth-Century Painting" and one other course in Art History.

An-Other Story: The Art of Women through the Ages
This course surveys the work of women artists from Hildegard of Bingen in the 12th century to contemporary postmodern artists such as Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, Kara Walker, and Jenny Saville. The course will not simply explore the paintings produced by these women but will also look at the circumstances under which they worked, the training it was possible for them to receive, and how they negotiated their personal situations in different historical periods. Topics related to content will be discussed through appropriate readings (maternity, pregnancy, the body as lived, cross dressing as a strategy, identity, etc.) Students will be expected to report on several women artists (write short papers and make class presentations of their research). Several texts will be used along with a number of supplementary readings. Enrollment will be limited to 12 students. No prerequisites; open to beginning students. Admission will be determined by a short two- to three-page paper on a work by a woman artist that you find interesting, explaining why you find it interesting. This course counts for both Art History and Gender Studies requirements.

Caravaggio and His Era
This seminar will examine the life and work of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610), the artist whose distinctive innovations in style and subject matter went hand in hand with a spectacularly undisciplined personal life. His paintings were controversial, popular, and highly influential on succeeding generations of painters all over Europe, yet he became the subject of serious scholarship only in the early 20th century. We will trace Caravaggio's life and career, focusing on the paintings themselves, his influence on later artists of the Baroque, and the ways in which scholars have interpreted his works. Ideally, students should have previous college-level work in the History of Art, but interested students with background in other relevant disciplines are also welcome. This course is not appropriate for first-term students unless they have taken AP Art History and have permission of the instructor.

The First Millennium: The Invention of a New Tradition
The first millennium of Christian art (roughly 200 - 1200) saw the creation of a rich and distinctive visual tradition. This period has traditionally been marginalized as an era of darkness and decay, ignorance and superstition, an interruption of the achievements of Greco-Roman antiquity brought about by the rise of Christianity and the invasions of barbarian hordes. Some would say that art, and civilization in general, essentially died. And yet much of what we take for granted about modern western culture had its origins in the early medieval era, and many of the distinctive features of our own historical moment—issues of ethnic conflict and identity, the unsettling rapidity of social and economic change, and the uneasy coexistence of competing cultural ideals—have parallels with the early Middle Ages. This course will examine some of the most important works of art produced in western Europe between 200 and 1200, from Late antiquity through the Romanesque, including ivory, metal work, and manuscripts, as well as the monumental arts of architecture, sculpture, fresco, and mosaic. Open to all interested students.

The Gothic Cathedral
The Gothic cathedral has been the focus of some of the most interesting recent scholarship in art history. In this course we will read and discuss some of the classic texts dealing with these monuments, and we will also explore some of the newer ways of interpreting them, ranging from social history to studies on engineering and technology. The emphasis will be on French cathedrals, including the Early Gothic sites (St.-Denis, Laon, Noyon, and Notre-Dame in Paris) as well as the major cathedrals of the High Gothic: Chartres, Bourges, Reims, and Amiens. Consideration will also be given to Gothic outside of France (Italy, Germany, Spain, and England), and to sculpture and stained glass as integral components of these monuments. Finally, we will also consider the Gothic revival and the cultural values associated with Gothic in the modern era. Previous work in art history, or in some aspect of Medieval/Renaissance studies, would be desirable but is by no means required.

The Image of the Artist in the Western Tradition: Craftsman, Courtier, Businessman, Genius
A reading and discussion course designed to provide a thematically focused examination of an issue that is central to the practice as well as the study of art. Each group of readings will focus on a specific image, for example the artist as courtier, or on a specific theme, such as artists' self-portraits or the representation of the artist in his studio. The course format will emphasize reading, discussion, oral presentations by students, and short papers. The course will cover a broad time period, from the Middle Ages to the present, with brief reference to classical antiquity. Open to all interested students, with the understanding that this is a new course, taught for the first time, and active student participation will be especially important.

Italian Renaissance Art: The Fifteenth Century
This course will provide a detailed introduction to the major artists and the central issues in the art and architecture of the early Italian Renaissance, from the fourteenth through the fifteenth centuries. We will begin with a brief review of the fourteenth century (Giotto, Duccio, and the Black Death). We will then concentrate on the careers of several key sculptors (Donatello, Ghiberti), architects (Brunelleschi, Alberti) and painters (Masaccio, Botticelli, and Piero della Francesca). Consideration will also be given to specific issues, such as the depiction of three-dimensional space, the development of portraiture, treatises on the nature of art, the revival of Classical antiquity, and the functions of visual images, with emphasis on recent scholarship in the field. Open to all interested students.

This course is offered as an alternative to the traditional introductory survey of the history of art. The goal is to provide an intensive examination of a few significant examples of painting and sculpture, and to introduce students to the kinds of questions that need to be asked in order to understand works of art. We will investigate the artistic traditions as well as the cultural and social context underlying each work. The works to be considered may include, among others, Michelangelo’s “David,” Rembrandt’s “Night Watch,” Manet’s “Olympia,” Goya’s “The Third of May 1808,” “Las Meninas,” by Velázquez, and perhaps some of Cézanne’s apples. No prerequisites.

Medieval Women: Art, Gender, And Spirituality
Traditionally both theology and science have provided support for the subordinate position of women in society: the moral weakness demonstrated by Eve's transgression parallels scientific beliefs concerning the inferiority of woman's biological functions. And yet the Church also appeared to advocate a policy of spiritual egalitarianism, based, for example, on St. Paul's statement that "there is neither Jew nor Greek. . .slave nor free. . .male nor female. . .for you are all one in Jesus Christ" (Galatians 3:28). In addition to examining these and other fundamental - and often contradictory - assumptions about the nature of woman, we will also consider the ways in which specific women from the western Middle Ages (ca. 200-1500) managed to construct meaningful lives for themselves. This material is interesting for two reasons: it allows us to understand the origins of some of our own ideas about women, and it also provides us with alternative traditions that challenge our own assumptions. Emphasis will be placed on significant types, including virgin, martyr, mother, nun, penitent, mystic, and queen, as embodied in such figures as Mary, Eve, Mary Magdalene, Catherine of Alexandria, and Joan of Arc. We will also consider the experiences of actual women, beginning with the early martyr, Perpetua (d. 203), who strode into the arena shortly after giving birth to her son: her breasts still leaking with milk, she directed the shaking hand of a young gladiator to the cutting of her own throat. We will conclude with Christine de Pizan (d. ca. 1430), a young widow who crafted a career as the first professional woman writer. Our primary sources will be visual materials, supplemented by a variety of written texts from the medieval period and by recent critical scholarship. We will also consider some important developments in the later Middle Ages: the "feminization" of images of Christ, uses of visual images in religious as well as secular life, and attitudes about asceticism, the body, and affective experience. No prerequisites, although relevant background in art history, history, religion, women's studies, or other appropriate fields would be useful.

Michelangelo and His Era
This course will examine in detail the career of Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), the great painter, sculptor, architect, and poet of the Italian Renaissance. The emphasis will be on a detailed chronological study of Michelangelo's creative output, beginning with his earliest works, including some recently discovered pieces, before moving on to the David and the Vatican Pietà. We will then consider the tomb projects (for Julius II and the Medici) as well as the major fresco programs (the Sistine Ceiling, the Last Judgment, and the Pauline Chapel), and we will conclude with the architectural projects (the Capitoline Hill, the Laurentian Library, and St. Peter's). Michelangelo's major contemporaries, including Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and the Venetian painters, Giovanni Bellini and Titian, will provide comparative material. The emphasis will be on a close study of the artist’s works and on a critical assessment of the scholarship, including classic texts as well as the most recent publications. Requirements will be structured around the preparation and interests of the class, but they are likely to include frequent short papers, small group projects, and a final research project on a topic selected by the student. Previous college-level work in art history (including AP Art History) or a related discipline (art, history, philosophy, religion, or literature) is strongly recommended, but an interest in Michelangelo and a willingness to work hard and participate actively are the only requirements.

Motherhood: Image and Experience
The image of mother and child may well be the oldest continuously treated theme in the history of art. Yet mothering is far more than a biological constant; it is also a socially constructed activity whose meaning has altered considerably over time. Changes in fundamental cultural values, including attitudes toward children, the shifting status of women, and the nature of the family cannot be understood without close study of the experience of mothering. This course will explore the changing social construction of motherhood, using a series of historical "case studies" and emphasizing visual materials. These will include the sort of works traditionally encountered in art history courses, but also such items as illustrated child care manuals and commercial advertisements. We will consider normative ideals of motherhood as well as women's own experiences as mothers. No prerequisites; students with relevant background in fields such as anthropology, literature, and psychology, among others, are especially welcome.

Nineteenth Century Painting
This course concentrates primarily on French art from the end of the 18th century (Rococo) to the end of the 19th century (Decadents, Symbolists, Art Nouveau, etc.). The French artists to be covered include the Neo-Classicists (David, Ingres and their followers), the Romantics (Gericault and Delacroix), the Realists (Courbet and Manet), the Impressionists (Degas, Morisot, Cassatt, Renoir and Monet), and the Symbolists (Redon and Moreau). If time permits, other movements of the end of the century will be included. Open to beginning students. This course provides excellent background for two nineteenth century seminars: Fin de siècle (Interdisciplinary study of Art History, Social History, Gender Studies, and Literature) and Paris of the Impressionists (Social History of Art). The course not only surveys the art of the period, but in doing so, foregrounds definitions of style. Style is seen as a complex issue that depends on a number of variables (formal and expressive qualities, choice of subject matter, attitude toward the world, etc.). These issues are explicated in several of the course texts: Robert Rosenblum's Transformations of Late Eighteenth Century Art, and Hugh Honor's Neo-classicism. Depending on the term paper project chosen, this course could be counted towards fulfillment of a Gender Studies Joint Area of Concentration.

The Renaissance in the North
A reading and discussion class examining the most significant developments in northern European art of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. We will consider the great Flemish painters (such as Jan van Eyck, Roger van der Weyden, and Pieter Bruegel) as well as German artists (Dürer, Holbein, Cranach, Altdorfer, and Grünewald). Among the issues to be considered are: the nature and significance of “realism;” the function, production, and patronage of visual images; the relationship between art and religious devotion, including the impact of the Reformation; and the rise of new, secular categories of art (landscape, portrait, still-life, and genre scenes). No prerequisites, although some background in history, religion, or art history would be useful.

Seminar: Film Noir, Dark Visions of the City
This course will explore a number of classic examples of Film Noir as well as the various theoretical ideas of this approach to film in terms of both its vision of the city and the formal qualities inherited from earlier film traditions. Seven films will be shown in the first module in an additional session on Wednesday to familiarize students with both the early period of film noir and one later example. Films to be shown include: The Maltese Falcon (1941), Double Indemnity (1944), Laura (1944), Gilda (1946), The Lady from Shanghai (1949), Sunset Boulevard (1950), and Chinatown (1974). Readings will include works on film theory, psychology, gender studies and relevant film criticism. Since these films usually show a new type of woman as well as a new type of male, which often invert or reverse gender expectations, this is a course that is useful to gender studies students. Students interested in visions of the city who have taken Urban Anthropology with Professors Andrews and Vesperi may find film noir an interesting "specific case history" of the post-war period of disillusionment in America. Admission to this seminar will be based on a description of the project/film that the student wishes to work on for their paper/lecture in the second module. Students will need to write a brief description of the film, the approach they plan to take, and make clear the specific topics and theory they plan to cover. Preference will be given to students who have some familiarity with early twentieth century films through other courses such as Prof. Cuomo's "Introduction to Film Studies: Weimar Cinema." Enrollment will be closed/ completed by the end of the first week of the term and no late admissions will be considered. There will be a Wednesday session the first week of the term. If you are interested please come to the mini session and contact Prof. Hassold as soon as possible. Enrollment may be limited. This visual culture course may be counted towards fulfillment of a Gender Studies Joint Area of Concentration.

Seminar: Images Of Women
This course will explore how women have been seen in the twentieth century through the investigation of seven visual texts: Picasso’s Demoiselles d’ Avignon; Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even; Max Ernst’s collage novel A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil; De Kooning’s Woman I; Richard Lindner’s The Meeting; Fernando Botero’s Amparo; and Philip Pearlstein’s Female Model in Robe Seated on a Platform Rocker. These visual texts will be related to Freud’s concept of the feminine, and Jane Gallop’s discussion of the French Feminists’ response to Freud in her book The Daughter’s Seduction. Neither the nurturing feminine nor the destructive feminine (so beloved of the XIXth C.), can be discovered in XXth C. images of women. The positive and negative polarities of the archetypal feminine have been replaced with images of disintegration, fragmentation and destruction. These images are often intertextual in nature, dependent in part on the use of other visual texts, (i.e., earlier art, or popular and even commercial visual images). The nature of the intertextual material will be explored as well as the implications of these new images of the feminine. This course is designed for students with previous experience in modern art, but beginning students who have a background in other disciplines are also welcome. Students wishing to enroll in this course will need to choose a literary text, visual art work or a film that deals with images of the feminine for their personal study, their presentation and term paper topic. Course is recommended for interdisciplinary students. Permission of instructor dependent on the choice of paper topic to be submitted in writing before the beginning of the term. Enrollment will be limited to 12 students. This visual culture course may be counted towards fulfillment of a Gender Studies Joint Area of Concentration.

Seminar: Modernism And Madness
This seminar is one of four courses in a series of experimental explorations of Modernist topics: “Images of Women in the Twentieth Century," "The Fantastic in Art, Film and Literature," and "Film Noir: Masculinity in the Post-War Period." We will explore a number of seminal texts that look at madness in relation to culture in general, as well as other disciplines (i.e. literature and feminism) as well as some literary texts that make madness a central theme. Texts to be read and discussed include Euripides' Bacchae, Michel Foucault's Madness and Civilization (1961), Shoshana Felman's Writing and Madness: Literature, Philosophy, Psychoanalysis (1985), and portions of Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic (1979). A series of films that may provide texts for study will be run in conjunction with this course during the first seven weeks of the term. (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Herzog's film Woyzeck, and Peter Weiss's film Marat/Sade.) Other texts of madness such as Freud's case history Dora, and Cixous's play Portrait of Dora may be included. Students may work on problems connected with the portrayal of madness in the visual arts, literature or film. This course is designed for advanced students who have some background in feminism/gender studies, philosophy, Modernism, etc. Students who wish to be considered for this seminar will need to submit in writing the nature of their preparation and background before the first class. Preference will be given to those who have an appropriate topic that they wish to work on. This visual culture course may be counted towards fulfillment of a Gender Studies Joint Area of Concentration.

Twentieth Centruy Post Pop/Postmodern
This is the second half of the Twentieth century art course that will deal with those movements that are contemporary with Pop Art such as Color Field, Optical Art, New Realisms (Photo Realism etc.), Minimalism, Feminism and femininity, etc. and progress to the late Twentieth Century and Postmodernism with topics such as: Body Art, Earthworks and the Postmodern Landscape, Multiples, the New Feminist Aesthetics, as well as the Politics of Identity (Gender Shifting --women borrow the phallus, men display femininity). A foundation in high modernism (the fall course or its equivalent) is highly desirable.

Twentieth Century Painting
This course is designed to introduce students to systematic visual experience. Students will acquire the ability to read and interpret complex visual fields in terms of their expressive and conceptual qualities. This course is of great value to students who wish to expand and develop their understanding of visual materials. While this course provides an introduction to the visual art of the twentieth century, it will also cover the late nineteenth century sources of the modern period. Major modern movements to be covered: Fauvism, German Expressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Non-Objective art, Fantasy, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop art, Optical art, Minimal art, New-Realism and Neo-Expressionism. Each movement will be discussed as it reveals a new attitude toward the issues of surface structures and content, and ultimately even the redefinition of art that has taken place in the twentieth century. This is an introductory course designed for continuing students. This course is required background for seminars in Cubism and Surrealism. Enrollment limited to 24. Preference will be given to students who are majors in the field or who have had previous work in art history.

For detailed requirements, check out our General Catalog and the Art History Academic Learning Compact.

For a complete list of courses, click here.


[Did you know?]

New College Art History students have an enviable record when it comes to earning Fulbright Scholarships, French Government Teaching Assistantships, and  entry into leading graduate school programs, like the University of Chicago and University of California, Irvine.

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