ART1010 Smilow – Spring 2020

  • Semester: Spring 2020
  • Instructor: Professor Smilow
  • E-mail:
  • Office Phone #: N/A
  • Office Hours: By appointment
  • Class Location:  *Distance learning*
  • Class Meeting Times: *Distance learning*

Course Description:

What is art? Why does it matter? This course presents a general global view of art history through slide lectures, class discussions, video resources and a museum visit. It selectively surveys the visual arts, beginning with the first objects created by prehistoric humans around 20,000 years ago and ending with the art and architecture of today, covering concurrent historical periods in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

Using art from diverse cultures and time periods, we will explore the way that art functions within broader societal trends and ideas, both reacting to and influencing major historical moments.

You will become comfortable with speaking and writing about specific art historical styles, issues and key terms, and be able to approach art in both a formal/visual and historic context. You will also learn how to navigate and explore your own specific interests within the history of art and become aware of resources that will guide you to further your own academic pursuits.

Course Objectives:

  1. To develop visual literacy. Rather than focus solely on visual memory, this course has specific assignments designed to increase your ability to read imagery. You will develop skills in identifying, describing, and analyzing works of art.
  2. To expose you to some of the most important artworks from a variety of geographic areas and time periods. This is accomplished through lecture, reading, quizzes, and exams. You will learn to identify shared characteristics among diverse artworks based on periods/styles and themes. You will also relate works of art to their cultural and historical origins.
  3. To expose you to some of the most influential ideas and research that shape Art History as a discipline. Rather than learn facts as if they evolved out of thin air, this course focuses on how our understanding of art and history is constantly changing based on current investigations. In particular, this class encourages the idea that knowledge is constantly changing, and with it our understanding of history.
  4. To discuss the various methods and approaches to understanding art, including formal analysis, iconography, social history of art, and feminist art history. A basic understanding of how scholars make their arguments and select their evidence demonstrates how knowledge is produced, as well as models for students how to craft arguments.
  5. To develop your vocabulary with which to discuss art-historical issues. Art History has its own disciplinary language, and students will finish the course with a foundation with which to take further courses. Daily, students will be exposed to this vocabulary in their readings and in lecture.
  6. To assist you in writing and thinking more critically about artworks and art-historical scholarship.

Art History is as much about looking as it is about writing. Low stakes writing assignments, along with group work and exams, will assist you in accomplishing this learning objective.

Course Structure:

The course involves traditional lecturing and time for discussion. This course requires time outside of lecture to complete readings and written assignments, and to prepare for examinations. Students are also required to take at least one trip to a museum.

Required Resources: 

In lieu of the traditional textbook (that typically cost $140), this course will primarily use Smarthistory, an open access (free!), web-based, art history textbook:

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