ARTD 1010 Art history and its meaning | Spring 2020
Instructor: Professor Smilow


This syllabus is being updated regularly by Professor Smilow

Office hours: Saturday 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM in Boylan Hall 5306 or by appointment


What is art? Why does it matter? This course presents a general global view of art history through slide lectures, 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.


This course has several goals:

  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 students in accomplishing this learning objective.


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

Syllabus, lectures, assignments:
Additional resources:

In lieu of the traditional textbook (that typically cost $140), this course will use the following: Smarthistory: an open access (free!), web-based, art history textbook. You can find it at: We will also use the Metropolitan Museum’s Heilbrunn Timeline (free), as well as other provided.

Readings posted to


  • On your third absence, you should expect a letter grade lower as a result. The instructor reserves the right to withdraw students for excessive absences. Every lecture includes material not covered in your online resources, so it is essential that you come to lecture. Borrow another student’s notes if you miss lecture. Ask them any questions you might have about material you missed.
  • There will be NO makeup exams or quizzes, no exceptions. Plan your semester accordingly.
  • Punctuality is a behavior expected of all students. Please be in your seat at the beginning of class and remain until the end. Unless there is an emergency, you should not leave the classroom prior to the end of class.
  • Lateness & Submission Policy: Lateness, missed trains, broken printers or computers, work schedules, or negligence are not acceptable excuses for late work either.


Participation 20%
Quiz #1 or #2 10% 
Remote Class Assignments 50%
Final 20%

Final grades will not be curved or rounded up. Please refer to the scale below for what constitutes a specific letter grade. There is no extra credit. Please apply yourself throughout the semester and if at any time you are struggling, see the instructor during office hours or before/after class.

Grade Scale

97.00 – 100.00% A+
94.00 – 96.00% A
90.00 – 93.00% A-
87.00 – 89.00% B+
84.00 – 86.00% B
80.00 – 83.000% B- … etc.

  • Quizzes and Exams:-(NoLongerApplicable) There are 3 quizzes and 1 final exam for this class. They are based on lecture material, required course readings, discussions, and videos. Quizzes will be composed of slide identifications. What is a slide i.d.? You identify an image by providing the artist’s name, work’s title, date, original location and why it is significant to the study of Art History. Images for which you need to know the i.d. information will be posted on the class blog. The final exam will also include short answer questions and essays.
    • The lowest quiz grade will be dropped.
  • Audioguide Project-(NoLongerApplicable)
    • This semester students will develop an audio project based on works on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Working individually and in groups, students will visit the museum, choose an object for observation and analysis, develop written descriptions of works of art, engage in peer review activities, and produce a short “audio guide” recording discussing a single object currently on view at the museum.
    • All written components of the assignment, unless otherwise noted, should be typed in Times New Roman or Arial, with 12-point font, 1” margins all around, double-spaced.
    • Additional project information will be distributed during WEEK 5


    • Last day to add a course: February 2
    • Last day to file Pass/Fail application: February 7
    • Museum Visit: March 15 (self-guided) No Longer Applicable
    • Quizzes: #1 Feb 22, #2 is a Review Assignment (WEEK 10)
    • Last day to apply for a withdrawal (‘W’ grade) from courses: Extended
    • Holiday (No Classes) Spring Break:  April 11No Longer Applicable
    • Final Exam: May 16 


  • During both lecture and discussion, please be respectful of the instructor and other students. Please refrain from talking, eating, sleeping, browsing the internet, checking email or Facebook, reading the newspaper, text messaging, doodling, and any other action that serves as a distraction to those around you. Please do not leave class early; it is disruptive. And please, KEEP YOUR CELL PHONES OUT OF SIGHT! I will ask you to leave if you are engaging in distracting actions, including texting or talking.
  • Emails: Consider emails a last resort. If you have questions, please come see me in office hours. I am but one person; there are many of you. For this reason, please consider emailing a privilege. When you email me, include in the subject heading the course number and reason for your email, and always include your name. The following are not appropriate reasons for communicating with the professor by email: (1) to request extra credit; (2) to attempt to negotiate changes in exam grades or final grade; (3) to find out what you missed during an absence; (4) or to ask what material will be covered on exams or quizzes–this information is announced in class.


  • You are all expected to be students of integrity. If anyone is caught cheating or plagiarizing, there will be serious repercussions; you will be reported to the Dean of Students. If you do not know what constitutes plagiarism or cheating, please come talk to me and review the following  resources:
  • If a student is found cheating or plagiarizing then no credit will be given for the assignment and the incident will be reported as per Brooklyn’s policy, which states:

“The faculty and administration of Brooklyn College support an environment free from cheating and plagiarism. Each student is responsible for being aware of what constitutes cheating and plagiarism and for avoiding both. The complete text of the CUNY Academic Integrity Policy and the Brooklyn College procedure for implementing that policy can be found at this site: If a faculty member suspects a violation of academic integrity and, upon investigation, confirms that violation, or if the student admits the violation, the faculty member MUST report the violation.”  [This means that if you cheat on a test or an assignment, I will file a report, which will initiate academic penalties.]


  • If you require certain accommodations (e.g., additional time on tests), please read this statement from the Center for Student Disability Services: “In order to receive disability-related academic accommodations students must first be registered with the Center for Student Disability Services. Students who have a documented disability or suspect they may have a disability are invited to set up an appointment with the Director of the Center for Student  Disability Services, Ms. Valerie Stewart-Lovell at 718-951-5538. If you have already registered with the Center for Student Disability Services please provide your professor with the course accommodation form and discuss your specific accommodation with him/her.”
  • If you qualify, then you need to notify the professor to make arrangements for a quiz/exam in the testing center at least one week before the exam/quiz date.
  • ***No special accommodations will be made for anyone unless there is a documented reason.

PLEASE NOTE: The professor reserves the right to change the syllabus as needed over the semester. By remaining enrolled in this class, you accept that this syllabus is a binding contract between the student and professor. 

A NOTE ON READINGS: On the Sunday prior to lecture, any additional readings within lesson modules, outlined in the syllabus, will be shared with students. This approach to the course will leave room for student interest, guided by classroom discussions and feedback. 


Note: All readings listed under a given day are to be completed for that day’s class and will be posted to the class blog:

02/01 | WEEK 1 – Introduction
No class at Brooklyn College | Read syllabus and assigned readings at home
Please complete the Student Information Survey

02/08 | WEEK 2 – Prehistoric Art and Art of the Ancient Near East

02/15 | WEEK 3 – Art of Ancient Egypt

02/22 | WEEK 4 – QUIZ + Art of Ancient Greece 

02/29 | WEEK 5 – Art of Ancient Rome

03/07 | WEEK 6 – Crosscurrents: Art of the Americas, Art of Africa and Art of Early Asia


03/14 | WEEK 7 – Review Elements of Art, Formal Analysis and describing what you see

03/21 | WEEK 8 –  Art and Religion
Assignment due 3/26

03/28 | WEEK 9 – Art of the Renaissance

04/04 | WEEK 10 – Reformation and the Baroque


04/18 | WEEK 11 – Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Art

04/25 | WEEK 12 – Modern Art

05/02 | WEEK 13 – Global Contemporary

05/09 | WEEK 14 – Global Contemporary and Final Exam review