Courses and Requirements
The goal of Hamilton's Art History Department is to introduce students to the rich cultural and historical contexts in which art is created and experienced through courses that cover a range of periods, cultures and critical approaches.
A minor in art history consists of five courses in art history, including at least one pre-modern or Asian course.
The Senior Project in art history includes an extensive research paper prepared in connection with the senior-year seminar and its oral presentation before the Department.
Beginning with the Class of 2020, students concentrating in Art History will satisfy the Social, Structural, and Institutional Hierarchies (SSIH) requirement by completing coursework in any one of the following courses: Art History 120 (Introduction to the History and Theory of Film), 259 (Defining American Art), 330 (Theory and Methods in Art History), or 350 (Gender Issues in Art History). While all Art History courses engage with issues of hierarchies and bias, the courses listed above most directly address those constructed on the bases of racial, gender, ethnic, class and geographic biases.
Honors in art history will be awarded on the basis of a cumulative average of 3.3 (88) or above in coursework toward the concentration and distinguished achievement on the Senior Project.
Students planning to apply for graduate studies in the history of art are advised to acquire or consolidate a fluency in two foreign languages. Students interested in preparing for a professional school of architecture should consult with the Chair as early as possible.
Introduction to the History and Theory of Film.
A general introduction to the wide world of cinema and cinema studies, focusing on crucial films from many cinematic traditions. Topics include the evolution of film from earlier forms of motion picture, the articulation and exploitation of a narrative language for cinema, the development of typical commercial genres, and the appearance of a variety of forms of critical cinema. Focuses on basic film terminology, with the cinematic apparatus and ongoing theoretical conversation about cinema and its audience. (Same as Literature 120 and Cinema and Media Studies 120.) MacDonald.
Differencing the Visible: Perspectives on African-American Art and the Black Historical Experience.
Traces the cultural achievements and struggles of African-American artists, both men and women, to make a people and a world they had known visible, and to be true to those who were misrepresented or erased entirely from the visibility of American history. The goals of the course are to foster an historical memory, intuitive empathy, and responsive understanding of the works of African-American artists, in the context of the societal and historical circumstances in which they were produced. (Proseminar.) Maximum enrollment, 16. Goldberg.
Proseminar in Art History.
A writing-intensive course designed to introduce students to ways of critically evaluating differing viewpoints on the meaning and social significance of art. Writing assignments provide opportunities to engage students in a critical examination of the power of images to promote certain social values and to shape viewers'' understanding of themselves, their relations to others, and to the world around them. (Writing-intensive.) (Proseminar.) Open to first- and second-year students only. Maximum enrollment, 16. McEnroe and Pokinski.
Proseminar in Architectural History: Architecture as Political Communication.
An introduction to the study of architecture focusing on the ways in which architectural monuments create, reinforce, or disrupt political, socioeconomic, and religious hierarchies. Emphasizing architecture in the Western tradition, we will begin with the first major monuments in the ancient Near East and finish with the role of architecture in contemporary politics. Class time will emphasize discussion and examination of buildings around Hamilton’s campus. (Writing-intensive.) (Proseminar.) Maximum enrollment, 16.
Arts and Cultures of Asia.
An introduction to the traditional arts of India, China and Japan. Discussion focusing on the cultural and aesthetic values, religio-philosophical beliefs and historical conditions informing the practice of art and its reception within these cultures.
Copies, Forgeries, and Fakes.
The class examines our obsession with originality by focusing upon what may be understood as its opposite: the copy. Copies play a pivotal part in the history of art, from Roman copies of Greek sculptures to the role of copying in artists’ training to reproductive art forms such as prints and photographs that are, in effect, “copies.” Closely related to the concept of the copy are forgeries and fakes, which present themselves as “originals” yet destabilize the very foundations of the term. Ultimately, the class addresses how we establish notions of artistic value by looking at the overlooked. (Proseminar.) Maximum enrollment, 16. James Bloom.
Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic Arts of India.
An introduction to Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic traditions of art and architecture in India, as well as the art and architecture of the colonial and post-colonial periods.
Paths to Enlightenment: The Art and Architecture of Buddhism.
This course examines Buddhist art from its rise and development in India to its transmission and transformation across Asia. Particular attention is given to the continuities and discontinuities within this multifaceted tradition of artistic practice as it adapts to and evolves within different cultures and their indigenous belief systems and artistic practices. At the center of this inquiry is a fundamental question: How may we understand the distinguishing features of Buddhist works of art as the culturally specific expression of both artistic and religious values? (Writing-intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Goldberg.
Courtier, Samurai, Priest and Chonin: The Arts of Japan.
A historical examination of the social and aesthetic values and sensibilities expressed in the indigenous arts associated with the court aristocracy, samurai warrior, Zen priest and chonin or townsman. Japanese material culture, including painting, calligraphy, sculpture, architecture, gardens, kimono, ceramics and the tea ceremony.
The World of Spanish Art: From the Alhambra to Guernica.
Intensive study of the artistic production of Spain, as reflected in the most significant expressions of architecture, painting and sculpture, along with the cultural and historical context in which these works were created. To be included, among others: Moorish, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassic and Modernist styles (in architecture); El Greco, Velázquez, Zurbarán, Ribera, Murillo, Goya, Sorolla, Picasso and Dalí (in painting); and Vasco de la Zarza, Bigarny, Diego de Siloé, Juni, Montanás, Cano, Mena, Berruguete (in sculpture). Prerequisite, 200, 201 or consent of instructor. Taught in Spanish (Fall 2017) (Same as Hispanic Studies 257.) Maximum enrollment, 20.
Political Power and Cultural Authority: The Arts of China.
Historical examination of the ethico-aesthetic, religio-philosophical and socio-political values expressed in the indigenous arts associated with the imperial court, the scholar's studio, the marketplace and the subtle art of dissent. Chinese material culture, including painting, calligraphy, sculpture, ceramics, jade, ritual bronzes, architecture and silk robes.
Defining American Art.
The role of art and its development in the United States between 1800 and 1950. Topics include the effects of the colonial experience, the search for a national identity, expressions of race, class and gender, the sense of inferiority in relation to European art, popular and vernacular art forms, and debates over public support of the arts. Prerequisite, one course in art history, American history, American literature or American studies.
Art of Ancient Greece and Rome.
An examination of Mediterranean art from the Bronze Age through the Roman Empire. Special emphasis on the archaeological discovery and reshaping of ancient art by later scholars and the concept of the “classical.” (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, one course in art history or classics. (Same as Classics 261.) Maximum enrollment, 20.
Greece, Rome, and the Mediterranean.
Traditionally we have studied ancient Greece and Rome in isolation from the surrounding world, as places that shaped the beginnings of “western” civilization. This course takes a broader view. We shall explore the ancient Mediterranean as a place of dynamic interaction from the Levant though Egypt, North Africa, Greece, Italy, and the islands in between. Far from standing in isolation, the arts of ancient Greece and Rome participated in these transnational cultural networks. (Writing-intensive.) (Same as Classics 262.) Maximum enrollment, 20. McEnroe.
Art of the Islamic World.
Begins with the emergence of Islam in the 7th century and continues to the present. Emphasis will be on how early Islamic art and architecture drew on Classical, Sassanian, and Byzantine forms; the development of Islamic art in response to the religion’s spread into Asia, Africa, and Europe; comparisons of sacred and secular space; developments in art and architecture associated with various dynasties (Ummayad, Abbasid, Fatimid, Ottoman, and Mughal, among others); and perceptions of religious outsiders within Islamic culture as well as perceptions of Islam by religious outsiders Brigit Ferguson.
Medieval Art and Architecture.
Examines the arts of Europe and the Mediterranean from the Early Christian to the Gothic periods. Major questions include: Why do these objects and buildings look the way they do? How did medieval people use and think about them? Did different types of people – monks, nuns, nobles, city dwellers – use and think about them differently? What roles did the arts play in interactions among Romans, “barbarians,” Christians, Jews, and Muslims? Our objects of study will include architecture, sculpture, paintings, mosaics, metalwork, and manuscripts.
Economic Histories of Art.
Economic Histories of the Arts explores the implications of considering art through the lens of economic history. It shifts the focus to looking at art as a commodity, rather than the product of individual creative expression – as things that are bought and traded, sold and re-sold. The course pursues these topics both chronologically and thematically: examining modes of production; art markets and valuation; and the roles of artists, patrons, dealers, and collectors from the fifteenth century to the present. (Speaking-Intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Susan Jarosi.
Renaissance Art History.
An examination and reevaluation of Renaissance art. Topics include the relations between art and craft, the social functions of art, gender and ethnic stereotypes. McEnroe.
Whose Renaissance? An introduction to visual and material cultures in the early era of global expansion and colonization (1450-1600). The course focuses on European relations with Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. In addition to painting, sculpture, and architecture, it includes ceramics, textiles, and maps. A series of transcultural case studies will interrogate approaches to global networks of exchange, confrontation, and conflict. Themes include: immigration, commerce, religion, and science; also definitions of center/periphery, native/foreign, and self/other. (Writing-intensive.) There is no overlap with ARTH 282; students may elect to enroll in either or both. Maximum enrollment, 20.
Northern Renaissance Art.
This course explores the distinctive ways in which art was crafted and consumed in northern Europe during the age of Renaissance and Reformation. We will examine paintings and prints, propaganda and princely splendor, and carved altarpieces and ceremonial armor against the backdrop of both city and court, while considering issues of religious function, social use, and the economic history of the arts. The course also fosters a critical awareness of the methods of art history by drawing attention to scholarship on Northern art that has, in many ways, laid the foundations for modernity. James Bloom.
The internationalization of Italian Renaissance classicism in the Age of Expansion, beginning with its origins in Rome and continuing with its development in the new artistic capitals of southern, western and northern Europe. Emphasis on major figures such as Caravaggio, Rubens, Bernini, Velasquez, Poussin, Vermeer and Jones.
Art in the Age of the Enlightenment.
The 18th century in Europe and its overseas dominions seen as a watershed between a rational and an empirical attitude to nature and reality. The rococo, sentimental and picturesque/sublime traditions and their assimilation into neoclassicism. Attention given to the landscape garden and the decorative arts as well as architecture, painting and sculpture.
Art and Social Change.
“Art and Social Change” explores the history of artistic production as political activism. From the early efforts of painters and sculptors in the nineteenth century to more recent developments in experimental media – ranging from performance art, street art, and institutional critique to documentary studies and even activism itself – artists have offered not only social critique but also attempted direct political intervention. Whether addressed to issues of race, class, gender, environmentalism, or globalization, this course grapples with art’s ability to affect social change. (Proseminar.) Maximum enrollment, 16. Susan Jarosi.
Facing Reality: A History of Documentary Cinema.
The history of cinema as representation and interpretation of "reality," focusing on nonfiction film and video from a variety of periods and geographic locales. Emphasis on the ways in which nonfiction films can subvert viewers' conventional expectations and their personal security. Forms to be discussed include the city symphony, ethnographic documentary, propaganda, nature film, direct cinema, cinéma vérité, the compilation film and personal documentary. (Same as Literature 290 and Cinema and Media Studies 290.) MacDonald.
American Film Comedy: Classic and Modern.
An exploration and analysis of major contributions to the history of American film comedy, from its origins in slapstick to the flowering of silent physical comedy in the 1910s and 20s (performer/directors Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd); to the sophisticated comedy that dominated the early decades of sound (directors Ernst Lubitsch, George Cukor, Howard Hawks, Billy Wilder); to attempts in the 1960s and 70s to rethink comedy by commercial directors and independent filmmakers working "underground" (George Kuchar, John Waters); to recent work that has built on this tradition. (Same as Cinema and Media Studies 291.) MacDonald.
Modern Architecture: 1750 to the Present.
Begins with the emergence of Neoclassical architecture in mid-18th-century Europe and continues to the present. Emphasis will be on developments in Europe and North America in the 18th and 19th centuries before turning to the spread of modernism and developments in global contemporary architecture. We will explore connections between architecture and urbanism, Nationalism, political power, technology, and ecology, as well as the roles of gender, race, and class in the creation and use of architecture. Brigit Ferguson.
Modernism into Contemporary Art.
Developments in European and American art from the beginnings of Modernism through the emergence of Contemporary Art. Topics include the effects of shifting social and gender roles on subject matter and audience, the hegemony of formalist aesthetics and avant-gardism, the relationship between art and popular culture, the role of the audience, and the role of art institutions. Pokinski.
History of Performance Art.
History of Performance Art investigates the international developments in performance art after 1950. It considers the experimental strategies and ideological aims of visual artists who used their bodies as the primary vehicle of expression, information, communication, and social change. Performance art has had the distinction of being the most censored art form, a highly significant social fact that draws attention to its particularly disruptive aesthetic codes and materials – emphasizing presentation over representation; human bodies over inanimate objects; and temporality over spatiality. (Proseminar.) Maximum enrollment, 16.
Cinema as Theory and Critique.
A history of alternatives to commercial movies, focusing on surrealist and dadaist film, visual music, psychodrama, direct cinema, the film society movement, personal cinema, the New American Cinema, structuralism, Queer cinema, feminist cinema, minor cinema, recycled cinema and devotional cinema. While conventional entertainment films use the novel, the short story and the stage drama as their primary instigations, experimental and avant-garde films are analogous to music, poetry, painting, sculpture and collage. Not open to first-year students. (Same as Cinema and Media Studies 301 and Literature 301.)
Theory and Methods in Art History.
Changing interpretations of art from the Renaissance to the present: biography, connoisseurship, formalism, iconology, feminist and postmodern theory. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, one 200-level course in art history. Maximum enrollment, 20. McEnroe.
Gender Issues in Art History.
Examination of the role of gender in the production and content of art in the Western tradition. Special attention to the challenges facing women artists, the role of images in constructing and reinforcing gendered identities, the impact of feminist and gender-based scholarship. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, one 200-level course in art history. Next offered Fall 2018. Maximum enrollment, 20. Pokinski.
Chinese Visual Culture, 1850-Present: From Modernization to Globalization.
Examines the radical transformations in Chinese visual culture in the post-Mao era (1976-present): painting and calligraphy, sculpture and photography, installation and performance art. Topics include the impact of transnational forces of cultural and economic globalization, artistic expressions of cultural identity, historical memory, personal subjectivity and voice independent of the official government line, the rise of a Chinese avant-garde movement, art after Tiananmen, and the place of contemporary Chinese art within a global perspective . (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, 154, 293 or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 20. Goldberg.
North American Architecture before the Civil War and the British North America Act.
A brief outline of architecture, planning and design in the Americas before Columbus, followed by a fuller discussion of the period of European colonization and the era of political independence. The Canadian experience will be included. Field trips to accessible sites.
Major Figures in Cinema.
Focus on crucial contributors to the wide world of cinema. The work of one, two, or three particular filmmakers, each from a different sector of the geography of cinema, will be examined in detail. Possible filmmakers include Alfred Hitchcock, James Benning, Ross McElwee, Stan Brakhage, Fritz Lang, the Coen brothers. Prerequisite, ARTH/CNMS/CPLIT 120; or ARTH/CNMS/CPLIT 290; or ARTH/CNMS/CPLIT 301; or permission of the instructor. (Same as Literature 365 and Cinema and Media Studies 365.)
The Gothic Cathedral: Architecture, Art, and Christian Practice in Europe, c 1140-1300.
Gothic cathedrals are among the most striking buildings in cities across Europe. We will consider these cathedrals in their political, social, economic, and religious contexts, including their beginnings within the political setting of Capetian France; their spread through Europe; how they were funded and constructed; the political functions they had; how people used and thought about them; what types of objects filled them; and what cathedrals and the artworks that decorate(d) them tell us about how later medieval Christians thought about themselves and about religious outsiders. Prerequisite, One 200-level Art History course or permission of the instructor.
Seminar: Religion, Art and Visual Culture.
What do the visual arts tell us about religions in ways that written texts alone cannot? How do religious practices actually train religious people to see? Such questions will begin our examination of various media (including painting, calligraphy, architecture, film, and comics) in conjunction with various religious traditions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism). Prerequisite, one course in either art history or religious studies. Required weekend field trip to New York City. (Same as Religious Studies 375.) Maximum enrollment, 12. Rodriguez-Plate.
Seminar in Modern and Contemporary Art.
Topics in modern and contemporary art and historiography. Prerequisite, 293. Maximum enrollment, 12.
Topics in Art History.
Topic for Spring, 2018 is: Arts of 18th Century France. Prerequisite, Two courses in Art History at the 200 and 300-level or permission of the instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12. Ferguson.
(from the Hamilton Course Catalogue)