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COURSE NAME: "World Art IV: Visual Culture of the Modern and Contemporary World"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2018

INSTRUCTOR: Carolyn Smyth
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 4:30-5:45 PM

This survey course focuses on the art of Europe, Africa, the Americas, and Oceania from the 1700s to the present. The course investigates all media, including photography, and considers the impact of globalization and new technologies on contemporary art and evidence of cross-cultural influences. Special attention will be given to the new aesthetic languages, traditional cultural sources, and philosophical background of contemporary art, as well as to the broader cultural-historical contexts of their creation. The course will also assist students in cultivating basic art-historical skills, in particular description, stylistic analysis, and iconographic and iconological analysis.

            The course is intended to offer an introduction to the most significant examples and trends of European and American art and architecture from the late 18th to the 21stC. Several sections will also include a look at non-European/American traditions, especially in Africa, in order to explore more expansively how cultures intersect while asserting their own values. 


Some emphasis will be placed on the more “familiar” art of Europe and the emergence and gradual independence of modern art in the United States, in order to provide the student with a basic knowledge of the most significant developments in Western art of this period. From the French Revolution and a concept of art as a means of moral elevation, we will turn to the Romantic celebration of individual sensibility. A major change occurs with Manet and the Impressionists’ discovery of new techniques and subjects within modern Parisian society.  In the late 19thC, artists begin to emphasize emotion and spirituality over naturalistic representation; in the early 20thC, Modernist artists begin to examine the very nature of art itself. With the explosion of movements as varied as, for instance, Futurism, Dada and Surrealism, issues concerning the role of the artist and the relationship of art to reality become ever more vital. These experiments leave artists in the later part of the century to wrestle with questions concerning the conflicting values of social engagement or aesthetic isolation. Finally, more recent trends of the last decades of the 20thC and first decade of the 21st will be examined through a selection of works which exemplify the expanding borders of “what is art,” and which can even more provocatively go on to challenge the by now “classic” status of the avant-garde.


We will also take the opportunity to investigate how 19th and 20thC artists and architects in Europe and the U.S. developed an increasing awareness of visual worlds outside of their own Western framework, and absorbed and reinvented this cultural material according to their own interests. Alternatively, some attention will be given to the way in which artists in, for example, Latin America and Africa, often emerging from a colonized past, achieve an art expressive of their own cultural identity, traditions, and modern experiences. 


This course is designed both for the student with no previous art history background, and for the student with some experience seeking a general historical overview. Through lectures, class discussions, readings and a few visits to sites and museums, the student will become familiar with a variety of period styles and cultures, artists and major works from the Modern and Contemporary periods. 


           In addition, the course should stimulate consideration of some of the various approaches of art-historical study – the different ways of looking and thinking about art, and an awareness of the contexts in which art is made. In this way, the student will be introduced to the basic methods of the field, as well as to the tools which enable a more informed appreciation of painting, sculpture, architecture, and more contemporary art forms. 


            The range of artworks presented in this course is selective rather than all-inclusive, in the belief that deeper knowledge of a few key works will supply students with essential art-historical skills, and a foundation for what may be hoped to be a continued involvement with art. In order to achieve a firm grasp of the basic issues relevant to the quite vast spectrum of art to be investigated, students are expected to arrive at class having already carefully read the assigned sections in the textbook. Several additional brief readings, especially of texts contemporary with the artists and works under investigation, will also be required; handouts of quotations and brief essays will be provided.


The class lessons will consist of both lecture and class discussion, with stress on individual student engagement. “Lectures” will be continually alternated with “discussion,” with the purpose of augmenting and deepening the more overarching and very informative textbook readings. 

N.B: The list of readings is not complete; a separate Bibliography will accompany the final syllabus, including especially 20C texts. The readings listed below, mostly 19C material, should give an idea of the level and nature of those forthcoming, (do not fit on the module).






Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: A Global History,  ed. F.S. Kleiner, Boston: Thomson/Wadsworth, fourteenth edition – Volume II 




            Students will be expected to develop, in the course of the semester, the following:


-      Ready recognition of selected works, and knowledge of basic facts related to them. A basic understanding of the historical development of painting, sculpture, architecture and other art  forms from the Late 18thC through early 21stC within the cultural, political and ideological contexts of the periods.


-      Awareness of problems of interpretation, in relation to the study of selected works; basic familiarity with the subject matter and meaning, function and purpose, issues of patronage, sponsorship and identity.


-      Development of the visual and analytical skills of looking (and thinking!). 


-      The student should achieve a recognition of major representative movements; also essential is a perception of the ways in which form and meaning are conjoined. An awareness of the development of different art forms and the ideas and cultures which shape them is also to be gained.


-      An awareness of trends of taste, changing patterns of art production and consumption, and aesthetic as well as extra-artistic issues concerning selected works.


-      A grasp of the changing function of art as a shifting expression of individuals, institutions and belief systems in different moments of history and in different nations and cultures.


-      Furthering of writing skills: declaration and development of a clearly stated theme, development of methods of argumentation and organization, written expression and structure.


-      Furthering of oral communication skills, through class discussion, questions and comments.


Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Gardner's Art Through the Ages VOLUME IIFred S. Kleiner14th ed. International13:978 1 111 82770 OR 10 1 111 82770 2  
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Nineteenth Century ArtRobert RosenblumNY: H. Abrams 1984N6425.N4R65 Selections to be assigned
Nineteenth Century Art: A Critical HistoryStephen Eisenman, Thomas Crow, et al.London: Thames and Hudson 2007N6450.E39 Selections will be assigned
Impressionism: Art, Leisure and Parisian SocietyRobert HerbertYale UP, 1988ND550.H47 Selected assigned readings
Realism and Tradition in Art 1848-1900 Sources and DocumentsLinda Nochlin1966N6450.N57 Selected Readings to be assigned

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Modernity and Modernism: French Painting in the 19CFrancis FrascinaYale UP, 1993ND547.5I4M64  
Neoclassicism and Romanticism 1750-1850: Sources and DocumentsLorenz EislerNY: Harper and Row, 1989N6425.N4N45  
European Architecture 1750-1890Barry BergdollOxford UP, 2000NA956.B47  
RealismLinda NochlinPenguin Books (1971). 1990N6465.R4N6 Selected reading to be assigned
Midterm ExaminationThe Midterm Examination will consist of: five slide identifications; two pairs of slide comparisons; each for a comparative essay; one "unknown" slide to discuss with relation to studied works. Guidelines and a list (the "Monument List") will be provided in advance. Two evening Review Sessions will be provided to coach you, pick one (TBA on Schedule, previous evenings to the Midterm itself). 15%
Final ExaminationThe Final will have the same format as the Midterm Examination - with the addition of an hour essay on an over-arching theme or issue of the semester. For this section, you will have a selection of three or four questions, pick one. This examination is cumulative, except for the first part, the slide identifications which will include only works studied after the Midterm. Guidelines and a Monument List will be provided in advance. Again, two evening Review Sessions (pick one) will be offered the week previous to the Final Examination period, Dec. 10-14.25%
JournalAn informal but very important written assignment on several works relevant to the course - seen in person in collections, sites, and/or temporary exhibitions here in Rome (or in travels). Extensive guidelines and suggestions for sites and works will be given to you the first week of class.25%
Comparative PaperA more formal written assignment in which you compare two works relevant to the course in a carefully organized and edited short paper. Some research required; your own visual analysis for this comparison is essential. Guidelines forthcoming in anticipation of assignment.20%
Class participation and discussionBe sure to have completed the assigned readings before each class. The readings following the schedule - forthcoming - are to be read before coming to that class - a secret strategy for doing well on the exams and assignments. Attendance is naturally a requirement of the course, since much material will be presented in lectures and discussions not available in the readings. Unexcused absence at more than two of the weekly lessons will affect the assessment of your performance for the course. "Participation" is expected to be an active part of your contribution,, and to go beyond mere attendance. This is not only of course beneficial for your grade, but also will make the class more interesting and lively for all of us!15%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs from December 10-14; do not make plans to leave Rome before December 15.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


AH 144 / World Art IV: Visual Culture of the Modern and Contemporary Periods

Fall 2018 / C. Smyth

Schedule of Classes

Exact Schedule, Readings and Due Dates forthcoming. 
(Due dates given here approximate.)

Required Readings will include: Relevant sections from the Textbook, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, vol. II (14thed.), as well as short essays and text selections from art-historical books and articles, and statements of artists and contemporary critics. Forthcoming (being updated)

First Week: Introduction to the Course) Discussion of the Syllabus, requirements, and goals. An introduction to art-historical analysis of 19-20C art.

Part I) The Late 18thC to the Mid-19thC – Neoclassicism and Romanticism:

– Art and architecture in the “Age of Enlightenment: Reason, Science and Nature – and Revolution. Neoclassicism, as an expression of stylistic and moral ideals

– Neoclassical art and architecture in England and the United States: The “Grand Tour,” the discovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum, Palladianism, and (in America) imagery for a new democracy

– Romanticism in France: Napoleon and the cult of the hero; Gericault and Delacroix - individualism and feeling

– Romanticism, the “Sublime,” and landscape painting: German Romanticism (Friedrich); English poetic vision (Constable and Turner); Pioneering art in the New World (American landscape painting)

– Architecture: Building for an Industrial Age, historical revival, new public projects

-  The Birth of Photography: A look at a new medium – how “real” is it?


Part II) The Later 19thC – The Beginnings of Art for a Modern World

 – “Realism” in France and the defiance of tradition: Courbet and the artist “as a man”; Daumier and political commentary

 - Manet, “the painter of modern life.” Realism in Britain and the United States


 – Impressionism: “The New Painting” in Paris; new subjects (work and leisure, city and suburbs, new techniques and attitudes; the seemingly spontaneous  (Material covered on this date will not appear on the Midterm, but on the Final Examination)


– Post-Impressionism: A modern art “like the art of the museums:” Cézanne makes of Impressionism “something solid and lasting;” Seurat’s pointillism, and the science of color

– Post Impressionism, continued: Individual response, and the search for an inner reality in the art of Van Gogh and Gauguin; Symbolism: The search continues - Munch and Rodin

 – The Fin-de-Siècle and the beginning of modern design and architecture: the Arts and Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau, and the Vienna Secession

Part III) The Early 20thC – Modernism

– European Expressionism: the Fauves; “Die Brücke; Der Blaue Reiter (especially Kirschner and Kandinsky) – and Matisse!

NB: Students will be expected to visit the exhibition of Matisse at the Scuderie del Quirinale. 


– Cubism and its Legacy: Picasso (to Guernica) – We will concentrate on the development of the Demoiselles des Avignon, the artist’s radical explorations of the very basis of representation, his arrival at Cubism, with Georges Braque, and  subsequent experiments up to the Guernica. Here also is an opportunity to explore the European usage/creative “exploitation” of non-Western art (African, Oceanic), in preparation – and contrast -for the class on Modern and Contemporary African art, as an independent culture, and its incorporation of “modern” Western concepts. 

– Art as expression of Contemporary Modern Life and the Irrational: Futurism and Italy; Dada (especially Duchamp). 

– A World Gone Mad: Artists in World War I Germany - Grosz, Beckmann, Dix.  Surrealism: The subconscious, the primitive, childhood – de Chirico, Dali, Magritte, and Klee


– Utopias: Art as aesthetic and social Ideal in Suprematism, Constructivism, and de Stijl; Early 20thC architecture and design:  the Bauhaus, the International Style, and Frank Lloyd Wright

- African Art and Culture: Background, and the Modern Experience in African Contemporary Art

PART IV) The Later 20thC to Now – The U.S. (New York) to the Forefront, and Postmodernism

– New York as Art Center – the 1950’s and 60’s: Clement Greenberg and formalism; Abstract Expressionism, “Post-Painterly Abstraction,” Color Field Painting, Minimalism; Painting and sculpture as “Object”

– Outside the Frame! Happenings, Fluxus, Performance Art, Conceptual Art, “Earthworks.” Public art and public controversy


 – Art and Consumer Culture: Pop art; Superrealism

– Architecture in the later 20thC: From Modern to Postmodern to Deconstructivism.  (Students will be expected to have visited recent sites in Rome for discussion).

– Art as Political Statement: Gender, Race, Society

DUE: COMPLETED JOURNAL- ALL FIVE ENTRIES (first two already submitted, and three new ones)


FINAL EXAMINATION: to be scheduled December 10-14

NB: Do not make plans to leave Rome before December 15!!!