Spring 2010 Graduate Seminars



Art H 512

Dr. Elizabeth B. Smith

“Seminar in Medieval Art: 2:30-5:30 Mondays

Reconstructing the Artistic Process in the Middle Ages”


How did the medieval patron select the artist to create a specific work of art, what demands might he make, what restrictions might he set, how did the artist conceive of and then proceed to complete the work, and, finally, how was it received? In the absence of biographical information about the artist, and often of basic information about the work of art itself—date of creation, artist, patron, etc.—it is extremely difficult for modern scholars to reconstruct the creative process in the Middle Ages. Hampered by the lack of source material, scholars tend to focus on the shreds of information that have managed to survive over the centuries. These include official documents, records of payment, contracts, the works of art themselves, and, rarely, first-hand descriptions of the art by patrons. In this seminar, we will first analyze some of the ways in which art historians have addressed this problem in various media, including manuscript painting, wall painting, goldsmithwork, monumental sculpture, and architecture. Students will then select a medieval artist, workshop, work of art, or group of works, and attempt to understand the artistic process involved.


Art H 515

Dr. Sarah K. Rich

“Seminar in Modern Art”

2:30-5:30 Wednesdays


This class will be about environments made of Styrofoam, collages made of butterfly wings, paintings made of sand and plaster, and sculptures made of driftwood; portraits of resistance fighters, portraits of collaborationists, portraits of cows’ udders, paintings of nude women who look as if they have been steamrolled; sound recordings of people grunting into instruments bought from Bedouin in the Sahara; etchings of men with impossibly long beards, lithographs achieved when the artist rain allowed rain to fall on the printing stone, and other preposterous objects, all of which were made by French artist Jean Dubuffet. Through Dubuffet’s work students will become acquainted with major figures of postwar French thought, such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Georges Bataille, Roger Caillois, Franz Fanon, Claude Levi-Strauss, Jacques Lacan and others.  Topics to be researched and discussed will be: Complicity versus resistance, the relationship between consumer culture and the art object, the disruptive value of materiality in painting, the art object as a feature of transnational politics, the function of “the primitive” in western appropriations, and artistic contemplations of the spaces between city and countryside.  Reading comprehension of French required.  You don’t have to be fluent, but a thirty page reading assignment in academic French should not be prohibitively difficult for you.