Special Topics Courses Fall 2018


Department of Art History: Special Topics Courses

Fall 2018


ART H 001, First-Year Seminar: Modern Architecture

Dr. Craig Zabel

MWF 1:25–2:15 pm, Borland 242


This seminar will explore the history and ideas of “modern” architecture and design from the late 19th century to the mid 20th century. The rise of industry, new structural materials (iron, steel, reinforced concrete), and the mass production of glass began to challenge the traditional assumptions of architecture in the 19th century. Rather than continuing the revival of past architectural forms, some architects began to explore the development of a “modern” architecture for the contemporary age. But if one jettisons historical precedents, what guiding principles will the new architecture be based upon? We will find that there is not one “modern” architecture, but many different agendas for creating an appropriate architecture for the modern world. As a group, we will explore such topics as the Eiffel Tower, William Morris’s Arts & Crafts Movement, the early skyscrapers of Louis Sullivan, the organic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, the client-based architecture of Julia Morgan, Antoní Gaudí’s Barcelona, Adolf Loos’s Vienna & ornamental crime, Italian Futurism, German Expressionism, Russian Constructivism, Le Corbusier’s Toward an Architecture, the German Bauhaus, Nazi architecture, New York’s Rockefeller Center, Alvar Aalto & Finland, Post-War Modernism from Levittown to Mies’s glass boxes, the Philadelphian Louis I. Kahn, Learning from Las Vegas with Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.


Each student will work on a research project focusing upon a selected architect from the 20th and/or 21st century.


ART H 001, First-Year Seminar

Dr. Elizabeth Walters

MWF 10:10–11, Borland 111


Topic to be announced


ART H 350, Undergraduate Seminar in the History of Art

Dr. Robin Thomas

TuTh 3:05–­4:20, Borland 242


This seminar is intended to provide an introduction to the history and methodology of the discipline of Art History. As a writing intensive course there will be numerous reading and writing assignments designed to help improve research and writing skills. Students will be expected to participate in, and help lead weekly meetings where we will discuss readings related to the history and methods of the discipline. The final goal of the course is for students to conceptualize, research and write a substantive research paper (on a topic of the students own choice) and deliver a 20-minute professional -type oral presentation on the same topic.

ART H 397, Special Topics

Color and Culture: Art Historical, Philosophical and Technical Approaches to Hue

Dr. Sarah Rich and Dr. Daniel Zolli

TuTh 9:05–10:20 am, Borland 112

“Color and Culture” will offer various historical approaches to pigments, dyes, light projections, and other sources of color for artists from antiquity to the present. We will explore material aspects such as geographical and mineral sources of mined color, artist recipe books, and uses of pigments as medicines and cosmetics. We will also explore the cost of colorants, as well as their commercial marketing, their counterfeiting and legal dimensions, and the extent to which pigment prices have historically affected the cost and meaning of a finished artwork. We will look at different color organization systems (the artist’s palette, color wheels, the rainbow, the Munsell system, Pantone) from which artists have drawn their ideas about color. Historical explanations for the effects and behavior of colors—from Plato, Cennini, and Newton to Goethe and Maxwell—will be addressed as well. Students intending to take the course should make arrangements to attend a conference co-organized by the instructors, “Bugs, Boulders, Beakers: The Materiality of Artists’ Colors,” on October 5–6. 

Art History 405, Pioneers of Modern Architecture

Frank Lloyd Wright + His Contemporaries

Dr. Craig Zabel

MWF 10:10-11:00, Borland 110


This course will explore the pioneering architecture, radical ideas, and extraordinary life of Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959). Wright will also be examined within the context of selected contemporary architects, whose works were influential on Wright, were influenced by Wright, and/or provide a meaningful contrast to Wright. Some of the topics that will be explored are: mid 19th-century architectural thought; H.H. Richardson, McKim Mead & White, and the Shingle Style; Wright’s youth from Froebel Blocks to farm; Wright as chief draftsmen for Louis Sullivan in Chicago; Oak Park and the birth of the prairie house; the emergence of a Midwestern Prairie School (Walter Burley Griffin, Marion Mahony, Purcell & Elmslie); Wright and the American Arts & Crafts Movement (Roycrofters, Gustav Stickley, Greene & Greene, Julia Morgan); Wright’s European sojourn, 1909-10 and the Wasmuth Portfolio; Taliesin and tragedy in Wisconsin; Wright and Japan, from prints to the Imperial Hotel; textile block houses and the California Dream; Wright and European emigrants (R.M. Schindler, Richard Neutra); Wright vs. the International Style; Wright and the American desert West: Taliesin West; the Taliesin Fellowship; Wright’s utopia: Broadacre City; A Star is reborn: Fallingwater & Johnson Wax; Usonian Houses; The Fountainhead; Wright in the 1950s: the Guggenheim Museum; Beyond Wright (Bruce Goff, Fay Jones).


ART H 423, Studies in Italian Renaissance Art

Michelangelo: Art, Biography, Myth

Dr. Daniel Zolli

TuTh 3:05–4:20, Borland 110

A broadly based view of the life and career of a titanic figure in the Western tradition, principally as seen through his sculpture, painting, architecture, and drawings. While the artworks themselves are the main quarry of the course, we will also explore their entanglement with Michelangelo’s biography, and with the myth of his genius. Already in his lifetime, Michelangelo was proclaimed “divine,” God-like in his ability to awaken life in inanimate matter. We will investigate the formation of this idea, and others like it, particularly in the hands of Michelangelo’s greatest champion, Giorgio Vasari. And we will view it critically, balancing it against the artist’s own account of his work in his poetry and prodigious correspondence; and also against the more prosaic realities of artistic practice (labor, ornery patrons, making rent). We will also explore the merits of interpreting his work according to, e.g., his political outlook, religious and philosophical convictions, and sexual orientation.

While this approach will furnish students with a deep understanding of a single artist, another goal of the course is to generate ideas about the activity—and limits—of writing biographically inspired art history. Does knowing about an artist’s life enhance our understanding of her or his work? And conversely what does an artist’s work reveal about them? In seeking to answer these questions, we will look at other well-known artists’ biographies (Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Robert Johnson, Warhol, Beuys, Bob Dylan) in which the relationship between life and myth—and of both to art—is anything but straightforward. 

ART H 435, Studies in Modern Art: Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse

Dr. Nancy Locke

TuTh 9:05–10:20, Borland 110


Should Cézanne’s art be seen as the culmination of nineteenth-century trends toward an empirically-based, optically-oriented, materialist vision of the world—or is it the beginning of a type of abstraction that is concerned more with the two-dimensional demands of the picture than the three-dimensional nature of the world represented? There is no question that interpretations of Cézanne’s art became a fiercely contested territory for young artists in the 1890s, when the Impressionist vision of Cézanne already coexisted with a Symbolist reading of his work. By 1907, clashing views of the importance of Cézanne’s legacy informed Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon as well as Matisse’s sometimes exotic, sometimes awkward bathers in the landscape. This advanced course will tackle the scholarly literature on these three artists, and consider such movements as the interest in African art in the first decades of the twentieth century in Paris. In addition to analyzing the various shifts and genres of Cézanne’s art, we will read some of the documents of cézannisme from the period, as well as those of so-called primitivism. We will compare recent scholarship on Cubism that extols a semiotic approach with a materialist reading of this complex movement, and we will also consider the ongoing rivalry between Picasso and Matisse. We will also consider Picasso’s work as he moves past Cubism in the 1920 and ‘30s and into the Nietzschean territory vividly described in T. J. Clark’s Picasso and Truth.




ART H 446, Topics in African Art: Art and Archaeology of Ancient Africa

(also AFR 446)

Dr. William Dewey

MWF 1:25–2:15, Ford 208


This course is a one-semester survey of some of the most important historical art traditions of sub-Sahara Africa. Topics to be covered will include prehistoric rock paintings; art from archaeological sites such as Djenne, Nok, Igbo Ukwu and Mapungubwe; and ancient kingdoms such as Ife, Benin and Great Zimbabwe. The time period covered ranges from the first and second millennia BCE. for some of the early terracotta sculpture and rock paintings, to the 11th through 19th centuries CE for the later ancient kingdoms. Students will learn how both artistic and archaeological evidence combine to help us reconstruct the religious, political and social contexts in which these early African art forms were used.


Student involvement includes: attending lectures and films, carrying out individual reading and research assignments. There is a midterm and a final examination, and a research paper that is due near the end of the semester (5–8 pages for undergraduates; 10–15 for graduate students).


Art History 560, Methods of Research

Dr. Anthony Cutler

M 2:30–5:30, Borland 242


The “Methods Seminar” is intended primarily for graduate students aiming at a long-term career in an academic department or museum. It offers basic training in the preparation of articles and the selection of professional journals in which to publish. Starting from fundamental bibliographical tools and Internet resources, it moves from the creation of grant applications, through methods of presentation at meetings like the CAA, the difference between such presentations and published papers, and a great variety of techniques directed toward the building of a professional reputation.


ART H 597, Special Topics: Colonial Urbanism in South Asia

Dr. Madhuri Desai

W 2:30–5:30, Borland 242


As a historical episode and as a world-wide practice, European colonialism has shaped much of the modern world. Urban forms and spatial configurations in cities across the world have been shaped wholly or tangentially, by this legacy. Cities in several former colonies were created to fulfill colonial aims or to be symbols of modern, post-colonial, national identities. Similarly, architectural and urban practices and expressions in former imperial centers such as London were as much the direct result of an imperial imagination, as they were of migrations engendered by colonialism. The seminar is an exploration of this relationship through a focus on the experience of British imperialism and colonialism in South Asia between the later eighteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. How was imperial power channeled through architecture and urban space? What was the experience of colonial modernity for South Asians and how were its political, economic and social manifestations mediated through the built environment? We will explore urban spaces and architecture created within the intertwined relationship of colonialism and modernity.


Early sessions will be devoted to an overview of pre-colonial and early colonial urbanism in South Asia. Subsequent sessions will include focused readings and discussions of four urban case studies - Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi and Lahore, as well as an introduction to the histories and theories of anti-colonialism, nationalism, and postcolonial perspectives. Later in the semester, sessions will be concerned with comparative case studies of French and Italian colonialism in North Africa, as well as instances of postcolonial urbanism in South and Southeast Asia. The concluding session will include a discussion of post-imperial London. The larger aim of this seminar is to develop analytical abilities for the critical study of modern urban environments in general and colonial urban environments in particular. Weekly readings are assigned and grades will be based on class participation, reading responses, and a final research paper and presentation.