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Willamette University

900 State Street
Salem, Oregon 97301

503-370-6300 voice

Art History View this department's website

The Department of Art History offers an exciting sequence of courses—from introductory surveys to more specialized seminars—that explore the complex world of visual art in its different historical contexts. A central part of the art history program is dedicated to the analysis of the significant facts and forms of visual art from Antiquity to Postmodernism in an effort to frame critically and understand historically the plurality of ways in which art has been conceived, produced, used and interpreted throughout time, according to the mutable interplay of material conditions and cultural expectations that characterizes different societies. Consequently, the courses cover a vast horizon of topics, problems, and questions pertaining to artistic traditions belonging to a wide variety of periods and geographic areas, from Asia to Europe, Africa and the Americas.

Through these courses, students are gradually introduced to all the methodologies traditionally adopted by art historians, such as Formalism, Pure Visibility, Iconography and Iconology, Art Literature and Art Criticism. In the more specialized courses, students are also introduced to more recent methods of investigation, becoming familiar with theories and practices of analysis such as Feminism, the Sociology of Art, Hermeneutics, and Deconstruction among others. Thanks to a conscious, critically mediated adoption of these methodologies, students are able not only to increase their personal skills of interpretation, but also to enlarge significantly their own horizons of research.

In order to achieve such a highly individual-oriented process of learning, in which each student will be constantly stimulated to develop further his or her intellectual potential, the courses have been organized into four complementary levels, each with specific goals, aims and requirements:

  1. In the 100-level art history classes, students acquire an introductory background of historical data as well as a basic set of interpretive tools in order to locate critically and understand the production and reception of works of art from Pre-history to Postmodernism. This visual literacy is accomplished by enrollment in the introductory courses (Early Art, Early Modern Art, Modern and Contemporary Art), preferably undertaken in chronological sequence.
  2. In the 200-level art history classes, students further develop their capacity of recognizing, critically de-structuring and historically interpreting different forms of artistic creation. In these courses, students will become able to describe and explain, thanks to the adoption of more sophisticated interpretive strategies and an appropriate terminology, the processes of elaboration and dissemination of images, styles and techniques in specific historical contexts.
  3. In 300-level art history classes, students become familiar with a broader bibliography in the Humanities by reading books and articles written not only by art historians by also by scholars belonging to other disciplines, such as Anthropology, Philosophy, and Literature. In this way, students develop their own critical vocabulary and inaugurate a dialogue with ideas, problems and hypothesis related to the general network of studies in Art History and Visual Culture, thus establishing a fundamental background of meta-critical references.
  4. Finally, in 400-level art history classes and, more specifically, throughout the Senior Seminar, students learn how to organize and conduct academic research in the field of Art History and Visual Culture. During this process, students apply the set of methods and interpretive tools they have learned in order to provide, through the elaboration of their senior thesis, an original, critically oriented contribution to a specific branch of the discipline.

With the exception of the Senior Seminar, which is exclusively reserved to Art History majors, all courses organized by the Department of Art History are also open to any interested Willamette student, regardless of his or her specific major.

The Department's facilities consist of the Art Building, which is shared with the Department of Studio Art. It is situated on the northwest corner of the campus, at State and Winter Streets. Originally built in 1905 as a medical school, the building has been successively used as a Science Building and also as a College of Music. Completely renovated in 1977, after having become the main location of both the Art History and Studio Art programs, the building was remodeled again in 2002-2003, with the addition of a 6,600 square foot new building, well equipped with a state-of-the art classroom and a smaller seminar room. Moreover, the Department has an important slide collection and a rapidly growing digital image collection.

Closely connected to the programs and activities of the Department of Art History is the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, located just one block from the Art Building. The Museum constitutes an important addition to the intellectual and cultural life of the university, for it offers an incomparably rich opportunity to contemplate works of American, Native Americans, European, and Asian art displayed in its permanent collection or temporarily loaned for special events and exhibits. The Museum is also an ideal place for faculty and students to conduct their research and experience, firsthand, curatorial practices and similar activities directly related to the fields of Art History, Archaeology, Museology and Art Criticism. Furthermore, many Art History classes and lectures take place in the elegant Roger Hull Lecture Hall at the museum.

Requirements for Art History Major
(11 Credits: 10 credits in Art History, 1 credit in Studio Art)

Core courses (5)
(It is recommended that the 100-level introductory courses be taken in the intended chronological sequence)

  • ARTH 115 (IT) Introduction to Ancient and Medieval Art History (1)
  • ARTH 116 (IT) Introduction to Renaissance and Early Modern Art History (1)
  • ARTH 117 (IT) Introduction to Modern and Contemporary Art History (1)
  • ARTH 362 (W) Theories and Methodologies of Art History (1)
  • ARTH 496 (W) Art History Senior Seminar (1)

One course in Early or Asian Art History from the following (1)

  • ARTH 113 (IT) Introduction to Chinese Art History (1)
  • ARTH 114 (IT) Introduction to Japanese Art History (1)
  • ARTH 259 (TH) Western Medieval Art and Architecture(1)
  • ARTH 270 (TH) Roman Art and Architecture (1)
  • ARTH 271 (IT) Greek Art and Architecture (1)
  • ARTH 351 (W) Christian Iconography (1)

One course in Early Modern Art History from the following (1)

  • ARTH 263 (TH) Baroque and Neoclassical Vistual Culture (1)
  • ARTH 267 (TH) Renaissance Visual Culture (1)
  • ARTH 275 (IT) Art Literature and Criticism (1)

One course in Modern and Contemporary Art History from the following (1)

One Course in Studio Art (1)

  • One elective in Studio Art

Two additional courses in Art History (2)

  • Two electives in Art History

Requirements for Art History Minor (5 Credits)

Students will complete 5 credits in art history with no more than 3 credits at the 100-level

Indicators of Achievement

Student Learning Outcomes for the Art History Major

  1. Visual Literacy and Historical Thinking
    • In the 100-level classes, students will acquire an introductory background of historical data as well as a basic set of interpretive tools in order to critically locate and understand the production, reception and diffusion of visual codes, styles and techniques belonging to the field of art, from the prehistoric cave paintings of Southern France to the aesthetic challenges of the Post-modernism. Cultivating Visual Literacy is a primary goal of the required introductory courses (Introduction to Ancient and Medieval Art History, Introduction to Renaissance and Early Modern Art History, Introduction to Modern and Contemporary Art History), preferably undertaken in chronological sequence. Formal analysis and basic historical investigations will constitute, therefore, the methodological core of this formative sequence.
  2. Critical Terminology and Interpretive Skills
    • In the 200-level classes, students will further develop the capacity for recognizing, critically de-structuring and historically interpreting different forms of artistic creation as well as other typologies of visual production properly set in their specific contexts. In these courses, students will become able to describe, explore and explain, thanks to the adoption of more sophisticated interpretive strategies and appropriate critical terminology, the processes of elaboration, reception and dissemination of styles, techniques and visual codes in different historical contexts. Philologically-based analysis of primary and secondary sources (i.e., art literature and criticism) will be introduced as fundamental tools within the hermeneutic process.
  3. Metacriticism
    • In 300-level classes, by analytically reading exemplary articles and essays written by art historians and scholars from different disciplines (representative of various tendencies and methodologies), students will become familiar with a broader bibliography in the humanities and will also develop, in a more systematic way, their critical vocabulary as well as their personal hermeneutic guidelines. Consequently, students will be able to establish a critically-based dialogue with ideas, problems and hypotheses related to their field of investigation in art history and visual culture. The acknowledgment of previous scholarly publications and a deeper recognition of current theories of art criticism will allow students to take positions in their own segments of research, in the attempt to provide innovative contributions to these fields. Cultivating metacriticism is a primary goal of the required enrollment in ARTH 362W , Theories and Methodologies of Art History.
  4. Research Tools and Art Historical Writing
    • Finally, in 400-level classes and, more specifically, throughout the required Art History Senior Seminar (ARTH 496W), students will learn how to effectively organize and undertake a rigorous research in the fields of art history and visual culture, applying the various methodologies and interpretive tools they have so far studied and incorporated, in order to explore, in a historically-grounded process of cross examination, specific objects and themes of investigation. The historical, philological and formal analysis of artworks as well as the critical interpretation of subjects pertaining to the fields of art history and visual culture will thus constitute the starting point for a research in which students, by exploring different methodologies and increasing their familiarity with metacritical concerns, will be expected to provide personal contributions to their dominions of investigation, as young scholars. For that purpose, the course ARTH 362W (Theories and Methodologies of Art History) shall be considered as a required prerequisite for ARTH 496W.  A primary goal of both courses is the cultivation of critical writing on visual art.

Faculty


Course Listings

ARTH 113 (IT) Introduction to Chinese Art History (1)

This course is intended to introduce major protagonists, monuments and themes of Chinese art, architecture and visual culture. The chronological scope is vast, from prehistory to the present, and it is therefore a selective survey focusing on particular artistic traditions in depth, chosen from the major periods of Chinese history. Examples include prehistoric art, bronze ritual vessels, the renowned terra-cotta army, Buddhist sculpture, landscape painting, imperial architecture, scholars' gardens, Tibetan Buddhist art, art of the Cultural Revolution, and contemporary experimental art. The creation, reception and diffusion of selected art forms over time will be examined and interpreted using various analytical perspectives (such as formal, functional, iconographic, and expressive) in order to better appreciate their significance in a Chinese cultural context, and in relation to the history of Western interaction with Chinese art.

 Mode of Inquiry: Interpreting Texts

  • Offering: Annually
  • Professor: Greenwood

ARTH 114 (IT) Introduction to Japanese Art History (1)

This course is intended to introduce major protagonists, monuments and themes of Japanese art, architecture and visual culture. The chronological scope is vast, from prehistory to the present, and it is therefore a selective survey focusing on particular artistic traditions in depth, chosen from the major periods of Japanese history. Examples include prehistoric art, Shinto architecture, early Buddhist art and architecture, art of Heian court, narrative handscroll painting, Kamakura Period sculpture, Zen and the arts, castles, gardens, Ukiyo-e prints, Meiji period decorative arts and Nihonga, and experimental art. The creation, reception and diffusion of selected art forms over time will be examined and interpreted using various analytical perspectives (such as formal, functional, iconographic, and expressive) in order to better appreciate their significance in a Japanese cultural context, and in relation to the history of Western interaction with Japanese art.

 Mode of Inquiry: Interpreting Texts

  • Offering: Annually
  • Professor: Greenwood

ARTH 115 (IT) Introduction to Ancient and Medieval Art History (1)

This course is the first in a three-semester series intended to introduce the major protagonists, monuments and themes of Western art, architecture and visual culture. Chronologically, it will explore the production of architecture and artworks in diverse media from approximately 25,000 BCE to about 1300 CE, from the Paleolithic to the Gothic period. The course explores the visual cultures of prehistoric Europe, and Ancient Near East, Egypt, Greece, Etruria, Rome and Byzantium, as well as Early Christian and Medieval Europe. The course will provide foundational skills of visual analysis as well as archaeological and historical interpretation in order to critically locate and understand the creation, reception and diffusion of visual codes, styles and techniques in an era prior to the modern conception of fine art. Some specific themes that will be explored include the representation of fertility and the female form, the commemoration of the dead, the employment of portraiture to convey political power, the creation of images of the divine, the use of the human body as a vehicle of expression, and the construction of sacred spaced.

Mode of Inquiry: Interpreting Texts

  • Offering: Annually
  • Professor: Nicgorski

ARTH 116 (IT) Introduction to Renaissance and Early Modern Art (1)

This course is the second in a three-semester series intended to introduce the major protagonists, monuments and themes of Western art, architecture and visual culture. Chronologically, it will explore the production and reception of artworks from the 14th to the end of the 18th century from the Early Renaissance to the Napoleonic period, the age of Neoclassicism. Special attention will be paid to formal, compositional and structural analysis of important artworks, in an attempt to establish a critically-based connection between styles, techniques and historical conditions. The course will also explore critical issues such as how art functioned in relation to religion or under the different systems of power, or why certain iconographies were more prominent than others in specific social contexts. Given the introductory approach of this class, the artistic production of certain masters (such as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Canova) will be examined in a more detailed way, in order to examine the complex interplay of personal choices and normative patterns related to the process of creation of a visual artwork.

Mode of Inquiry: Interpreting Texts

  • Offering: Annually
  • Professor: De Mambro Santos

ARTH 117 (IT) Introduction to Modern and Contemporary Art (1)

This course is the third of a three-semester series intended to introduce the major protagonists, monuments and themes of Western art, architecture and visual culture. Chronologically, it will explore the production and reception of artworks from the beginning of the 19th century to the beginning of the 21st century, from Romanticism to Post-Modernism. It will explore the increasing proliferation of images and the new ways they are conceived and diffused in different historical contexts, from the visions of German Romanticism to the aesthetic challenges addressed by contemporary artists working in a new, global scale. A substantial part of the class will be dedicated to the historical analysis of significant movements of European avant-gardes in the early 20th century, from the visual redefinitions of time-and-space inaugurated by Cubism to the exploration of the new territories of art and psychology undertaken by Surrealist masters. Discussions will also focus on the articulate ways in which art functions in relation to society, popular culture, and mass media in order to better understand how the dominions of creativity and visual communication affect us today.

Mode of Inquiry: Interpreting Texts

  • Offering: Annually
  • Professor: Susik

ARTH 225 Monographic Studies in Art History (1)

The course will be organized according to one of three different modalities: first, to explore the works of a single artist belonging to a specific context; second, to analyze the characteristics of a certain period or movement in Art History in order to critically examine historiographical categories (such as "Gothic," "Renaissance," or "Modernism"); third, to investigate in detail a monument or a complex of monuments from structural, material and historical viewpoints. Conceived as a 200-level course, the class will focus on advanced lecture-based meetings as well as on group discussions in which various methodologies (from Iconology to Semiotics) will be applied. Consequently, one of the central goals of the course will be to provide a more sophisticated set of hermeneutic tools and an appropriate terminology of research to students. The choice among artists, movements and monuments will vary in accordance with the interests of student and faculty. This class may be repeated for credit with different topics.

Prerequisite: A 100-level art history course

  • Offering: Annually
  • Professor: Staff

ARTH 257 (TH) Architecture in America (1)

This course presents a history of the development of American architecture from Colonial times to the present. Emphasis is placed on architectural styles and the relationship of style of historical periods and cultural assumptions. Focus is on the interplay of European architectural history with New World developments and transformations. The second half of the course heavily emphasizes late 19th and 20th century developments in Chicago, one of this nation's great architectural centers.

Mode of Inquiry: Thinking Historically

  • Offering: Alternate springs
  • Professor: Staff

ARTH 259 (TH) Western Medieval Art and Architecture (1)

This course explores the development of the mostly Christian art and architecture of Western Europe during the Medieval period from its beginnings in the late Roman Empire to its most grandiose expression in the great Gothic cathedrals. Emphasis will be placed on the historical, social and political context of this artistic development. Issues to be considered include the impact of Western Medieval art of Byzantine art and culture, of the Crusades and the pilgrimage routes, and of the emergence of the monastery and the university. The role of patronage and women in the art and architecture of this period will also be discussed.  Other specific topics that will be covered include the art of the Early Christian catacombs, Hiberno-Saxon manuscript illumination, Charlemagne's palace chapel at Aachen, the Bayeux Tapestry, the pilgrimage church of St. Pierre at Moissac, and the sculptural program of Chartres Cathedral.

Mode of Inquiry: Thinking Historically

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Professor: Nicgorski

ARTH 263 (TH) Baroque and Neoclassical Visual Culture (1)

This course will explore the development of visual arts, architecture, and the increasing circulation of different kinds of images in Europe, as well as in other continents, from the beginning of the seventeenth century until the late eighteenth century. Particular attention will be dedicated to the analysis of specific artistic phenomena (for instance, the influential diffusion of Caravaggio's style in Europe, the appearance of new religious iconographies in the colonial areas, and the growing activity of European artists in other geographic regions, such as China and Japan). The course will also investigate the emergence of a new concept of art in the second half of the eighteenth century in relation to the poetics of Neoclassicism and the debates inaugurated by the theories of the Picturesque and the sublime.

Recommended: A 100-level art history course.

Mode of Inquiry: Thinking Historically

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Professor: De Mambro Santos

ARTH 267 (TH) Renaissance Visual Culture (1)

This course will cover important topics related to the production, reception and circulation of artworks, as well as other typologies of images, from the fourteenth century to the beginning of the seventeenth century, in the attempt to analyze significant problems connected to the making of Renaissance visual culture. By following recent methodological approaches such as Postcolonial criticism, Semiotics, and Gender Studies, this course will intentionally extend the geographic boundaries usually adopted by Renaissance scholars in order to explore the world of art and the increasing process of visual dissemination on a more global scale. The objects of the historical investigations, therefore, will not be exclusively centered in the forms of art produced in Europe, but also centered in the visual culture present in different colonial areas.

Recommended: A 100-level art history course.

Mode of Inquiry: Thinking Historically

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Professor: De Mambro Santos

ARTH 270 (TH; 4th Sem Lang Req) Roman Art and Architecture (1)

This course offers a comprehensive study of Roman civilization through its artistic and architectural monuments beginning with its roots in the Etruscan and Greek past, through the varied stylistic idioms of the Empire, to its gradual transformation in the Constantinian era, the prelude to the new Christian civilization of Byzantium. Topics include the Villa of the Mysteries, the Ara Pacis Augustae, the column of Trajan, Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli, and the Arch of Constantine. A special emphasis will also be placed on art historical methodology (i.e., which questions are posed, what evidence is cited and how meaning is construed) and on exploring issues of gender and private patronage as well as imperial propaganda and social policy.

Mode of Inquiry: Thinking Historically

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Fourth Semester Language Requirement

  • Offering: Alternate springs
  • Professor: Nicgorski

ARTH 271 (IT; 4th Sem Lang Req) Greek Art and Architecture (1)

This course explores the development of historical Greek sculpture, painting, and architecture from its beginnings (ca. 1200 B.C.E.) to the end of the Hellenistic period (31 B.C.E.). Central themes include the Greek interest in mythological narrative, and the pursuit of idealism, naturalism, and ultimately, the expression of raw emotion. The classic expressions of Greek architecture, in their stylistic unity and variety, will also be studied, especially the way buildings serve different functions with a very limited architectural language. The course will address the role of archaeology in providing these artifacts with physical contexts and chronologies that enhance our knowledge of the material and our understanding of ancient Greek culture. Ancient literary sources will also be examined in order to place this material in its full religious, social, and political context.

Mode of Inquiry: Interpreting Texts

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Fourth Semester Language Requirement

  • Offering: Alternate falls
  • Professor: Nicgorski

ARTH 275 (IT) Art Literature and Criticism (1)

This course will provide a set of interpretive tools and hermeneutic principles in order to critically analyze textual sources directly related to the dominion of Art History, from Antiquity to Modern period. The class will focus primarily on the study of significant primary sources, such as Vitruvius' influential book on Architecture or the Natural History by Pliny the Elder, as well as on different medieval treaties on art. The central part of the course, however, will be dedicated tot he philological analysis and the historical exegesis of Renaissance art treaties written by either humanists or artists such as Leon Battista Alberti, Cennino Cennini, Leonardo de Vinci and Giorgio Vasari. The class will also explore later sources (from seventeenth century France and Holland to eighteenth century England and Germany), in the attempt to establish the basis for an epistemological distinction between Art Literature and Art Criticism as complementary fields of research, equally indispensable for any historically-based investigation on art and visual culture.

Prerequisite: ARTH 100-level course

Mode of Inquiry: Interpreting Texts

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Professor: De Mambro Santos

ARTH 344 (W) American Art and Culture (1)

This writing-centered course explores the development of art and its changing significance in American culture from colonial times to the mid-twentieth century. Emphasis is on painting and prints (and to a lesser extent sculpture) as these developed from English colonial roots. Course themes include the effect of artistic domination of England and Europe on the colonial arts, the development of an "American approach" to creating and appreciating art and the de-emphasis but gradual acceptance of the arts as a means to "define" America, to romanticize (or criticize) its expansion, to celebrate its past, or to offer an introspective alternative to public, patriotic reality.

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing centered

  • Offering: Alternate springs
  • Professor: Staff

ARTH 345 Advanced Topics in Art History (1)

This course will provide specialized study in areas and themes of art history from different periods that are usually not included in the curriculum, or directly addressed in other courses (for instance, the representation of human body in Renaissance art, the development of the art market in 18th century England, falsifications and restorations in the art, etc.). As a 300-level class, the course will be primarily concerned with the development of more articulated methods of analysis and historical interpretation in order to allow students, on the one hand, to enlarge significantly their critical terminology and, on the other hand, to develop their metacritical skills. In other words, the acknowledgement of previous scholarly publications and a deeper recognition of current theories of art criticism will become central issues within their course, in the attempt to increase students' awareness of the historicity and the epistemological grounds of their own work. This class may be repeated for credit with different topics.

Prerequisite: A 100- or 200-level art history course.

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Professor: Staff

ARTH 351 (W) Christian Iconography (1)

This writing-centered seminar presents a global overview of the development of Christian iconographic themes in artworks from the Early Christian period up to the present day. Diverse media including painting, sculpture, film, etc., will be considered in the study of one or more selected themes such as the Nativity, the Crucifixion, or St. Nicholas. Includes classic readings by the foremost scholar of iconographic studies and Christian art (e.g., Erwin Panofsky, Gertrude Schiller, Thomas Mathews, Hans Belting, David Freeberg, Margaret Miles, etc.) as well as readings in primary texts (e.g., the New Testament, the Christian apocrypha, and mystical literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance). Emphasis on writing (including a final research paper) as well as discussion and presentation skills.

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing-Centered

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Professor: Nicgorski

ARTH 357 Twentieth Century Art (1)

Painting and sculpture of the 20th century in Europe and America. Emphasis on the nature of modernism and the role of the avant garde in Europe. American developments after 1940.

  • Offering: Annually
  • Professor: Staff

ARTH 362 (W) Theories and Methodologies of Art History (1)

This course seeks to provide an overview of the history of art history. Its main subject will be art history as a specific field of research in the attempt to understand its epistemological boundaries as well as its ramified network of connections with other disciplines, such as Literary Criticism, Anthropology, Semiotics, Social History, Philosophy, Gender Studies, and Film Studies. The course will thereby survey the various methodological approaches to art history in an interdisciplinary way, starting with a close examination of traditional art historical tools and concepts of analysis: style, form, iconography. It will explore art history as a literary genre since the sixteenth century and as an academic discipline from the nineteenth century until the so-called "linguistic turn" in the 1960s. Particular focus will also be dedicated to theoretical questions that arise in the interpretation of contemporary art and culture. Case studies will provide a set of concrete examples of practical applications of each method, in order to introduce specialized terminologies and to explore critical ways of thinking.

Prerequisite: A 200-level art history course

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing-Centered

  • Offering: Fall
  • Professor: De Mambro Santos

ARTH 372-373 Independent Study in Art History I and II (.5 or 1)

Reading and conference for advanced students in art history.

  • Offering: On demand
  • Professor: Staff

ARTH 496 (W) Art History Senior Seminar  (1)

This course is exclusively devoted to the process of research and writing of the final thesis for Art History majors. It is, therefore, the epistemological continuation of ARTH 362(W) (Theories and Methodologies of Art History). The class will consist of weekly meetings in which students will discuss topics, methods and interpretive issues directly related to the writing of their thesis, in order to acknowledge the gradual advancement of their individual research. To that purpose, students will be required to prepare, within specific deadlines, drafts of their work to be read and critiqued by their thesis advisors. As a logical consequence of this pedagogical agenda, class meetings, as well as office hours, will be primarily dedicated to the discussion of issues relating to the preparation of the written thesis, such as bibliographical matters, historical clarifications, critical suggestions, and methodological assessments. At the end of the semester, as a formal conclusion of the course, students will be required to deliver an oral presentation of their thesis in which they are expected to critically present the most significant results of their research.

Prerequisites: ARTH 115, 116, 117, 362 (W), Art History major, senior standing.

General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing centered

  • Offering: Spring
  • Professor: Staff