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Course Catalog

Undergraduate Students

Graduate Students

Undergraduate Students

ART_HIST 101-8 – First-Year Writing Seminar: TBD

ART_HIST 101-8 – First-Year Writing Seminar: Black Portraiture

Portraiture by Black artists has gained widespread prominence and visibility in recent decades, whether in the form of national portraits such as those of Barack and Michelle Obama, large-scale public art commissions, or through attention to prison photo studios that document self-expression and familial relations among incarcerated subjects. One of the most popular and potent sites of cultural, social, and political engagement, “Black portraiture” has emerged as an expansive category of inquiry across the fields of art history and cultural studies. In this seminar, we will engage a range of approaches to Black figurative representation from the late nineteenth century to the present. We will analyze how artists and ordinary subjects have used film, painting, photography, and sculpture to generate representations of themselves and others in order to address issues including but not limited to beauty, class, gender and sexuality, racism and antiblack violence, modernity, and decolonization. Students will learn how to interpret, discuss, and write about portrait-based objects in terms of their material form, circulation, reproduction, sites of display, and patronage.

ART_HIST 222 – Introduction to the Art of the African Diaspora: Black Art and Art History

This course examines the intersections between historical and political developments in the African diaspora and the history of art. It starts with a consideration of visual representations related to slavery and thereafter explores efforts by people of African descent to forge the contours of an internally complex diasporic community through visual means. Broader issues—such as modernity, race, gender, global capitalism, coloniality, citizenship, and the limits of visibility—are productively complicated both historically and theoretically when examined through a consideration of visual arts and culture of the African diaspora. The course considers African diasporas in the Americas and Europe. Readings in the course will include work by Robert Farris Thompson, Saidiya Hartman, and Richard J. Powell.

ART_HIST 224 – Introduction to Ancient Art

ART_HIST 232 – Introduction to the History of Architecture, 1400 to the Present: History of Architecture

How does the built environment shape social meaning and reflect historical change? In this introductory-level course, we will survey the human designed environment across the globe, from 1400 to the present day. Through in-depth analysis of buildings, cities, landscapes, and interiors, we will observe how spatial environments are created and invested with meaning. From Tenochtitlan, riverine capital of the Aztec empire, to the Forbidden City in Beijing and the Palazzo Medici in Florence, from the Palace of Rudolf Manga Bell in Douala to the Colonial Office of the Bank of London, and from Lina Bo Bardi’s Glass House in São Paulo to David Adjaye’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., this course will introduce students to the changing technologies, materials, uses, and aesthetics that have helped define architecture’s modernity across time and geographies. Through detailed visual analysis and the study of primary source documents, students will become familiar with architectural terminology and historical techniques of architectural visualization. Through written exercises and guided slow looking, students will learn how to critically analyze and historically interpret the built environment at various scales.

ART_HIST 235 – Introduction to Latin American Art

ART_HIST 240 – Introduction to Asian Art: South Asia - Art, Architecture and Empire

This survey serves as a first introduction to ancient, medieval and modern/contemporary artistic practices of South Asia, its relationship with East Asia (China, Japan), Central Asia, and Europe. Key examples of art and architecture will focus on a selection of artistic traditions, styles, built environments (archaeological sites and monuments) and media (prints, painting, sculpture, decorative arts, photography). Course materials will take up a thematic as well as object/site-oriented case-study based approach, drawing upon the role of religion, cultural interactions, trade and entanglements of art with imperialism, colonialism, modernization and war and current issues around museum display and exhibitions. The survey is aimed at developing skills of visual literacy, analysis and awareness of art-historical debates and will provide opportunities to engage with close reading of objects and their larger historical, cultural and scholarly contexts.

ART_HIST 255 – Introduction to Modernism: Survey of modern art c. 1850-1950

This lecture course offers an introduction into one of the most debated terms of art-historical scholarship: modernism. Against its legacy as the hegemonic artistic discourse of the West, this course will study modernisms in the plural and survey some of the artistic forms, methods, ideas, and concepts that emerged in dialogue with multiple global modernities. The class will focus on the period between c. 1850 and 1950, which was defined by faltering empires; old and new forms of colonialism; revolutions; nationalisms; mass wars and mass cultures; as well as radical social movements such as feminism. Modern art allowed artists to express, critique, and at times radically reimagine their surrounding realities. The lectures will pay particular attention not only to the various artistic forms that modernisms took, from abstraction to realism, but also to the diverse contexts in which they flourished. Whereas in Paris or Moscow modern art developed through rebellion against the established norms of art academies, in Hanoi or Tashkent modernisms began and blossomed within French and Russian colonial art academies. Overall, the course will examine some distinct episodes in modernisms, not only in Western Europe, but also in Brazil, Japan, Mexico, the Soviet Union, and Vietnam, among other places.

ART_HIST 319 / CLA 390 / HUM 370 – Special Topics in Ancient Art: Constructing Identity in the Ancient Mediterranean World

How did individuals define themselves in the ancient Mediterranean world, and how did they express their affiliation with multiple and diverse ethnic, religious, linguistic, and other collective social identities? How did groups portray perceived differences between themselves and others? What do we know of the construction of gender identities, race, age, and class distinctions? What dynamic roles did dress, hairstyle, body decoration or ornament, and personal possessions play in establishing and expressing individual and collective identities?

This course explores evidence for self- and group-fashioning in Greece, Rome, and their neighbors in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Persia. We examine a wide range of textual and material sources, including works of art, archaeological contexts such as burials and religious institutions, biographies, autobiographies, and legal documents, including dowries. We also consider culturally significant modes of self-representation and commemoration, such as portraits and funerary monuments, along with the collecting and transfer of objects that represented accumulated social entanglements, such as heirlooms.

ART_HIST 319 – Special Topics in Ancient Art: Monsters, Art, and Civilization

ART_HIST 320 – Medieval Art: Byzantine Art

While the Roman Empire disintegrated in the west, its traditions continued and evolved for centuries in the east under the auspices of the Byzantine Empire. This course examines the formation and development of Byzantine art from the foundation of Constantinople (now Istanbul) in the 4th century to the city’s fall to Ottoman forces in 1453. Special attention will be given to the debates that redefined the nature of the religious image in the Iconoclast controversy, the use of images in Orthodox practice, the networks of cultural exchange and competition that linked the Byzantines to their Muslim and Christian neighbors and spread their artistic influence from the Italian Peninsula to Rus, and the modern political controversies that have entangled the Byzantine artistic legacy in Turkey and the Ukrainian war.

ART_HIST 320-3 – Medieval Art: Late Medieval

ART_HIST 339 – Special Topics in Renaissance Art: Art and Nature in Renaissance Europe

This course surveys European Renaissance approaches to the idea of nature, and the relationship of art and nature. We read primary texts in translation and examine artworks from the early 1400s to the late 1500s, in Italy and Northern Europe, with attention to the ways in which exploration and colonization reflected and also altered European attitudes toward nature. Nature can mean plants and animals and landscapes in this period, but it also has many different definitions, and the class will defamiliarize the modern received definitions. We consider the Renaissance as a moment of origin for later ideologies that promote the human domination of nature (with all its negative consequences for both human beings and extra-human life) but we also look at alternative ideas and traditions within and outside of the European context that point to more holistic notions of the interconnections of living (and, sometimes, nonliving) beings. To the extent possible, course will be taught as a "flipped classroom," with video lectures to watch on your own along with short readings followed by ample time for in-class discussion.

ART_HIST 340-1 – Baroque Art: Italy & Spain, 1600–1800: Painting and Sculpture

This course examines works of art in all media produced in Italy and Spain during the Baroque era (ca. 1600–1750), with a focus on painting and sculpture. It pays particular attention to the social and cultural contexts of art objects, touching upon major themes such as the impact of religious reforms on the visual arts; contemporary struggles with race, class, gender, and sexuality as reflected in objects and the built environment; and arts patronage as an expression of power. Rome, Madrid, Naples, and Seville feature prominently as settings, yet the course situates these places within a wider geographical framework encompassing other parts of Europe as well as Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Students will become familiar with works by a range of artists including Annibale Carracci, Caravaggio, Gianlorenzo Bernini, Artemisia Gentileschi, Diego Velázquez, Jusepe Ribera, Luisa Roldán, and Juan Correa in addition to their modern interpreters.

ART_HIST 350 – 19th Century Art 1: 1789–1848: Late 18th Century – 1848

Focusing on the “Age of Revolutions,” this course broadly takes up the history of Paris and French art from the late eighteenth-century to approximately 1848, with some forays across Europe, the Caribbean, and North America. Covering the French Revolution of 1789, the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), and the French Revolutions of 1830 and 1848, we will look at how popular culture, fashion, race, technology, colonialism, empire, and politics coalesced in the artworks of Jacques-Louis David, Marie-Guillemine Benoist, Antonio Canova, Théodore Géricault, and Honoré Daumier, among others. Professor Emeritus Hollis Clayson has described this course as “Sex, Violence, Politics, and the Land.”

ART_HIST 350-2 – 19th Century Art 2: 1848-1900

Paris acquired its reputation as a global center of art in the second half of the nineteenth century. But art-making in Paris did not happen in a vacuum. Between 1848–1900, French artists were active players in the city’s numerous crises and social transformations, including utopian popular revolutions, foreign occupation, and massive urban reconstruction projects. Nineteenth-century Paris was also the capital of an empire that stretched from North and West Africa to the Caribbean and Polynesia. The foreign bodies and objects that filled the city as a result of these imperial conditions dramatically shaped the evolution of French art.

This course explores art in Paris at the intersection of modern politics, colonialism, and capitalist industrialization. In addition to avant-garde painting movements such as Impressionism and its “post-Impressionist” challengers, we also examine Orientalism and Primitivism alongside academic sculpture, universal exhibitions, and reproductive technologies like photography and the illustrated press. Some of the artists we examine include Gustave Courbet, Honoré Daumier, Rosa Bonheur, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Édouard Manet, Gustave Caillebotte, Mary Cassatt, Camille Pissarro, Henri Matisse, and Paul Gauguin.

ART_HIST 359 – Special Topics in 19th Century Art: Fashion, Race, and Power

ART_HIST 368 – Special Topics in Modern Art: Art of Revolution and Empire: Russia and the USSR

This course examines the art and visual culture of revolution in the context of empire, from the revolt against tsarist empire in 1905, to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 that led to the formation of the Soviet Union, to the Stalin Revolution of the 1930s that aimed to establish an anti-imperialist socialist empire. Artists of the Russian empire were among the first to invent abstraction in the 1910s, and, after 1917, Soviet artists were the first to fulfill the avant-garde slogan “art into life.” With particular attention to woman artists and artists from Ukraine and other regions of the Russian empire and the USSR, we will study 19th century realism and Impressionism, Neo-primitivism, Cubo-futurism, Suprematism, Constructivism, photomontage, photography and experimental film, and the invention of Socialist Realism as modern public art.

ART_HIST 378 – The Global City: Istanbul

ART_HIST 385 – Black Visual Culture: Race and Representation: Contemporary African Art

ART_HIST 386 – Art of Africa: Photography and Africa

This course examines the role of photography in shaping and transforming ideas of Africa—its peoples, cultures, and geographies—from the late nineteenth century to the present. Across colonial and post-colonial contexts, we will examine how artists, amateur and professional photographers, exhibitions, and publications variously register and respond to social, cultural, and political changes on the continent. Through course readings, lectures, and study room visits to the Herskovits Library of African Studies and the Block Museum of Art, we will engage a range of forms including advertisements and popular magazines, colonial ethnography, film, modern and contemporary art, and photojournalism.

ART_HIST 389 – Special Topics: Arts of Asia and the Middle East: Painting the Orient

For British artists and travelers in eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, India was part of the distant Orient. Where it was standard practice to embark on a grand tour of European sites, India offered a taste of the exotic East. As maritime trade with Asia boomed, the sights of Hindoostan became objects of popular curiosity in Britain and Europe. Europe’s mercantile interests opened the door to professional artists such as Thomas and William Daniel, William Hodges, and Johann Zoffany who made their careers through their Indian expeditions. On the other hand, British women such as Emily Eden and Fanny Parkes who traveled and lived in British India, produced their own sketches and impressions. In this course we will examine how artists and amateurs documented the life, customs, and landscapes of a region that would eventually become part of Britain’s Victorian Empire. Through a look at painted canvases and personal diaries, we will unravel how images while being documents of discovery, also sat at the core of networks of commerce, fashion, dispossession, and even violence.

ART_HIST 390 – Undergraduate Seminar: Asian Caribbean Visualities

The Asian diaspora has a long history of migration to and within the Caribbean, inaugurated with the system of indentured labor established by European colonial governments. Today, many Caribbean nations—including Jamaica, Cuba, Trinidad, and Guyana—are brimming with food, art, music, and other cultural expressions that bear strong traces of Indian and Chinese influence. Despite the profound impact of the Asian diaspora on this region, the Caribbean has been primarily understood, theorized, and historicized in terms of its African and European descendants. In this course, we will explore the overlooked history of Asian Caribbean visuality by analyzing how Asian-descended Caribbean artists address race, colonial histories, and cultural erasure. These artists include Sybil Atteck, Albert Chong, Maria Magdalena Campos Pons, Wendy Nanan, Andil Gosine, Nicole Awai, Suchitra Mattai, and Richard Fung, among others. Their work will be contextualized with sustained critical attention to: the history of indentured labor to supplement plantation labor after Emancipation; the cultural politics of interracial relations and Afro-Asian solidarity movements; diasporic communities in the U.S., U.K., and Canada; and the intersections of race/ethnicity, queerness, and gender.

ART_HIST 390 – Undergraduate Seminar: Resourcing Empire: Colonialism and Modern Architecture in a Global Age

This seminar will explore the entangled histories of colonialism and architectural modernism, from the mid-nineteenth century until the 1960s, at the onset of mass decolonization across the Global South. The course will look beyond the “laboratory” narrative of modernism as colonialism’s import, paying close attention to the role of local aesthetic and material practices, building technologies, environmental knowledge, and labor in the design of the colonial environment. Exploring stylistic forms of modernism and design theory in the imperial metropole, this course will also trace the European appropriation of indigenous cultural and material traditions and technical innovations. Expanding the scope of analysis beyond the urban scale, the seminar will situate the unique territorial character of colonial expansion during this period, and its reliance on emerging transregional infrastructures, within the broader framework of the industrialized “resource frontier.” Our inquiry into the built environment of the colonial past and its relationship to architecture’s modernity will be guided by contemporary debates and critical discourse that offer nuanced perspectives on the interlocking struggles over reparation, restitution, and the politics of memory.

ART_HIST 390 – Undergraduate Seminar: City and Court in Colonial India

This seminar unpacks the entangled histories of colonial, imperial, court art,architecture and the marketplace from 18th-early 20th century South Asia. It examines the role of images and spaces as sites of social and cross-culturalencounters, and for negotiating racial difference.The course addresses key shifts within visual culture, urbanism, patronage and collecting practices engaging with a wide of media from drawings, paintings, prints, ivory souvenirs and photographs. Focusing on South Asia’s transition from a court dominated culture to its colonization as a British Indian dominion, the course will address the broader framework of the modernity-tradition bind, the rise of nationalism, and the struggle for independence.

ART_HIST 390 – Undergraduate Seminar: Columbian Exposition

ART_HIST 390 – Undergraduate Seminar: Global Medieval: Problems and Possibilities

This course has two parts. For the first two thirds of the class we will read key texts in the emerging field of global medieval art history in order to familiarize students with the broad outlines of the
historiography and current debates. In the second half of the course, each student will choose a key location or route (to be selected the first day of class with help from the instructor) and prepare several short weekly presentations on it in relation to topics such as architecture, portable objects, patrons and artisans. These presentations and their attendant research will build to allow each student to create a final 15-minute long presentation (a standard length for conference panel papers in the field) and are intended to help students develop their skills as public, scholarly speakers as well as to give the class as a whole a set of case studies for comparison.

ART_HIST 391 – Undergraduate Methods Seminar: Methods and Historiography of Art History

For thinking is always firstly thinking the thinkable—a thinking that modifies what is thinkable by welcoming what was unthinkable.” In the spirit of these words by philosopher Jacques Rancière, this seminar will embark on thinking with and against some of the major texts that have shaped art-historical writing in the past and the present. We will study the histories and methods of art history to investigate the origins of art-historical thinking as well as some of the Eurocentric concepts and values that lay at the core of art history as it emerged as an academic discipline in 19th-century Germany. The seminar will also focus on recent and ongoing debates and conversations that have critiqued some of the foundational assumptions of the field. We will examine how scholarship on art and visual culture has engaged with the approaches and theories of Marxism, feminism, post-colonialism, critical race theory, queer and trans histories, decolonialism, environmental studies, and global and transnational histories. The class will meet on Friday afternoons and will include optional museum and exhibition visits around Chicago.

ART_HIST 395 / Anthro 390 – Museums Seminar: Museums and Responsibility

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Graduate Students

ART_HIST 401 – Methods and Historiography of Art History: Proseminar

The historical juncture at which we presently find ourselves—wracked by the compounding catastrophes of the global pandemic, ecological disaster, and postcolonial neoliberalism—demands a radical rethinking of art history as an academic discipline. The urgency of redressing art history’s lingering complicities with white supremacy, coloniality, and the profit motive propels us to reconsider foundational questions: What is art? What is history? What is an object? What is scholarship? What is a method? What is an archive? This seminar addresses these and other questions from perspectives both within and beyond art history, including Black Studies, Indigenous Studies, feminist and queer theory, postcolonial theory, new materialisms, among others. Rather than assimilating subaltern voices into a hegemonic “global art history,” the seminar begins with the premise that art history needs rebuilding from the ground up. The goal is to work proactively and collectively towards new horizons of art historical scholarship by attending to a diverse body of methodologies that offer dynamic ways of reconceptualizing art historical narration, (inter)disciplinarity, canonization, and research. While theory and historiography will be the abiding focus of the course, students will also be asked to bring in specific examples of art, architecture, and visual and material culture to ground our discussions in practices of object analysis.

ART_HIST 420 – Studies in Medieval Art: Africa and Medieval Art History OR Labor and Medieval Art History

ART_HIST 440 – Studies in 17th & 18th Century Art: Marble

Writing in the mid-16th century, Francesco da Sangallo stipulated in a letter that when one spoke of sculpture, one spoke of marble. This connection between sculpture and (white) marble only strengthened over the course of the eighteenth- and nineteenth centuries. Yet as we know, Ancient Greek and Roman marble sculptures and buildings were painted in vibrant, bright colors. In the Renaissance and Baroque periods, polychrome marble blocks were used to create richly patterned architectural structures. This seminar will take on and challenge the Western conception of “white marble” by revisiting its history as a foundational material in the history of Europe Art, from Antiquity to the present. Topics will include the physical qualities of marble, marble quarries, the role of color (both applied and natural), the political and aesthetic debates surrounding antique and modern polychrome sculpture, and the relationship between the aesthetics of white marble and dangerous ideas of white supremacy. The class will also be taught in conjunction with the Art Institute of Chicago's landmark retrospective on Camille Claudel.

ART_HIST 460 – Studies in 20th & 21st Century Art: Black Art and Archives in Chicago

This seminar provides a selective introduction to the history of Black visual and media arts in Chicago since the early 20th century, an overview of digital and physical archives that support research in these fields, and discussion of related research tools and methods. All final projects will involve working directly with an archive, with outcomes that could include traditional research papers, digital scholarship, and/or creative projects.

ART_HIST 460 – Studies in 20th & 21st Century Art: Transdisciplinary Experimentalism and the Art of Black Study

ART HIST 460 – Studies in 20th & 21st Century Art: Black Printed Matters

How have Black artists used or developed print forms to advance political interests, combat racial and social injustices, and cultivate community? How might we historicize the interface between art history and Black vernacular print cultures? This graduate research seminar explores the various ways in which printed matter shaped and materially manifested in the practices of Black artists during the long twentieth century. Topics will include artist/writer collaborations, artist’s books, pamphlets and political posters, underground activism and publishing networks, bookstores and collectives, libraries in and as art, etc. We will engage the work of historically important presses as well the practices of active publishing platforms, including Chimurenga (Cape Town), BlackMass Publishing (New York), and The Funambulist (Paris).

ART_HIST 470 – Studies in Architecture: TBD

ART_HIST 480 – Studies in Asian Art: The Other Avant Garde

Recent scholarship has highlighted the emergence of a cosmopolitan Avant Garde in 1920s the city of Calcutta ignited by a 1922 exhibition of works by Bauhaus artists such as Klee and Kandinsky. Further, scholars have studied a parallel push for a pan-Asian aesthetic emerging out of intense exchanges with artists from Japan. This seminar looks at the long history of these experimental encounters by taking a backward glance into the spaces of British imperial exhibitions in 1903 and 1911 that brought the so-called traditional and experimental paintings and craft objects together. Broadening the arena of modernist approaches, the seminar considers how these exhibitions reconfigured Mughal history and design to revitalize nationalist and revolutionary art practices. Assessment for this seminar will include reading facsimiles of 19th and early 20th century exhibition catalogues and writing two exhibition reviews.

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