Great Introductory Course Offerings


Art History 260: Introduction to Contemporary Art

Hannah Feldman

Fall 2018

What is contemporary art? When is contemporary art? For whom is contemporary art? Where is contemporary art? And…why does contemporary art matter? This undergraduate survey provides an introduction to some of the central artists, themes, works, and debates comprising the history of contemporary art (roughly 1960 to today), with a particular focus on the social and political engagements that have informed artistic developments during those decades. The ways in which artists have approached, contested, reflected, and reconfigured the problems and possibilities of institutions—be they social, governmental, academic, political, commercial, media-based, or the art world itself—is a central theme around which the course will find critical traction and build historical context. In addition to cultivating an understanding of what has made particular genres and instances of artistic practice significant to art history, this course allows us to think about how globalization, technology, current world conflicts, and social media, for example, have shaped artistic production, art criticism, and the art market. It also asks us to reflect upon the temporality of our present and what it is that is “contemporary” to our “now.” Assignments include short writing assignments based on local art exhibitions of international artists, weekly readings and online viewings, regular canvas posts, and a flexible-format final exam. 

No prior knowledge of art history or contemporary art is required.

ART_HIST 225: Introduction to Medieval Art

Christina Normore

Winter 2019

This course offers an introduction to major artistic monuments of the medieval world (the fourth to the fifteenth century) in Europe and the Near East. It surveys a diverse range of works of art and architecture from this period and positions them within their original social, political, and spiritual contexts. Lectures and discussion sections will also trace the ways in which images were defined and perceived over time. Students will develop skills in visual analysis and gain a basic understanding of the methods and aims of art historical study.


ART_HIST 228: Introduction to Pre-Columbian Art

Virginia Miller

Winter 2019

AH 228 offers an introduction to the art and architecture of the Pre-Columbian civilizations of Mexico, Central, and South America from approximately 1500 B.C.E. to the Spanish invasion of the 16th century. Among the topics to be examined will be the Mesoamerican ballgame, the great stone heads of the early Olmec civilization, the mural painting tradition of the massive urban center of Teotihuacan, Maya calendrics, history, and writing, and the eclectic art style developed by the short-lived imperial Aztec. In the Andean region, we will explore the complex and enduring textile traditions of Peru and Bolivia, the early religious cult of Chavín, the great earthworks of the Nazca, the spectacular recently-discovered burials of Moche rulers, and the impressive stone architecture and road system of the Inka. Students will learn about the intellectual and artistic achievements of these ancient civilizations, to recognize differences in artistic styles between cultures, and to track how these cultures interacted with each other. Additionally, we will briefly study the impact of the European conquest on indigenous art and culture. Travel to the Art Institute will be required at least once during the term.


Art History 250: Introduction to European Art, Early Modern (1400-1800)

Rebecca Zorach

Spring 2019

How did European art come to be “European art”? This course studies the “early modern” period, a time of formation of many of the standard conventions of European art and one that coincides with the beginnings of European exploration and colonization of other parts of the world. What, if any, is the relationship between these two phenomena? What is the relationship of art to power, knowledge, conflict, race, religious devotion, gender relations, and aspirations to freedom and self-expression? We will study key works of European art produced in what are conventionally called the “Renaissance” and “Baroque” eras, in dialogue with historical context and art objects produced around the globe. This course is intended as an introduction to the artworks and historical material covered in the class and to skills in visual analysis and historical interpretation.

No prior art history coursework is required.