Fall 2023 Courses
Introduction to the histories of art and the practice of art history. You will encounter a range of arts (including painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, prints) and artistic practices from diverse historical periods, regions, and cultures. Faculty members of the Department of Art and Archaeology lecture in their fields of expertise; precepts balance hands-on work, readings, and student projects.
It can be remarkably easy to take the process of looking for granted. Each day, humans contend with an onslaught of visual information. Education primarily focuses on teaching people how to read, write, and deal with numbers. But what about learning how to look closely and critically at images, at the world around us, and at ourselves? In this transdisciplinary course, we will question common assumptions and our own about looking; interrogate the anatomy and physiology of vision; develop our looking muscles; practice visual problem-solving strategies; and together design new tools to help people engage with the visual world.
The course provides a general introduction to Roman art. It discusses various artistic media--portraiture, historical relief, etc.--and highlights important works. The goal is an attempt to understand the significance of the imagery that the Romans produced, which embellished all aspects of their world - that is, to understand the role of artworks in the Romans' lived experience.
A critical study of the major movements, paradigms, and documents of modernist art from Post-Impressionism to the "Degenerate" art show. Among our topics: primitivism, abstraction, collage, the readymade, machine aesthetics, photographic reproduction, the art of the insane, artists in political revolution, anti-modernism. Two lectures, one preceptorial.
What was the Renaissance, and why has it occupied a central place in art history? Major artistic currents swept Europe during the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries, an age that saw the rise of global trade, the development of the nation state, and the onset of mass armed conflict. To explore the art of this period, we consider themes including religious devotion, encounters with foreign peoples and goods, the status of women, and the revival of antiquity. We study artists including Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci as well as some who may be less familiar. Precepts visit campus collections of paintings, prints, drawings, and maps.
This course surveys history of African American art during the long 20th-century, from the individual striving of late 19th century to the unprecedented efflorescence of art and culture in 1920s Harlem; from the retrenchment in black artistic production during the era of the Great Depression, to the rise of racially conscious art inspired by the Civil Rights Movement; from black feminist art in the 1970s, to the age of American multiculturalism in the 1980s and 1990s; and finally to the turn of the present century when ambitious "postblack" artists challenge received notions of black art and racial subjectivity.
This course focuses on the networks, the imaginaries and the lives inhabited by Black artists, makers, and subjects from the 18th through 19th centuries. It revolves around the Caribbean (particularly the Anglophone Caribbean), North America and Europe. We will reflect on how pre-twentieth century Black artists are written into history or written out of it. We will explore the aesthetic innovation of these artists and the visionary worlds they created, and examine their travels, their writings, along with the social worlds and communities they formed. The course incorporates lectures and readings and, if possible, museum visits.
How did ancient Greeks respond to the trauma of death? In this class, we will look at the material culture from ancient Greek burials to discover what it can tell us about ancient Greek death, life, society, and beliefs. The rich and sometimes startling material includes grave markers, containers for the deceased, tomb offerings, and images. We will complement the material record with close reading of primary sources.
Art in late antiquity has often been characterized as an art in decline, but this judgment is relative, relying on standards formulated for art of other periods. Challenging this assumption, we will examine the distinct and powerful transformations within the visual culture of the period between the third and sixth centuries AD. This period witnesses the mutation of the institutions of the Roman Empire into those of the Christian Byzantine Empire. The fundamental change in religious identity that was the basis for this development directly impacted the art from that era that will be the focus of this course.
What does it mean to have taste? How is it formed? How does it relate to fashion? How dependent is it on money and education? What are the connections between the aesthetic and moral parts of so-called "good taste"? Can there be a pure judgment of taste free from questions of social positioning? Is taste regarding design different from taste regarding art? Is there such a thing as a taste that turns against the logic of taste? What does taste as a social and aesthetic category have to do with taste as a gustatory sense? This seminar will explore these and other aspects of the multi-facetted phenomenon of taste from a variety of perspectives.
The class surveys connections in art of different cultures and continents throughout the world from the first civilizations to the present. Attention will be paid to distinctive and related forms of culture and their expression in art and architecture that includes trade, migration, gift exchanges, war and economics.
This course introduces a history of architectural theory by way of architectural production in the "western" world from antiquity through 20th century modernism. While we will examine an evolution of architectural thought through architectural developments that occurred primarily in Europe and the Americas, those architectures will be contextualized within a broader global history of built environment traditions and practices, and framed around recurring themes in the history of architectural production.
Was Clio Hall built by the Ancient Greeks? Princeton Chapel by English masons of the Middle Ages? Some of the most recognizable architectural landmarks of Princeton's campus were built in reference to past architectural styles. This class will focus on the concept of "neo-styles" in the history of Western architecture, decoration and furniture, from the Renaissance to Postmodernism, interrogating the complex relationships between present needs and past dreams. Each week, students will confront the theoretical context of neo-styles with a series of American architectural case studies, mostly located on campus and in New Jersey.
Women and their associated symbolism are a perpetual presence across a wide range of mediums throughout Chinese art history. Spanning the longue durée from 1200 BCE to the twentieth century, this course focuses on how the production, mediation, and reception of gendered artistic symbols operate in various contexts. It proceeds chronologically and thematically. The instructors intend to incorporate novel formats, such as classroom interviews and VR headsets, in investigating Chinese artworks concerning women and their relevant discourses from the angles of gender politics and identity construction, with a special emphasis on women's agency.
A required seminar for Art and Archaeology Practice of Art majors and Program in Visual Arts certificate students emphasizing contemporary art practices and ideas. The course addresses current issues in painting, drawing, sculpture, film, video, photography, performance and installation. It includes readings and discussions of current contemporary art topics, a visiting artist lecture series, critiques of students' work, and an artist book project.
The Junior Seminar is an introduction to the myriad subjects, methods, and strategies of art history. The course examines the different kinds of evidence and methodological tools that have been used to identify, explain, and contextualize works of art as well as other kinds of objects, artifacts, and cultural phenomena. In other words, this seminar considers what art historians do, and how and why they do it. In addition, majors will learn how to use resources such as the library and the museum, and how to undertake substantive written research projects. Students begin their Junior Independent Work in this seminar.
This course examines the role of the senses in art and architecture to move beyond conceptions of art history that prioritize vision. While the experience of art is often framed in terms of seeing, the other senses were crucially involved in the creation of buildings and objects. Textiles and ceramic vessels invite touch, gardens involve the smell of flowers, sacred spaces were built to amplify the sound of prayers and chants. The focus will be on the medieval and early modern Mediterranean. Readings will range from medieval poetry and multisensory art histories to contemporary discussions of the senses in design and anthropology.
This seminar is devoted to this history of portraiture in the Greek and Roman world. Emphasis will be given to artistic matters as opposed to issues of identity. Many of the seminar's sessions will be held in the Princeton University Art Museum, which holds a wide variety of examples. Course will also include a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to study additional works.
Pottery is the most common discovery on a Greek archaeological site. What can it tell us about the ancient Greeks, their lives, and their arts? This class offers an in depth exploration of the major pottery shapes and styles produced in Greece, studying how and why vases were made and used. Most seminars will involve hands-on work with objects from the Princeton University Art Museum collection. In addition, the class will visit the ceramics studio and learn the principal techniques of pottery manufacture.
Unfinished art captivates by revealing its maker's creative processes, by leaving its subject matter open and unresolved, and by inviting its viewers to imagine its completion. This seminar examines the rise of unfinishedness as a central, and disruptive, new category of Renaissance art, and probes its meanings and implications. Incomplete paintings, statues, prints, and architecture by Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Titian, and others, will be brought into dialogue with incompleteness in art-theoretical, religious, literary, scientific, political, and theatrical contexts. This class will coincide with a major conference on the topic.
A century has passed since the term 'modernism' became current, and the argument about 'postmodernism' is now four decades old. What did these categories of art and culture mean then, and how do they signify today? Has modernism become 'our antiquity' as some have claimed, or has a global perspective renewed it as a framework for contemporary art and criticism? Is postmodernism a 'thing of the past', or might it too possess an unexpected afterlife? We will take up such questions with some of the crucial actors' artists, critics, historians, museum directors and curators in these debates.
A century has passed since the term “modernism” became current, and the argument about “postmodernism” is now four decades old. What did these categories of art and culture mean then, and how do they signify today? Has modernism become “our antiquity,” as some have claimed, or has a global perspective renewed it as a framework for contemporary art and criticism? Is postmodernism a “thing of the past,” or might it too possess an unexpected afterlife? We will take up such questions with some of the crucial actors—artists, critics, historians, museum directors and curators—in these debates.
Who were the Vikings, at home or abroad? How did their raiding and settlement change the history of the British Isles and western Europe? This course will study the political, cultural, and economic impact that Norse expansion and raiding had on early medieval Europe. It will also look at the changes in Scandinavia that inspired and resulted from this expansion. Sources will include contemporary texts, sagas and epic poetry, material culture, and archaeological excavations.
This course examines feminist critiques of art history and contemporary art. What challenges did they pose to the fields of art history and contemporary art? Drawing on artworks by Rosa Bonheur, Georgia O'Keeffe, Adrian Piper, Cindy Sherman, Shahzia Sikander, Andy Warhol and others from the Princeton University Art Museum, as well as readings in art history, art criticism, cultural criticism, literature and philosophy, we will see how the feminist critique transformed art history and contemporary art, and was itself transformed in the process.
What kinds of art issues forth from need? Taking its name from Brazilian film director Glauber Rocha's 1965 manifesto, this course investigates how artists, writers, and theorists have sought to understand political, social, economic, and material limitations as generative conditions for aesthetic form. Moving between Latin American debates of the 1960s and 70s and the contemporary global moment, we examine such concepts as hunger, scarcity, imperfection, reproduction, and ecological justice though works by Cecilia Vicuña, Steve McQueen, Maria Thereza Alves, Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, Jumana Mana and others.
A course concerned both with the theoretical foundations of Western art history as a modern discipline and with the methodological innovations of the last few decades.
The literature of art, architecture, and archaeology until the institutionalization of art history in universities and museums in Europe and the United States. The historiography of the field, including recent interpretations and analyses. Depending on student interest attention is given to modern, contemporary, Islamicate, and Chinese traditions.
This course is intended to ensure a continuing breadth of exposure to contemporary art-historical discourse and practices. It requires attendance and participation in the department lecture/seminar series. Students must take the course sequentially in each of their first four semesters and take the appropriate letter version of the course (A,B,C, or D) based on their semester of study. The course is taken in addition to the normal load of three courses per semester and is for first- and second-year graduate students only. Topics discussed cover all fields of Art History and address current questions and practices.
The seminar explores key texts of the Russian avant-garde, looking specifically at the ways Russian Formalists and Constructivists theorized the importance of form for their art and scholarship. Essays written by Shklovsky, Jakobson, Rodchenko, Vertov, Lissitzky, and Tatlin are contextualized within the field of contemporary critical theory. This is an interdisciplinary seminar, and during the semester, we oscillate between literature and cinema, linguistics and photography, architecture and painting. No Russian language skills are required.
A seminar covering the basic methodology of numismatics, including die, hoard and archaeological analysis as well as a survey of pre-modern coinages. The Western coinage tradition is covered, from its origins in the Greco-Persian world through classical and Hellenistic Greek coinage, Roman imperial and provincial issues, Parthian and Sasanian issues, the coinage of Byzantium, the Islamic world, and medieval and renaissance Europe. Students research and report on problems involving coinages related to their own areas of specialization. Open to undergraduates by permission of the instructor.
This seminar focuses upon the visual imagination in Byzantium. Dreams and visions serve as subjects and models for our enquiry into this topic. The imagination is distinct from perception or intellection. As such, it need not adhere to the expectations of representation. Phantasia tests our common expectations of Byzantine image making, and so merits analysis. Primary sources (texts and images) from the third to the sixteenth century are discussed.
Heritage structures represent an important cultural legacy. First, this course identifies particularities relative to structural analysis of heritage structures; it correlates the space and time (where and when the structure was built, used, upgraded, damaged, repaired), with construction materials, techniques, and contemporary architectural forms. Second, the course presents the methods of structural analysis that take into account the identified particularities, that are efficient in finding solutions, and that are simple and intuitive in terms of application and interpretation.
This course focuses on European maps, globes, and architectural drawings and prints produced in the period before aerial cartography and puts into dialogue cartography and architecture by interrogating their respective solutions to figuring space. Students interrogate the ways these graphic objects render complex and invisible realities through a mix of natural and conventional signs. Most of the sessions take place in the Special Collections classroom in Firestone Library in front of historical maps, atlases, globes, books, and architectural drawings and prints.
The course focuses on the intellectual stock of the field of Chinese painting. It offers an opportunity to rethink the topics and issues that important studies in the field have addressed. The goal of the seminar is to guide the Ph.D. students on how to tackle these topics and issues raised by previous scholarship.