• Advanced Art History students are welcome to take seminars at the graduate level (500+ level). Each year, the Robert Sterling Clark Visiting Professor, a leader in his or her field, teaches two special seminars intended for undergraduate and graduate students to take together.

    ARTH 101Art Through Time

    Last offered Fall 2017

    A single-semester, team-taught introduction to European and North American art and architecture from the beginning to approximately 1600. This course celebrates the glory of works of art as physical objects, to be viewed and contemplated, to be sure, but also often to be worshiped, exhibited, bought and sold, held, touched, worn, passed through or around, and lived in. To help students begin to appreciate how these works of art might have been understood by those who originally made and used them, the course set its objects of study within a number of revealing historical contexts, from the social and the political to the philosophical and the art historical. To train students to look carefully at art, and to give them time with original works of art, we use the wealth of art resources in Williamstown: the Clark Art Institute, the buildings and sculpture of the Williams College Campus, the Williams College Museum of Art, and the Chapin Rare Book Library. [ more ]

    ARTH 102(S)Art Through Time

    A semester-long, team-taught introduction to European and North American art and architecture from approximately 1600 to today, This course celebrates the glory of works of art as physical objects, to be viewed and contemplated, to be sure, but also often to be worshiped, exhibited, bought and sold, held, touched, worn, passed through or around, and lived in. To help students begin to appreciate how these works of art might have been understood by those who originally made and used them, the course sets its objects of study within a number of revealing historical contexts, from the social and the political to the philosophical and the art historical. To train students to look carefully at art, and to give them time with original works of art, we use the wealth of art resources in Williamstown: the Clark Art Institute, the buildings and sculpture of the Williams College Campus, the Williams College Museum of Art, and the Chapin Rare Book Library. [ more ]

    ARTH 103(F)By Land and Sea: Art, Culture and Religion Along the Trade Routes of Asia

    This undergraduate Asian art and architecture survey course will focus on artistic, religious, and cultural exchange along the two major trading networks connecting Asia: the Silk Road and the South East Asian sea routes. Following the spread of religious ideas across these routes, the survey will examine art forms including textiles, manuscripts, paintings, luxury items and sculpture, as well as architectural examples. The three major religions and their artistic expressions that will be explored in class are Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. An underlying theme in class will be to study the spread and evolution of artistic styles and iconography across Asia, while also highlighting the continuation of local traditions that persisted despite outside influences. [ more ]

    ARTH 104(F)Materials, Meanings, and Messages in the Arts of Africa

    This course introduces students to the wealth, power, and diversity of expressive forms that have characterized the arts of Africa and its Diaspora from prehistory to the present. Pulling extensively from the collections at the Williams College Museum of Art and other campus resources, students will not only experience firsthand the wide array of objects that have been produced within this vast geography, but will also come to recognize how multiple senses including sight, sound, smell, and touch play a key role in understanding how these objects work within their respective contexts. As tools of political control, social protest, divine manifestation, and spiritual intervention, these objects and their associated performances also challenge what we might typically consider art in the Western tradition and as such students will be pushed to think beyond such terms in their examinations of these rich creative traditions. [ more ]

    ARTH 203(F)Chicana/o Film and Video

    Hollywood cinema has long been fascinated with the border between the United States and Mexico. This course will examine representations of the U.S.-Mexico border, Mexican Americans, and Chicana/os in both Hollywood film and independent media. We will consider how positions on nationalism, race, gender, identity, migration, and history are represented and negotiated through film. We will begin by analyzing Hollywood "border" and gang films before approaching Chicana/o-produced features, independent narratives, and experimental work. This course will explore issues of film and ideology, genre and representation, nationalist resistance and feminist critiques, queer theory and the performative aspects of identity.Through a focus on Chicana/o representation, the course explores a wide spectrum of film history (from the silent era to the present) and considers numerous genres. [ more ]

    ARTH 209The Art and Archeology of Maya Civilization: A Marriage Made in Xibalba

    Last offered Fall 2013

    The ancient Maya civilization was one of the most sophisticated and complex cultures of prehispanic Central America. Its complex calendrics, astronomy, mathematics and hieroglyphic writing system are well known worldwide. The course will examine the trajectory and nature of ancient Maya civilization from the combined perspectives of archaeology and art history. The origins and evolution of the Maya states during the Preclassic period (1000 B.C.-A.D. 250) will be explored by looking at the rich archaeological evidence and at Preclassic art styles. The Classic Maya civilization (A.D. 250-1000) will then be presented through a detailed survey of the archaeology, art and hieroglyphic texts of this period. Finally, the collapse of Classic Maya civilization and its transformation and endurance during the Postclassic period and under early Spanish rule (A.D. 1000-1600) will be critically evaluated through a detailed review of the archaeological and iconographic evidence. [ more ]

    ARTH 210(F)Art and Experience in Ancient Rome

    To see and be seen--it could be argued that this was the very definition of Roman culture. Much like today, spectacle and the dissemination of images lay at the heart of political and social life. The visual arts were crucial both to how the Romans rehearsed their identity and goals as a community, and to how individual Romans communicated their achievements and values. In this course, lectures on the art and architecture of ancient Rome (ca. 300 B.C.-A.D. 400) will provide the backdrop for an investigation into the role visual culture played in the lives of all Romans, including slaves and former slaves, women and children. Special topics will include the funeral and funerary portraiture; the military triumph and monuments of victory; the house as a site of memory; the use of images on coins; participation in religious celebrations; displays of war booty and prisoners of war; experience and audience at the racetrack and in the amphitheater; the spectacle of food and dining; and the Roman street as both contested space and a place for art. Readings will include a combination of primary and secondary sources. All readings are in translation. [ more ]

    ARTH 210(S)Intro to Latin American and Latina/o Art: Contradictions & Continuities, Postcolonial to the Present

    This course introduces students to the breadth and richness of the visual arts in Latin American and U.S. Latina/o art. The course begins in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when artists and writers first began formulating the notion of an art "native" to Latin America, and continues through the ever-expanding cultural expressions developed throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Through a contextual approach, we will pay particular attention to Latin American artists' shifting relationships to race, class, and gender issues, their affiliations with political and revolutionary ideals, and their critical stance vis-à-vis the European avant-gardes. Similarly, we will analyze the emergence and development of Latina/o artistic practices in the postwar U.S., tracing these artists' own exploration of race, class, and gender dynamics. This class introduces Latin American and Latina/o artistic practices and scholarship to enable students to develop a critical understanding of the historical specificity of diverse movements, their relation to canonical definitions of modern and contemporary art, and their relevance to issues of colonialism, nationalism, revolutionary politics, and globalization. We will consider a vast array of genres--from painting and sculpture to printmaking, photography, conceptual, installation, and performance art--and will draw from artist statements, manifestos, and secondary interpretive texts to consider both the impetus behind these dynamic artworks and their lasting legacies. [ more ]

    ARTH 220Sacred Spaces of Islam

    Last offered Fall 2017

    A clean place oriented towards Mecca is enough for daily prayer, but the communal practices of Islam are myriad and they often transpire in more formal architectural settings. These structures range from traditional columned halls of brick and timber to modernist ensembles of reinforced concrete and plate glass; monuments may be open to the elements, flat-roofed or domed; surfaces may be enhanced with carved marble, inlaid wood, glazed tile and other beautifying elements. [ more ]

    ARTH 221(F)History of Photography

    This lecture course will examine the history of photography from its beginnings in the 1830s to the present, from the first grainy black and white images to the work of contemporary artists using cutting-edge photographic technologies. We will examine photographs used for documentary, scientific, and aesthetic purposes, and we will trace the medium's emergence and acceptance as a fine art. We will also explore photography's physical and conceptual characteristics as a medium, paying particular attention to its uniquely intimate and frequently contested relationship to "the real." By the end of the course, students will have a broad understanding of photography as a unique medium within the history of art and knowledge of the theoretical frameworks that developed alongside that history. [ more ]

    ARTH 222(F)Photography in/of the Middle East

    Since its invention, photography has been globally disseminated and locally inflected, serving diverse documentary and expressive purposes around the world. In the Middle East, the powers and pleasures of the medium have been valued by colonial forces, indigenous populations, photojournalists and artists; the resulting images merit aesthetic and art historical appreciation even as they grant visual access to the hierarchical dynamics operative in individual communities and transcultural contexts. The course will explore photographic practices in different zones of the Middle East--e.g., the Holy Land, Egypt and the Persian sphere--by attending to individual photographers and case studies. This tightly focused approach will support, in turn, a consideration of the formative impact of visual representations in particular circumstances--what work do photographs do? Who resists and who benefits? The general goal will be to appreciate diverse styles and perspectives that underlie renderings of the Middle East. [ more ]

    ARTH 223Comic Lives: Graphic Novels & Dangerous Histories of the African Diaspora

    Last offered Spring 2018

    This course explores how the graphic novel has been an effective, provocative and at times controversial medium for representing racialized histories. Drawing on graphic novels such as Jeremy Love's Bayou and Ho Che Anderson's King: A Comic Biography, this course illustrates and critiques multiple ways the graphic novel commingles word and image to create more sensorial access into ethnic traumas, challenges and interventions in critical moments of resistance throughout history. Students will practice analyzing graphic novels and comic strips, with the help of critical essays, reviews and film; the chosen texts will center on Africana cultures, prompting students to consider how the graphic novel may act as a useful alternate history for marginalized peoples. During the course, students will keep a journal with images, themes and reflections and will use Comic Life software and ipads to create their own graphic short stories based on historical and/or autobiographical narratives. [ more ]

    ARTH 228 T(S)Velázquez, Goya, and Picasso

    This course will provide an introduction to three major Spanish painters--Velázquez, Goya, and Picasso--who lived and worked, respectively, in the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Though these painters are world famous, they are rarely studied comparatively, and in the context of their Spanish artistic roots. The syllabus will cover the historical and social contexts in which they started working, and how they followed, and departed from, artistic conventions of the time. Through specific paintings, we will consider the historical evolution of the artists' relationship to their patrons and subjects, from the elite status of Velázquez within the royal court, to Goya's dramatic rise with the reigns of Charles III, and Charles IV, and his subsequent exile to France. Picasso was free of royal patronage and also lived in France, yet despite this freedom he remained deeply connected to the themes and concerns of his Spanish artistic predecessors. In addition to key paintings including Velázquez's "Las Meninas" and other royal portraits, Goya's "Maja Desnuda" and his series "The Disasters of War," Picasso's "Guernica," and his own 20th century reinterpretation of "Las Meninas," we will focus on the artists' shared subjects of portraits and war, and consider the following issues: How does the role of the Spanish artist change over the periods covered? How did the artist exercise his freedom whilst under the scrutiny of the court and the Catholic Church? How were these painters' lives and work shaped by key historical events such as the Inquisition, Napoleon's invasion of Spain, or the Spanish Civil War? How does the work of art evolve in its role from private royal commission to public display in museums open to all? We will read short literary pieces from each period, primary materials such as letters and other documents, and historical and critical works. All readings will be in English. Knowledge of Spanish is encouraged, but not required. [ more ]

    ARTH 230From Alexander to Cleopatra: Remodeling the Mediterranean World

    Last offered Fall 2017

    The period between Alexander the Great (323 B.C.) and Cleopatra (30 B.C.), like our own, was characterized by internationalism, migration, wide-ranging cultural values and religious practices, and ethnically diverse urban populations. Large numbers of non-Greeks came under the control of newly established Hellenistic kingdoms, while in the west Rome's emergence as a superpower offered both new opportunity and danger. The Hellenistic world was a place of vibrant change in the spheres of art, architecture, urban planning, and public spectacle. In this course, we will consider the art and archaeology of this period in their political, social, and religious contexts, focusing on the visual language of power and royalty; developments in painting, sculpture, mosaics, and monumental architecture; interactions between Greeks and non-Greeks; and the impact of Greek culture in Rome. [ more ]

    ARTH 232Renaissance Rome: Renovating the Eternal City

    Last offered Spring 2018

    George Eliot called Rome "the city of visible history," a place with the power to bring "the past of a whole hemisphere" right before our eyes. The magnetic visual power of Rome did not just occur naturally, however; it is a product of a bold urban project first envisioned by Renaissance popes and brought into being by the artists and architects they hired. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Rome was transformed from a shrinking and neglected medieval town into a thriving center of artistic energy and invention. Beginning with the papacy's return to the city in 1417, we will focus on the historical, ideological, and artistic forces behind this period of renovation and restoration that reshaped the urban and artistic fabric of the city. We will study the particularly Roman foundations for the period known as the High Renaissance, then, approaching art historical touchstones by Michelangelo, Raphael, and Bramante as works grounded in a uniquely Roman sense of time and historical destiny. We will conclude with a selective look at Baroque works by Caravaggio, Bernini and Borromini, examining their their powerful innovations and effects as a continuation of the Renaissance renovation of the eternal city. [ more ]

    ARTH 237(S)Making Things Visible: Adventures in Documentary Work

    Photography, like ethnography, is an art of looking carefully and taking notice. This course will explore the overlaps between documentary photography and field methods of social science, concentrating particularly on the genre in which the two intersect: the photo essay. The students will learn methods of visual narrative and storytelling, using techniques of interviewing, still photography, and video. Concurrently, we will explore a number of examples of investigative work that blend word and image. We will ask questions about the changing practices and expectations associated with the documentarian's role, and the evolving media in which such work can be presented. Lastly, we will discuss ethical questions that haunt documentary work, including issues of responsibility and politics of representation, as well as the perennial question of whether "objective representation" is even possible or desirable. Experience in photography and/or video is not required, but students will be expected to master basic technical skills in image acquisition and audio editing taught in a separate lab section. Students should also be prepared to interact extensively with people in the community and spend a significant time off campus doing fieldwork. [ more ]

    ARTH 238Greek Art and the Gods

    Last offered Spring 2017

    In the Iliad, when the god Apollo is visualized, it is as a man, angry in his heart, coming down from the peaks of Olympos, bow and quiver on his shoulders, the arrows clanging as the god moves, "like the coming of night," to bring dogs, horses, and men to their deaths. By the end of the Classical period, one statue of the archer god depicted him as a boy teasing a lizard. In this course, we will examine the development of the images the Greek gods and goddesses, from their superhuman engagement in the heroic world of epic, to their sometimes sublime artistic presence, complex religious function, and transformation into metaphors in aesthetic and philosophical thought. The course will cover the basic stylistic, iconographical, narrative, and ritual aspects of the gods and goddesses in ancient Greek culture. The course will address in detail influential artistic monuments, literary forms, and social phenomena, including the sculptures of Olympia and the Parthenon; divine corporeality in poetry; the theology of mortal-immortal relations; the cultural functions of visual representations of gods, and the continued interest in the gods long after the end of antiquity. Readings assignments will include selections from Homer, Hesiod, Sappho, Aischylos, Euripides, Plato, Walter Burkert, Jean-Pierre Vernant, Nikolaus Himmelmann, Erika Simon, and Friedrich Nietzsche. [ more ]

    ARTH 240(F)Histories, Communities, and Collections

    What can the College's collections of documents, artifacts, art objects, natural history specimens, and rare books--whether housed in the Special Collections of the Library, Archives, or at the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA)--teach us about our institutional past? How do we put that past into dialogue with our present? Planned specifically to engage with the WCMA's The Field is the World, an exhibition that investigates two invisible histories contained within collections here on campus, this course will approach the questions of histories, communities, and collections in two ways. First, in lectures we will survey the history of collecting in Europe and the United States from the eighteenth century up to critical reinterpretations by contemporary artists and consider how collecting was often tied to other endeavors like establishing national institutions, researching human variety, representing colonial expansion, or documenting missionary efforts. Second, in interactive sessions we will meet with curators, librarians, and guest speakers to look at objects first hand and to discuss the relationship between collecting and scholarship. Over the course of the semester we will examine the historical models of knowledge production and audience engendered by collections and their display. Moreover, we will work together to formulate new models of interpretation that address overlooked histories and engage with the current interests of our campus community. [ more ]

    ARTH 243(F)Chemical Intimacies

    This is a research seminar that understands human-chemical entanglement in relationship to environment, sexuality, geography, ecology, and capacity. It doubles as a research class in which students choose a project of chemical intimacy to investigate as their own through the course of the semester. In the first half, we will together read and discuss forms of human-chemical entanglement, whether a matter of industrial pollution, pharmaceutical use, habitual intoxication, gendered self-care or enhancement, or built environment; the goal is to achieve a broad sensibility for the concept as well as a familiarity with thinking biochemically and biopolitically about living bodies, while consistently registering questions of race, gender, class, sexuality, disability, and more. In the second half, each participant will choose and research a historically and geopolitically specific scenario of chemical entanglement, while 1) considering the political, legal, cultural, and labor contexts of the case; 2) exploring relationships between "actual" and "represented" (protest slogans or visual productions in the case of environmental justice activism, for example); 3) examining other research questions germane to their site of interest and their chosen discipline of study. We will take one field trip to a local site. [ more ]

    ARTH 244City, Anti-City, and Utopia: Town Planning from 1500 to 1800

    Last offered Spring 2018

    The Italian Renaissance gave us our modern conception of the ideal city, whose geometrically regular form was both symbol and instrument of a perfectly ordered society. This alluring notion has preoccupied artists and theorists from Michelangelo and Thomas More to Albrecht Dürer and Christopher Wren; it achieved tangible form in such new capitals as St. Petersburg and Washington, D.C. But the West has remained characteristically ambivalent about the city, especially in the United States, an ambivalence reflected in persistent attempts to decentralize the city (Frank Lloyd Wright), to beautify it (the City Beautiful Movement), reshape it (Urban Renewal) or abandon it (suburbanization). This course looks at the roots of those movements, and the development of urban and anti-urban thought from the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution. Topics include Renaissance fortification design, the colonial cities of the New World, the picturesquely landscaped English garden, and the separatist societies that sought to create communal utopias in the wilderness. [ more ]

    ARTH 246Do You See What I See?!

    Last offered Fall 2017

    We are all citizens of global visual culture, subject to a daily assault of images, artifacts, information and experiences. What we see and how we make meaning from it all depends on many variables--who we are, where we are and what we choose to look at. It also depends on what tools we bring to bear. This class is an opportunity to assemble a useful tool kit for the challenging visual environments of the 21st century. Image study will be central as we wander freely in space and time, but the goal is not to master a body of canonical examples. Rather, we will consider different ways of seeing, and practice transferable skills of viewing diverse materials. The approach will be comparative and interrogative; case studies will range from coinage to painting, from advertising to monumental sculpture. Along the way, we will consider what "art" is, what a visual culture is, and how different visual cultures might overlap in the global arena. Students will look, sketch and write throughout the semester, thereby exploring the entire spectrum of visuality from production to reception. [ more ]

    Taught by: TBA

    Catalog details

    ARTH 249(S)Introduction to Visual Cultures of Contact

    This introductory lecture course will survey the visual and material products of European contact with Asia, Oceania, Africa, and the Americas between 1500 and 1900. This period witnessed the establishment and loss of Spanish, English, and French colonies, a proliferation of exploratory voyages, and the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Some of our objects of study will be European in origin from well-known artists including Rubens, Velasquez, Reynolds, and Gauguin. In many cases we will be asking questions about circulation--whether we are looking at Tupi featherwork from Brazil brought to Europe, Flemish prints adapted by artists in Central and South America, or tattoos on the bodies of people traveling to and from Tahiti. Against the backdrop of these context-specific case studies, students will be asked to consider contact, colonialism, exchange, and appropriation more conceptually. [ more ]

    ARTH 253Art in the Age of the Revolution, 1760-1860

    Last offered Fall 2017

    A social history beginning with art of the pre-Revolutionary period and ending with Realism. Major topics include changing definitions of Neoclassicism and Romanticism, the dramatic impact of the revolutions of 1789, 1830, and 1848, the monarchies and republics framing the Napoleonic Empire, the shift from history painting to scenes of everyday life, and landscape painting as an autonomous art form. We will also consider proscriptions and controversies in art-making and representation during this period.The course stresses French artists such as Greuze, Vigée-Lebrun, David, Ingres, Delacroix, Géricault, Corot, and Courbet, but also includes Goya, Constable, Turner, and Friedrich. [ more ]

    ARTH 254(F)Manet to Matisse

    A social history of French painting from 1860 to 1900, beginning with the origins of modernism in the work of Courbet and Manet. Among the topics to be discussed are the rebuilding of Paris under Napoleon III; changing attitudes toward city and country in Impressionist and Symbolist art; the impact of imperialism and international trade; the gendering of public spaces, and the prominent place of women in representations of modern life. The course addresses vanguard movements such as Impressionism and Post-Impressionism and the styles of individual artists associated with them, as well as the work of academic painters. [ more ]

    ARTH 257Architecture 1700-1900

    Last offered Fall 2015

    In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a new conception of architecture arose, based on archaeological discoveries, the development of new building materials, and convulsive social changes. This course looks at the major architectural movements of this period, and the theoretical ideas that shaped them. Topics include Neoclassicism, new building types, Victorian Architecture, the development of the architectural profession, and Art Nouveau. Major architects to be discussed include Piranesi, John Soane, Schinkel, Pugin, and H.H. Richardson. When possible, primary sources will be used. Students will be given experience in reading plans and writing about buildings. [ more ]

    ARTH 259Bilad al-Sudan and Beyond: Arts of the Afro-Islamic World

    Last offered Spring 2017

    From the Swahili stone houses of East Africa to the massive earth and timber mosques of the Sahel, the story of Islam in Africa is one of cultural and spiritual hybridity expressed through material form. In this course, students will explore how artistic forms and traditions in Africa have functioned as vehicles of access and integration for Islam, enabling it to assimilate itself with numerous African contexts towards becoming the dominant religious force on the continent. In addition, students will investigate how the forms, functions, and meanings of Afro-Islamic objects across the continent reflect not just one African Islam, but many different iterations, each shaped by the specific frameworks of its cultural context. The contemporary component of the course will examine how modernity in the form of globalization, technology, and Westernization has affected Afro-Islamic artistic traditions, and how these shifts reflect larger evolutions within understandings of Islam in Africa in the contemporary period. [ more ]

    ARTH 262(F)Modern Architecture

    A century ago, the Modern Movement promised the most sweeping cultural transformation since the Renaissance. Architecture was only one lobe of a comprehensive movement that embraced literature and painting, music and theater, all aspiring to the same radical emancipation from traditional form and structures of authority. What happened? How and why did modern architecture abandon its utopian vision. Students will explored the major developments in Western architecture from 1900 to the present, and become familiar with its major figures: Wright, Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Aalto, Kahn, Venturi, Gehry, Koolhaas, and Hadid. Students will learn a variety of skills: design a 1000-square foot vacation house; present to the class an analysis of a building; and organize a small exhibition of architectural treatises in the Chapin Library. [ more ]

    ARTH 264American Art and Architecture, 1600 to Present

    Last offered Spring 2018

    American art is often looked at as a provincial version of the real thing--i.e., European art--and found wanting. This course examines American architecture, painting, and sculpture on its own terms, in the light of the social, ideological and economic forces that shaped it. Special attention will be paid to such themes as the Puritan legacy and attitudes toward art; the making of art in a commercial society; and the tension between the ideal and the real in American works of art. [ more ]

    ARTH 265Pop Art

    Last offered Spring 2013

    The use of commercial and mass media imagery in art became recognized as an international phenomenon in the early 1960s. Items such as comic strips, advertising, movie stills, television programs, soup cans, "superstars" and a variety of other accessible and commonplace objects inspired the subject matter, form and technique. This course will critically examine the history and legacy of Pop Art by focusing on its social and aesthetic contexts. An important component of the course involves developing skills in analyzing visual images, comparing them with other forms, and relating them to their historical context. [ more ]

    ARTH 270(S)Visual Arts of Japan

    This course is a survey of traditional Japanese painting, sculpture, architecture, woodblock prints, and decorative arts. Special attention will be paid to the developments in artistic style and subject matter in the contexts of contemporary cultural phenomena. Through visual analysis students learn the aesthetic, religious, and political ideals and cultural meanings conveyed in the works of art. Course highlights include the transmission of Buddhism and its art to Japan; Zen Buddhism and its art (dry gardens; temples; and tea ceremony related art forms) in the context of samurai culture; the sex industry and kabuki theater, their art, and censorship; and the Western influences on Japanese art and culture and vice versa, (Japanese woodblock prints' impact on Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, for example). [ more ]

    ARTH 272(S)Art of the Noble Path: Buddhist Material Culture Across Asia

    Buddhism has spread throughout Asia and beyond since its emergence in India in the 5th century BCE, providing a shared philosophical and cosmological framework for diverse cultures. Artistic expression, regional politics and cultural landscapes have been shaped by its remarkable influence. With patrons ranging from powerful monarchs and monks to merchants and tradespeople, Buddhist art has historically reflected the religion¿s social inclusivity. This course will survey the architecture, painting and material culture of Buddhism in Asia, tracing its influence in diverse media, from rock-cut architecture to Zen painting. A close reading of primary texts, such as architectural inscriptions in India, manuscripts from Tibet, and travelogues of Chinese pilgrims, will provide greater context for the artworks. [ more ]

    Taught by: TBA

    Catalog details

    ARTH 273(S)The Arts of the Book in Asia

    From palm leaf manuscripts to scrolls to Islamic codices, books have long served as vehicles of religious, cultural and artistic exchange in Asia. Owing both to their portability and status as finely crafted art objects, books have transmitted ideas across the continent, spreading courtly styles of painting from China to India, esoteric Buddhist teachings from Kashmir to Tibet and Mongolia, as well as the Quranic arts of calligraphy and illumination from Islamic South Asia to Southeast Asia. This course will survey the interwoven history of book arts as it developed and disseminated across different regions of Asia. The course will also introduce students to the major art forms of the book, such as painting, calligraphy and illumination. The aim of the survey is to understand the book as object while also investigating its content and its larger cultural significance. A number of class meetings will take place in the Williams College Museum of Art where students will have the opportunity to study original artworks from the collection. [ more ]

    ARTH 274(S)Chinese Calligraphy: Theory and Practice

    Beginning in the fourth century, Chinese calligraphy has remained one of the highest art forms in China and in East Asia generally, practiced by the literati, or highly erudite scholars. This course has two components: art history and studio practice. The first offers students an opportunity to acquire an understanding of theoretical and aesthetic principles of Chinese calligraphy. It also examines the religious, social, and political functions of Chinese calligraphy in ancient and contemporary China. Students will also have an opportunity to investigate contemporary artists, both Eastern and Western, whose works are either inspired or influenced by Chinese calligraphy, and those whose works are akin to Chinese calligraphy in their abstraction. Studio practice allows students to apply theories to creating beautiful writing, or calligraphy (from Greek kallos "beauty" + graphe "writing"). This course can be taken as an Art History, a Studio Art, or Asian Studies course. [ more ]

    Taught by: TBA

    Catalog details

    ARTH 278The Golden Road to Samarqand

    Last offered Fall 2016

    The region stretching from present day Iran to India figures prominently in contemporary global culture but it also has a rich and complex history--an amalgamation of Persian, Turkish and Islamic influences. Home to Genghis Khan and Timur (Tamerlane), Akbar the Great and Shah Jahan, it has generated some of the most renowned monuments (e.g. the Taj Mahal and the blue tiled mosques of Isfahan) and refined manuscript painting ever known. We will cover a broad swath of time--from the 10th to the 20th century--concentrating on important centers of artistic production such as Timurid Central Asia and Mughal India. Students will have the opportunity to study original works of art in the college museum collections. [ more ]

    ARTH 281(S)The Seeds of Divinity: Exploring Precolumbian Art & Civilization in a Museum Exhibit

    For all ancient civilizations, the gods were a powerful force, affecting all aspects of human lives and dominating ancient art. This course will explore concepts of divinity in five civilizations in Precolumbian Central America: Aztec, Maya, Zapotec, Teotihuacan, and Nayarit. The course examines how the broad concept of divinity is materialized in everyday life. We will query how the human body is used as the prism through which concepts about humanity, the human soul and the supernatural are perceived and depicted in the art of these civilizations. This is a project based course, and each student will study one or more art objects from these five civilizations, and consider how these objects could be presented in a museum exhibit. [ more ]

    ARTH 284(F)The Postwar Avant-Gardes

    Artistic discourse in the Western hemisphere dramatically changed course in the wake of the Second World War. The mass trauma inflicted by the war prompted artists and critics throughout the region to reassess the role and potential of art in society. But the war's displacement of communities also displaced the centers for artistic activity, and avant-garde practices soon expanded vigorously throughout the Americas. Through comparative studies, this course will analyze the artistic avant-gardes that emerged simultaneously in the United States and Latin America after 1945. We will place these myriad practices in dialogue, to elucidate the complexity, richness, and vitality of artistic practices in the postwar era. [ more ]

    ARTH 286(F)Japanese Popular Visual Culture

    The phrase "Japanese popular culture" often calls to mind comics and animation, but Japan's earliest visual pop culture dates back to the 17th century and the development of arts like kabuki theater and woodblock prints that could be produced for a mass audience. This course traces Japanese popular culture through a range of visual media: kabuki and puppet theater, premodern and postmodern visual art (ukiyoe, Superflat), classic film (Ozu, Mizoguchi, Kurosawa), manga/comics (Tezuka, Otomo, Okazaki), and animation (Oshii, Miyazaki, Kon). We will focus on developing visual reading skills to come up with original interpretations of these works, and on comparing different media to make them shed light on one another. [ more ]

    ARTH 301(F, S)Methods of Art History

    This course on the methods and historiography of art history offers art-history majors an overview of the discipline since the late 18th century. The course surveys influential definitions of the discipline, the evolving tasks it has set itself, and the methods it has developed for implementing and executing them. Works of art will inevitably enter into our discussions, but the main objects of study will be texts about art as well as texts about methods for an historical study of art. Topics include: style and periodization; iconography, narratology, and phenomenology; the social functions of images and the social history of art; art and the material world; art, gender, and sexuality; and art as a global phenomenon. [ more ]

    ARTH 303(S)Museums: History and Practice

    Art museums not only express the political, economic and cultural values of their period of formation, but the evolution of those values that result in the institutions of our time. The seminar will examine museums past, present and future looking at governance and administration practices, architecture and installation, accessioning/deaccessioning policies, and cultural property issues. It will also consider current trends in exhibition, public education and other programming in both "encyclopedic" and contemporary arts institutions. Class discussions will have a special focus on how museums strive to balance their scholarly and artistic roles with their civic and social responsibilities while maintaining financial stability in the increasingly market-driven, metric-conscious, not-for-profit environment of our time. [ more ]

    ARTH 308 T(S)African Art and the Western Museum

    This tutorial provides a focused study of the issues associated with the exhibition of African objects within Western institutions from the formative period of the practice in the early 19th century to the modern era. Covering topics ranging from early collection and display methodologies to exhibition-based practice in the contemporary digital era, this tutorial will provide an opportunity for robust discussion about the interactions that have occurred between the arts of Africa and the Western museum over the lengthy history of their engagement. Students will investigate the nature of the cross-cultural dialogues taking place and the politics of display at work in regional museum spaces that display African art towards fleshing out how exhibitions function through the strategic organization and display of objects. In other words, students will explore how the dialogues created between objects and individuals often speak to the voices and agendas that collide, collaborate, and even compete with each other within the environment of the museum. [ more ]

    ARTH 310An American Family and "Reality" Television

    Last offered Spring 2016

    An American Family was a popular documentary series that featured the Loud family from Santa Barbara, California, whose everyday lives were broadcast on national television. The series generated an enormous amount of media attention, commentary, and controversy when it premiered on PBS in 1973. Today, it is regarded as the origin of so-called "Reality TV." In addition to challenging standard rules for television programming, the show challenged social conventions and asked viewers to think seriously about family relations, sexuality, domesticity, and the "American dream." Documenting the family's life over the course of eight months, the series chronicled the dissolution of the Louds' marriage and broadcast the "coming out" of eldest son Lance Loud, the first star of reality television. In this class, we will view the An American Family series in its entirety, research the program's historical reception, and analyze its influence on broadcast and film media, particularly on "reality" television. A final 16- to 20-page research paper will be prepared in stages, including a 6- to 8-page midterm essay that will be revised and expanded over the course of the semester. [ more ]

    ARTH 327Acquiring Art: Selecting and Purchasing Objects For WCMA

    Last offered Fall 2017

    How do museums acquire art? Factors considered in selecting objects include: the museum's existing collection, its mission, the availability of suitable objects, evaluation of the art historical importance of potential purchases, and the available budget. How can objects be identified and obtained at the most reasonable cost? How do auctions work and what strategies are best for purchasing works at auction? Is it more economical to purchase art at auction or to work with dealers or (for contemporary works) directly with artists? Do museums consider value in the same way as private collectors? What role does an object's history and condition play in the evaluation process? In this course students will work as teams to identify and propose objects for addition to the collection of the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA). A significant budget will be made available for the acquisition. We will discuss approaches for identification, acquisition and evaluation of objects. Student teams will be responsible for identifying a set of objects that would make appropriate additions to the WCMA collection, and a strategy for acquiring one or more of those objects. Working with the advice of WCMA curatorial staff, one or more of these objects will be acquired using the agreed strategy, and the object will become part of the WCMA permanent collection. Graduate students will participate in all aspects of the class but may be required to undertake different assignments. [ more ]

    ARTH 330 TMichelangelo: Biography, Mythology, and the History of Art

    Last offered Spring 2017

    One might argue that Michelangelo's enduring fame, and his preeminence in the European art historical canon, is as much a product of his artistic persona as his artistic achievement. Indeed, the classic image of the artist as a brooding, tortured genius of unstoppable creative force finds its roots in the Italian Renaissance, and specifically in the fascinating biography--and mythology--of Michelangelo. With a life and career more fully documented than those of any western artist to precede him, Michelangelo provides the foundations for a triangulation of person-persona-artistic production that has a modern ring. But what are the limits of our knowledge, and what are the boundaries of interpretation? And how might we approach the study of an artistic self when that self is, also, a work of art? In this course, students will become well-acquainted with the life and work of Michelangelo, giving critical attention to the connection between the artist and his work. We will investigate, in particular, the practice of interpreting his work according to his philosophical outlook, political convictions, religious beliefs, sexual desire, and more. While this course will bring us deep into the life and work of a single artist, one of its goals is to generate ideas about the very act of biographically-based art historical interpretation. How can thinking carefully about Michelangelo reshape our own thinking about art historical practice? [ more ]

    ARTH 335(S)Uncovering Williams

    Sparked by current controversies around visual representations at Williams, this course--a joint effort of the Williams College Museum of Art and the American Studies Program--interrogates the history of the college and its relationship to land, people, architecture, and artifacts. Students in this course will examine the visual and material culture of Williams and the land it occupies to uncover how the long and complex history of the college reverberates in the spaces and places students, faculty, and staff traverse daily. We take seriously that objects and environments are not neutral nor are the atmospheres that they reflect and produce. Our interdisciplinary approach draws from the methods and theories of American studies, art history, material culture studies, critical race theory, gender studies, and eco-criticism. Topics of discussion may include: the foundation of the college and displacement of native populations; buildings, objects, and monuments linked to Williams' evangelical history and the role of missionaries in American imperialism; the symbolic meaning of the varied architectural styles at the college; and the visibility/invisibility of the college's relationship to slavery and Abolitionism. [ more ]

    Taught by: Kevin Murphy, Dorothy Wang

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    ARTH 337Visual Politics

    Last offered Spring 2018

    Even casual observers know that appearances matter politically and that the saturation of politics by visual technologies, media, and images has reached unprecedented levels. Yet the visual dimensions of political life are at best peripheral topics in contemporary political science and political theory. This seminar explores how our understanding of politics and political theory might change if visuality were made central to our inquiries. Treating the visual as a site of power and struggle, order and change, we will examine not only how political institutions and conflicts shape what images people see and how they make sense of them but also how the political field itself is visually constructed. Through these explorations, which will consider a wide variety of visual artifacts and practices (from 17th century paintings to techniques of surveillance), we will also take up fundamental theoretical questions about the place of the senses in political life. Readings may include excerpts from ancient and modern theorists, but our primary focus will be contemporary and will bring political theory into conversation with other fields, particularly art history and visual studies but also film and media studies, psychoanalysis, affect theory, and cognitive science. Possible authors include Arendt, Bal, Barthes, Belting, Benjamin, Browne, Buck-Morss, Butler, Clark, Connolly, Deleuze, Didi-Huberman, Fanon, Foucault, Freedberg, Garland-Thompson, Harriman and Lucaites, Hobbes, Machiavelli, Kittler, Mercer, Mitchell, Mulvey, Noë, Plato, Rancière, Warburg, and Zeki. [ more ]

    ARTH 348(S)Women, Men and Other Animals

    In this seminar, we will together learn to be "animal critics." We will explore ways in which human groups and interests, particularly in the United States, have both attached and divorced themselves from other animals, considering such axes as gender, race, ability, and sexuality as key definitional foils for human engagements with animality. What are the "uses" of "animals" for "us," and precisely who is this "us"? How and when are some willing to see themselves as animal--indeed, under what political conditions do they embrace it? What is the history of unique, often asymmetric, interdependencies between human animals and nonhuman animals? How do actual lives of humans and non-human animals merge and clash with the rhetorics and visualities of human animality? We will examine both "everyday" animality and the forms of animality that stand out only today in retrospect, in their exceptionality, or upon reflecting on structures of privilege. We will build a critical animal studies vocabulary from a range of readings in science, philosophy, art, feminism, indigenous studies, critical race, geography, fiction, film, rhetoric, history, activist movements, disability studies, postcolonial studies, and examine both visual and narrative cultural production. [ more ]

    ARTH 358Latina/o Installation and Site-Specific Art

    Last offered Spring 2018

    This course will explore the various forms of installation and site-specific artworks created by Latina/o artists for both museums and public space. We will examine the ways in which Latina/o artists have used space as a material in the production of artworks and how this impacts the works' meanings and the viewer's experience. Within the context of U.S. Latina/o culture and history, we will connect notions of space with ideas about cultural citizenship, civil rights, and social justice. A variety of art forms will be studied, from traditional to experimental, including murals, sculpture, performance, video, and several multimedia, interactive, or participatory projects. While establishing a historical lineage and theoretical frameworks for analyzing this growing genre, we will pay particular attention to how these works engage urban space and often challenge the institutional assumptions of museums and curatorial practice. Likewise, we will examine the important debates associated with various public art and museum installation controversies. [ more ]

    ARTH 361 T(F)Writing about Bodies

    The goal is to think about describing bodies from a variety of disciplinary approaches and genres of writing. Its focus is on living bodies, or bodies that were once alive, with an emphasis on bodies that move i.e., performing bodies--actors, dancers, singers--and what makes them unique. We will also consider objects associated with bodies, and the ways they are animated, including how they are animated when the person who had them dies. The course is meant for juniors, seniors, and graduate students who wish to analyze bodies from different disciplinary formations--art, theatre, literature, anthropology, philosophy--and who have a particular interest in writing. We will read scholarly writing, fiction, New Yorker profiles, as well as memoir/autobiography, and take each as a model through which to write about a person or an object redolent of a person. Among possible readings: Roland Barthes on cultural theory and representation; Claudia Rankine and Robin Coste Lewis on black bodies; Tamar Garb on portraiture; Elaine Scarry on the body in pain; Joan Acocella, Hilton Als, Judith Thurman and other writers on the arts; Judith Butler and Peggy Phelan on the performative body; Marvin Carlson and Terry Castle on haunting; and Bill Brown and Mark Doty on things. In addition to readings, assignments include performances at the '62 Center and works on view at WCMA, as well as selected tapes of live performances as well as films and selected tapes of live performances. [ more ]

    ARTH 367Documentary Fictions

    Last offered Spring 2017

    Documentary Fictions investigates the history of reality-based film and video. Using readings drawn from cultural studies, film history and literary theory, we will consider films ranging from Nanook of the North through Grizzly Man and Citizenfour. How do contemporary technologies of representation (medical imaging, FaceTime, video surveillance) inflect our sense of the world, and of ourselves? [ more ]

    ARTH 376(S)Zen Buddhist Visual Culture: The Path to Nirvana

    This course is about the ways in which images are produced, viewed, and used in the Zen Buddhist tradition. It explores the various ways in which visual culture is a key part of Zen Buddhist teaching in China and Japan. In this class we will look at both high art and popular expressions of Zen Buddhist visual culture. Topics of interest include: 1) Buddhist image making and icon worship; 2) Gardens; 3) tearooms, tea ceremony and tea bowls; 4) The Zen temples Ryoan-ji, Daisen-in, and Daitoku-ji; 5) The political function of Zen and its art in Japan's samurai culture; 6) The popular Zen Buddhist cult of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara and his gender transformation; and 7) Daruma (Bodhidharma) imagery in popular culture. This course is a CRAAS (critical reasoning and analytical skills) course. The class format also offers students opportunities to practice public speaking and writing skills. [ more ]

    Taught by: TBA

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    ARTH 400(S)Clark Visiting Professor Seminar: Ethics of Abstraction

    The course will interrogate abstraction as a strategy in 20th and 21st century art around the globe, and its manifold implications for political projects of being, seeing, and knowing together. We will look at how various artists turn to non-representation as a means for thinking differently about issues as divergent as flatness, vision, progress, decay, identity, violence, solidarity, negation, and protest. How might we read acts of judgment performed by abstract artists, i.e., separating what is alien from that which is intrinsic, as ethically activated? How do we account for the ways abstraction has figured centrally not only in modernist art histories, but also in economic and political theories (as in the abstraction of use into exchange value)? How, too, have representation and figuration (as ostensible opposites of abstraction) been positioned as ethical tactics? We will take an object-oriented approach that foregrounds the complexity of movement between "thing" and abstract "effect," examining divergent valences from postwar abstract painting up to contemporary abstraction as it supports coded meanings, eccentricities, and alternative (feminist, queer, marginal, racialized) formations. [ more ]

    Taught by: Julia Bryan-Wilson

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    ARTH 400(F)Clark Visiting Professor Seminar: Handicraft and Contemporary Art

    This seminar examines the resurgence of craft within contemporary art and theory. In a time when much art is outsourced--or fabricated by large stables of assistants--what does it mean when artists return to traditional, and traditionally laborious, methods of handiwork such as knitting, jewelry making, or woodworking? Though our emphasis will be on recent art (including the feminist reclamation of quilts, an artist who makes pornographic embroidery, a transvestite potter, queer fiber collectives, do-it-yourself environmental interventions, and anti-war craftivism), we will also examine important historical precedents. We will read formative theoretical texts regarding questions of process, materiality, skill, bodily effort, domestic labor, and alternative economies of production. Throughout, we will think through how craft is in dialogue with questions of nation-building, gendered work, and mass manufacturing. The seminar is centered around student-led discussion of our critical readings and culminates with final research projects. [ more ]

    Taught by: Julia Bryan-Wilson

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    ARTH 404(F)The Enemies of Impressionism, 1870-1900

    This class explores European and international painting and sculpture of the last quarter of the nineteenth-century, particularly the work of artists once famous in their day but whose reputations collapsed with the rise of Impressionism and Modernism. Once dismissed as trivializing, sensationalizing, politically suspect, kitsch, and simply "bad"-- much of this art has attracted new attention and enthusiasm in recent year. Focus on aesthetic theory, narrative, cinema, and -- most of all -- viewer experience. Artists include Gérôme, Bouguereau, Alma-Tadema, and many others. [ more ]

    ARTH 405Seminar in Architectural Criticism

    Last offered Fall 2017

    How does one judge a building? According to its structural efficiency or its aesthetic qualities? Its social responsibility--or just its pizzazz? Depending on the building, and the critic, any of these questions might be pertinent, or impertinent. This seminar explores architectural criticism, that curious genre between literature and architecture, and looks at its history, nature and function. We will read and discuss classic reviews by historical and contemporary critics as John Ruskin, Mariana van Rensselaer, Lewis Mumford, Ada Louise Huxtable and Herbert Muschamp. Insights gained from these discussions will be applied by students to writing their own reviews, which will likewise be discussed in class. Early assignments will concentrate on mechanics: how to describe a building vividly and accurately, how to balance description and interpretation judiciously, how to compare. Subsequent ones will be more synthetic, encouraging students to write bold, lively and critical essays. The ultimate goal is to develop a distinctive and effective voice, and to gain a better understanding of the nature of criticism in general. [ more ]

    ARTH 408(F)Modernism in Brazil

    "Modernism" in art: when we think about it, we may not readily think of Brazil. But Brazil was in fact a vibrant battleground of ideas around what it was to be innovative, modern, and avant-garde. Between 1920 and 1945, artists, poets, and critics in the metropolises of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro actively debated on the creation, and potential, of a uniquely Brazilian modernist aesthetic that would stand on par with the European avant-gardes. But what did "Brazilianness" mean to these intellectuals? What role did gender and race relations--indigeneity in particular--play in the construction of this aesthetic? How did the necessities and demands of the national context shape these modernist practices? This seminar will take a deep dive in this fascinatingly contradictory moment in Brazil, a chapter that would become a fundamental reference to Brazilian artists in the 1960s and even to this day. In addition to detailed analyses of artworks, we will read manifestos, novels, and criticism from this period, and the most up to date secondary interpretive texts. [ more ]

    ARTH 412(S)The Politics of Aesthetics: Collaboration and Participation in Contemporary Art

    The social turn is a hallmark of contemporary art, as artists since the 1960s turned from the art object toward dynamic exchanges with the public, from sole author to collaborative engagement. This seminar provides a theoretical framework to historicize as well as to critically analyze the promise and pitfalls of collaborative works, of favoring active participants over passive spectators, and of the meteoric rise of what is now commonly known as "social practice" art. A wide range of case studies from around the world will also allow us to delve into the intersections and productive tensions between aesthetics and politics, or between art and life. [ more ]

    ARTH 419Going to Ground: Considering Earth in the Arts of Africa

    Last offered Fall 2015

    Drawing its inspiration from the landmark exhibition Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa (National Museum of African Art, 2013), this seminar explores how earth has been conceptualized and integrated into African artistic thought as material, metaphor, geography, environment, and intervention, and how this interpretive flexibility has allowed it to become a symbol of power and presence in African art-making from prehistory to the present. The seminar will also focus on the ways in which earth has been used in contemporary art towards addressing the growing problems of pollution, unsustainable development, and the widespread depletion of earth-based natural resources in Africa. Over the course of this seminar, students will develop a knowledge base of earth-related issues that have been addressed in African artistic production, and engage with various cross-disciplinary methodologies to critically analyze the conceptual and aesthetic strategies deployed in these works. Students will also have the opportunity to interact with specialists from diverse disciplines and fields towards fleshing out their knowledge base. [ more ]

    ARTH 420(S)Architecture and Sustainability in a Global World

    What does it mean to create a sustainable built environment? What do such environments look like? Do they look the same for different people across different times and spaces? This course takes these questions as starting points in exploring the concept of architectural sustainability, defined as "minimizing the negative impact of built form on the surrounding landscape," and how this concept can be interpreted not only from an environmental point of view, but from cultural, political, and social perspectives as well. Over the course of the class, students will explore different conceptualizations of sustainability and how these conceptualizations take form in built environments in response to the cultural identities, political agendas, social norms, gender roles, and religious values circulating in society at any given moment. Students will also travel to South Africa during Spring Break to participate in a township sustainability project. In recognizing the relationship between the way things are constructed (technique of assembly, technology, materials, process) and the deeper meanings behind the structural languages deployed, students will come to understand sustainability as a fundamentally context-specific ideal, and its manifestation within the architectural environment as a mode of producing dialogues about the anticipated futures of both cultural and architectural worlds. [ more ]

    ARTH 422(S)Art, Architecture, and Poetry: Islamic Devotional Culture in South Asia

    How have scholars interpreted and classified terms such as "Islamic art" and "Muslim culture," and how have these classifications affected the interpretation of the arts in South Asia? There are different points of view regarding what constitutes as "Islamic" art and culture. Is an imperial wine cup with "God is Great" inscribed on it an "Islamic" object? How is an erotic epic narrating the romance of a Hindu prince understood as embodying the principles of Muslim devotion? This interdisciplinary seminar, focusing on South Asian Muslim devotional culture as articulated through the material culture, the arts of the book, architecture, and poetry, will navigate these questions from two perspectives. The first is to understand how Muslim devotional cultural expression in South Asia circumscribes and interprets itself. The second viewpoint is that of scholarship and the various interpretive voices that have framed the field over the last century. [ more ]

    ARTH 430(F)Aesthetics and Human Variety: European Representations of Oceania

    Using European representations of the inhabitants of Oceania as the primary materials of our investigation, this seminar will explore the connections to be made among theories of beauty, practices of art making, and the construction of race as a scientific concept in the second half of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century. In Europe, this was a period that gave rise to aesthetics as a branch of philosophy, to several theories of the origins of human difference, to debates over the abolition of slavery, and to no fewer than fifteen expeditions to the Pacific Ocean. This course will investigate the crucial role that pictures played in all of these developments. Though students will not be required to write their research papers on pictures of Oceania, they should consider the central questions of the course: What purposes do the various conceptions of race serve? What are the aesthetic assumptions made by theorists of race? How do models of making art influence European ideas about foreigners? How do the pictures of foreign peoples impact the construction of race? [ more ]

    ARTH 433Michelangelo: Biography, Mythology, and the History of Art

    Last offered Spring 2016

    One might argue that Michelangelo's enduring fame, and his preeminence in the European art historical canon, is as much a product of his artistic persona as his artistic achievement. Indeed, the classic image of the artist as a brooding, tortured genius of unstoppable creative force finds its roots in the Italian Renaissance, and specifically in the fascinating biography--and mythology--of Michelangelo. With a life and career more fully documented than those of any western artist to precede him, Michelangelo provides the foundations for a triangulation of person-persona-artistic production that has a modern . But what are the limits of our knowledge, or the boundaries of interpretation? How might we approach the study of an artistic self when that self is, also, a work of art? In this course, students will become well-acquainted with the life and work of Michelangelo, giving critical attention to the connection between the man and his work. We will investigate, in particular, the practice of interpreting his work according to his philosophical outlook, political convictions, religious beliefs, sexual desire, and more. While this course will bring us deep into the life and work of a single artist, one of its goals is to generate ideas about the very act of biographically-based art historical interpretation. How can thinking carefully about Michelangelo reshape our own thinking about art historical practice? [ more ]

    ARTH 435(F)The Medieval Object

    After years of focusing on theory, scholars of medieval art have returned to an examination of physical objects. Distinctly strange and even monstrous, such small material things as reliquaries, liturgical vessels, game pieces, and textiles transgress the traditional categories of art, some made from precious materials and others of such base substances as bones and dirt. Even books were treated as tangible things, not only to be read as texts, but also to be looked at, paraded, and displayed with the Eucharist. Collected in church treasuries during the Middle Ages, exchanged, and reconfigured, medieval objects served simultaneously as earthly assets and spiritual investments. The seminar will focus on the making, function, and collecting of medieval objects. Each student will participate in weekly discussions stimulated by the instructor's presentations and selected readings. Students will also conduct research on an object available for study, will present an analysis of it for discussion by the class, and submit a 15- to 20-page term paper taking into account any comments and criticisms. [ more ]

    Taught by: Herbert Kessler

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    ARTH 438Ambrotypes to Instagram: Photography and the Human Portrait

    Last offered Spring 2018

    "A portrait! What could be more simple and more complex, more obvious and more profound?" exclaimed the nineteenth-century poet and critic Charles Baudelaire. With the invention of photography in the first half of the nineteenth century and with the digital revolution of the twentieth, portraiture arguably became more simple and more complex, more obvious and more profound. In this seminar, we will explore this complicated and fascinating history. Photographic portraits are fine art and vernacular culture. They serve private and public functions. They help to fashion the self and construct group identity. They disguise and disclose the truth. In the classroom, galleries, and archives, we will investigate the problems of likeness and semblance, veracity and credibility. We will delve into the conflict between representations of individuals and representations of types, and we will attend to the complicated, sometimes fraught, relationship between photographer and subject, even when they are one and the same. [ more ]

    ARTH 440(F)Contemporary Exhibitions: Los Angeles and Latin America

    This seminar examines connections between Latina/o and Latin American art through a series of recent exhibitions organized as part of a Getty initiative entitled Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA that opened in 2017. While the chronological span for the overall project reaches from Pre-Colombian art to present, we will focus on modern and contemporary art after the 1960s and consider key themes of art and activism, borders and diaspora, globalism and modernism, and popular culture and science fiction in the visual arts. Diverse in scope, these shows explored important developments in the arts of the Americas from the late-20th and 21st centuries, including, abstraction, Chicano muralism, Conceptual art, craft, feminist art, Kinetic art, Modernist design and architecture, social practice, and queer activism. Students will pursue individual research projects directly related to the art exhibitions we study, and examine photography, performance, painting, sculpture (including installation and participatory art), and video by artists both canonical and lesser known. Student projects will analyze the critical responses to the exhibitions while also exploring the roles of archives, art criticism, and curatorial practice in contemporary art history. [ more ]

    ARTH 442(F)Richardson, Sullivan, Wright: The Roots of American Modernism

    Should a building express the facts of its program and materials--directly and without sentimentality? Or should a building be a physical manifestation of the personality and ego of its creator? These demands--one of radical objectivity, and one of radical subjectivity--seem to be mutually exclusive, yet together they form the basis for modern architecture at the start of the 20th century. The architectural lineage of Louis Sullivan, H. H. Richardson, and Frank Lloyd Wright is distinguished by the high degree of tension between the competing demands of factuality and selfhood. This seminar explores the theoretical roots of their architecture, its philosophical sources in transcendentalism, Unitarianism, German romanticism; and treating such aspects as decorative arts, architectural education and theory, and architectural autobiography. [ more ]

    ARTH 451Ideal Bodies: The Modern Nude and Its Dilemmas

    Last offered Spring 2014

    Since the nineteenth century, the female nude has been so dominant that the very term "nude" has come to stand for the female body. This course looks at both male and female nudes from the time of the French revolution to the present in order to order how and why this gendering occurred. We will explore the ways in which certain types of bodies have been defined in opposition to the white western ideal, and thereby exoticized and marginalized. Our prime focus is the work of David, Ingres, Courbet, Gericault, Manet and Renoir but more popular nineteenth-century images as well as selected works by artists working in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries will be discussed. [ more ]

    ARTH 462Art of California: Pacific Standard Time

    Last offered Fall 2017

    In this course, we will study the visual arts and culture of California after 1960 and consider the region's place in modern art history. We will focus on a series of recent exhibitions organized as part of a Getty initiative entitled Pacific Standard Time. Diverse in scope, these shows explored important developments in postwar art in California, including feminist art, African American assemblage, Chicano collectives, Modernist architecture, craft, and queer activism. In this seminar, we will pursue research projects directly related to the art exhibitions we study, and examine southern California conceptualism, photography, performance, painting, sculpture (including assemblage and installation), and video by artists both canonical and lesser known. Student projects will analyze the critical responses to the exhibitions, while also exploring the roles of archives, art criticism, and curatorial practice in contemporary art history. In fall 2017, a new Getty PST initiative focused on Latin American and Latino art will commence and this class will consider these exhibitions as well. [ more ]

    ARTH 466(S)Hellenistic Art and the Beginning of Art History

    In the wake of Alexander the Great's extension of the borders of the classical world all the way to the banks of the Indus River in the fourth century BCE, the small city-states of the Greek peninsula were replaced by far flung kingdoms as important centers of power and culture. Vastly increased trade and the movement of individuals between Greece, Egypt, and the Near and Middle East encouraged a new internationalism marked by a cross-cultural hybridization of religion, and innovations in philosophy, medicine, literature and art. This cosmopolitan attitude brought about a revolution in artistic ideas and forms centered on the social and ethnic diversity of human experience. Royal patrons, and wealthy private citizens including an increasing number of women, commissioned artworks for cities, sanctuaries, tombs, palaces, and estates on a scale rarely seen before. With the rise of Rome in the west, plundered artworks of earlier periods soon became the desired objects of wealthy collectors, and commissions in the Hellenistic style continued well into the Roman period. In this course we'll look closely at influential works of art in bronze, marble, fresco, and mosaic, and consider their archaeological, social and political contexts. We'll discuss the changing status of artists as patronage shifts to include the private as well as the public realm, and research the broader philosophical, religious, literary and cultural forces that encouraged artistic innovations of the fourth century BCE through first century CE. Reading material includes ancient literature in translation, recent surveys of Hellenistic art, and recent critical essays. [ more ]

    ARTH 468(S)Practicum in Curating: Visual Art for a Garden

    This course aims to develop the wide range of skills needed to realize an art exhibition in a botanical garden (specifically Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota where the instructor is Curator at Large. The course responds to her charge to exhibit artists with 100% name recognition for the first five years of Selby's new "Living Museum" initiative which puts works of art in dialogue with botanicals. In the wake of shows devoted to Marc Chagall (2017), Andy Warhol (2018) and Paul Gauguin (forthcoming, 2019), each student will research and choose a non-male and/or non-white artist of some renown and construct an exhibition of works that might be possible to borrow. Course work includes 1) research on the artist and the concept, the focal works of art, auxiliary objects that do not require climate control (e.g. photographs and other works on paper), social history and other methodological frameworks 2) writing requests e.g., loans, rights; and 3) preparations for several of the following: press release, wall texts, wall labels, audio guide, and programming for the exhibition. The final project includes a 10-page synthetic research paper, written for a general audience, about the artist and their use of flowers as well as the projected installation of the climate-controlled gallery. Students may have the opportunity to participate in a WSP in situ in which they will experience all sectors of the museum, glass house, and gardens. [ more ]

    Taught by: TBA

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    ARTH 470Image-making, Orientalism and Visual Culture

    Last offered Spring 2017

    Images enjoy extraordinary power in the spaces between self and other, human and divine. They play myriad roles--witness, surrogate, instigator, supplicant--and travel freely across political, religious and cultural boundaries. This course is about three regions--United States, France and the Persian sphere--and the images that mediate and document their interactions. Along the way, we will address important issues like iconoclasm and aniconism, common types like veiled women and pious men, and asymmetrical relationships like Orientalism. The peculiar nature of portraiture will be a prominent theme. [ more ]

    ARTH 472Timelines

    Last offered Spring 2018

    Art is really time-consuming to make, to view, to use, to understand. We enshrine it, exhibit it, excavate it and, particularly since the 19th century, we have concocted increasingly elaborate narratives around revered artifacts. We even think we control these many fabled things, but then they have the temerity to outlive us and outsmart us, meddling in the spaces between self and other, human and divine, now and then. The experience can be traumatizing. This course is an opportunity to explore how images are tangled up with time. We will begin in the 19th century, when commonplace notions of past and present wobbled seriously with the invention of photography and the avid pursuit of archaeology. From that pivot point, we will operate transnationally and anachronistically, with particular reference to the Middle East, the birthplace of monotheism and idol anxiety. There will be no single timeline, but rather a series of case studies, ranging from iconic paintings and sacred spaces to calendar art and photojournalism. Ultimately, we must ask, can art ever be fixed in time or will it always be an unruly presence in our lives? [ more ]

    ARTH 474Brazilian Art in the 20th Century: Aesthetics, Internationalism, Utopia

    Last offered Spring 2018

    In 1924 the modernist poet Oswald de Andrade radically called for Brazilians to engage in cultural "anthropophagy"--to cannibalize from European modernist ideas and synthesize these with local aesthetic and cultural values. Toward the mid-20th century, the narrative of Brazilian art was marked by the desire on part of artists and intellectuals to problematize its place in Latin America, and vis-à-vis the European avant-gardes. They did so with a strong utopian perspective, developing aesthetic strategies to confront and transcend Brazil's underdevelopment. Yet ideas around nationalism, internationalism, and utopia shifted dramatically when a military dictatorship came to power between 1964 and 1985. How did artists and intellectuals rethink the role of aesthetics in such critical sociopolitical conditions? How did these terms shift again after Brazil returned to democracy, and soon aggressively entered an increasingly globalized economic system? Our seminar will delve into these complex relationships for a comprehensive understanding of the development of modern and contemporary Brazilian art. This is a Writing Intensive course, and there are no prerequisites to enroll. [ more ]

    ARTH 494(S)Thesis Seminar

    To graduate with honors in art history, students are to enroll in the Senior Honors Seminar during the Spring semester of their senior year, where they will develop an original research paper based on prior research. Under the guidance of the instructor, students will present and defend their own work in both written and oral form, as well as respond to, and critique, the work of their peers. As students work toward transforming their existing paper into an honors' thesis, they will also be trained in skills necessary to analyze an argument effectively, and strategies of constructive critique. [ more ]

    ARTH 502History, Theory, and Techniques of Printmaking

    Last offered Spring 2016

    This course will consider the history of prints in Europe and America from the fifteenth century through the 1920s. Focusing primarily on the holdings of the Clark, classes will be held in the new Manton Study Center for Works on Paper where students will view original works of art. Equal emphasis will be placed on primary literature, theoretical texts, and a careful understanding of printmaking processes. Media to be investigated include, among others, 15th-century woodcuts by Albrecht Dürer, drypoints by Rembrandt van Rijn, engravings by Philibert-Louis Debucourt, aquatints by Francesco Goya, lithographs by Édouard Manet, etchings by James McNeill Whistler, photo-mechanical processes like photogravure by artist Alfred Stieglitz, and color woodcuts by the German Expressionists. The rise and fall of various processes and practitioners will be explored from a socio-historical perspective, considering market, taste, and changing exhibition strategies. Additionally, consideration will be given to the status of the printmaker over the centuries as their roles shifted from professional to amateur and back again. [ more ]

    ARTH 504(F)Methods of Art History and Criticism

    This seminar concentrates on critical approaches to art, culture, and history. Our focus will be on various writings that have engaged theories of representation, vision, objecthood and materiality for more than five centuries. [ more ]

    ARTH 505Shadows of Plato's Cave: Image, Screen, and Spectacle

    Last offered Fall 2015

    In Book VII of the Republic, Socrates famously asks his interlocutors to picture people living in a cave, bound in chains and able to see only shadows on the wall. Thus begins the presentation of perhaps the most influential metaphor in the history of philosophy. One might even claim that when Plato deployed the metaphor in an extended allegory, he constituted the fields of both philosophy and political theory. In repeatedly examining the allegory over the centuries, later thinkers have elaborated their approaches not only to Plato but also to the nature of politics and the tasks of thinking. This class begins with the Republic's cave and other key Platonic discussions of appearances, visual representation, and (literal and metaphoric) seeing, asking how Plato's approaches to image, politics, and theory/philosophy shape each other. Building on those inquiries, we next take up important twentieth and twenty-first century returns to the cave, engaging such figures as Heidegger, Strauss, Arendt, Derrida, Irigaray, Rancière, and Badiou. Finally, we examine recent theories of screen and spectacle--read both for their resonances with and departures from debates over the Platonic legacy--and case studies in the politics of both military and racial spectacles in the U.S. The question of what is an image and what images do will run from the beginning of course to the end. Beyond the authors mentioned, readings may include such authors as Allen, Bruno, Clark, Debord, Friedberg, Goldsby, Joselit, Mitchell, Nightingale, Rodowick, Rogin, Silverman, and Virilio. Insofar as it fits student interest, we will also explore the cave's considerable presence in visual culture, ranging from Renaissance painting through such recent and contemporary artists as Kelley, Demand, Hirschhorn, Kapoor, Sugimoto, and Walker, to films such as The Matrix. [ more ]

    ARTH 506(S)An Expository Writing Workshop

    A common and depressing consequence of too much education is how our writing tends to devolve, as the task of saying what we mean is complicated by new anxieties: trying to impress our potential employers, intimidate our competition, claim our place in an intellectual community, and generally avoid looking like fools. In many professions, bad prose tends to proliferate like some disgusting disease, as scholars, trying above all to avoid mistakes, become tentative, obscurantist, addicted to jargon, and desperate to imitate other bad writers. In this course we will try to relearn the basic skills of effective communication and adapt them to new and complicated purposes. In class we will go over weekly or bi-weekly writing assignments, but we will also look at the essays you are writing for your other courses, to give them an outward form that will best display their inner braininess. Among other things, I am a fiction writer, and part of my intention is to borrow the techniques of storytelling to dramatize your ideas successfully. [ more ]

    ARTH 507(F, S)Object Workshop

    Meeting for six sessions over the semester, this workshop is designed to introduce first-year graduate students to technical, material, and connoisseurial perspectives relevant to the study and analysis of art objects. We will draw on local collections and expertise for our case studies. [ more ]

    ARTH 508(S)Art and Conservation: An Inquiry into History, Methods, and Materials

    This course is designed to acquaint students with observation and examination techniques for works of art, artifacts, and decorative arts objects; give them an understanding of the history of artist materials and methods; and familiarize them with the ethics and procedures of conservation. This is not a conservation training course but is structured to provide a broader awareness for those who are planning careers involving work with cultural objects. Sessions will be held at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, Williams College, the Clark Art Institute, and the Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza Art Collection in Albany. Examination questions may be formulated from exhibitions at these locations. Six exams will be given. Exam scores will be weighed in proportion to the number of sessions covered by the exam (e.g., the paintings exam, derived from six sessions of the course, will count as 25% of the final grade). [ more ]

    Taught by: Thomas Branchick

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    ARTH 509(S)Graduate Symposium

    This course is designed to assist qualified fourth-semester graduate students in preparing a scholarly paper to be presented at the annual Graduate Symposium. Working closely with a student and faculty ad hoc advisory committee, each student will prepare a twenty-minute presentation based on the Qualifying Paper. Special emphasis is placed on the development of effective oral presentation skills. [ more ]

    ARTH 510Approaches to Drawing from Connoisseurship to Conceptualism

    Last offered Fall 2017

    This course will consider the art of drawing as a pedagogical tool and cultural practice from the sixteenth to the twentieth century. Creative and commercial forces over four centuries have fostered different types of and reasons for production: presentation drawings in sixteenth century Italy, an increased market for drawings in seventeenth century Holland, a fashion for powdery pastels in eighteenth century France, and the critical promotion of drawing as a form of autographic thinking in the nineteenth century. Drawing has enjoyed a resurgence in the last fifty years as Minimalism and Conceptualism have the pushed the medium's boundaries. Equal consideration will be given to the history of collecting and to materials from the invention of the Conté crayon to the deteriorating effects of acidic paper. The seminar will coincide with a major loan exhibition at the Clark of over one hundred drawings from the Renaissance through contemporary: Drawing in Depth: Master Drawings from the Thaw Collection. The class will be held in the Manton Study Center for Works on Paper and the Clark galleries with visits to the Williams College Museum of Art. [ more ]

    ARTH 515(F)Creating Whiteness: Racial Taxonomies in 'American' Art, 1650-1900

    "What is race?" "How is a race created?" "What are the racial histories and subsequent political implications of 'American' art?" These are the central questions of our exploration. Drawing on two centuries of making in the Americas--from 17th century casta paintings of New Spain to the pictorialist photographs of Fred Holland Day--this object-based seminar for graduate students (and undergraduates with instructor's approval) draws upon area collections (including WCMA and The Clark Art Institute) to make the argument that racial ideologies have always been sutured to definitions of an American canon. Our approach is the case study: devoting one or two class meetings to the exploration of eight specific moments/artists in order to engage with the intersectional ideologies of personal and collective identity, e.g., self and the Divine; portraiture and the nation, armed conflict, and the constructed mutabilities of gender and sexuality. Additional artists and topics include: the Stuart family's images of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson; advances in photographic technology vis-a-vis the amputated bodies of Civil War veterans; gender fluidity in John Singer Sargent; and the equation of homoeroticism and black bodies in pictorialism. Designed to provide breadth and specific moments of depth, we will be covering processes of making across multiple mediums and time periods. An elementary reading knowledge of French, Latin, Portuguese, and/or Spanish will not go amiss. [ more ]

    Taught by: Horace Ballard

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    ARTH 524(F)The Watchful Object

    What is implied by an object that "watches"? Is it sentient? Animate? Through what apparatus does it gain the power to perceive and in turn generate some type of action? Watchful objects--sometimes known problematically as 'fetishes,' 'idols,' and 'totems'--have existed in numerous material cultures in Africa over time and have often been saddled with titles and labels that largely reflect colonial-era notions of primitivism linked with non-Western objects, spaces, and peoples. Even today, many of these objects are still inappropriately connected to systems of the occult rather than being recognized as crucial cogs in the socio-political, cultural, and spiritual mechanics of lived experience on the continent both past and in some cases present. The purpose of this seminar, thus, is to unpack the multiple identities that these objects have experienced as a way of understanding 1.) the circumstances and situations that catalyzed their production; and 2.) how their various material and metaphorical components function as power-producing elements that enable these forms to become 'watchful' presences in society that operate in accordance with their 'observations' of the human condition. This course will also address how the psychological agency of many of these material traditions has prompted their inclusion and absorption within contemporary artistic practices as well, often in the form of productions and performances that provoke unsettling and often transformative experiences in viewers. [ more ]

    ARTH 530(S)Demigods: Nature, Social Theory, and Visual Imagination in Art and Literature, Ancient to Modern

    Embodied in satyrs, centaurs, nymphs, and other demigods is a vision of an alternative evolutionary and cultural history. In it, humans and animals live together. The distinction between nature and culture is not meaningful. Male and female are equal. The industrial revolution never happens. This course traces the history of demigods from its origins in ancient Greek art and poetry until today. We pay special attention to three points: the relationship between mythology of demigods and ancient political theory about primitive life; evolving conceptions of the environment, and the capacity of the visual arts to create mythology that has a limited literary counterpart. The first half of the course examines the origins and character of the demigods, in works of ancient art, e.g. the François vase and the Parthenon, as well as ancient texts, including Hesiod's Theogony and Ovid's Metamorphoses. We examine relevant cultural practices, intellectual history, and conceptions of nature, in texts such as Euripides and Lucretius. The second half of the course investigates the post-classical survival of demigods. We consider the "rediscovery" of demigods in the work of Renaissance artists such as Botticelli, Michelangelo, Dürer, and Titian. We consider in detail the important role played by demigods in the formation of Modernism in art and literature. Key texts include Schiller, "Naive and sentimental poetry," Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy, Mallermé, "L'Apres midi d'une faun,"Aby Warburg, and Stoppard's Arcadia. Problems include the relationship between nymphs and prostitutes in Manet, and the meaning of fauns and the Minotaur in Picasso. We conclude with demigods in popular culture such as the Narnia chronicles or Hunger Games. [ more ]

    ARTH 534Renaissance Time

    Last offered Spring 2018

    "Once upon a time," noted the historian Randolph Starn, "the Renaissance set its clocks and calendars to keep modern time." We think of the changing perception of time during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries-a mounting awareness of the place of the present moment in the larger arc of history-as a defining feature of the Renaissance. Yet, while this new temporal self-consciousness underpins our own understanding of the Renaissance as the emergence of modernity, this is only a thread of the larger and more complex fabric of Renaissance time. In this course we will explore the multifaceted dynamism of the Renaissance relationship to time. We will study the broad shifts in beliefs about time during the Renaissance, then, but we will also move beyond this in order to examine the ways in which concepts of temporality were theorized and functioned in Renaissance visual representation. We will pay close attention to the temporal as a site of innovation in Renaissance art, while focusing a historiographic lens onto the varied art historical interpretations of temporality and the imagery of time. Finally, we will consider our own temporal position as it relates to our experience of images from the past. Authors studied will include Leonard Barkan, Simona Cohen, Georges Didi-Huberman, Anthony Grafton, Michael Ann Holly, George Kubler, Keith Moxey, Alexander Nagel, Erwin Panofsky, Marvin Trachtenberg, Aby Warburg, and Chris Wood. [ more ]

    ARTH 537Renaissance Matter

    Last offered Fall 2015

    The imagined cleave between "scientific" and "theoretica" art history has never seemed plausible to even the most extreme of art historians. In late medieval and Renaissance North Europe, artworks incorporated materials from all over the human and natural world -- azurite, gold, paper, blood, ivory, ash, bone. This "stuff"-- rather than any forms it might be fashioned into -- held its own auratic charge. How are we to think about these various species of matter, about their various processes of transformation? How did changing philosophies and concepts of matter alter the concept of the artwork, particularly in globally-connected North Europe? What role (if any) was played by rediscovered antique texts about matter (Lucretius, etc.?) This seminar pivots on two questions: first, how did Renaissance artists and audiences understand the material constituents of their craft? And second, can we imagine an art-history of material today outside a rubric of blunt materialism? Material art history shouldn't mean shucking hermeneutics or criticality. After all, going back to Heraclitus, what could be more "philosophical" than matter itself? At the same time, the "scientific" scrutiny of artworks -- using X-rays, infrared scanning, radiographic photography, chemical analyses, and dendrochronology -- has long been a particular fetish of the study of Northern Renaissance art. The insights onto the artistic process these methods offer are indisputable. Yet aside from verifying (or undermining) claims to age, authorship, or condition of old artworks, it remains extremely unclear to many scholars what motives scientific examination -- in many respects a solution without a clear problem -- are addressing. Worse, such investigations often seem like advocacy for inferences of artistic intention -- a concept viewed with skepticism by many historians today. Theory's "return to the object" turn in art history (a maneuver, since the 1980s, often rooted in Northern artworks) has showed possibilities, but also limitations. Durability -- the reigning dictate of many early objects -- poses specific challenges to narratives privileging stories of rupture. Topics include: alchemy, the studio, early atomistic theories, restoration, animation, authenticity, faktura, and "science." [ more ]

    ARTH 540In Vinculus Invictus: Portraits in Prison

    Last offered Fall 2017

    Among all the portraits that European art has produced during the modern period, some have been painted or more recently photographed in prison. Artists themselves have made self-portraits during their own imprisonments, or sometimes a portrait of one of their fellow prisoners. More often it was the prisoners or their relatives who commissioned an artistic record of their detention. The idea of commemorating such a moment, or to evoke it as a claim to fame, seems surprising at best, at worst outrageous and provocative. But there is, indeed, an enduring tradition of portraiture in prison with its masterpieces and its pantheon, a tradition that fits into the wider pictorial attention to the prison itself. With the French Revolution, the nature of prison changed. It became a tragic symbol of the political "debates." Prison became the arena for a new martyr, one that endures for ideas or simply to be born. The portrait in prison was a way to commemorate not a disgrace or an infamy, but a glory and a moment of virtue. Within a few years, a terrifying series of portraits appeared. They would nurture Western political thought and visual culture until now. Portraits in prison are at a crossroad of politics, law, art and identity; they offer a great opportunity to think about art and society. This course will explore the topic throughout the modern period until the contemporary period. [ more ]

    ARTH 541Aesthetics After Evolutionary Biology: Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud

    Last offered Fall 2017

    This interdisciplinary seminar examines the rise of evolutionary biology, a new explanatory paradigm that solidified in Europe in the middle of the nineteenth century, and its ramifications in art and aesthetic theory in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We will consider how natural histories of creation, and corresponding reclassifications of the human as a species category, went hand in hand with a reconceptualization of the aesthetic faculties, and the processes of art's production and reception. A core component of this seminar will be the close study of key texts by Charles Darwin, and two thinkers who were among the most radical in extending his key insights into the domain of aesthetic theory--the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, and the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. These primary texts will provide points of departure for studying the work of a number of innovative practitioners working across a range of media, among them the composer Richard Wagner, the Neo-Impressionist painter Georges Seurat, the architect Adolf Loos, the choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky, and the art historian Aby Warburg. Methodologically a major aim of this seminar is to think together critically about the nature of art's relations to other domains of cultural production such as science or philosophy, and to interrogate what it means, both practically and epistemologically, to pursue "interdisciplinarity" as a strategy for art history. [ more ]

    ARTH 542Insubordinate Bodies: The Body in Conceptual Art in Latin America, 1960-1980

    Last offered Fall 2017

    The use of the body-be it the artist's or those of willing and unwilling participants-is among art's most significant developments internationally since the 1960s. In Latin America between the 1960s and 1980s, activating the body not only was a strong conceptual strategy to escape object-based practices; it was also a potent way for artists to disobey and confront forms of violence and control exerted by repressive regimes. But the body too was a forceful medium by which artists could subvert heteronormative frameworks, through the visualization and performance of feminist critiques and queer identities. This seminar will explore the role of the body in Latin American conceptual art through localized case studies, elucidating the body's particular strength as a vehicle for political and institutional critique, as well as its potential to unlock alternate narratives of conceptual practices in the region. [ more ]

    ARTH 543Global Conceptualism, 1962-Now

    Last offered Spring 2018

    Since its emergence in the early 1960s, conceptual art has come to circumscribe a vital, ubiquitous, and widely adaptable category within contemporary art discourse, defining myriad artistic and curatorial practices as well as shaping art-historical inquiry. Naming one's practice as 'conceptual,' (if you are an artist), or doing the work of 'conceptualizing' art's place in the world (if you are a writer/curator/historian) became common parlance more than four decades ago, and is arguably still the most pervasive single term in use today across the many arms of the global contemporary art world. Conceptual art also encompasses an enormous diversity of materials and practices, spanning traditional media, time-based media, installation, performance, and hybrid combinations thereof. What is conceptual art? Is it art that appropriates of the tools and systems of the administration of capital, or of kitsch and mass culture? Does it involve the aestheticization of labor? The dematerialization of the art object? Collaborative practice? Must it look a certain way to be conceptual art? Is needing to look a certain way precisely what conceptual art is not? As the category gains popularity and absorbs more and more possibilities into its ranks, the question quickly becomes, not what is conceptual art, but what isn't it? This graduate seminar will study the means, methods, and assumptions of art historical inquiry toward the development and sustainability of the category 'conceptual art,' from 1962 (the agreed-upon birthdate of the movement, by the estimation of many critics) onward. We will explore global and transnational sites, histories, traditions, and geographic networks beyond the Euro-American canon of conceptualism in order to approach global contemporary art and politics with an expanded set of terms and references. Ultimately, we will seek to understand the challenges and possibilities of re- and de-narrating the histories of modern and contemporary culture from the perspective of "the concept," or "the idea," as opposed to the material, formal, and geographic categories that currently construct and demarcate the field. [ more ]

    ARTH 544Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900

    Last offered Spring 2018

    In this seminar, we will examine the historically undervalued contributions of women in the art of the later nineteenth century. During this period, leading artists from around the world, including many women, were drawn to the academies, museums, salons, and studios of Paris.While women were largely excluded from formal training, many nonetheless navigated the complex systems of artistic production. We will focus on this multinational group of talented women (including Marie Bashkirtseff, Rosa Bonheur, Anna Ancher, Mary Cassatt), and we will assess their work against contemporary sociopolitical thought and aesthetic theories. Readings will draw upon early critical reviews of public exhibitions, biographical materials, studies of pedagogical and institutional practices, and social histories of art. In and through these materials, we will explore the marginalizing narrative that was created for women artists in Paris, and, most importantly, we will reconstruct an alternative history through our discussions and class presentations. [ more ]

    Taught by: Esther Bell

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    ARTH 547(S)The Studio, The Bedroom, & the Tomb: Artists and Artistic Biographies in the 19th Century&Beyond

    How was the vocation of the artist thematized in the European cultural imagination in the Romantic age and its aftermath? Even more, how did artists themselves articulate, experience, and reproduce that sense of vocation?--What were its mythologies and poetics, at once as they were circulated in visual culture, but also as they were lived, experienced, and reproduced by artists themselves? We will explore such question across three historically, psychologically, and tropologically configured "sites": the artist's studio, the artist's desire, and the artist's death. Readings by Freud, Balzac, Kris and Kurtz, along with scholarship largely centered on the visual arts of the 18th and 19th centuries. With instructor permission, students may undertake research projects in any field of the history of art. [ more ]

    ARTH 549(S)Early Modern Transmissions

    Through analyses of networked objects and people in what has come to be seen as an increasingly globalized early modern world, we have become more cognizant of the ways in which compositions and subject matter of paintings circulated through the medium of reproductive print; manuals meant to be followed to the letter were adapted for foreign audiences; and ideas were disseminated in book form, either through the open market or in banned publications. But is it enough to track the movement of people, ideas, and objects? And what did it mean to transmit information--whether it be visual, material, or theoretical--across media, languages, continents, or religions in the early modern period? Our goal will not be to map the physical movements of (art) objects or individuals, but rather to query what is gained, lost, or altered beyond recognition when things are transmitted over time and space. The scope of this seminar will span roughly the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries--from the systematization of academic and artistic training and the Scientific Revolution, to the Enlightenment and, consequently, accelerated imperial expansion. Our discussions will center on readings and case studies drawn from the visual arts (such as the reproduction of Albrecht Dürer's woodblock prints on Italian maiolica); mechanical arts (the European mechanization of ancient Chinese timekeeping technology); natural philosophy (the continental reception of Isaac Newton's Opticks); and intellectual history more generally (for instance, the project of translating and adapting William Chambers' Cyclopaedia for a French audience) and the terrain covered will include European encounters with the Americas, the Ottoman Empire, and Asia. [ more ]

    Taught by: Lauren Cannady

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    ARTH 551Winslow Homer

    Last offered Spring 2016

    In this seminar we will explore the life and art of Winslow Homer (1836-1910). Paintings, prints, watercolors, and photographs in the collection of the Clark and the Williams College Museum of Art will focus our discussions and provide the basis for understanding Homer's art-making and his place within the art-culture of his day. A consideration of his subjects will necessarily intersect with many of the nation's most pressing issues during his era: the Civil War and Reconstruction; the rise of middleclass leisure; the relation of man to the environment. [ more ]

    ARTH 554The Matrix and the Market: Printmaking and Photography in the Nineteenth Century

    Last offered Spring 2017

    During the last half of the 19th century, technical, commercial, and aesthetic approaches to printmaking and photography experienced dramatic paradigm shifts. Etching, for example, simultaneously functioned as a reproductive medium and one that carried experimental, vanguard associations. Practitioners of lithography strove to distance themselves from denigrating commercialism and raise the medium's status to a respected art form. Photography, in turn, negotiated the boundaries between "documentary" and "artistic." This seminar will address the complex issues that swirled around printmaking and photographic matrices, critical responses to the various processes, artist-driven initiatives, and the formative role of the art market and book trade in shaping popular opinion. We will consider these topics across political and geographic borders from Europe to the United States, reading both primary and secondary sources. The class will be held in the new Manton Study Center for Works on paper with visits to Chapin library and the Williams College Museum of Art likely. [ more ]

    ARTH 563(F, S)Contemporary Curatorial Workshop

    Bi-weekly workshop for graduate students working on contemporary art and curatorial projects. Under the direction of the chair, students will present on-going curatorial projects, undertake studio and site visits, host local and visiting curators for presentations, and explore key topics in modern and contemporary art and curatorial practice. [ more ]

    ARTH 567What is Art Criticism? Current Debates, Past Precedents

    Last offered Fall 2016

    Taking as its point of departure recent debates concerning a purported "crisis" of art-criticism, this seminar considers traditions of writing about the work of living artists in modernity. We will begin with current literature and then pivot back to the eighteenth century, tracing a sequence of episodes in art criticism's evolution as a genre by looking at key works of art as mediated by their first critics. Emphasis will be placed on close readings of primary historical texts as prompts for thinking through the following broad questions, among others: What is critique, and what is art criticism? Is the art critic a judge, a historian, a partisan, a participant, or an artist in her own right? How do forms of distribution impact the content of art criticism, and how does art criticism impact the form and content of art? What is the relationship, if any, between taste, assessment of value, and interpretation of meaning? Artists considered include, among others, Boucher, Friedrich, Whistler, Seurat, Pollock, Piper. [ more ]

    ARTH 573Modern and Contemporary Art from the Middle East and North Africa

    Last offered Spring 2017

    This is an exciting time for art from the Middle East and North Africa. Contemporary artists are exhibiting in international shows and biennales, and the global art market has responded to collector interest and crowned its favorites. The visibility and celebration of these artists, however, does not take into account the larger historical arena of cultural production and artistic practice from which they emerge. In terms of the discipline of art history, the field of modern painting and contemporary visual practice in the region is in its first generation of formation and definition. Drawing on very recent scholarship in art history and visual anthropology, we will explore the "history" of modern and contemporary art in the Middle East and North Africa (from the 1920s-the present). We will pay particular attention to how key terms and categories such as: modern, contemporary, Islamic, and Arab, have been constructed, deployed and debated by artists, institutions and scholars in the field. We will explore the role of museums, art schools, archives and biennales in the region, the creation of art publics and communities, and how the international market has responded to contemporary production. And perhaps most importantly, we will study work by artists that identify with the region and engage and complicate constructions of race, gender, religion, environment, autonomy and community. [ more ]

    ARTH 575(F)Regression as Modern Fantasy: Archaism, Primitivism, Prehistory

    This course analyzes the implications of European modernity's engagement with cultural artifacts it wanted to classify beneath the prefix "pre." We take as our object an aesthetic strategy employed with increasing frequency by modern artists in Europe after 1800: the self-conscious mobilization of visual forms thought to telegraph priority to later advancements, whether historically or developmentally. Our inquiry, beginning with the German Nazarenes and extending into the early twentieth century around the moment of WW1, foregrounds such strategies as key to grasping new notions of temporality and geography that emerged in European modernity. We will inquire into the historical and intellectual contexts that sustained chronological and cultural primitivisms, including the history of colonialism, discoveries of Paleolithic cave art, and the emergence of the modern disciplines of archeology, anthropology, ethnography, child psychology, and psychoanalysis. Alongside close visual scrutiny of some of modernism's most canonical and problematic objects, including key works by Picasso and Gauguin, we will examine the literature that proliferated in this period devoted to the art of peoples deemed "primitive," including the Greeks in the pre-classical period, non-Western peoples, and children. [ more ]

    ARTH 587(S)Crash! The Car Accident as Myth and Metaphor in American Art and Visual Culture

    A year after MoMA elevated machinery to high art in 1934, Grant Wood painted Death on The Ridge Road (Williams College Museum of Art), a depiction of the deadly side of the streamlined modern machines that Alfred Barr might have presented at MoMA. A generation later, Andy Warhol's Death and Disasters series multiplied gruesome images of crushed cars and bodies to numbing effect. During the ensuing years, both Jackson Pollock and David Smith (among others) became traffic fatalities. Roughly bookended by the Great Depression and the 1960s, but also considering works of art and visual materials before and after those parameters, this seminar will explore the stakes of car crash imagery for American artists and culture. Readings may include topics in trauma studies, automotive technology, physics, posthumanism, law, and object oriented ontology as well as grounding participants in American art and history of the middle third of the twentieth century. Participants in the course will also have the opportunity to help shape the content, themes, and narrative of an exhibition on car accidents in American art being organized by WCMA. [ more ]

    Taught by: Kevin Murphy

    Catalog details

    ARTH 595(F)Private Tutorial

    Students may petition to take a private tutorial by arrangement with the instructor and with permission of the Graduate Program Director. [ more ]

    ARTH 596(S)Private Tutorial

    Students may petition to take a private tutorial by arrangement with the instructor and with permission of the Graduate Program Director. [ more ]

    ARTH 598Undergraduate Lecture Course Taken for Graduate Credit

    Last offered Spring 2018

    Undergraduate Lecture Course Taken for Graduate Credit [ more ]

  • ARTS 100(F)Drawing I

    This course is designed to introduce students to perceptual, experiential and analytical moments associated with the language of drawing, and to do so in ways that offer the opportunity to see the world with greater clarity, and with a broader understanding of art and the visual language. This course provides technical skills associated with observational drawing, experiential moments with a variety of materials, and the opportunity for self expression and the communication of ideas. Each studio class blends drawing practices and exercises designed to further one's understanding of the language of drawing, and more broadly, offers a foundation for further study in the visual arts. [ more ]

    ARTS 100(F, S)Drawing I

    In childhood everyone draws. Like language drawing is a basic human tool to observe and interpret the world as well as to make comment and find agency within it. As an introduction to art making, this course will provide basic design and conceptual skills to engage feeling, develop content and communicate with others. Divided into sections on line, composition, proportion, value and space, the course is designed for those with no previous experience in drawing, but it is flexible enough to challenge experienced students. New concepts are introduced each week in slide talks and developed in workshops and through homework assignments. [ more ]

    ARTS 100Drawing I

    Last offered Spring 2018

    This course will heighten your awareness of the visual world, teach basic drawing skills, and demonstrate how drawing operates as a form of visual exchange. Each class session introduces you to a specific drawing technique, concept or media. The homework assignments involve practicing the skills presented in class while encouraging personal expression by incorporating your own ideas into the art work. This course also promotes the understanding of artists and their work. It requires that you attend at least one Visiting Artist presentation to gain a deeper knowledge of artist's aspirations and practices. To allow for more practice with working directly from life, you are also required to attend at least two evening life drawing sessions. [ more ]

    ARTS 100(S)Drawing I

    This course is designed to introduce the fundamentals of drawing. A significant portion of class time will be devoted to learning some of the basics of drawing, such as line, gesture, composition, and value. Acquiring technical skill is an important goal of this class, and intensive weekly assignments are a significant part of that process. [ more ]

    ARTS 102In the Room Together: An Introduction to Dance, Theatre, and Live Performance

    Last offered Fall 2017

    This course offers an introduction to the time-based art of performance, focusing on the embodied and social act of collaboration. Students will explore through a rotating studio and seminar-based format methods for creating and approaching art across a range of time-based media (dance, theatre, performance art, social media, spoken-word poetry), providing a foundation for the expression of ideas through performance. Over the term, students will develop, workshop and perform site-specific pieces, culminating in a final public presentation to the community. Through independent research projects, writing and class discussion, students will study makers whose work unsettles the boundaries of dance, theatre, and performance, such as: Anne Bogart, Bill T. Jones, Pina Bausch, Meredith Monk, Lin Manuel-Miranda, E. Patrick Johnson, Young Jean Lee, and Beyoncé. Evaluation will be based on an assessment of the student's work, participation, commitment, practice, curiosity, creativity, and collaboration with peers. Students will be required to attend '62 Center Series programming as may be required to attend other performance events as well. This course is open to students at all levels of experience and is a gateway and requirement to the major in Theatre. [ more ]

    ARTS 107Creating Games

    Last offered Spring 2017

    The game is unique as the only broadly-successful interactive art form. Games communicate the experience of embodying a role by manipulating the player's own decisions, abstraction, and discrete planning. Those three elements are the essence of computation, which makes computer science theory integral to game design. Video games also co-opt programming and computer graphics as new tools for the modern artist. As a result, games are collaborative interdisciplinary constructs that use computation as a medium for creative expression. Students analyze and extend contemporary video and board games using the methodology of science and the language of the arts. They explore how computational concepts like recursion, state, and complexity apply to interactive experiences. They then synthesize new game elements using mathematics, programming and both digital and traditional art tools. Emphasis is on the theory of design in modern European board games. Topics covered include experiment design, gameplay balance, minimax, color theory, pathfinding, game theory, composition, and computability. [ more ]

    ARTS 114Art into Activism

    Last offered Fall 2017

    This introductory studio art class will examine how art has been and can be engaged with activist and political causes. Can art be created from social or political ideas? Is all political art merely propaganda? What makes a work "political"? What does artistic work that is topical, informed, and critical look like? In addition to looking at various works by contemporary artists and used in political movements, we will be working on weekly assignments that will introduce students to 2-D image making, video, and performance. This class is a hands-on studio class which will require hours outside the class working on projects. [ more ]

    ARTS 116(F)Monotypes

    Spontaneous and delightfully unpredictable, the monotype is a style of printmaking that creates exactly one image by applying ink onto a flat surface, and transferring it to paper using pressure - by hand or a through a printing press. It is neither drawing nor painting, it is both! In this class students will use the monotype to heighten their sensitivity to line, colour, tone, texture, transparency, pressure, ink viscosity, and overall composition. They will also explore techniques like tracing, stencilling, chine-collé, reductive + additive mark making, and hand rubbing, while acquainting themselves with the history of the medium -- its practitioners, and its scope. No prior experience in drawing or painting required, though it is quite welcome. [ more ]

    ARTS 120(F)Introduction to Performance Art

    Historically, artists have turned to performance art during times of collective trauma to observe, analyze, and deconstruct established systems of power. This course will explore the legacy, theory, and practice of this radical and subversive genre. Equal parts studio and seminar students will engage in open dialogue based on assigned readings, screenings, and museum/gallery visits. Starting with the emergence of Dadaism during World War I, and exploration of works by artists that will include: Adrian Piper, David Hammons, Lynda Montano, Chris Burden, Clifford Owens, and Anna Mendieta, students will gain an understanding of the mechanisms of performance: The body as object, The Gaze (the dynamics of viewing/being viewed), active and inactive participants, and breaking the fourth wall. This class is open to all students that are willing to embrace the awkwardness of their humanity and the vulnerabilities of our collective bodies. [ more ]

    ARTS 124Introductory Video

    Last offered Fall 2017

    In this course we explore how the proliferation of video has transformed the way we relate our own image, and that of others. Video has become a platform for hypervisibility. In an era of selfies, live-streaming, state sanctioned violence (and its digital record), how might we use video as a tool of empathy and accountability? We will pursue answers to these questions through the act of making. In this introductory level course students will gain facility in Adobe Premiere and other post-production tools in the Adobe Creative Suite. Students will explore camera technique, lighting, and how to work with appropriated footage. We will look at early and contemporary video works in order to situate the work being made in class. Video Art will also be contextualized within vernacular applications of video. Through regular technical exercises, readings, and group critiques, students will learn how to use video as critical tool in their practice. [ more ]

    ARTS 126(F, S)Introduction to Digital Photography

    This course is an introduction to the technical and conceptual elements of digital photography. Students will learn the mechanics of the camera, digital workflow, image editing and inkjet printing, all in the service of making art. A foundation in the technical aspects of digital photography will be paired with art-historical slideshows and group critiques that provide a grounding in the visual language and vocabulary of fine art photography. Throughout the course we will engage with the work of many photographers. This list includes but is not limited to: Herni Cartier-Bresson, Lisette Model, Robert Frank, Helen Levitt, Diane Arbus, Graciela Iturbide, Garry Winogrand, Carrie Mae Weems, Mark Steinmetz and LaToya Ruby Frazier. The course will culminate with each student conceiving and creating a portfolio of photographs that wields technical skill to realize personal vision. [ more ]

    ARTS 128(F, S)Introductory Video

    In this course we explore how the proliferation of video has transformed the way we relate our own image, and that of others. Video has become a platform for hypervisibility. In an era of selfies, live-streaming, state sanctioned violence (and its digital record), how might we use video as a tool of empathy and accountability? We will pursue answers to these questions through the act of making. In this introductory level course students will gain facility in Adobe Premiere and other post-production tools in the Adobe Creative Suite. Students will explore camera technique, lighting, and how to work with appropriated footage. We will look at early and contemporary video works in order to situate the work being made in class. Video Art will also be contextualized within vernacular applications of video. Through regular technical exercises, readings, and group critiques, students will learn how to use video as critical tool in their practice. [ more ]

    ARTS 129(S)Institutional Critique

    This introductory course will investigate the performance potential of the radical art making methodology known as Institutional Critique. Influenced by Situationalism, and the Fluxus movement, Institutional Critique emerged as a way for artists to respond to the art worlds elitism, monopoly on culture, and dependency on Capitalism. Through collaborative performance based projects and readings students will explore the possibility of art to critically intervene in the hegemonic order and insight change within power relationships. We will also explore related movements such as Socially Engaged Practice, a term that describes art that is participatory and focuses as people as the medium. Artists covered will include: Thomas Hirshhorn, Tim Rollins, and Andrea Fraser. You do not need any prior experience just a willingness to use the power of voice and body. [ more ]

    ARTS 130(S)Material Issues

    What kind of maker should one be, after reading the latest climate report? The tendency to build, design, love, and collect objects - in our shelves and in our museums and in our landfills - is central to the human story. We have (serious) material issues! This class looks at individuals that hold ecology and what the environment asks of us close to their heart and their making, moving beyond 'green' as metaphor. We will study creative practices that work in partnership with land, with forests, agriculture, radically sustainable materials, food and food cultures. Through the semester, we will alter how we consume and what we consume, we will learn to repair, learn to divest, and learn how to make our own: Food! Clothes! Quilts! Containers! Pigments! _________! Our projects will be cross cultural, interdisciplinary, slow, working at the pace of seasons, working with what is already present in our homes, in our neighbourhoods. Through guided assignments and discussions, students will draft a personal and collective manifesto detailing their relationship to material and climate change, and develop a final project, in any format, that engages with it. We will work with our hands often, and well. [ more ]

    ARTS 200Costume Design

    Last offered Fall 2017

    This course is both an introductory and an intensive study of the art of costume design. The course focuses on the designer's process: script analysis, collaboration, research, color theory, basic design principles, rendering techniques, fabric research, organizational skills and presentation of designs. [ more ]

    ARTS 201(S)Worldbuilding: Staging and Design For The Theater

    This course examines the designer's and director's creative processes as they work together to imagine the fictional worlds of theatrical productions. Over a series of practical projects in staging, mise-en-scene, and various design disciplines, we will develop techniques for eliciting an initial creative response to a text, developing that response into a point-of-view, and solving the practical needs of the production. Particular emphasis is placed on how design elements synthesize with one another, and with the work of the actors and director, to form the larger intellectual, emotional, and physical context of the work as a whole. Students will adopt various creative roles throughout a series of assigned projects, giving a broad exposure to the work of designers and directors. Basic presentation skills and technique, as well as methodologies for critical feedback, will be taught as crucial elements of staging and design development. [ more ]

    ARTS 215(F)Sustainabuilding (verb)

    Sustainability considerations figure prominently (and always have) in good building design. This architectural design studio will include instruction, research, and reading about current design and energy strategies. These lessons will be applied in two or more design problems. Drawings and models will be critiqued in class reviews with outside critics. [ more ]

    ARTS 220(S)Architectural Design I

    Instruction in design with an introduction to architectural theory. Five simple design problems will explore form and meaning in architecture. Each problem will require drawings/model and will be critiqued in a class review with outside critics. [ more ]

    ARTS 221 TScenic Design and Experimental Performance

    Last offered Spring 2015

    The artistic, intellectual, and practical roles of a set designer vary widely, from the spectacle of Broadway to the do-it-yourself ingenuity of downtown theater. In contemporary experimental theater designers are essential parts of the ensemble, contributing equally to devised work alongside directors, writers, performers and dramaturgs. Design is not viewed as a response to the script, but rather an initial condition: a world whose creation describes the limits of the play while also providing the necessary components for that play to exist. In this way the act of designing and the act of devising can be seen as inextricably entwined--even interchangeable. This course explores a range of techniques and methodologies utilized to create stage environments in traditional and experimental modes. Grounded in textual analysis and research, and emphasizing process, critique, and revision, we will create theoretical stage designs in response to a variety of performance texts. These may include plays, musicals, operas, physical- and dance-theater, and other work that is deeply grounded in the physicality of performer, spectator and performance environment. Emphasis will be on sketching and model-making as the primary means for developing and communicating design ideas Drafting and digital tools will also be factors in course work, which will include training and mentorship in all materials and craft. [ more ]

    ARTS 224(F)Interdisciplinary Approaches to Performance Art

    Mud, meat, lard, time, Instagram, and language. These are the materials of performance art. Students will develop distinct and focused voices as performers/artists by gaining an understanding of the methods and theories that inform the performance art genre. Assigned projects will examine the relationship between performance, video, photography, sculpture and digital platforms. Seminars will focus on the catalogs of contemporary artists whose interdisciplinary practices heavily incorporate performance methodologies. Artists covered will include: Tania Bruguera, Santiago Sierra, Kalip Linzy, and Tameka Norris. [ more ]

    ARTS 227(S)Moving Photography

    In this intermediate photography course, students will explore the rich interplay between photography and movies. Many still photographers invoke the aesthetics of cinema, critique its conventions, and investigate the way films create desire. For example, An-My Lê photographing slightly behind the scenes on the set of "The Free State of Jones" and Gregory Crewdson asking the viewer to linger within cinematic still images unmoored from narrative logic. Students will learn to wield cinematic convention and style within their own photographs. We will discuss narrative sequencing and how visual form (such as the angular light and oblique framing of film noir) can itself be thematic. We will also engage with the recent emergence of slightly-moving photographs by artists such as Dru Donovan and Owen Kydd. In a series of projects and a self-directed final, students will create their own still and moving photographs informed by the relationship between movies and photography. [ more ]

    ARTS 228 TThe Art of Almost Nothing

    Last offered Fall 2017

    In this studio tutorial class, students will create studio art projects by using materials that are mainly not bought but found, repurposed, and/or overlooked and ubiquitous. In this time of extreme material production and consumption, with a great deal being thrown out and unrecoverable, how can we make intentional, creative meaning from what is around us? This class is concerned with impacts on the environment but also with how consumer culture has wielded profound influence in the current production of studio art. How can we engage with our major concerns--aesthetic, topical, critical--and use what is around us mindfully and creatively with desired impact? Some of the artists we will look at: William Pope L., Ana Mendieta, David Hammons, Tania Bruguera,and the Yes Men. This class is a hands-on studio class with weekly assignments. [ more ]

    ARTS 230(S)Drawing II

    This intermediate drawing course focuses on technique, style and content. Class sessions will focus on representing the human figure in representational and abstract styles, including cubism and abstract expressionism. Homework projects will focus on developing individual concepts and personal expression. Exercises will include traditional materials on paper as well as non-traditional methods and exercises. The course culminates with an independent project of work in series. [ more ]


    A subset of relief printmaking, linocuts are images made by carving the surface of soft linoleum blocks. Relying almost completely on our hands, we will learn to work with a variety of cutting tools, controlling their speed and pressure to create bold, clear imagery. The course will include introductions to various methods in lino printing including stencilling, collaging, reduction printing, while also familiarising students with the fundamentals of printmaking inks and papers - how to use them, choose them, modify them. We will also look at the history of the block print, its application in the textile industry, and its present day interdisciplinary potential. Students will work towards creating a diverse portfolio that demonstrates fluency across various techniques, using them individually or in combination. [ more ]

    ARTS 241(F)Painting

    The variables of oil painting are so numerous that the permutations are endless. As an introduction to basic variables like color, brushwork, surface, form and light, this course is the beginning of what may be a life long, creative adventure through the medium of paint. Most assignments are done from direct observation of the human figure, the landscape and objects. Museum visits and slide presentations are an important part of the class. [ more ]

    ARTS 241(F)Acrylic Painting

    In this course, we will explore the options that painting with acrylic can offer. The class will focus on developing necessary technical skills, such as the manipulation of color, value, surface, and texture. We will also consider issues of content in a diverse range of approaches, including painting from observation (still life and portraits), abstraction, and cross¬media experimentations (for example, combinations in installations, sculpture, photography). The particular characteristics and benefits of acrylic paint will be explored in contemporary approaches. There will be visits to museums (WCMA, the Clark Art Institute and MASS MoCA), critiques, and slide presentations. [ more ]

    Taught by: TBA

    Catalog details

    ARTS 241(S)Introduction to Oil Painting

    This course is designed to introduce the fundamentals of oil painting. A significant portion of class time will be devoted to learning some of the basics of painting, such as the manipulation of color, value, surface, and texture. We will learn how to prepare paper, canvas, and board supports as well as exploring the properties of several mediums (what the paint is mixed with to allow for application and drying). This course is focused on giving students access to a range of introductory techniques that they can explore during the semester. We will also spend time looking at each other's work and giving feedback and suggestions as well as studying the work of established artists. Evaluation will be based on evidence of each student's progress, as shown by the weekly assignments; attendance and participation in class discussions. [ more ]

    ARTS 250Devised Performance: The Art of Embodied Inquiry

    Last offered Spring 2018

    This studio course offers students hands-on experience in devising new performance work as an ensemble. Looking to the work of practitioners and collectives like Jerzy Grotowski, El Teatro Campesino, Tectonic Theater Project, Pina Bausch, Belarus Free Theatre, Nrityagram, and SITI Company, we will challenge ourselves to really probe what live performance is capable of. How might we think of performance as a research methodology? As a lifestyle? As a form of political action? This class will function as a laboratory, forming its own unique structure for developing and realizing a live performance. The course provides an opportunity to navigate the complex dynamics present in collaborative creation. Guest classes with practitioners will offer a fuller range of skills for the student ensemble to utilize during the devising process. Work-in-progress presentations spaced regularly throughout the semester will allow the ensemble to receive feedback from small, invited audiences, as well as the opportunity to apply that critique to an ongoing creative process. At the end of the semester the accumulated work will have a public presentation in a workshop format. [ more ]

    ARTS 252The Human Image: Photographing People and Their Stories

    Last offered Spring 2015

    The single most photographed subject is the human form. The motivations and strategies for imaging faces and bodies, both individual and aggregate, are as varied as the subjects themselves. In this course, we will examine some of the many approaches used to photograph people. We'll start by exploring self-portraiture, and progress to photographing others--both familiars and strangers, in the studio and in less controlled environments. We'll end with a consideration of "documentary" photography and other visual narratives. In each case, we'll examine our reasons for making an image, and the methods available for achieving these goals. Thus, the class will have a significant technical component, dealing with the creative use of camera controls, the properties and uses of light, and digital capture and processing. We will also examine the conceptual and scientific bases for how we perceive and evaluate images. Students will initially use school-supplied digital cameras, and later have the option of using film. [ more ]

    ARTS 260(S)Objects in Video, Video as Object

    In a world where the screen is often taken for granted, how might we begin to dissect the ways video has transformed visual perception? This course will focus on video installation and how video is transformed by its physical context. We will examine how videos shift our relationship to objects in space. Students will experiment with lighting and set building, paying particular attention to how surfaces are transformed by the lens. We will also explore projection mapping, built installation, and the peculiarities of the screen. We will look at works by artists who have emphasized the physicality or immateriality of video through installation and web-based art. We will read a variety of texts, charting the shifting role video has played in contemporary society. Through weekly assignments and regular critiques, we will begin to unpack how the videos we make contact with daily can shift our relationship with our own bodies and our surrounding environment. [ more ]

    ARTS 273Sound Art, Public Music

    Last offered Fall 2017

    Western music performance traditionally occurs within contained spaces in which "performer" and "audience" adhere to designated locations and follow tacit scripts: seats/stage; applause/bows, etc. In recent years, traditional boundaries and scripts of performance and reception have moved into public spaces--from sound art installations to ambient music, from interactive sound sculpture to radio art to social media driven flash mobs. This course studies the work of pioneers in public music and sound art including Alvin Lucier, Bill Fontana, John Cage, Hildegard Westerkamp, Brian Eno and John Luther Adams, among others. The course will alternate between study and analysis of particular artistic strategies and the creation of site-specific works on and around the Williams campus. [ more ]

    ARTS 274(S)Chinese Calligraphy: Theory and Practice

    Beginning in the fourth century, Chinese calligraphy has remained one of the highest art forms in China and in East Asia generally, practiced by the literati, or highly erudite scholars. This course has two components: art history and studio practice. The first offers students an opportunity to acquire an understanding of theoretical and aesthetic principles of Chinese calligraphy. It also examines the religious, social, and political functions of Chinese calligraphy in ancient and contemporary China. Students will also have an opportunity to investigate contemporary artists, both Eastern and Western, whose works are either inspired or influenced by Chinese calligraphy, and those whose works are akin to Chinese calligraphy in their abstraction. Studio practice allows students to apply theories to creating beautiful writing, or calligraphy (from Greek kallos "beauty" + graphe "writing"). This course can be taken as an Art History, a Studio Art, or Asian Studies course. [ more ]

    Taught by: TBA

    Catalog details

    ARTS 275(F)Introduction to Sculpture

    This course is an introduction to the media and processes of sculpture. The focus will be on the development of technical and analytical skills as they relate to the interplay of form, content, and materials. This section will introduce students to a variety of techniques and processes associated with the making of sculpture, including, but not limited to, woodworking and welding. Sculpture encompasses a broad scope of approaches and materials, therefore a wide variety of media exploration is encouraged and expected. This course is structured on a series of sculpture projects, which investigate formal and conceptual practices, with the ultimate goal being visual fluency and successful expression of ideas. A substantial amount of time outside of class is expected to complete these projects. [ more ]

    ARTS 302Landscape and Language

    Last offered Spring 2017

    Colloquially, the word "landscape" refers to pictures or scenes of the land, from farms to forest to wilderness. But more broadly, landscape evokes the complex, dynamic, and ever-shifting relationship between "nature" and our experience of it. Landscape and Language is a seminar that considers the tools we use to represent and narrate our relationship to the natural world. Together, we will investigate how such cultural conventions as travel, perspective, nature, and ecology influence the ways we see and understand place. Drawing from discourses of literature, architecture, art history, contemporary art, and ecocriticism, our goal is to develop a deeper critical understanding of and engagement with landscape (as a collective of readers and as individual investigators). Texts for this course will include an art historical exploration of the relationship between landscape, power, and imperialism by W.J.T. Mitchell, an ethnographic investigation of nearly obsolete place names by Robert MacFarlane, poems by historical and contemporary poets like Jean Toomer, Terrance Hayes, and Lucille Clifton, and contemporary visual art by Helen Mirra and Xaviera Simmons, among others. [ more ]

    ARTS 319(F)Junior Seminar

    The Junior Seminar is an intensive studio based class designed to provide art majors the opportunity to strengthen their ability to communicate clearly through the visual language by offering an overview of current themes and issues within the art world and beyond. The class is structured around regular studio projects that are designed to help further each student's skill set and broaden their knowledge of contemporary art and it's role in society, and, to offer critical and analytic experiences that deepen the students understanding of the role of art in the world. [ more ]

    ARTS 322 TThe Empowered Object

    Last offered Fall 2015

    The development of "found object" in the language of art has played a significant role in constructing meaning in the consciousness of the twenty-first century. This tutorial will have students explore that tradition further through their own creative endeavors. They will be asked to add to the lineage of art that uses "found objects" in a creative and meaningful way. They will have the freedom to choose which medium will convey their ideas most effectively. They include, but are not limited to: sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, printmaking and video. For example, within the investigation of the "found object", projects could include: still life painting with a focus on the objects, 2-dimensional work depicting or incorporating real objects, collage, assemblage, etc. The "found object" in art will be examined through: art practice, readings and presentations. As a tutorial, the course is designed to meet individual needs and to stress student participation and responsibility for learning. Students will meet weekly with a peer and the professor to review work. [ more ]

    ARTS 329Architectural Design II

    Last offered Fall 2017

    A continuation and expansion of ideas and skills learned in Architectural Design I. There will be four to six design projects requiring drawings and models, each of which will emphasize particular aspects of architectural theory and design. One project will be built full-scale by the students in the class. [ more ]

    ARTS 333 TNarrative Strategies

    Last offered Spring 2016

    In this tutorial, we will examine the use of narrative in a range of fine art practices, which could include painting, drawing, video, sculpture, installation, public art, and sound art. Students who are interested in telling or referencing stories in their work in some way will be given the opportunity to develop their ideas and skills in a challenging studio class. In addition to intensive projects, we will look at and discuss the work of artists such as Huma Bhabha, Lorna Simpson, Joe Sacco, Lydia Davis, Raymond Pettibon, Todd Solondz, Sophie Calle, Jenny Holzer, and Omer Fast among others. One of the aims of this course is to challenge traditional notions and expectations of narrative. For instance, what could minimally constitute a narrative piece? How do different mediums allow for time to unfold in unexpected ways? How does omission play a powerful role in a narrative? How might the role of the narrator (often so powerful and present in novels and short stories) change in a visual arts context? This is a studio tutorial with an emphasis on demanding, weekly projects. Students will work both in mediums of their choice and be asked to experiment with new, unfamiliar formats. Readings and screenings will be required in addition to tutorial hours. [ more ]

    ARTS 335(F)Music Videos

    This studio-centered seminar will focus on the relationship between music videos, popular culture, and contemporary art. Our discussion will begin with the inception of the music video and trace how the genre has transformed over time. We will look at the work of influential video directors and contemporary artists who have created music videos or been inspired by them. Readings will include work by Krista Thompson, Marshall McLuhan, Ann Kaplan, and others. How does the pairing of music with image change our relationship to narrative? How do music videos play with notions of spectacle, violence, aspiration, or joy? How has the music video transformed in the digital age? Students will respond to these questions by creating 3 new works: 2 assignment based projects, and one independent final. Assignments may be completed in a variety of media, including but not limited to: sculpture, painting, photography, performance, and the moving image. Weekly meetings will include discussions, screenings, and group critique. Students need not create their own music videos, but must incorporate the content of our discussions into their own artistic practice. This class is ideal for students who have previously taken studio art courses and display confidence and proficiency in their media of choice. [ more ]

    ARTS 337(S)This Is An Experiment!

    Keeping printmaking as our source and primary method, this class will use the possibilities within the discipline to create layered, expansive, and highly experimental surfaces. Students will work with a variety of printmaking techniques, and build on their existing knowledge of etching, relief, lithography, and screen printing. They will take risks with inks and their viscosity, the scale of their printing blocks, the temperamental nature of their material, the variety of methods on a single print, and consider outcomes that go beyond images on paper. Prior printmaking experience is strongly recommended. Students will be evaluated on their progress towards building a print based body of work. [ more ]

    ARTS 338(S)Persona

    Like novelists, visual artists create fictional characters to tell stories. Conceptual artist Adrian Piper, sculptor Joseph Beuys, and collective The Yes Men have crafted personas to confront systems of power and societally constructed notions of normalcy. Students will explore the work of such artists through readings, class lecture and assignments. The reading list includes excerpts from Maggie Nelson's The art of Cruelty and Cherise Smith's Enacting Others.The first half of the course will focus on guided assignments developed by the instructor, the second half will be an independent study culminating in the construction of your own fictional persona. Students will use a variety of methods in the development of a persona including writing and photography, and may employ other methods including painting, sculpture, and digital media. [ more ]

    ARTS 340(F)Infinite Scroll

    In this studio art course students will seek inspiration in the ways that still images, video, and audio commingle on electronic devices. Some of the ideas we will explore include (but are not limited to): the formal possibilities of screen-space, the visual styles of specific platforms (Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat etc.), and the interplay of attention and distraction common to using devices. We will look at and discuss works by a range of artists working in a variety of media (Pipilotti Rist, Leslie Hewitt, Joseph Cornell, Hito Steyerl) as well as vernacular digital media that isn't necessarily considered art (try not to cry challenges, slime-making tutorials, camera test videos). Students will make their own artworks (in any media) that address the complications and dynamism experienced through screens. Technical proficiency in medium of choice is required. [ more ]

    ARTS 376Sculpture Expanded

    Last offered Spring 2016

    This course is designed to expand the definitions of sculpture by adding interdisciplinary solutions to the artistic ideas at hand. The class will be using a wide array of artistic practices towards developing three-dimensional spaces and emphasizing environmental or performative outcomes. Media such as video, drawing, painting, photography, architecture, as well as other artistic practices may be incorporated to create visual solutions to the projects. This is an upper level course focusing on developing one's artistic voice while simultaneously strengthening technical and analytical skills. A substantial amount of time outside of class is expected to complete these projects. [ more ]

    ARTS 385(S)The Sculptural Costume and It's Performance Potential

    A team-taught studio art / theatre course designed to explore the rich territory of the wearable sculpture and its generative role in art and performance. From ritual costumes, to Carnival, to Dada performance, to Bauhaus dance, to Helio Oiticica's Parangole, and Nick Cave's sound-suits, there has been a rich tradition where sculpture and costumes merge. Students will study artists who have bridged distinctions between the theatrical costume and the sculptural object as well as produce hybrid objects that explore the range of possibilities within this collaborative practice. The students will produce object-costumes involving a wide variety of media, from recycled materials to new technologies, while striving to develop their individual artistic voices. [ more ]

    ARTS 418(S)Senior Seminar

    In this capstone class for studio art majors, students define, research, create and present an original body of work which will be exhibited in the Williams College Museum of art. We will focus on strengthening ideas, developing formal skills and practicing critical analysis. Students may work in any medium in which they have developed a high degree of proficiency. The class will meet in large and small groups throughout the semester for critique and discussion and also have assigned readings,films, and/or lectures. [ more ]

    ARTS 497(F)Independent Study: Art Studio

    With current staffing limitations, it is difficult for studio faculty to supervise more than a very few independent studies projects. We feel our curriculum includes rich and varied offerings and believe that the need for most independent work can be met through those regular offerings. [ more ]

    ARTS 498(S)Independent Study: Art Studio

    With current staffing limitations, it is difficult for studio faculty to supervise more than a very few independent studies projects. We feel our curriculum includes rich and varied offerings and believe that the need for most independent work can be met through those regular offerings. [ more ]

Studio ArtThe history of art is different from other historical disciplines in that it is founded on direct visual confrontation with objects that are both concretely present and yet documents of the past. Department faculty emphasize analysis of images, objects, and built environments as the basis for critical thought and visual literacy. In addition to formal and iconographic analysis, faculty members use the work of other disciplines to understand visual images, such as social history, perceptual psychology, engineering, psychoanalysis, cultural studies, and archaeology. Because of its concentration on visual experience, the art history major increases one’s ability to observe and to use those observations as analytical tools for understanding history and culture.

The studio division of the art major has been structured to foster the development of a critical understanding of making art to support creative interests, and to develop students’ perceptions and imaginations as they investigate a variety of visual media.

Art History