2023-2024 Art History Courses

Please find below the undergraduate and graduate Art History courses for the 2023-24 academic year. Full details can be found in the university-wide Academic Calendar. Information about our recently offered Art History courses can be found here. For our Art Conservation courses, please visit this page.

2023 Fall Term Courses

ARTH 120: Art in the West from Antiquity to Modernity (6.0)

This course forms the foundation for the art history major and minor but is open to all students interested in learning how to look and think critically about visual images. Discover how art and architecture have contributed to, reflected, and shaped issues and ideals in western society from prehistory to the present.

Course Description (500KB)

ARTH 203: Art and Popular Culture

What does The Matrix Trilogy have to do with critical theory? What does Harry Potter tell us about our fascination with the Middle Ages? What is “camp” and what does it have to do with queer culture and representation? As art is freed from the confines of the gallery where it is conventionally located in Western art history, it potentially becomes a “popular”, even democratising medium accessible to anyone with access to television, radio, urban space, and the internet.

Course Description (168KB)

ARTH 210: Introduction to Technical Art History

Looking into a painting’s genesis: Technical Art History looks closely at the materials and techniques used to create art -- from Early Italian panel paintings to Piet Mondrian's abstract canvases -- and better understand when, how, why and by whom these works were created.

Course Description (766KB)

ARTH 214: Renaissance Art and Architecture Before 1500

We will explore the first two centuries of the Renaissance in Europe (1300-1500), looking closely at painting, sculpture and architecture, primarily in Italy, but also north of the Alps. The course begins with the “dawn” of the intellectual and cultural movement known as the Renaissance in Tuscany and ends with Leonardo’s Last Supper.

Course Description (141KB)

ARTH 225: Fashion and Art: From the Renaissance to the Present

Is fashion art? What is the role of dress in the fine arts? How can visual culture be used to help us grasp the material world of the past? This course considers these questions through an exploration of the relationship between fashion and art from the Renaissance to the present.

Course Description (461KB)

ARTH 226: Modern Arts in a Globalizing World

This course examines the histories, meanings, and sites of modern arts in a globalizing world. Students become familiar with key art works, transnational and global networks of art, shifts in critical conceptions, and art historical problems surrounding modernity, modernisms, and modern arts.

Course Descritpion (15KB)

ARTH 253: Baroque Art

The Baroque era (c.1580 – c.1800) produced the first truly global arts style. Its greatest artists, from the controversial Caravaggio to the consummate courtier Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, focused more intensely on the viewer than ever before. Baroque art was the product of a world in crisis very like our own, with wars, plagues, power struggles, human trafficking, and colonialism. This course will explore Baroque art in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Course Description (340KB)

ARTH 292: Modern Architecture: Aesthetics, Capitalism, Industry

An examination of architecture as it has developed in relation to the economies, technologies, and social practices of the modern world. Our focus will include architectural aesthetics, materials, structures, technologies, and spaces.

Course Description (20KB)
ARTH 305: Topics in Modern and Contemporary Art History: Global African Diaspora. Image: Yinka Shonibare Girl balancing knowledge 2015 Fibreglass mannequin, Dutch wax cotton textile, books, globe and steel baseplate.

ARTH 305: Topics in Modern and Contemporary Art History: Global African Diaspora

This course aims to discuss the idea of African Diaspora focusing on the works by artists of African descent as well as African artists who have migrated to outside Africa. Considering that the African Diasporas have been shaped by different and common worldviews, we intend to show how artists have been creating their own agendas based on their individual experiences as well as those shared and related to Racism, Colonialism, Exile and the invocation of "Mother Africa”.

ARTH 308: Gothic Art: Romance, Power and Magnificence c. 1150-1450

The period we now call "Gothic" was one of the most vibrant in the entire history of art. Covering all of Europe and the Mediterranean, parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia (via the Silk Roads), the Gothic might have been the first "international style" in art history. This course looks at the period anew through its art but also its literature.

Course Description (1MB)

ARTH 311: Gender and Modernism

A study of gender in relation to modern visual culture from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries using theoretical frameworks drawn from feminist art history and gender studies. Topics to be studied include fashion and modernity, consumer culture, gendered and transgendered artistic identities, and the gendering of Modernism.

Course Description (746KB)

ARTH 352: Printmaking in Early Modern Europe

This course offers an alternative history of visual culture in early modern Europe (c. 1450-1800) through the lens of printmaking. As a new technology that made visual images more widely available than ever before, printmaking revolutionized the art world and contributed to advances in religion, politics, science, and commerce. We will explore the development and consequences of early print media (woodcut, etching, engraving) and the achievements of gifted printmakers such as Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Francisco Goya.

Course Description (1MB)

ARTH 383: The City

This course examines the city—past, present, and future—and its ability to be ecologically sustaining. We will focus on the design of cities—their buildings, streets, public spaces, communities—as well as on the confluences of nature, culture, technology, and economics in those spaces.

Course Description (20KB)

ARTH 395: Internship

Education in practice: Art History and Fine Art students can apply for a practical internship at a museum or gallery, taking on research or curatorial activities. Applications must be approved in advance by the Undergraduate Chair. 

Course Description (76KB)

ARTH 402/807: Materials and Techniques in Early Netherlandish Painting, with a special focus on Jheronimus Bosch

Early Netherlandish paintings, as material objects, are complex layered structures that were produced with a broad range of materials in distinct stages. This seminar will teach you how to use X-rays and infrared to study art. It will focus on the materials and techniques of Jheronimus Bosch (d. 1516).

Course Description (314KB)
ARTH 434/810: Non-Western Art in Western Collections. Image: Scene of the movie “Black Panther”, 2018.

ARTH 434/810: Non-Western Art in Western Collections

This course aims to discuss and bring light to some issues related to the presence of Non-Western art in Western collections. By focusing on traditional African art, it intends to problematize the implications of collecting and exhibiting objects that were not necessarily made to be seen by everyone in their original contexts. How do museums deal with issues like these? Is it possible to decolonize African art collections? What strategies could be created to approach African art works in a more meaningful way? The students will address these and other questions through theoretical discussions and the development of an individual project involving a museum database.

ARTH 446 Topics in Northern Renaissance and Baroque Art: The Dutch "Golden Age"

Artists such as Rembrandt, Jan Steen, and Vermeer lived at a time long known as the Dutch Golden Age, yet historians increasingly recognize that this era was not "golden" for everyone. Global trade brought unprecedented riches but also depended on exploitation of Black and Indigenous populations. Factors such as social status, gender, and religious faith impacted life experience for everyone. This seminar brings an intersectional focus to social conditions in the lives of 17th-century Dutch artists and their representations of the world around them.

Course Description (3.3MB)

ARTH 451: Caravaggio & Artemisia

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1573–1610) and Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–1654) are two of the best-known and most controversial artists of all time. Discover how their art viscerally reflects the violence, passion, and religious struggles of their day and may even be autobiographical. Their questioning of sexual and gender norms predates more contemporary artists such as Andy Warhol and Tracey Emin.


Course Description (360KB)

ARTH 841: Studies in Italian Renaissance Art - Moving Images: Sculptures, Ritual, and Living Traditions

Through rituals Renaissance people expressed their devotion, pleaded for salvation from devastating illnesses, and structured their lives. Sculptures played a key role in these rituals, many of which are still performed today, a continuous living tradition.

Course Description (170KB)

ARTH 861: Cultural Heritage Preservation II: Europe 1910-2000

We will investigate the threat to cultural heritage posed by wars during the 20th century in Europe (WWI, WWII, and the Balkans Conflict). Systems to safeguard valued monuments and works of art were established by governments, legal bodies, restorers, and heritage organizations, but wars presented severe challenges. By looking back, we gain understanding of what emerged as viable approaches to preservation, which is important knowledge as we continue to witness the impact of war on cultural sites in many parts of the world, and wonder what can be done.

Course Descriptions (5MB)

2024 Winter Term Courses

image of a busy street with advertising

ARTH 101: Introduction to Visual Studies

What does ancient Roman graffiti, Medieval stained glass, and Tik Tok have in common? How are we influenced by the images, screens, and media that we encounter daily, be it in advertising, news media, television, movies, video games, and social media?  Delve into the dynamic realm of visual culture, exploring its role in shaping society, politics, and personal identity; and explore theories and ideas to interpret and analyse what we see and experience as visual culture.

ARTH 212 Medieval polychrome sculpture

ARTH 212: Arts of the Middle Ages

We explore the pivotal period of European, North African, and Middle Eastern art history between c. 300-1400. This period not only brought forth our dominant systems of faith and their related artistic traditions (the mosques of Islam, the churches and chapels of Christianity), but also many of our institutions (monarchy, the earliest universities), and gave shape to many of our cities (Paris, London, Rome, Istanbul, etc). This course reframes the period through careful contextual analyses of major monuments and argues for the importance of the medieval world for shaping world art.

ARTH 215: Renaissance Art and Architecture after 1500: Popes, Princes, and Prostitutes

Ever wonder why the Mona Lisa smiles or Michelangelo's David has such big hands? Immerse yourself in the beautiful, monstrous, and violent art of the Renaissance and study the lords, ladies, popes, preachers, and pornographers for whom this art was made.

Course Description (117KB)
ARTH 234: Introduction to African Arts. Image: Chéri Samba Hommage aux Anciens Créateurs (A tribute to earlier artists) 1999 Acrylic and Glitter on Canvas.

ARTH 234: Introduction to African Arts

This course aims to present an introduction to the arts and visual culture of the African peoples, encompassing traditional or classic African arts, as well as modern and contemporary African arts. Through theoretical and practical analysis, students will be encouraged to reflect on how the African art field has been shaped by scholars, curators, artists and public interaction.

ARTH 248 Image: Mississippian Shell Gorget from 1250 to 1350.

ARTH 248: Indigenous Arts of North America

This class takes the "long" view of Indigenous North American arts, bringing students on a journey from the ancient world, through the shock of the colonial encounter, and into the twentieth century. We critically examine a vibrant and expansive range of "art" – from architecture, basketry, pottery, decorated clothing, elaborate designs on hunting and warfare instruments, sacred and ceremonial visual arts – to deepen our historical understanding and appreciation of the complexity of Indigenous artistic traditions of North America, in the past and up to the present

ARTH 260: Culture and Conflict

From the ancient world to Syria and Ukraine today, we examine the impact of military conflicts on art and architecture over the centuries and from a global perspective. Among the topics are: art looting during war, the restoration of damaged monuments, and attempts to protect heritage from destruction.

Course Description (1MB)
Le salon de verre designed by Paul Ruaud with furniture by Eileen Gray

ARTH 275: Introduction to Global Design: Women in/of Design

How can we trace a global history of design through women’s work? What was the place of women in design? How was design made to be gendered? How did it depend on colonialism? How can marginalization and oppression be challenged and subverted through design? This course considers these questions through an exploration of the relationship between identity, place, and design (i.e., architecture, interiors, furniture, textiles, fashion, and material culture).

ARTH 306: Modern Architecture in Germany: A Social History

This course examines modern German architecture as an important part of social practice. Buildings and monuments of modern Germany will be understood according to the values they expressed and perpetuated, through their aesthetics, their materials, and their spaces.

Course Description (20KB)
ARTH 319 Simple Net Art Diagram

ARTH 319: Art in the Age of the Internet

Over the past 60 years, networked computers have radically transformed contemporary life, including ideas about reality, identity, social relations, politics, and more. This chronological survey explores: 1) how artists have used, misused, responded to, and even invented digital technologies; and 2) how art can help us “see” and understand the often-invisible ways that digital technologies––from the internet to AI––function and shape our world.

ARTH 324: French Art and its Reception, 1855-1912

Students will learn about the competing claims for realist, impressionist, neo-impressionist, post-impressionist, symbolist, and modernist art, and will work to place this art in its institutional, social, economic, and art historical contexts, while foregrounding critical gender and critical race studies approaches.

Course Description (25KB)

ARTH 350: Propaganda and Visual Culture: from the Altar to the X-Box

This course examines the ways in which visual images can function as a form of social, political, or religious propaganda. With reference to examples produced from the early modern period to the present, it will deal with a variety of media: from fine art paintings to political posters, cartoons, video games, etc. Offered by Arts and Science Online.

Course Description (12KB)

ARTH 370: Architecture of the Baroque Period

The Baroque era (c.1580–c.1800)–a time of social and religious crisis–is characterized by some the most gargantuan, lavishly-decorated buildings in the Western canon. This course will look at how Baroque architects attempted to create a sense of sublimity and authority or a sense of escape by combining painting, sculpture and architecture.

Course Description (4304KB)

ARTH 391: Art Forgeries

Forgeries have an incredible allure.  As with a conjuring trick, we are bemused when we are fooled, especially when our own finances and reputations are not involved.  However, on a societal level, rarely do we investigate this phenomenon in more than a superficial manner resulting in little understanding of the depth of a fake’s impact.  This class will delve more fully into the world of art forgeries to provide a more detailed and comprehensive understanding of their history, production, identification, and reception.  In order to encapsulate the nuances of this phenomenon, this class will take an interdisciplinary approach, including guest lectures, to foster discussion about the impact of art forgeries on a wide range of disciplines including art history, finance, law, museology, and conservation.  Through interdisciplinary dialogue, students will attempt to form their own philosophical approach to forgeries based on their fields of study in combination with art history.

Course Description (172KB)

ARTH 405: Cultural Heritage Preservation

An investigation of how cultural heritage has been preserved in different parts of the world in the past and the present, focusing on methods used to ameliorate or prevent damage and destruction caused by the environment, war, looting and restoration. Case studies will be drawn from the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Course Description (700KB)

ARTH 436: Anthropological Theory and Art History

Anthropology’s focus on the social practices of everyday life and the cultural meaning of everyday objects can inform art history's investigations into social identity, material culture, authorship, reception, and the traditional hierarchies of media. This course will examine a range of anthropological theories and will assess their potential roles in art historical analysis.

Course Description (25KB)
ARTH 460: Curatorial Studies. Image: Announcement for the African Negro Art exhibition and publication, MoMA, 1935.

ARTH 460: Curatorial Studies

This course aims to present and discuss key themes and topics related to Curatorship and African arts, such as authenticity, authorship and repatriation. Through theoretical and practical analysis, students will be encouraged to reflect on how African arts have been displayed over time and the urgency of rethinking the role of curator. The students will write an exhibition project taking into account the new political, social and artistic demands related to African arts.

ARTH 494/854: Taking Rococo Seriously: French Rococo Painting and Decor and its International Diffusion

The first style in the Western canon to originate in décor, Rococo is often written off as frivolous. However this attitude is changing as scholars investigate Rococo artists’ preoccupations with conversation, friendship, decorum and spirituality, as well as emotional love and sexuality. Initially limited to the private aristocratic Parisian home, Rococo quickly transformed into one of the world’s most important styles to adorn church interiors, from Germany to Brazil. This course will explore Rococo’s links with society and the salon, its counter-culture rebelliousness and its femininity.

Course Description (333KB)
polychrome medeival sculpture of person wearing crown

ARTH 838: Seminar on Medieval Art: Extravagance, Charisma, and the Sublime in Gothic Art

What IS Gothic anyway? It is one of the most visually compelling—even arresting—art forms, yet it often lacks definition and characterisation. Sublime in its most literal sense, it is a lofty art form akin to lofty ideals and lofty deeds. But the Gothic is also an overtly opulent and glamorous art, with its central protagonists prefacing the beautiful and charismatic affect of contemporary fashion models. In coming to terms with the arts of Europe in particular, from Dublin to Prague—but also the Holy Land and parts of North Africa—in the years c. 1200-1400, this class sets a new agenda for the Gothic as an interrogative art form. This course will explore a series of current discourses in the field pertaining to glamour, gender, and “orientalism”, and we will also explore the charisma of figures including the Virgin Mary, who will emerge as predecessors of the femme fatale on the silver screen. We will also discuss the miraculous and the charismatic potential of saints and their material avatars in statues and shrines, the importation of arts from the Holy Land during the crusade, and the elite patronage of art and architecture up to and even beyond the Black Death.

ARTH 864: Studies in Modern Art: Art and the Medicalization of Modern Life

This course will explore how art and visual culture has presented, represented, and invited critiques about increasingly medicalized modern bodies. The course focuses on modernity primarily in Europe and North America, c. 1800 to c. 1950, but will range both geographically and temporally. Over the term, we will be particularly concerned with art’s engagement with medical modernity’s gendered, queer, trans, and racialized bodies.

Course Description (25KB)

Recently Offered Art History Courses