ARTH 293/3.0 Image/Self
From ancient Egyptian mummies to contemporary selfies, visual portraits have reflected and shaped ideals of personal and collective identity in diverse cultures and historical periods. This course explores the art of portraiture and its significance in human society. Specific case studies may vary.
In the age of the selfie, no art form is more popular than portraiture. We all do it, we all interact with it, but what does it really tell us about ourselves? This course will explore some of the many ways in which representations of real human beings have played a role in art and culture throughout recorded history and in diverse societies around the world. While charting the history of this engaging art form, we will consider how portraits have helped to express ideals of personal and collective identity and shape ideas about private and public identity that continue to affect art and society today.
Students will explore topics related to the rise of the individual, the use of self-image to articulate shifting modes of subjectivity, the representation of post-conflict trauma and question the gender politics between artist, sitter and spectator. How images relate to contemporary identities, and current responses to traditional narratives will be addressed by studying the shift in emphasis and the cult of celebrity of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Experiential Learning Opportunities
Experience has shown that bringing students into contact with a range of primary sources is essential to an understanding of the portraits studied on this course. Previous example of ELOs for this course include visits to the National Gallery, London and the Museé D’Orsay, Paris. These visits provided students with extensive primary sources, and students were encouraged to use these Impressionist collections as the focus of both their class presentations, and their essays.