Support our department

Undergraduate Courses in Art History 2020-2021

Fall 2020

ARTH 205 (CRN 17738) (3 credits)
Introduction to Modern Art
Dr. Julia Skelly
Monday, Wednesday, 10:05 AM-11:25 AM

This course examines modern art produced in France, Germany, and Mexico from approximately 1850 until 1945. Major figures, including Courbet, Monet, Manet, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Frida Kahlo, will be considered, as well as lesser-known artists such as Tamara de Lempicka. Modern art movements including Impressionism, PostImpressionism, Primitivism, German Expressionism, New Objectivity, Dada and Surrealism will be discussed. The period between 1850 and 1945 was a time of rapid social, economic, and political change, and modern art movements will be considered in light of socio-historical contexts. In other words, we will be using a social history of art methodology throughout the term, drawing on T.J. Clark’s important scholarship. Readings and lectures will give particular attention to issues related to gender, class, race and sexuality.
Syllabus (pdf) 

ARTH 215 (CRN 17740) (3 credits)
Introduction to East Asian Art
Prof. Jeehee Hong
Tuesday, Thursday, 8:35 AM-9:55 AM

This course provides a historical overview of East Asian art and visual cultures from early dynastic times (ca. 6th century BCE) to the 21st century. Focusing on shared cultural foundations, we will mainly discuss China, Korea, and Japan. The course will be structured around several important themes such as funerary, Buddhist, landscape, and literati arts, each of which will be dealt with in chronological order, generally following the order of China, Korea, and Japan. Throughout the course, students will be encouraged to think about both the overarching characteristics and more particularly local and temporal variations in East Asian art.

Syllabus (pdf) 

ARTH 226 (CRN 17741) (3 credits)
Introduction to Eighteenth-Century Art and Architecture
Prof. Matthew C. Hunter
Wednesday, Friday, 2:35 PM-3:55 PM

ARTH 226 has two aims. First, it provides an historical overview of art and architecture in the “long” eighteenth century (ca. 1660-1860), with particular emphasis on Britain, France and their global, imperial projects. Second, it welcomes students to the discipline of art history. We will practice formal analysis, visual comparison, critical contextualization, evidence-building and other fundamental techniques that will serve you well whether you aspire to pursue art history or are simply visiting the field.

Syllabus (pdf) 

ARTH 315 (CRN 17742) / CANS 315 (CRN 17971) (3 credits)
Indigenous Art and Culture
Prof. Gloria Bell
Tuesday, Thursday, 1:05 PM-2:25 PM

This course will examine the production of contemporary First Nations, Métis and Inuit artists in Canada from the 1990s to the present. A diverse range of contemporary art practices – including painting, drawing, photography, film, performance, installation and new media art – will be considered in relation to key aspects of the cultural, political and social life of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Much of the work examined reflects and responds to the continuing legacy of colonization and successive Canadian governments’ policies of assimilation and segregation. Artists, artworks and exhibitions examined will therefore be both historically and contemporarily contextualized. We will discuss the impact of the Indian Act, the establishment of Reserves and conflicts surrounding sovereignty and status, as well as the portrayal of Indigenous identity in art, popular culture and news media. Additionally, we will engage with the recent scholarship in Indigenous studies and material culture, and current events related to the theme of the course. The course is divided thematically, rather than chronologically, with weekly topics addressing significant aspects of Indigenous art and culture in Canada today.
Syllabus (pdf)

ARTH 353 (CRN 17743) (3 credits)
Selected Topics in Art History 1
Dr. Julia Skelly
Tuesday, Thursday, 2:35 PM-3:55 PM

This is a moment of reckoning in Canada and around the world. Police brutality, the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Black Lives Matter protests, and debates about statues of racist white men who have long been regarded as “great,” mean that this course is an opportunity not only to look critically at Canadian art and visual culture, but also at the long history of anti-black and anti-Indigenous racism in Canada. (This is not to ignore the other kinds of racism that have occurred, and continue to occur, in Canada.) As Dr. Charmaine Nelson has repeatedly shown in her scholarship and teaching, slavery happened in Canada. The territory now known as Canada was formed as a result of the theft of Indigenous land, and that theft, and the concomitant genocide of Indigenous peoples, continues to have ripple effects today in the lives of Indigenous peoples that impact mental health, housing, and physical safety, among many other facets of life. I want us to make this class matter in the context of discussions related to race and racism in Canada. Drawing on recent scholarship concerned with African Canadian Art History, intersectionality, and settler-colonial art history, this course will cover a range of visual material from the nineteenth century to the present. Case studies will include Montreal artist Prudence Heward’s paintings of black female subjects, as well as other white artists representing subjects of colour. Readings will discuss, among other topics, residential school photography, contemporary Indigenous photography, and Rebecca Belmore’s performance Vigil (2002), which commemorated the missing and murdered Indigenous women of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Ultimately, the objective of the course is to encourage students to think about both artistic producers and the subjects of representation through the lens of intersectionality, an analytical tool that has been 2 adopted by some feminist art historians as a way to address not only gender, but also class, race, and sexuality, and which reminds us that whiteness must be critically interrogated as a racial identity. Violence will be a central motif in this course, and assignments will be dedicated to both critical thinking and activism. NB: This is a reading-heavy course.

Syllabus (pdf) 

ARTH 354 (CRN 17744) (3 credits)
Selected Topics in Art History 2: Latin America
Julia Skelly
Monday, Wednesday, 11:35 AM-12:55 PM

This course examines modern art produced by a range of Latin American artists based primarily in Paris and Mexico between the two World Wars. Major figures such as Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Remedios Varo will be considered, as well as lesser-known artists. Works by Latin American artists will be examined in relation to modern art movements including Primitivism, Cubism, Expressionism, and Surrealism. The period between the wars was a time of rapid social, economic, and political change, and modern art movements will be considered in light of socio-historical contexts. In other words, we will be using a social history of art methodology throughout the term. Readings and lectures will give particular attention to issues related to gender, class, race and sexuality. We will conclude the term by discussing contemporary female Latin American artists whose art is related to violence.

Syllabus (pdf)  

ARTH 400 (CRN 17745) / ARTH 401 (CRN 17746) (3 credits)
Selected Methods in Art History: Historiography and the Practice of Art History / Honours Research Paper
Prof. Angela Vanhaelen
Thursday, 8:35 AM-11:25 AM

This seminar approaches art history as a set of practices. Weekly exercises and workshops are designed to offer training in the following arts: writing a compelling visual analysis, putting together a successful research proposal, critiquing an exhibition, explaining your research with clarity and confidence. A key aim of the class is practical skill building. The weekly writing exercises are designed as building blocks for the Honours Research Paper (ARTH 401). We will also consider the history of art history in relation to recent developments in the discipline, especially the ‘material turn’ and the ‘global turn,’ paying particular attention to the racialized discourse that has structured the discipline and its methods. The major outcome of this course will be a strong honours research paper.

Syllabus (pdf)

CANS 404 (CRN 17973) (3 credits)
Critical Museology and Heritage in Canada
Dr. Shelley Ruth Butler
Monday, 2:35 PM-5:35 PM

This seminar focuses on critical museology and heritage in Canada, with a focus on theoretical and practical approaches from the 1990s until the present.  Museums and heritage sites have historically operated as sites of control and exclusion, but they can also be sites of resistance, self-determination, and reconciliation. Students will appreciate why critical museology and heritage is necessary and how it is changing through a variety of case studies.  Museums and heritage sites in the age of COVID and social movements such as Black Lives Matter will be addressed. Students will conduct field research based on virtual or real exhibition and heritage sites and will be guided to develop their own “Curatorial Dreams” in response to their critical assessments.

For more information, contact David Roseman at david.roseman [at] or visit

ARTH 411 (CRN 17747) (3 credits)
Canadian Art and Race
Dr. Joana Joachim
Friday, 2:35 PM-5:25 PM

In this course, we will consider some of the key issues related to Black Canadian history as they relate to race and art history in Canada. We will examine the cultural and historical contributions by Black people and think critically about the disciplines of museology, curating and art history in Canada. We will develop an understanding of Black feminisms as well as harness skills to discuss art from critical perspectives considering issues around identity, gender, race, sexuality and class.

The goal of this course is to familiarize students with some basic principles of Black feminism, key aspect of Black Canadian history and how these apply to art history. This course will lead students to gain an understanding of key political and museological stakes of Black Art Histories in Canada and beyond. Students will be encouraged to question the practices which have led to the marginalization of these histories. At the end of the course students will be able to articulate these issues in a compelling manner and will have a general knowledge of Black Canadian art contributions from the nineteenth century to today. Students will also develop basic curatorial skills and learn how to facilitate conversations around Black Canadian contributions to art histories.
Syllabus (pdf)

ARTH 420 (CRN 17748) (3 credits)
Selected Topics in Art and Architecture 1: "Global Impressionisms"
Dr. Elizabeth Stone
Monday, 11:35 AM-2:25 PM

This undergraduate seminar will focus on the development and afterlife of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painting in the late nineteenth-century. Focusing on both specific aesthetic practices and the social and cultural conditions that surrounded them, we will consider topics such as urban redevelopment, technical artistic processes, the creation of transnational artist colonies, and the effect of new art exhibition venues. Our investigation of these and other themes will be grounded in close attention to particular works of art as we revisit Impressionism’s central place in the history of art and new methods through which to examine its global impact and reception. Assignments will ask students to think critically about the stylistic translation of Impressionism through its global dissemination both in the nineteenth century and beyond. While this course aims to familiarize students with the critical texts, artists, and movements that shaped the development of Impressionism, it also aims to interrogate “Impressionism” as a stable or singularly definable term. What are its geographical bounds? Who does it include? Who does it leave out? What is its relationship to local histories and national schools?
Syllabus (pdf)

ARTH 421 (CRN 17749) / EAST 493 (CRN 18358) (3 credits)
Selected Topics in Art and Architecture 2: "Face as World in Chinese Art, ca. 1000"
Prof. Jeehee Hong
Monday, 11:35 AM-2:25 PM

What did smiling, crying, or frowning in art signify in classical China?  In a visual culture where displaying of explicit emotional expressions was discouraged, what might emotion-driven faces created by the hands of artists have meant?  Against the background of the cultural phenomenon in premodern Chinese art that facial expressions were generally demure, the beginning of the second millennium in Chinese history presents as a curious swerve; the sudden efflorescence of “faciality” is witnessed in the fields of pictorial and sculptural arts.

This seminar examines historical and conceptual dimensions of the faciality by addressing how such “making” of faces was shaped as a medium indexical of particular social and cultural interests of the middle-period Chinese (9th-14th centuries).  The commonality in such interests was one’s attitudes toward defining, making, and remaking of boundaries that derived from shifting relations between social classes, religious beliefs, as well as from practices of image-making itself.  Focusing on a spectrum of linkage between the represented facial expressions and senses of boundary-making, the seminar explores several distinctive modes of representation identified through various sites of social and religious encounters, ranging from spaces of commemoration or worship (such as tombs or monasteries), through street corners (shared by commoners and literati alike), to the world of animals. This course is suitable for students who have already taken ARTH 215/EAST 215 or any 200 (or higher)-level Art History courses (ARTH).
Syllabus (pdf)

ARTH 447 (CRN 17750) (3 credits)
Independent Research Course

Instructor's approval required.

ARTH 490 (CRN 17751) (3 credits)
Museum Internship
Prof. Mary Hunter

The Department of Art History & Communications Studies offers undergraduate students the opportunity to undertake internships at museums, art galleries, and artist-run centres, among other institutions, as the equivalent of a 3-credit course toward their academic degree programs. Internships provide students with work experience and help to clarify vocational interests. As interns, students have an opportunity to see how things function in particular career fields and get exposure to research, curatorial and exhibition practices, and the multifaceted concerns and distinctive needs and interests of art institutions and organizations. Students learn the range of marketable skills required, the importance of group work, and the value of clear writing and presentation techniques. Added benefits include opportunities to network, find mentors, and earn credits toward their academic program. Please note: The internship for course credit is a two-term process, you must take this into consideration when considering the museum internship course (ARTH 490). You complete the internship at the host institution before doing the course at McGill, which is currently offered only during the fall semester. Thus, whether you do the internship during the fall,, or summer term, you take the course the following fall semester.
Syllabus (pdf)

ARTH 502 (CRN 23675) (3 credits)
Advanced Topics: Art and Architectural History: "Risk, Value, Accident: Art and the Actuarial Imagination"
Prof. Matthew Hunter
Tuesday, 11:35 PM - 2:25 PM

The Slave Ship. J. M. W. Turner
"Art insurance is huge business,” so one recent art-market commentator observes, “and not least now that artworks move around the world in far greater volume and frequency than ever before.” Insurance indeed exerts pervasive influence upon contemporary art: requirement for art’s circulation, judge of its monetary value, arbiter of its conditions of display. But, how has insurance come to occupy such a central position in the arts? Where, when and why have artists and architects made technologies of risk key to their enterprises? And what can a longer history of art’s entanglements with underwriting teach us about the contemporary moment? Art history possesses few working narratives of how insurance has ramified through the visual arts and architecture on its way to literally underwriting their conditions of contemporary ubiquity. This seminar aims to advance such a critical history. Introducing the general problematic, we will work through a sequence of cases as we aim to build a provisional genealogy of insurance’s crossings with art, architecture, and the museum.

Syllabus (pdf)  

Winter 2021

ARTH 200 (CRN 15309) (3 credits)
Introduction to Art History 1
Peter Boudreau and Jacqueline Atkin
Wednesday and Friday, 2:35 PM-3:55 PM
Arts W-215

This course is an introduction to the visual cultures of the world from the ancient to present day with an emphasis on how objects, monuments, and images were made, experienced, and used by groups of people diverse in terms of religious, socio-economic, and cultural backgrounds. Rather than offering a sweeping narrative that attempts to account for centuries of changes among a variety of cultures, we instead intensely focus on a set of aesthetic themes, concepts, and challenges that have been taken up by different cultures and adapted over time, such as monumentality, the sacred, embodiment, science, and technology. Through a close study of these themes, the course considers how materials, cultures, and histories were transformed and negotiated through making and viewing works of art, and ultimately challenges the art historical canon by shedding light on marginalized periods, regions, and artworks.


ARTH 207 (CRN 15310) (3 credits)
Introduction Early Modern Art 1400-1700
Prof. Angela Vanhaelen
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 8:35 AM-9:25 AM
Arts W-215

Visual imagery was mobilized in inventive and forceful ways in the seventeenth century. This course will examine the functions and uses of a wide range of visual and material culture in relation to the European and global expansion of absolutism, urbanism, colonialism, capitalism, diplomacy, slavery, missionary activity, and religious strife. Artistic and architectural production will be considered in relation to the body, especially historical understandings of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, disability, labour, authority, and social status.


ARTH 305 (CRN 15311) (3 credits)
Methods in Art History
Prof. Matthew C. Hunter
Tuesday and Thursday, 10:05 AM-11:25 AM
Arts W-215

Why does the art historian need “methods”? What are methods? How do our methods enable and constrain the kinds of artifacts we study and the questions we ask of them when writing histories of art? This lecture course introduces key issues in art-historical methodology by exploring the following propositions: 1) “method” is not equivalent to “theory”; 2) questions of method are fundamentally questions of evidence; and 3) if they are matters evidence, then questions of method cannot be asked outside of the context of art history’s knowledge-making infrastructure (its media, institutions and publics, among others). Featuring guest lecturers able to illuminate specific facets of the discipline’s evidence-building past and present, this course will trace an intellectual genealogy and broad historiographical overview of knowledge-producing techniques that now inform research practice in art history.


ARTH 339 (CRN 15313) (3 credits)
Critical Issues - Contemporary Art
Evgeniya Makarova and Chanelle Lalonde
Monday and Wednesday, 1:05 PM-2:25 PM
Arts W-215

The notion of space has long been the subject of scientific, philosophical, and geographical investigations. It has come to play an important role in the formation of individual and communal identities, social relations, and memories. Its various modalities, such as place, territory, habitat, land, and environment have also come to inform creative practices. From the “discovery” of linear perspective in the Renaissance to its deconstruction by the twentieth-century avant-gardes, visual arts have actively engaged with problems of perceiving and representing three-dimensional reality. Starting in the 1960s, embodied, site-specific and relational aesthetics have been coming to the fore, providing new insights into our experiences of space. Today, artists and architects continue to explore the ways in which these experiences are socially constructed, politically mobilized, and technologically mediated.

Through the lens of contemporary art and architecture, this course will investigate the tensions between real and imagined, private and public, sacred and profane spaces, built and natural environments, sites of curated and extra-institutional display, borders and global mobility. It will consider the notion of space in relation to key artistic movements (e.g., Installation, Performance art, Land art, etc.) and architectural trends (e.g., Deconstructivism, Minimalism, sustainability, etc.) of the past century. Weekly readings and assigned documentary films will also discuss the most recent developments in contemporary art dealing with pressing socio-political issues such as the ecological crisis, difficult heritage, mass surveillance, colonial violence and global migration.


ARTH 353 (CRN 15314) (3 credits)
Selected Topics in Art History 1
Sacred Space in the Medieval and Early Modern Mediterranean
Lindsay Corbett and Rebecca Johnson
Tuesday and Thursday, 8:35 AM-9:55 AM
Arts W-215

This course explores the concept of sacred space in the medieval and early modern Mediterranean (ca. 500 - 1700 CE). Each week, students will be introduced to several monuments and objects that highlight the different ways that sacred space was expressed, translated, and experienced. A key goal of this class will be to think across cultural and denominational boundaries by considering case studies from multiple periods and regions throughout the Mediterranean, including the Byzantine Empire, Umayyad Caliphate, Venetian Republic, Roman Papacy, Ottoman Empire, and more. Weekly lectures will be organized into thematic groupings that examine art and architecture from various periods and contexts, to explore shared visual strategies for distinguishing spaces and things as sacred. In this course, students will advance art historical skills in visual analysis, comparative thinking, historical research, and essay writing.


ARTH 354 (CRN 15315) (3 credits)
Selected Topics in Art History 2: Media Studies and Crime
Prof. Will Straw
Monday, 2:35 PM-5:25 PM
Arts W-215

The term “visual culture” has been used for almost two decades to describe the range of images circulating within our social and cultural worlds. "Visual culture" may include prestigious forms of image-making, such as high art painting, or less respectable forms, such as the popular cultural imagery of advertising and television. The institutions of justice and policing have used visual images for a variety of purposes, from cataloguing suspected criminals to reconstructing the scenes of crimes. Painters and photographers have used images of crime to "prove" prejudices about the criminal personality, to aestheticize the contemporary city, to raise metaphysical issues of life and death, to transgress cultural norms, and so on.

In this course, we will be looking at a wide range of images which deal in some way with crime. Some of these will be in the form of "moving" images -- that is, films or television programs. Others will be "still images": photographs, paintings, drawings, newspaper and magazine covers, maps, etc. The purpose of this course is to provide an overview of many of the genres and styles through which crime comes to be represented visually. The manner in which such images intersect with means of representing social identities (race, gender), social spaces (cities, etc.) and concepts of justice will be a key feature of our analysis.


ARTH 420 (CRN 15316) (3 credits)
Selected Topics in Art and Architecture 1: Contemporary Comics and Race
Jessica Fontaine and Itzayana Gutierrez Arillo
Friday, 2:35 PM-5:25 PM
Arts W-220

In this undergraduate seminar, we will engage with a variety of contemporary comics forms (comic books, digital comics, and graphic novels) and genres (superhero comics, speculative fiction, coming of age narratives, life writing, and comics essays). The purpose of the course is to learn how to investigate the ways in which comics participate in the construction and deconstruction of race and racialization. Analysis of practices of (in)visibility, caricaturing and stereotyping, worldbuilding, and documenting will be part of our regular practice. There will also be a drawing and research creation component in this course.

We will approach comic texts and cultures through analytical lenses drawn from studies of comics, media, feminism, critical race, and culture. The following questions will animate our discussions, investigations, and production of comics: How do comics creators utilize the distinct formal and material conventions of comics to construct or visualize narratives and worlds, and/or to represent their lived experiences and the experiences of others? How do comics construct meaning? How might attending to the aesthetics, narratives, production and circulation of comics draw our attention to political, social, cultural, and racial conditions?

Students do not need prior experience in reading, studying, or drawing comics to take this course. In the first section of the course we will develop a working vocabulary that will serve as the critical foundation of our shared work, and we will have regular practices to acquire basic drawing skills.

Keywords: comics, form, race, intersectionality, representation


ARTH 421 (CRN 15317) (3 credits)
Selected Topics in Art and Architecture 2
Bodies in Contact: Body Arts and Cultural Encounters
Prof. Gloria Bell
Tuesday, 2:35 PM-5:25 PM
Arts W-220

This seminar explores body arts through tattooing and other body modification practices within a global framework of cultural encounter and exchange. Expanding on the work of anthropologists and art historians, we will examine a variety of artistic media including: colonial prints and drawings, popular tattoo patterns and designs, anatomical and medical illustrations, circus posters, scrimshaw carvings, magazines on radical body modification including Re/Search, and the artworks of contemporary Indigenous artists working in the Pacific and North America as well as contemporary body modification artists. This course will cover historical periods from first contact in the Americas circa 1500 to present day “modern primitives” and the tattoo renaissance. In addition, we will consider body arts in relation to constructions of self and community, appropriation, resistance, and the assertion of multiple identities.


ARTH 430 (CRN 15318) (3 credits)
Concepts - Discipline Art History
An Engine, Not a Camera: Art in the Age of Combustion
Prof. Matthew C. Hunter
Friday, 11:35 AM-2:25 PM
Ferrier 230

This seminar proceeds from a simple observation: the major inventors of early history of photography were also makers of combustion engines. That fact exerts little force in recent theoretical discussions of photography; we will engage that literature only in passing.

Instead, taking our prompt from the urgent climate disaster unfolding around us, this seminar examines the broader ways in which the visual art and fossils fuels entangle one another in an era of industrialization now dubbed the Anthropocene. What happens, we will ask, when we stop treating combustion-engine research as some distraction from the “properly” photographic endeavors of Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, William Henry Fox Talbot, and their contemporaries, but instead see concern for energetics deeply shared between art and industrial capital? How, when and where did the poetics of volatile hydrocarbons (and techniques for managing their hazards) move between artists’ studios and the engineering of empire? Working through some key works in the emerging field of “energy humanities,” our aim is not to excavate obsolete media-technologies, but to sound the political stakes and methodological procedures needed to illuminate visual art’s enmeshments with the making of a planet on fire.


ARTH 447 (CRN 15319) (3 credits)
Independent Research Course

Description coming soon.

ARTH 490 (CRN 15320) (3 credits)
Museum Internship

Description coming soon.

Back to top