Undergraduate Courses in Art History 2018-2019

Fall 2018

ARTH 205 (CRN 20536) Introduction to Modern Art (3 credits) Robin Lynch and Evgeniya Makarova, WF, 16:05-17:25, Arts W-215

This introductory course is designed to provide students with a broad understanding of art, architecture and design produced mainly - although not exclusively - in Western Europe and North America between 1850s and 1950s. We will be looking at paintings, buildings, and functional objects as both products of the modern age and active agents of modernization; both reflecting the larger social, political and economic context in which they were created and changing it. In our discussions, we will attend to the many ways arts, architecture and design participate in the construction of modern identities, new physical environments and experiences of time, as well as cultural exchange on a global level. In addition to discussing major artistic figures and movements, special attention will be given to the roles of state institutions in the process of art production and display. Students will be provided with tools to develop the essential skills of visual, contextual, and comparative analysis of artworks, buildings, and designed objects, and encouraged to critically reflect on the historical and theoretical texts on modernity and modernism(s).

ARTH 207 (CRN 20537) Introduction Early Modern Art 1400-1700 (3 credits) David Mitchell, WF, 10:35-11:25, Arts W-215

This course considers the social contexts of a variety of artistic forms in early modern Europe (1400-1700). Throughout, we will be attentive to the ways that particular visual and material qualities of artworks relate to the circumstances that underlay their creation (workshop structures, patronage interests, market forces) as well as the anticipated conditions of their viewership.

Through a selection of both canonical and less-canonical artworks, we will examine the role that artistic representation played in confirming and differentiating gendered identities, social ranks, and political positions. We will equally investigate the controversial place of images within devotional contexts of the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation. Another consideration will be the way that images and the exchange of objects mediated relationships between European powers and non-European sites and peoples, an issue we will investigate through case studies focused on the visual cultures of colonial subjugation and diplomatic embassy. In this way we will begin to contextualize European art within the wider global context of power relations in the early modern world.

ARTH 215 (CRN 22469) / EAST 215 (22154) Introduction to East Asian Art (3 credits) Prof. Jeehee Hong, T, Th, 08:35-09:55, Arts W-215

This course provides a historical overview of East Asian art and visual cultures from early dynastic times (ca. 5th 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.

ARTH 226 (CRN 21916) Introduction to Eighteenth-Century Art and Architecture (3 credits) Prof. Matthew C. Hunter, T, Th, 14:35-15:55, , Arts W-215

This lecture course provides an introduction to the visual arts and architecture of the “long” eighteenth century. Focusing primarily upon developments in Britain, France and their colonies, we will consider key issues of the period including competing conceptions of the public for art, claims for modernity against established traditions, and the agency of art in negotiating the politics of class, race, gender and distance within and between industrializing, imperial states. Exploring the dynamic, evolving encounters between visual art and Enlightenment science/technology will be a central concern throughout the lectures and readings.

ARTH 321 (CRN 23969) Visual Culture of the Dutch Republic (3 credits) Prof. Angela Vanhaelen, T, Th, 10:05-11:25, Arts W-215

As Svetlana Alpers wrote in her provocative book, The Art of Describing: “In Holland the visual culture was central to the life of the society. One might say that the eye was a central means of self-representation and visual experience a central mode of self-consciousness. If the theatre was the arena in which the England of Elizabeth most fully represented itself to itself, images played that role for the Dutch.” In this course, we explore how the 17th-century Dutch Republic represented itself to itself through the examination of a wide range of visual imagery, from Rembrandt and Vermeer to various forms of popular culture. The focus will be on the role of the visual in shaping merchant capitalist identity in a society dominated by Calvinism. This process of self-definition will be examined in relation to a number of key symbolic sites such as the home, the marketplace, the tavern, the brothel, the theatre, the town hall, the anatomy theatre, the curiosity cabinet, the church, the synagogue, the city and the countryside, the nation and its trading partners and colonies. Our exploration of Dutch visual culture as a central mode of self-consciousness will thus open into a broader understanding of economic, social, historic, religious, literary, mercantile, colonial, and scientific developments.

ARTH 339 (CRN 25728) Critical Issues - Contemporary Art (3 credits) Prof. Christine Ross, TR, 13:05-14:25, Arts W-215

Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty (1970), located at Rozel Point peninsula on the northeastern shore of Great Salt Lake. Using over six thousand tons of black basalt rocks and earth from the site, Smithson formed a coil of 1,500 feet long and 15 feet wide that winds counterclockwise off the shore into the water.Course Content and Objective: 

Seeking to undo the cultural dominance of formalist modernism, the 1960s-1970s was a period of significant transformation. Adopting, renewing and expanding the attitudes of the historical avant-garde, contemporary art proceeded to question the formalist principles of self-referentiality, medium specificity, presentness, the understanding of the artwork as something simply to be seen and looked at, as well as the spectator’s disembodied response to the artwork. It engaged—although not consistently and often obliquely—with the realities of society at large and the political turbulences of the times, especially with counterculture, the events of May 1968, the civil rights movements of African Americans and Native North-Americans, the feminist movement and the struggle for gay and lesbian equal rights, the opposition to the Vietnam War and the memory of the Holocaust. It invented forms and aesthetic strategies to think aesthetics politically. These included: practices of
 dérive and détournement, assemblages, happenings and environments, the promotion of the everyday object and the devising of “specific” objects, scored events, non-dance performances, linguistic propositions, the combination of popular culture and so-called high art, earth interventions, “poor” aesthetics, televisual art, expanded media, intermedia, and much more.

Critical Issues—Contemporary Art examines the historical development of this transformation from the 1960s to the early 1980s. Following a roughly chronological order, it investigates some of the main art movements and practices that shape that history: combines, Happening, Fluxus, Situationist International, Pop Art, Minimalism, Light and Space, Conceptual Art, Land Art and Arte Povera, institutional critique, performance art, video art, feminist art, activist art, and postmodernism. The course focuses on the study of North American and Western European art but attends to its cultural diversity and expands the Western paradigm when possible. Throughout, it addresses issues of gender, race, nationality and sexuality.

ARTH 353 (CRN 25732) Selected Topics in Art History 1: The Visual Culture of Slavery (3 credits) Prof. Charmaine Nelson, W, F, 14:35-15:55, Arts W-215

Trans Atlantic Slavery has impacted every facet of social, political, psychic and cultural life. Persisting for centuries under multiple empires, it literally changed the face of the world, forcibly relocating, displacing  and marginalizing entire populations, creating the Black Diaspora, new cultures, religions and societies and helping to produce and concretize colonial racial categories. However, scholars of Slavery Studies have often neglected the importance of art and visual culture as a site not only of the documentation of slavery, but as a generative site through which slavery and its oppressive colonial ideologies were produced and deployed. This course will explore art and visual culture practice, institutions and objects of relevance to Transatlantic Slavery, abolitionism and emancipation. Although the course will cover various regions (ie. the Caribbean, Canada, USA, Europe etc.) and historical moments, the main focus will be on forms of western cultural production of both “high” and “low” art and popular visual culture (painting, sculpture, prints, photography, cinema, dress, performance etc.)

ARTH 400 (CRN 6241) / 401 (6242) Selected Methods in Art History / Honours Research Paper (3 credits) Prof. Chriscinda Henry, M, 11:35-14:25, Arts W-5

This is an advanced seminar on art historical methods intended for Honours Art History students in their final year at McGill. The course will focus on the question of how we think about art (what is art? how do we evaluate something we think of as art? where do the models for understanding and even defining art come from?) It will explore these questions through addressing the views of different stakeholders: artists themselves, academics, curators, collectors, educators, critics, and various beholders or audiences. The ultimate goal of the course is for students, by questioning the history of how the idea of “art” came to be, to gain a fuller understanding of art history, the discipline that reciprocally defines and constructs art. To focus our discussion, we will trace key historical and methodological issues with special attention to those that inform current questions, approaches, and practices. Beyond this, the seminar also focuses on the special skills it takes to be an art historian including grant writing, producing publication quality original research, and mastering oral presentation and the description and interpretation of artworks in the classroom and museum environment.

Advisor Approval Required. Limited to honours students.

ARTH 420 (CRN 19923) Selected Topics in Art and Architecture 1: "Bodies in Contact: Body arts and Cultural Encounters" (3 credits) Prof. Gloria Bell, Th, 14:35-17:25, Arts W-220


ARTH 421 (CRN 23971) Selected Topics in Art and Architecture 2 (3 credits) Prof. Christine Ross, M, 14:35-17:25, Ferrier 230

Shannon Bool, Michaelerplatz 3 (2016), wool tapestry, 114 x 74” Seminar Content and Objective:

The “affective turn” in the arts, humanities and social sciences initiated in the mid-1990s and 2000s took different, albeit often overlapping, conceptual trajectories. These trajectories include: a psychology and neuroscience perspective focusing on the identification and transmission of primary affects and emotions, established by the work of Silvan S. Tomkins and António Damásio, and expanded by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Elspeth Probyn, Teresa Brennan and Catherine Malabou; the Deleuzian Spinoza-informed perspective taken up by Brian Massumi and renewed in the work of Nigel Thrift, Jane Bennett, Katherine Stewart, Lauren Berlant, Catherine Malabou and new materialist thinkers, which understands the affect as a pre-conscious, non-representational or emergent, consistently embodied, intensity or force; a rehabilitated Bergsonian perspective arguing that affection not only embodies but also productively “contaminates” and can therefore change our perceptual habits—a view defended by Mark Hansen in his research on contemporary media; and a cultural studies oriented perspective discernable in Lawrence Grossberg’s attempt to explain how ideologies are internalized through affective investments—a tradition leading to the investigation of the “cultural politics” of emotions by Sara Ahmed, “ugly feelings” by Sianne Ngai and “felt spaces” by Gernot Böhme. The study of the affect persists in the 21st century, not only in the humanities and social sciences, but increasingly so in art, affective neurosciences and the field of cognitive studies. This seminar examines the interdisciplinary development of the affective turn and seeks to devise analytical tools to better understand its exploration in recent art. It asks: “What is affect (especially in contrast to feeling and emotion)?” and “Why is affect so important to the development of 21st-century art?” The artists whose work will be examined, include: Anne Imhof, Mette Ingvartsen, Tino Sehgal, Shannon Bool, Nadia Myre, Kent Monkman, Alejandro González Iñárritu, John Akomfrah, Ed Atkins and Jon Rafman.

ARTH 430 (CRN 25738) Concepts - Discipline Art History (3 credits) Prof. Matthew C. Hunter, W, 11:35-14:25, Arts W-5

An Engine, Not a Camera: Photography and/as the History of Combustion
This seminar proceeds from a simple observation: many of the major figures in the early history of photography were also makers of combustion engines. This fact exerts little force in recent critical discussions of photography where “indexicality,” the ontology of the photographic image and related concerns continue to command attention. This seminar seeks to change that situation. Prompted as much by the obsolescence of chemical photography as the unavoidable evidence of global climate change, we will return to the archive with eyes opened widely. What happens, the course asks, if we stop treating combustion-engine research as some distraction from the “properly” photographic endeavors of Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, William Henry Fox Talbot, Nadar and their contemporaries, and instead the see two domains as inextricably interconnected? How might reclaiming the photo-combustion help us to revisit not only familiar claims about photographic ontology, but abiding narratives of modernity that turn on notions of speed, acceleration and mechanicity? Our aim, then, is less to excavate obsolete media-technologies, but to sound the critical stakes and methodological procedures needed to illuminate visual art’s material enmeshment with the making of the “Anthropocene.”

ARTH 435 (CRN 26355) Early Modern Visual Culture (3 credits) Prof. Angela Vanhaelen, F, 11:35-14:25, Arts W-220

Early modern art criticism conveys a fascination with the moving image—an artwork so strikingly lifelike that it appears to come alive. The force of the moving image is physical, immediate, and emotive. Such works deploy stunning visual effects that move and even change their human interlocutors. In the words of one commentator, the viewer thus confronted by the incarnate artwork “becomes another person.” This type of response to images has been largely repressed from art historical discourses that focus on the distanced intellectual interpretation and contemplation of the work of art as a closed field of knowledge. Frequently dismissed as a form of ‘primitivism’, the living image is most often encountered in popular culture studies or anthropologies of the image. A reconsideration of the moving image thus has the potential to put art history in motion, animating and dynamically opening it to new objects, questions, temporalities, and methods of analysis. Engagement with the affective impact of images unsettles art historical categories of understanding, prompting us to reconsider key terms of analysis like representation, mimesis, spectatorship, meaning, medium, and interpretation as mobile and transformative processes. In this seminar, we will thus seek to redress art historical neglect of the moving image and explore its multifaceted potentialities. If the power of such works was to transform viewers, how was the rhetorical force of the moving image mobilized to inspire or manipulate political, religious, colonial, and social actions?

Weekly discussions will take up a body of readings, but also a corpus of moving images and their particular modes of address. We will consider images that move (automata, mechanical moving pictures); images that appear to move or breathe (living statues, portraits, waxworks); images that physically and /or emotionally move or alter their viewers; and the transformative potential of images that migrate between cultures. Focusing on case studies, student research can take up any aspect of the moving image in the early modern period (1500-1700).

ARTH 447 (CRN 5097) Independent Research Course (3 credits)

 Supervised independent research on an approved topic. Instructor's approval required.

ARTH 490 (CRN 1493) Museum Internship (3 credits)

Please visit: https://www.mcgill.ca/ahcs/undergraduate/ah/internship
Advisor Approval Required.


Winter 2019

ARTH 207 (CRN 17197) Introduction Early Modern Art 1400-1700 (3 credits) Prof. Angela Vanhaelen, W, F, 11:35-12:55, Arts W-215


ARTH 223 (CRN 18307) Introduction Italian Renaissance Art 1300-1500 (3 credits) Prof. Chriscinda Henry, T, Th, 13:05-14:25, Arts W-215

This course is a selective survey intended to introduce students to major artists, monuments, cities, and subjects of Italian art from 1300-1500. Particular attention is paid to Florence, Siena, and the North Italian courts. The art of this period, commonly referred to as the Early Renaissance, was grounded in the exigencies of commune, court, and city. We will consider the changing role of the artwork in political and religious contexts, and in public and private life, bearing in mind the varying interests of those who commissioned and crafted works of art and those who encountered them as beholders. From this variety of uses and responses emerged multiple conceptions of the nature of art and the role of the artist. Together we will explore these conceptions through a range of primary and secondary source readings in which special attention will be given to the historical figures of artist, patron, and viewer, to technique and workshop practice, to art theory, and to the powerful role of art in society. Through the course you will also have the opportunity to become familiar with the excellent collection of Italian Renaissance paintings and decorative arts in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

ARTH 305 (CRN 3190) Methods in Art History (3 credits) Prof. TBA, W, F, 13:05-14:25, Arts W-215


ARTH 314 (CRN 18308) The Medieval City - Constantinople (3 credits) Prof. Cecily Hilsdale, M, 11:35-14:25, Arts W-215

This course is dedicated to the visual histories, both real and imagined, of the medieval city of Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul. Founded by Constantine the Great in the fourth century and conquered by the Ottomans in the fifteenth century, Constantinople constituted the heart of the Byzantine Empire. As the seat of imperial and patriarchal power, it embodied sacro-imperial authority like no other city.

Weekly lectures will trace the architectural layers of this exceptional medieval city, beginning with its foundation as “New Rome” and its transformation into the capital of a vast late antique empire whose sway stretched from the Levant to the Adriatic. We will then consider the city’s later medieval history as the center of a fragmented political entity, before finally turning to its eventual demise as the Byzantine capital and transformation into the capital city of the Ottoman Empire. Throughout these different historical moments, we will trace the urban manifestations of secular spectacle and imperial memory, sacred celebrations and the sacrosanct performance of Orthodoxy. Readings will include primary sources in translation and secondary readings by leading scholars in the field. We will consider not only the visual and architectural fabric of the city—its surviving and lost edifices and sculptures as well as cartographic textual and visual representations of the city—but also the critical ritual movements through the city, especially its lavish liturgies and imperial processions.

Prerequisite: Prior knowledge of Byzantine or medieval art history is not required but recommended. Students are expected to have taken at least one previous 200-level art history class.

ARTH 315 (CRN 19006) Indigenous Art and Culture (3 credits), T, Th, 08:35-09:55, Prof. Gloria Bell, Arts W-215


ARTH 336 (CRN 18831) Art Now (3 credits) Prof. Christine Ross, M, W, 14:35-15:55, Arts W-215


ARTH 354 (CRN 13876) Selected Topics Art History 2 (3 credits) Prof. Charmaine Nelson, T, Th, 11:35-12:55, Arts W-215


ARTH 411 (CRN 18313) Canadian Art and Race (3 credits), Prof. Charmaine Nelson, F, 11:35-14:25, Arts W-5


ARTH 420 (CRN 13879) Selected Topics in Art and Architecture 1 (3 credits) Prof. Mary Hunter, M, 11:35 -14:25, Arts W-5


ARTH 421 (CRN 15136) Selected Topics in Art and Architecture 2 (3 credits) Gwendolyn Owens, T, 14:35-17:25, Arts W-220


ARTH 422 (CRN 14296) Selected Topics in Art and Architecture 3 (3 credits) Jeehee Hong, Th, 14:35-17:25, Arts W-220

How did traditional Chinese visualize their happiness, humor, love, sorrow, or pain? What did smiling, crying or frowning in art signify in classical China? This seminar will historically examine expressions of emotions in art and visual culture in pre-Modern China, from the early to late imperial periods. Generally considered more demure than their counterparts in the European tradition, Chinese representations of emotions have been understudied in the field of art history. Beginning from the typology of this general impression, this seminar asks why certain types of emotions were chosen for representations and how these representations of emotional expressions were shaped by cultural, social, and intellectual environments, as well as what specific ways of visualizing emotions can tell us about traditional Chinese society.

ARTH 447 (CRN 1673) Independent Research Course (3 credits) Instructor’s Approval Required

Supervised independent research on an approved topic.

ARTH 490 (CRN 1674) Museum Internship (3 credits) Advisor’s Approval Required