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Instructor Class Description

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Ivan Drpic
ART H 202
Seattle Campus

Survey of Western Art-Medieval and Renaissance

Emphasizes the arts of the Byzantine Empire and Western Christendom from Late Antiquity to the High Renaissance.

Class description

This course surveys the visual arts of the Western world from the advent of Christianity and the ensuing transformation of ancient Roman culture through the period known as the Renaissance. Focusing upon paradigmatic artworks, monuments, and sites, the course explores over one thousand years of artistic production across Western Europe and much of the Mediterranean Basin. We will examine a variety of artistic media and genres, from bronze statuary and sparkling gold mosaics to portable devotional pictures, ivory carvings, and lavishly illustrated hand-written books. We will investigate this rich and often challenging material in its original contexts and ask how art was made, where it was displayed, and what kinds of messages it was intended to communicate in the periods and cultures under consideration. Among the larger issues to be addressed are craftsmanship and materiality; artistic patronage and the role of the artist; Greco-Roman antiquity and its enduring presence in the European imagination; cross-cultural exchange; the relationship between word and image; and the role of artworks as instruments and active participants in religious rituals and devotion.

A central theme running through the course concerns the notion of the image and its status in Christian cultures. How did the emergence of Christianity transform the ancient pagan principles and practices of image-making? In what ways were images mobilized by the new religion to give figural form to the divine and show the invisible by means of the visible? How, despite the biblical prohibition against the veneration of "graven" images (Exodus 20:4-5), did certain religious pictures and statues become objects of cult? How were such cult images perceived and handled by the faithful? When did the modern concept of art emerge and what does it owe to the tradition of the Christian cult image?

By successfully completing this course, you will gain familiarity with the visual arts of the Western world between ca. 300 and ca. 1500. You will deepen your understanding of the values, ideals, and attitudes that conditioned the production and reception of art in cultures very different from our own. Beyond the historical focus of the course, you will develop the skills of visual analysis and critical reading, master the basic concepts and vocabulary that art historians use to describe, analyze, and interpret artworks, and achieve heightened awareness of the intersection of art, society, and human experience at large.

The required textbook for the course is Fred S. Kleiner, Gardner’s Art through the Ages: A Global History, 14th edition (Boston, MA: Wadsworth, 2012). Copies of a bundle containing the chapters that we need for the course (Books B and D) are available for purchase at the University Bookstore.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Ivan Drpic
Date: 01/05/2013