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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Susan P Casteras
ART H 384
Seattle Campus

American Art

Achievements and issues in painting, architecture, sculpture, and other arts in the United States from the colonial era to the present.

Class description

The course will survey the history of American paintings from the late colonial period through World War I and the advent of modernism. Initially, lectures will concentrate primarily on history painting (by J.S. Copley, J.Trumbull, and B. West) and historical portraiture in the Grand Manner by G. Stuart and others. Considerable attention will be given to early 19th c. American landscape, beginning with Thomas Cole and also the Hudson River School and the national imagery of Manifest Destiny by F.E. Church. Images of the West by T. Moran and A. Bierstadt are another concern, followed by the luminist style of F. Lane and M.J. Heade. Genre painting forms an important critical area, particularly as reflected in the paintings of G.C. Bingham, W.S. Mount, E. Johnson, and others. Paintings and issues during the Civil War and post-Reconstruction years will also be addressed, from works by G. Inness to The New Path followers, with considerable time spent upon the art of Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins. American Impressionism will be discussed in terms of the contributions of M. Cassatt, W.M. Chase, J. Twachtman, The Ten, and others. The contributions of J.M. Whistler and J. S. Sargent to international art will also be examined in some depth. The early 20th century will include study of the art of Robert Henri and the Eight (J.Sloan, G. Luks, G. Bellows, etc.), as well as the signal event of the Armory Show and the advent of American modernism and bohemianism.

Students can gain a good idea of the history, style, significance, and content of American paintings from colonial times into the mid-20th century. Note: this class focuses on paintings and does NOT cover sculpture, architecture, folk, or decorative art.

Student learning goals

understand main artists and developments in American art 1750-1920

learn analytical skills re: specific types of paintings (e.g., landscapes and genre paintings)

develop and deepen writing skills in conjunction with assigned papers

experience direct study of relevant objects in exhibition to be on view at Seattle Art Museum

examine and discuss historical, cultural, and other attributes of American art and themes in the designated period

General method of instruction

Lecture and slides are the main methods, although on-site learning and teaching will occur whenever possible at local exhibitions of American art.

Recommended preparation

Those with little or no Art History background, undergraduate or graduate, are welcome, as well as majors in the field or students in American history, literature, or visual culture.

Class assignments and grading

Weekly reading assignments will pertain especially to periods, artists, or themes explored in class. There will be two short papers (appx. 2-3 pages each); a midterm; and a final exam.

Grading will be based on this or a similar distribution of points: 40% on the final exam (or paper); 25% on the midterm; 15% on each of the two short papers; 5% on class participation.


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 Susan P Casteras
Date: 06/16/2013