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Masterworks of World Art: From Caves to Contemporary

This course is expected to run but has not yet been scheduled.

Course Description

This course will explore a key question that lies at the heart of all art historical study: What makes a work of art great? Our objective is not to find one definitive answer to this question, but rather, to raise new questions as we examine a range of iconic masterworks from prehistoric cave painting to contemporary street art. We will consider issues of style, meaning, and cultural context in examples drawn from both Western and Non-western artistic traditions.

This course surveys some of the major works of art produced in painting, sculpture, and architecture from around the world. Our study is structured chronologically and will provide each student with a clear historical overview. Students will become familiar with works that scholars generally agree represent "a standard" in their respective artistic traditions. Students will also learn art historical terminology. While we will consider differences in artistic styles, our main focus will be on the larger social, political, and cultural context in which a work was produced. We will also examine current art historical controversies involving cultural patrimony, copyright, and censorship. Students will be asked to review specific case studies and then engage in a class debate for each. This course is an excellent foundation for undergraduate study in art history.

By the end of this course, students will be able to identify and deepen their understanding of art historical masterworks. Moreover, students will enhance their knowledge of world history. Students will also be able to better grasp art historical terms as well as write a formal visual analysis on a specific work of art. The aim is not simply to identify one original context as a basis for interpretation, but to consider how works mean and how they function in different contexts. The main goal of this course is for students to begin to look at works more critically and to actively partake in the dynamic process of viewing.