ARTH110: Introduction to Western Art History - Prehistoric to High Gothic

Course Syllabus for "ARTH110: Introduction to Western Art History: Pre-historic to High Gothic"

Please note: this legacy course does not offer a certificate and may contain broken links and outdated information. Although archived, it is open for learning without registration or enrollment. Please consider contributing updates to this course on GitHub (you can also adopt, adapt, and distribute this course under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license). To find fully-supported, current courses, visit our Learn site.

In this course, we will study the history of Western art, beginning with the first objects created by prehistoric humans around 20,000 years ago and ending with the art and architecture of the High Gothic period in fourteenth-century Europe. The information presented in this course will provide you with the tools to recognize important works of art and historical styles, as well as to understand the historical context and cultural developments of Western art history through the end of the medieval period. Introductory readings paired with detailed lectures will provide you with a well-rounded sense of the history, art, and culture of the West up through the medieval period. At the end of this course, you will be able to identify key works of art and artistic periods in Western history. You will also be able to discuss the development of stylistic movements and relate those developments to important historical events. Completion of this course will prepare you for ARTH111, which surveys the history of Western art beginning with the early Renaissance. (Note: This course will make use of a series of lectures from Professor Heather C. McCune Bruhn at Pennsylvania State University. You may notice that the Professor frequently refers to a class textbook; please disregard these references, as we will be using a packet of various web-based materials instead.)

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the general arc of the history of the Western world, from Prehistory through the end of the medieval period.
  • Identify the major historical events in Western history and the roles of various religious and political leaders in these events.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the vital role that imagery played as various cultures have sought to perpetuate religious, political, and cultural ideologies.
  • Understand the relationships between various cultures over time—how cultures build on the traditions of older cultures to create something new.
  • Identify the major stylistic developments in Western art from Prehistory through the end of the Medieval period.
  • Discuss the different techniques used by Western artists from the Prehistoric through the Medieval periods and understand which techniques were favored by which cultures.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how technological developments over the course of history changed the appearance, function, and reception of works of art.
  • Identify the culture and art-historical period in which works of art were created, based on an understanding of distinctive stylistic features.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how cultures coexisting in different geographical regions related to one another, and how artistic styles were transmitted from one region to another.
  • Identify specific monuments and be able to provide basic identifying information: title, date, location, artists, patrons, and art-historical period (i.e. Prehistoric, Egyptian, Ancient Near East, Gothic, etc).

Course Requirements

In order to take this course, you must:

  • Have access to a computer.
  • Have continuous broadband internet access.
  • Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g. Adobe Reader of Flash).
  • Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.
  • Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).
  • Be competent in the English language.
  • Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.
  • Have completed ARTH101: Art Appreciation and Techniques from “The Core Program” of the Art History discipline.

Course Information

Welcome to ARTH110, Introduction to Western Art History: Prehistoric to High Gothic. General information about this course and its requirements can be found below.

Primary Resources: This course is comprised of a range of different free, online materials. However, this course makes primary use of the following materials:

Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course successfully, you will need to work through each unit and all its assigned materials. You will also need to complete:

  • Unit 2 Assignment
  • Unit 2 Museum Visit Assignment
  • Unit 3 Assessment
  • Unit 4 Assignment
  • Unit 5 Assessment
  • Unit 5 Museum Visit Assignment
  • Final Exam

Note that you will only receive an “official” grade on your Final Exam. In order to adequately prepare for this exam, you must work through the materials for each unit and the end-of-unit exercises listed above. In order to “pass” this course, you will need to earn a score of 70% or higher on the Final Exam. Your score will be tabulated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: *This course will take a total of approximately *114 hours to complete. Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit. These should help you plan your time accordingly. It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then to set goals for yourself. For example, Unit 2 should take you 5.5 hours. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunit 2.1 (a total of 2 hours) on Monday and Tuesday nights; subunit 2.2 (a total of 30 minutes) on Wednesday night; etc.

Tips/Suggestions: As with any art history course, it is important that you take time to carefully examine any and all images presented in this course. Pay careful attention to images presented in video lectures, and pause the videos or go back as necessary to review. Most images also can be easily located in a Google search.

Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.