ARTH209: 20th Century Art

Course Syllabus for "ARTH209: 20th Century Art"

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This course explores the history of the artistic developments of the 20th century in Western Europe and the United States. The art of this period is characterized by extraordinary experimentation and innovation in styles, materials, techniques, and modes of dissemination. In addition to painting and sculpture, the 20th century witnessed the rise in popularity of photography, collage, montage, installations, earth art, performance, and conceptual art. Artists were sometimes inspired by the works of past masters but also often by contemporary changes in intellectual thought and social conditions. Therefore, we will examine the intellectual and cultural beliefs that this art both reflects and helped shape. Despite the great variety of artistic styles and theories that we will examine, a number of important themes consistently recur. If you keep them in mind as you progress through the course, you will find it easier to organize your thoughts and make meaningful comparisons among various artists, movements, and art works. These themes include: - reactions to the conditions of modern life (such as urbanism, industrialism, secularization, new technologies, colonialism, and identity politics); - a shift from objectivity to subjectivity that includes a movement away from the naturalistic representation of objects in the world to a more subjective, abstracted depiction of ideas or feelings; - the search for a meaningful role for the artist in society as a spiritual or political leader as well as an aesthetic innovator; - a desire to destroy old oppositions such as fine versus applied arts; male versus female; spiritual versus material; art versus life; and the Western self versus the non-Western other; and - changes in the art market and the rise in importance of galleries and artist-run exhibitions.

Material is presented in chronological order and covers the period between 1870 and the end of the 20th century. You will be introduced to a variety of terms that art historians use to describe styles, techniques, materials, and aesthetic concepts. Use the ArtLex Art Dictionary every time you come across a new term that needs clarification. Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

Learning Outcomes

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

  • identify the works of art of major contributors to 20th-century art;
  • accurately use the visual arts vocabulary presented in this course;
  • demonstrate an understanding of the relationships between a work of art and its cultural context (i.e., its historical, social, religious, and economic environment);
  • analyze, interpret, and critique works of art; and
  • identify the basic features of each of the 20th-century styles and discuss the main contributions that these styles made to the development of visual arts.

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 or 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.);

√    have competency in the English language;

√    have read the Saylor Student Handbook; and

√    have completed ARTH111: Introduction to Western Art History: Proto-Renaissance to Contemporary Art.

Course Information

Welcome to ARTH209: 20th Century Art. General information about this course and its requirements can be found below.

Course Designers: Anahit Ter-Stepanian, PhD; Rebecca Butterfield, PhD

Primary Resources: The course is based on a wide range of resources, including podcasts from arthistoryunstaffed.com, articles on topics of modern art from the Museum of Modern Art website and World Wide Art Resources, and museum materials on specific exhibits.

Requirements for Completion: In order to complete the course, you will need to work through all the material in each unit, complete the quizzes at the end of each unit, and complete the final exam. Only the final exam will provide you with an official grade. However, the course materials and the quizzes will help you prepare for it.
Please pay particular attention to Unit 1 as this unit introduces the concepts of modern art, modernism, and modernity. These concepts are crucial for the art of the 20th century and understanding them will help you master the material in the following units.

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 the exam. If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again following a 14-day waiting period.

  • ARTH209 Unit 1 Quiz
  • ARTH209 Unit 2 Quiz
  • ARTH209 Unit 3 Quiz
  • ARTH209 Unit 4 Quiz
  • ARTH209 Unit 5 Quiz
  • ARTH209 Unit 6 Quiz
  • ARTH209 Unit 7 Quiz
  • ARTH209 Unit 8 Quiz
  • ARTH209 Unit 9 Quiz
  • ARTH209 Unit 10 Quiz
  • ARTH209 Unit 11 Quiz
  • ARTH209 Unit 12 Quiz
  • ARTH209 Unit 13 Quiz
  • ARTH209 Unit 14 Quiz
  • ARTH209 Unit 15 Quiz

Time Commitment: You will need approximately 105 hours to complete the course. Each unit includes a Time Advisory that lists the amount of time you can expect to spend on each subunit. These advisories should help you efficiently plan your time. You may find it useful to look at the Time Advisories first and determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit. It is a good idea to create a schedule for yourself. For example, Unit 1 should take you a total of 15 hours. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunit 1.1 (3 hours) on Monday night, subunit 1.2 (3 hours) on Wednesday night, and so forth. A schedule will help to ensure that you meet your goals and complete the course within a reasonable time.

Tips/Suggestions: Please follow the directions in each unit of the Content Outline section to navigate through the course materials. Please read all of the assigned materials. You will find it helpful to take careful notes as you work through the readings, video lectures, and other resources. These notes will be invaluable resources for the final exam. Please see the prerequisites in the Course Requirements section above. If you are struggling with a concept, it may help to refer back to this course for a refresher on artistic styles, processes, and interpretive tools. The ArtLex Art Dictionary noted in the Purpose of Course section above is also a useful reference for brief descriptions of individual artists, styles, movements, and concepts.

Most importantly, try to think critically as you go through the material. You can achieve this by trying to answer the following questions:

  • What were the artist’s or the movement’s goals and how successful was the artist or movement in achieving them?
  • What were the significant innovations in style, technique, materials, subject matter, or mode of exhibition?
  • How do the works of art relate to the social and historical situation in which they were produced?
  • What similarities and differences can you find among the various modern artists or art movements?
  • How is each example of modern art similar to or different from the art of the past?
  • What inspired or influenced each of the artists or movements and why?

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