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ARTH210: American Art

Course Syllabus for "ARTH210: American Art"

This course surveys art of America from the colonial era through the post-war 20th century.  We will consider broad stylistic tendencies in various regions and periods and examine specific artists and works of art in historical and social contexts, with emphasis on the congruent evolution of contemporary American multi-cultural identity.  We will move chronologically, more or less, with many overlaps and cross-chronological, thematic diversions that will help shape this overview and offer different perspectives on the notion of an “American art,” per se. Overarching issues that have interested major scholars of American art and its purview include the landscape (wilderness, Manifest Destiny, rural settlement, and urban development); the family and gender roles; the founding rhetoric of freedom and antebellum slavery; and notions of artistic modernism through the 20th century.  A background in the basic concepts and terms of art history and art practice, and/or American studies in other disciplines, will be helpful in fully engaging the course material. Note: The links in the drop-down instructional boxes below will direct you to short essays with images, unless otherwise noted.  Please click on all images encountered, as they will often enlarge or show details; also note the size of the artworks in descriptions, crucial to their form and their functions.  Viewing original works in person is important for any study of art.  Please identify a museum, gallery, or venue where you may closely view a work of American art created before 1980.  A self-evaluation essay based on your choice is assigned at the end of UNIT 3.  Other assignments are based on the reading. At the end of this syllabus, you will find a worksheet for general reference in studying art and a list of web resources frequently noted below, as well as several additional sites you can use to look up terms (including those bold-faced below), images, artists, and styles.  To comply with all copyright laws, do not save any downloads accessed for your personal viewing through websites assigned below.

Learning Outcomes

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

  • Understand the historical (geographic, political) formation of the present United States of America;
  • Be familiar with renowned influential American artists from the 18th through the 20th century;
  • Be conversant in common stylistic designations used in Western art of the 17th through 20th centuries;
  • Recognize subjects and forms in “American” art through history that mark its distinction;
  • Be able to engage specific images, objects, and structures from different critical perspectives to consider their functions and meanings

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 documents to a computer

√    Have the ability to open and save Microsoft word documents (worksheets)

√    Be competent in the English language

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√    Have completed ARTH110 (Introduction to Western Art History: Pre-historic to High Gothic).