Global Art History Syllabus

August 10, 2012

Course Description

Our class will start with European painting and practice at the birth of Modernism in the 19th century, and trace a trajectory that includes the birth of photography as a medium, a number of significant art movements in Japan and parts of Asia.

The History of Modern Art by H.H. Arnason will be a key reference text in forming a narrative of works preceding contemporary artistic practice. Mechanical reproduction in art as discussed by Walter Benjamin in his seminal writings will also be used as a tool for understanding the Industrial Revolution, and technologies application to artistic practice.

Students will be required to develop an understanding of formal analysis writing, as part of the course, and to use this methodology rigorously to investigate objects and works of art. Additionally, critical analysis and argumentative writing is a key part of the course, and requires that students learn to research and cite materials relevant to their academic writing.

An online forum will be used as a center for discussion and debate on readings assigned. The instructor will provide links and private access to this forum. This will be used in lieu of written responses to readings, and all students will be required to post and respond to one another in an articulate way citing reference material from the course in this forum weekly.

Readings will be provided via e-mail, and a reserve section of books specifically for this class are set to be in the Faculty of Architecture Library by September 1. After bouncing between Eastern and Western practice the course will wrap up pre-1950 with a discussion of the seeds that fermented into Pop Art.

Link to the forum (this link is also at the footer of this page).

Download Global Art History syllabus as .pdf file.


Students should come away from the course with a robust understanding of major movements in art history including, but not limited to, Realism, Post-Impressionism, Abstract Expressionism, major movements in the history of photography and pop art. This will inform our discussions and your personal writing on the way these movements and ideas have influenced the visual culture you now live in. The evolution of imagery and media from use of the camera obscura allegedly by a painter like Caravaggio will be related directly to the way new media change human interaction with physical objects and influence aesthetic practice.


These writings are on hold in the library and will be available for photocopying by students as necessary for course content. Additional writings will be given out by the instructor to compliment the course, along with use of the text the History of Modern Art. Additional readings will be provided by the instructor, or e-mailed if necessary. You are required to check your e-mail once per-day for updates, or reading assignments.

  1. History of Modern Art
  2. Ways of Seeing
  3. Air Guitar: Essays on Art & Democracy
  4. Uncontrollable Beauty: Toward a New Aesthetic
  5. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
  6. On Photography

Slides and Reproductions

Colour slide viewing is essential for students to study works and develop a real understanding of the methods used by artists as part of their practice. Given we have no “textbook” in the traditional sense I will be creating Keynote/Powerpoint presentations that include relevant slides for essay writing and for preparing for the midterm exam, and final exam. These will posted online for students, and/or sent via YouSendIt and available for download via link sent to your e-mail addresses. If an online system through the university becomes available throughout the semester the method for disseminating this information may be altered for your own ease of access.