ARTH 242
Art and Enlightenment in Europe
Last Offered Fall 2022
Division I
This course is not offered in the current catalog

Class Details

This lecture course traces the emergence of new modes of art- and image-making during two momentous centuries of European history that established the paradoxical foundations of our modern world. In this period, modern democracy was founded and determined by exploitative labor, the extraction of natural resources, and the rise of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Over two centuries from the founding of the French Academy in 1648 to the 1839 invention of photography, this course traces these tensions in art and intellectual thought, examining beauty and the sublime, rationality and madness, personhood and enslavement, natural history and extraction, democracy and tyranny. Often defined in terms of the “Enlightenment,” this intellectual and artistic period engaged with freedom of religious thought, scientific experiment, and a belief that humanity was guided by reason and rationality. Yet these same discourses also laid the foundation for the invention of race, nationalism, and the expansion of European colonialism. Isolating a series of pivotal moments and emblematic figures in visual culture of this period, this course asks students to consider how art was implicated in Enlightenment, and, in turn, how Enlightenment was implicated in both newly liberatory and newly oppressive concepts of subjectivity and personhood. Particular emphasis will be placed on the history of science, and, relatedly, on the increasing global circulation of ideas, people, and goods. Artists in our purview include well-known figures like Velázquez, Rembrandt, Watteau, Hogarth, Goya, and Blake, as well as makers until recently left out of the art-historical canon, such as the Frankfurt-born botanical illustrator Maria Sibylla Merian, the Polynesian navigator and draftsman Tupaia, and the Guadeloupean neoclassical painter Guillaume Guillon-Lethière, the subject of a major upcoming exhibition at the Clark Art Institute. Designed for students with no prior experience studying art history, the course will work directly from objects in local collections, prioritizing methods of close looking and formal analysis. At the same time, the questions and methods of our inquiry will be fundamentally interdisciplinary. Readings will emphasize primary sources and recent scholarship. A separate discussion section will be offered for MA students.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 50
Expected: 50
Class#: 1553
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: midterm exam; final exam; visual analysis paper (3 pages); final paper (10 pages)
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: art history majors
Distributions: Division I
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ARTH 242 Division I ARTH 552 Division I
Attributes: ARTH pre-1800

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