A Brief Survey of Western Art: From Cave Paintings to Urinals

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Summer 2017 quarter (Second Session)

Taught by

This class is designed to introduce students to the historical trajectory of Western art through its turbulent succession of movements and practices. We will explore the early development of representational images and how ancient civilizations came to lay the groundwork for almost 2,000 years of European art. The class will look closely at the broader implications of how developments in visual representation and stylistic forms were almost always tied to social, political, religious, and sexual / gendered battles happening on the ground. We will examine the sociopolitical implications of form and content in bodily and spatial representation in painting, sculpture, and photography. From Giotto's reintroduction of Greek Classicism and Humanism into 14th century religious painting to Neoclassicism's usurping of Rococo as a visual analogy of The Reign of Terror, and the total reorganization of artistic thought and practice brought about by Dadaism and photography, students will consistently seek to identify and contextualize the underlying factors of Western art's formal transformations. We will explore the disintegration of mimetic representation in the 19th and 20th centuries and the rise of abstraction, Modernism and Postmodernism. 

Students will be expected to write close, critical analysis of artists and movements covered in the class. Students will write a final paper investigating the critical responses to a post-19th century artist and explore the ramifications of that artist and the public/critical responses to their work. 

Program Details

Fields of Study

aesthetics art history cultural studies history visual arts

Preparatory For

Art history, visual arts, media arts, visual culture


Summer Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

Monday - Thursday, 10am - 2pm

Online Learning

No Required Online Learning