4.601
Introduction to Art History

Covering selected works and artists from the fourteenth to the twentieth century, this course will introduce you to the social and cultural practices that defined the Western tradition of art, and the methods used by art historians to interpret art objects. Focusing primarily on painting, prints, and sculpture, the course will examine changing conceptions of the artist, the work of art, and the discipline of art history. It will explore the multiple roles images have played over time, how they functioned in various social and cultural contexts, and whose purposes they served. Particular attention is paid to gender and representation, patronage and the art market, and historical interactions between European and non-European cultures and societies. The roles that devotional practices, political institutions, science, and trade played in shaping conceptions of art and the artist are among the issues considered. What methods are available to help us interpret the meanings and functions of art works for those who encountered them as worshippers, collectors, critics, and modern viewers, and what can the production and reception of art tell us about its place in the world?

Recitations include trips to local museums.