nineteenth-century art

Rococo through Impressionism


This course covers European art from approximately 1760 through 1880.  By the end of the course, you should:

•   Have a thorough understanding of around 80 paradigm works of nineteenth-century European art, such as Kauffmann's Cornelia, Rowlandson’s Progress of Emperor Napoleon, Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa, Goya’s Third of May, 1808, Daumier’s Rue Transnonain, Friedrich’s Monk by the Sea, Manet’s Olympia, Gérôme’s Dance of the Almeh, Bastien-Lepage’s Joan of Arc, Monet’s Rouen Cathedral, and Cassatt’s Woman in Black at the Opera.

•   On the basis of these works, know the characteristics of some of the major movements and genres of art produced during the period, including Rococo, 'modern moral painting', Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Realism, caricature, picturesque and sublime landscape painting, Academic art, Regional Naturalism, Orientalism, the Pre-Raphaelites, early photography, Aestheticism, and Impressionism.

•   Understand and be able to articulate the close relationship between art and its historical context:  for example, between Neoclassicism and the democratic revolutions of the late-eighteenth century; between Realism and the social and political upheaval caused by industrialization; between Orientalist art and European colonialism; and between Impressionism and new scientific understandings of light and vision.

•   Understand and be able to articulate the diverse roles that art has played in society, from state propaganda to social criticism; objective documentation to subjective expression; and spiritual transcendence to sensual indulgence.

•   Have the basic tools of visual literacy, including an ability to analyze, using appropriate vocabulary, how works of art communicate or express meanings through the artist’s careful choices of subject-matter and form.

Textbook, resources, and structure of the class

The text for the course, Petra ten-Doesschate Chu, Nineteenth-Century European Art, is unfortunately out of print, but you can find used copies online, and scans of the relevant sections will be available on the course website (see the study-guide links above), along with some brief supplementary primary and secondary source readings and occasional videos.  The study-guides for the exams that consist of a complete set of images to know, a list of people, terms, and concepts, a summary of the key points for each lecture, and some guiding questions to help you study.

Readings and videos should be done before the relevant class meeting. Short (1-page) reading questions will be assigned to help promote class discussion. During class, I strongly recommend that you take thorough notes; this is the best way to stay focussed in class and help you prepare for the exams. At the beginning of each class period we will have a brief recap of the prior topic — review your notes beforehand in relation to the study-guides on the course website and come with questions.