Art and Art History
Division of Humanities
“The pencil speaks the tongue of every land.”
— Alexander Pope
“Art for art’s sake is an empty phrase. Art for the sake of the true, art for the sake of the good and the beautiful, that is the faith I am searching for.”
— George Sand
Washington College has a long and inspired tradition in the visual arts. Elizabeth Callister Peale and her sister, Sarah, taught drawing and painting here in the 1780s—perhaps the first women to teach at any institution of higher learning in North America. In the middle part of this century, one of our graduates, Anthony Kloman, was a prime mover at the Institute for Contemporary Arts, London, behind an extraordinary yet ultimately unsuccessful competition for a monument to the Unknown Political Prisoner, the winning maquette for which, selected from some 2700 entries from 57 countries, survives in the Tate Modern. More recently, we had a special relationship with the South-African photographer Constance Stuart Larrabee, whose name adorns our studio facility, and whose work, a corpus of which she bequeathed to the College, hangs, among other places, in the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.
At a time when images shape our lives in ways hard to imagine even a decade ago, and neuroscientists and evolutionary biologists are plumbing the ways in which image-making is thought to make us uniquely “human,” we in the Department of Art and Art History try continually to map the relations between thinking and making, to contemplate the role of the beautiful—yes, the beautiful, which, in the work of certain aestheticians has again been linked to ideals of social justice—and to live up to the ideal set forth in the Renaissance, that image-making at its best (at that time, painting) is, in fact, the eighth liberal art, in dialogue with, and building on, the other seven: logic, rhetoric, grammar, music, astronomy, geometry and arithmetic.
The student interested primarily in the study of visual cultures, past and present, is given the tools for historical analysis and a theoretical grounding in the discipline of art history, as well as some understanding of techniques and concepts of current studio practice. The student concentrating in studio art, in turn, benefits from the perspective of those artists who came before her/himself, by taking one introductory and three advanced courses in art history, and learning something of the traditions of which she/he is—or is not—a part, in addition to immersing herself/himself in contemporary visual culture.
Whatever one’s interest, the major is structured to serve as an intellectual base from which the student can make connections across disciplines, as she/he seeks to understand, criticize, and engage our world, and especially the role of the visual in it—from study of works of art in museums, to the images scientists use to model our bodies and cosmos. In fact, many of our majors complete an additional major while here, in fields ranging from anthropology, English, the humanities, and political science, to biology, psychology, and mathematics.
The curriculum throughout is integrated with a vigorous complement of internships, study abroad programs, exhibitions, public lectures and classroom visits by leading artists, critics, historians and curators, which in recent years have included Linda Nochlin (New York University), Rusty Powell (Director, National Gallery of Art), Carlos Eire (history and religious studies, Yale University), Shelley Errington (anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz), Nicholas Penny (formerly National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; now Director, National Gallery of Art, London), Robert Rosenblum (New York University), Thomas Crow (Getty Institute) and Jonathan Brown (New York University), as well as regular departmental field trips to galleries and museums in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, DC.
One of our most important ventures is the American Pictures lecture series, held each spring at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, which we co-sponsor with said museums along with the College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience. Guest speakers have ranged from Laurie Anderson and Jamaica Kincaid to Garry Wills and David Hackett Fischer.
We also have the advantage of having a new, secure and climate-controlled art gallery on campus, Kohl Gallery, which in its first year saw everything from Impressionist paintings to middle school art, and by which we hope not only to better engage every major in the Department, but also the campus as a whole, and, for that matter, Chestertown and beyond.
In recent years our majors have been admitted to post-baccalaureate programs at such institutions as the Parsons School of Art and Design, of the New School University, New York; Christie’s, London; the Maryland Institute College of Art; the University of Maryland, College Park; the University of Iowa; the University of Virginia; the University of Pennsylvania; the University of Texas, Austin; the Fashion Institute of Technology, San Francisco; the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, UK; the University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK; and the Courtauld Institute of Art, of the University of London, UK. But they have flourished in other fields as well, including studio art, teaching, medicine, business and law, and, perhaps most important (and this is true of the former group as well), continue to learn throughout their lives, and make significant contributions to their families, communities and the larger worlds of which they are a part.
Requirements for the Art and Art History Major:
For the major, eight courses, including three 300-level courses in art history and the Senior Seminar (Art 495, which has one version for those primarily interested in studio art and another for art history), are required beyond the prerequisites Art 200 and Art 251, which prospective majors should take the first year. Students hoping to take the maximum offerings in studio art should take Art 261 by the end of the sophomore year. Students concentrating in art history are strongly encouraged to develop facility in a language other than that with which they fulfill the College’s Distribution Requirements (preferably French or German), to participate in the College’s Study Abroad Programs, and to intern in the College’s new Kohl Gallery. Students in both studio art and art history should consider spending a semester the Washington Center for Academic Internships and Seminars.
Senior Capstone Experience (SCE)
The Senior Capstone Experience in art, which is to be undertaken under the close supervision of an advisor or advisors to be determined by the Department Chair, but passed or accorded honors by all full-time Departmental faculty, involves some combination of the following: a comprehensive exam, or exams, and, in the case of those who have earned a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or higher in the major, a visual thesis, or exhibition, an art history thesis, or curating an exhibition of works of art or other artifacts. To be awarded honors, the student must present and defend her/his thesis in a public forum. For more details, please download the relevant document from the Department’s website.
Requirements for the Art and Art History Minor
For the minor, students are required to take Art 200, Art 251, and three 300-level courses in art or art history.
Distribution Credit for Art and Art History
The Humanities and Fine Arts Distribution Requirement can be met by taking any combination of any two courses from the department, along with the required Humanities courses.
200. Introduction to History of Western Art
A careful discussion and analysis of a selection of significant topics in the history of Western art from the earliest times to our own century. Emphasis is placed on the methods and approaches of the art historian. The term paper is written on a museum object. Required of all majors.
251. Fundamentals of Visual Design
Introduction to the fundamentals of visual organization. Emphasis on two-dimensional design work and color theory. Required of all majors.
261. Beginning Drawing
Introduction to basic drawing tools and techniques. Exposure to various media, rendering techniques, and the history of drawing. Problems based on still life, the figure, and nature.
271. Beginning Painting
Introduction to elementary problems of painting. Various stylistic approaches to color, form, space, composition, and the technical handling of various tools and materials. Prerequisite: Art 261.
This course serves as an introduction to black and white photography, with emphasis on basic camera skills, darkroom techniques, and understanding photographic imagery and processes. Prerequisites: ART 251 and permission of instructor (space is highly limited).
291. Digital Imaging
In this course, the student will become familiar with recent developments in digital media, become familiar with a variety of software, and consider what it means to work in this rapidly changing environment. Prerequisite: Art 251 or permission of the instructor.
311. Italian Renaissance Art
After discussion of the special historic-cultural conditions that made the Italian city-state possible, the greatest painters and sculptors of Florence and Venice will be examined. Giotto, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello, Botticelli, and Bellini are some of the major figures of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to be included. Field trip to the National Gallery of Art. Prerequisite: Art 200 or permission of instructor.
315. Northern Renaissance Art
Painting and the graphic arts in Germany and the Low Countries during the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries, with special emphasis on Van Eyck, D�rer, Bosch, Brueghel, Rubens, Rembrandt, and Vermeer. Field trip to the National Gallery of Art. Prerequisite: Art 200 or permission of instructor.
316. European Art from the Baroque to Neoclassicism
Covers the seventeenth-century grand manner in Italy, France, Spain, and England, followed by the rococo and finally the austere style of revolution in the late eighteenth century. Caravaggio, Bernini, Poussin, Velazquez, and Gainsborough are a few of the principal artists. Prerequisite: Art 200 or permission of instructor.
318. Nineteenth-Century European Art
Starting with Romanticism, the course gives intensive coverage to the major nineteenth-century movements in European art. The art of the period is seen in its cultural context with special reference to literature and to social conditions. Field trip to the National Gallery of Art. Prerequisite: Art 200 or permission of instructor.
320. Twentieth-Century Art
This course discusses major artistic developments and key figures in twentieth-century art from Matisse and Picasso into the twenty-first century. The emergence of abstraction, the historical position of the avant-garde, and theories of visual modernism are among the themes discussed in the course. Field trips to Philadelphia and Washington museums. Prerequisite: Art 200 or permission of instructor.
322. The Arts in America
Although the course sketches in the art of the early colonies, its main body begins at the period of the American Revolution. Lectures and discussion explore the changing significance of the visual arts in American life and culture through the 1930s. Field trips to museums in Washington. Prerequisite: Art 200 or permission of instructor. This course is cross-listed under American Studies.
324. Photography’s First Century
This course examines historical developments in photography from the 1830s to the 1920s, from the medium’s inception through early modernism. Lectures and discussion will consider topics at issue in debates about photography’s place in the history of art, such as changing attitudes toward photography’s dual role as aesthetic creation and as documentary artifact. Prerequisite: Art 200 or permission of instructor.
327. Washington Center Internship
A full-time, semester-long internship in Washington, DC, with a federal government agency, museum or gallery, or the like. The student must develop a substantial portfolio as part of their internship experience. Prerequisite: ART 200, a cumulative GPA of 2.8, permission of an instructor, and successful application to The Washington Center for internships and Academic Seminars. This course is normally open only to juniors and seniors. 12 credits. The internship package of Art 327, 328, and 329 will yield 16 credits towards graduation and 8 credits toward the art major or minor.
328. Washington Center Seminar
Washington Center Interns participate in an evening seminar selected from a variety of topics offered during the semester concerned. Students engage in class discussion, and may also be required to research seminar topics, prepare written assignments, and take examinations. Required of and limited to students enrolled in Art 327. Three credits.
329. Washington Center Forum
Washington Center Interns participate in lectures, site visits, small group discussions, briefings, and other required events, designed to help them understand the connection between their academic and professional goals and the special educational opportunities available through living and working in Washington, DC. Evaluations of these experiences are included in the student portfolio. Required of and limited to students enrolled in Art 327. 1 credit.
350. Advanced Drawing
The enhancement of technical skill combined with the study of the possibilities offered by drawing for creative interpretation and expression. Prerequisite: Art 261.
360. Advanced Painting
Present attitudes and recent ideas are introduced to assist the student in individual study and personal exploration. Prerequisite: Art 271.
394. Post-1945 Revolutions in Art and Theory
A profound shift in what we consider art resulted from the ethical and aesthetic crisis of the post-1945 world, when artists began to wonder whether art was still possible after the Holocaust, to paraphrase Theodore Adorno’s famous statement. This crisis proved to be a revolutionary force in the field of contemporary art, inspiring ideas and movements related to such cultural and social developments as Postmodernism and Feminism. This class not only examines key works and texts of the period, but also the reasons why works of art increasingly inhabit public spaces, are made from ephemeral materials, contain site-specific messages, take as their subject the body and its racial or gender identity, and eschew traditional means of commercial exchange. Prerequisite: Art 200 or permission of the instructor.
425. Women Artists and Feminist Art History (Honors)
In recent decades, growing scholarly attention has been brought to the previously neglected productions of female artists. This seminar will examine the variety of approaches that feminist art historians have taken in studying art made by women in the modern period. We will be concerned both with the historical analysis of the visual productions of particular female artists and with an exploration of how feminist theories, practices, and political commitments have affected, and can continue to change, the discursive and institutional construction of the history—or histories—of art and visual culture. Prerequisite: Art 200 or permission of instructor. This course is cross-listed under Gender Studies.
440. Rembrandt (Honors)
This course, which has as its subject the life and art of Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-69), not only opens a window onto the culture of the Netherlands in the seventeenth century, but also serves as an introduction to the methodology of art history—from the scientific examination of paintings, to theories of interpretation—for few artists raise so many fundamental issues as to what it is we do as art historians—indeed resist traditional methods of interpretation—as does Rembrandt. The format of the course is that of a seminar, with students giving presentations, aimed at honing their ability, not only to tackle tough art historical questions, but also to articulate their ideas, in visual, oral, and written forms.
194, 294, 394, 494. Special Topics
The intensive study of some selected art form, movement, or other specialized subject in studio art or art history.
190, 290, 390, 490. Internships
195, 295, 395, 495. On-campus Research
196, 296, 396, 496. Off-campus Research
197, 297, 397, 497. Independent Study
490. Museum Internship
This internship is for seniors with a strong academic record in the Department. In recent years, art majors have held internships at such places as the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, Massachusetts; the Kunstmuseum, Bonn; and the British Museum, London. Students can also intern for academic credit at the College’s Kohl Art Gallery.
495. Senior Seminar: Contemporary Practices and Methods in Studio Art
Required of all majors in Studio Art, this interdisciplinary course will provide a practical and theoretical framework for students to develop their visual practice of choice. Studio practice will include elements of advanced drawing, digital photography, video, sound, and installation art. Methodology will include writing an artist statement, CV, project and grant proposal, professional portfolio development and exhibition design. Prerequisite: Art 200 or permission of the instructor.
495. Senior Seminar: Methods of Art History
Required of all art history majors in the department, this seminar, preferably taken in the spring semester of the junior year or the fall semester of the senior year, will provide a more theoretical framework for art and its history than is possible in 300-level courses, while also modeling the best professional practices, including such practical exercises as writing a r�sum� and doing curatorial work.
SCE. Senior Capstone Experience
Meant to be the summation of all one has done in the Department, the SCE involves some combination of comprehensive examinations and a visual or art history thesis or curatorial project. The SCE will be accorded Pass, Fail, or Honors, and, upon successfully completing it, the student will receive four credits.
Courses Offered In The Washington College Abroad Programs
Art courses are presently offered through the following institutions: Monash University, Melbourne, Australia (art); University of Costa Rico, San Jos� (art), Costa Rica; University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark (art); Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Quito, Ecuador (art); Royal Holloway, University of London, London, UK (media arts); University of Hull, Hull, UK (art history); Artois University, Arras, France (art history); University of Provence, Aix-Marseille I, Marseille, France, (art); University of T�bingen, T�bingen, Germany (art); University College, Cork, Cork, Ireland (art history); Universit� Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan, Italy; University of Siena, Siena, Italy; Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands (art history); Pontificia Universidad, Cat�lica del Per�, Lima, Peru (fine arts); St. Andrews University, St. Andrews, Scotland (art history); Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa (art); Semester in Granada, Spain (art); and University of Nebrija, Madrid, Spain (art).
The following is a selection of commonly taken courses:
150. Methods and Monuments
Painting, sculpture, and architecture studied as artistic and cultural expressions of their times. Emphasis is on selected major artists, monuments, and methods of analysis. Offered in the London program only, both fall and spring semesters. Three credits.
308. Modern Architecture: 1750-1900
Aesthetic and technological developments of architecture, interior design, and the planned environment: Renaissance tradition to Art Nouveau and the rise of the skyscraper. Offered in the London program only, both fall and spring semesters. Three credits.
312. Art in Northern Italy from the Late Gothic through the Renaissance
The course casts light on a very important period of Italian Art during which the Northern Italian cities, with their enlightened rulers, gave birth and played host to some of the most important European artists. Its goal is to examine the most relevant topics of artistic thought and practice in order to understand the peculiarities of each cultural center and of the leading artists operating there. Offered in the Milan program only. Three credits.
314. Art in Northern Italy from the Baroque through the Present
The course analyses a very fruitful segment in the history of Italian Art, focusing, in particular, on artists and artistic movements that developed in the northern regions. The most important topics in artistic thought and practice will be examined in order to understand the peculiarities of each period. A detailed examination of the most significant works of painters, sculptors, and architects will seek to underline the differences in their artistic “languages” and will strengthen the students ability to “read” works of art independently. Offered in the Milan program only. Three credits.
319. French Art of the 19th Century
This course surveys developments in art in France during the nineteenth century. The periods and movements studied are Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism, and Symbolism. The course includes visits to Paris museums and galleries. Offered in the Paris program only, in the fall semester. (In English.) Three credits.
326. Art and Architecture of Germany
This course presents the history of art and architecture in Germany from the Middle Ages to the present. The course includes several field trips to sites of artistic and architectural interest. Offered in the Bayreuth, Germany, program only, in the spring semester. (In German.) Prerequisite: German 202 or equivalent. Three credits.
330. Art and Architecture of Spain
This course is a history of art and architecture in Spain, beginning with Hispanic-Moorish art during the Middle Ages and ending with the contemporary period. Included are the Renaissance, Mannerism, the Baroque, Rococo, and the modern period. The course includes visits to major artistic and architectural sites in the city of Granada. Offered in the Granada, Spain, program only, in the fall semester. (In Spanish.) Prerequisite: Hispanic Studies 202 or equivalent. Three credits.
335. Development of Space and Light in Florentine Painting, 1300-1550
This course will look at Florentine painting between 1300 and 1550 with special emphasis on the development of the illusion of space and light on a two-dimensional surface. The course will explore the sources of these forms (Greco-Roman, Early Christian, and Medieval), as well as look at the works of the major painters of the period (Giotto, Masaccio, Michelangelo). Field trips to view the art of the period are included. Offered in the Siena, Italy, program only, in the spring semester. (In English.) Three credits.