Spring 2024

Renaissance to Revolution: Early Modern European Art and Architecture

Listed in: Architectural Studies, as ARCH-135  |  Art and the History of Art, as ARHA-135  |  European Studies, as EUST-135


Nicola Courtright (Sections 01, 01F and 02F)


(Offered as ARHA 135, ARCH 135, and EUST 135) This course, a gateway class for the study of art history, introduces the ways that artists and architects imaginatively invented visual language to interpret the world for contemporary patrons, viewers, and citizens in early modern Europe. Painters, printmakers, sculptors and architects in Italy, France, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands created new ways of seeing empirical phenomena and interpreting them, by means of both ancient and new principles of art, science and philosophy and through powerful engagement with the senses. They produced godlike illusions of nature, from grand frescoes bursting from the walls of papal residences to spectacular gardens covering noble estates in Baroque France and colonializing England. They fundamentally altered the design of major cities such as Rome and Paris so that the visitor encountered an entirely new urban experience than ever before. Along the way, they learned from one another’s example, but, prizing innovation, sought fiercely to surpass previous generations, and argued at length about values in art. They contributed to fashioning an ideal picture of empire and society and conjured the dazzling wealth and power of those who paid them. But as time passed, some came to ironize the social order mightily, and some elevated beggars, farmers, servants, so-called fools, and bourgeois women leading seemingly mundane domestic lives as much as others praised the prosperous few. Finally, artists actively participated in the overthrow of the monarchy during the French Revolution and yet also passionately critiqued the violence of war it engendered. Throughout, the course will investigate how concepts of progress, civilization, the state, religion, race, gender, and the individual came to be defined through art.

The goals of the course are:• above all, to achieve the skill of close looking to gain visual understanding;• also, to identify artistic innovations that characterize European art and architecture from the Italian Renaissance to the French Revolution;• to understand how images are unique forms of expression that help us to understand historical phenomena;• to situate the works of art historically, by examining the intellectual, political, religious, and social currents that contributed to their creation; • to read texts about the period critically and analytically.No previous experience with art or art history is necessary. 

Spring semester. Professor Courtright.

How to handle overenrollment: null

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Intellectual skills and modes of learning: - student gains the skill of close looking to gain visual understanding; -considers how art and its culture are intertwined; -develops critical reading skills to analyze points of view from a historical period other than their own; -learns collaboratively with classmates; -develops ideas of their own in the exams and short papers; -discovers their own values by comparing them to values of the past expressed in art. Assessment based on: -ungraded, 1-paragraph abstracts of readings; -discussion; -2 exams; -2 short papers.

ARCH 135 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 10:00 AM - 11:20 AM FAYE 117
Th 10:00 AM - 11:20 AM FAYE 117


2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2023, Spring 2024