Bard College at Simon's Rock: the Early College
  1. Home
  2. Academics
  3. Program Overview
  4. Art History Courses

Art History Courses

Art history courses provide a historical and theoretical grounding for studio courses in the arts.

The art history program is designed for arts majors, and also for other students who want to increase their understanding of art, culture, and history. The introductory courses develop basic skills in art analysis and critical writing and introduce concepts and images fundamental to the issues considered in the upper-level courses. The 200-level courses explore topics in greater depth, both historical and aesthetic. The 300-level courses are designed for advanced students and offer the opportunity to study both art historical writing and art objects.

Survey of Western Art: Renaissance to Postmodern

Art History 102 | Staff | 3 credits

This course, the second half of the Western art survey, considers developments in Western Europe from the year 1400 to the present. American art is examined from the 1930s to the present. Lectures and class discussions focus on the changing roles of art and the artist in society; on art as the expression of individual, social, political, and cultural values; on style as language; and on the relationships between art and philosophy, history, and politics (both high politics and cultural politics). Students develop their critical and analytical skills while becoming familiar with a broad selection of works in relation to their cultural contexts. This course is an excellent introduction to art history for students with no previous exposure.

No prerequisites. This course is generally offered once every two years.

History of Photography

Art History 112 | Staff | 3 credits

This course is a chronological and thematic survey of the history of photography from the 1830s to the present mainly in England, France, and the United States. We look carefully at the subject, style, and techniques of representative photos and place them in their social and political contexts. We analyze a range of photographs including early technical experiments, motion studies, popular portraits, avant-garde photos, landscapes, and documentary photography. Some of the issues we discuss include the status of photography as popular art and fine art; photography as a medium of personal and political expression; the relationship of photos to specific historical events; and the histories of women and black photographers. This course is one of a three-semester series in the history and analysis of photography. The courses can be taken independently of each other.

No prerequesites. This course is generally offered once every three or four years.

Global Art: Africa and the Americas

Art History 113 CP | Staff | 3 credits

This course surveys the art and architecture of three continents before and after colonization. We consider the role of material products in select examples of cultures from West and East Africa, the Nile, and Congo; from the high Pre-Columbian civilizations of Mesoamerica; and from North America, considering native peoples of the Northeast, Northwest Coast, Plains, the Arctic, and the Southwest. We look at baskets, textiles, ceramics, costume, masks, temples, beads, totem poles, prehistoric rock art, tools, weapons, funerary statuary, and caves and other dwellings, and relate these objects to social practices. The major goal is to situate the arts in their indigenous contexts of time, space, and function, considering their role in ritual celebration; worship; enhancing the hunt, the harvest, and birthing; constructing identity; worshipping ancestors; and maintaining or resisting gender and power relations.

No prerequisites. This course is generally offered once every two years.

Global Art: Middle East and Asia

Art History 114 CP | Staff | 3 credits

This course surveys the art and architecture of the Middle East and Asia from a variety of historical periods. We consider the role of material products in cultures as diverse as the Maghreb (northwestern coast of Africa) and the Ottoman Empire, China, India, Southeast Asia, and Japan. We explore the role of artworks as conduits of state ideology and other registers of power, including gender and class. We look at iconography in several media and relate these objects and their motifs to social and religious practices. This course’s major goal is to situate the arts in their indigenous contexts of time, space, and function.

No prerequisites. This course is generally offered once every two years.

Picasso’s Art: Erotics and Politics

Art History 211 | Staff | 3 credits

This course explores the private and public worlds of Pablo Picasso and presumes that his art cannot be understood without considering both. The course begins with his early work affected by the anarchist movement in Barcelona and ends with his joining the French Communist Party in 1944. Students develop a visual familiarity with the most significant works done by Picasso starting from his youth, continuing through the Rose and Blue Periods, the highly innovative Cubist experiments, the Neoclassical phase, his Dada and Surrealism involvement, and ending with his monumental Guernica in 1937. Students are offered a method of critically analyzing his paintings, read art historical writing on them, and their relationships to political and biographical events in his life: the anarchist movement in Barcelona, WWI, the Spanish Civil War, and Picasso’s complex relationships with several women. We consider how he devises political statements from erotic experience. Conversely, how are his relationships with women formulated by political and social factors, constituting a “sexual politics?" How does all this affect the meanings of his art? A major goal is to demythologize Picasso and to locate his progressive art within patriarchal culture. Thus, the course interrogates the connections between Picasso’s art, politics, and personal life.

No prerequisites. This course is generally offered once every three or four years.

Theories of Photography

Art History 212 | Staff | 3 credits

In this course we think about what theory is and what it contributes to our understanding of photography. We read some of the most interesting and influential writing about photography, including the work of its classic theorists—Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag—and critical poststructuralists writing today, scholars such as Abigail Solomon-Godeau and Jonathan Crary. We correlate theory to the analyses of specific photographs taken from the last 170 years of photo history. The course is based on the premise that no photograph simply captures reality and instead that all photos, like any other form of cultural representation, are subjective constructions of experience. As such, photos are imbued with conventions and social and political ideologies of the photographer and her/his times. In the second half of the semester, we read critics who have been influenced by the classic theorists and evaluate their case studies of individual photographs and broader issues in the history of photography. This course is one of a three-semester series in the history and analysis of photography; the courses can be taken independently.

No prerequisites. This course is generally offered once every three or four years.

Analyzing Television

Art History 213 | Staff | 3 credits

The focus of this course is perhaps the most pervasive element in the American popular cultural landscape: television. Since its inception, commercial TV has also been considered one of the primary means for inculcating social values and ideologies. The course provides critical, historical, and multi-disciplinary perspectives on viewing TV as ways to understand, rethink, appreciate, and resist the discourses television offers. It explores how TV contributes to the making of a “mainstream” that upholds the status quo, most evident in “the news” and commercials. We consider portrayals of gender, race, and sexualities, and we explore the topic of violence on TV. We consider the value of “elite” tools (postmodern, feminist, and queer critical theories) to analyze an accessible and “popular” medium.

No prerequisites. This course is generally offered once every three or four years.

Critical Issues in Contemporary Photography

Art History 218/318 | Rooney | 3/4 credits

This course looks at the work of contemporary photographers in the context of the critical discourse that both surrounds and fuels its creation. We will read theorists and critics who have influenced and responded to the changes in visual strategies used by contemporary photographers. Students in this seminar have the chance to be active critics, writing exhibition and book reviews, and conducting interviews with artists and curators. We will also be experimenting with using photographs as a springboard for creative writing. With permission from the instructor, students with the prerequisite of Photography (SART 102) may take this class at the 300-level for four credits and complete additional studio work as part of this course. While prior experience in the studio is not necessary, the work of students in the class who are active photographers will serve as a resource for dialogue and critique. No prerequisite for taking the course at the 200-level.

This course is generally offered every Spring.

Feminist Art in America

Art History 228 | Reilly | 3 credits

The Feminist Art movement in America presented a challenge to mainstream modernism that radically transformed the art world. This course investigates feminist art practice from the late 1960s to the present. We will examine the first feminist art education programs (e.g., at Fresno and CalArts); the legendary “Womanhouse” project (1972); the banner exhibition, “Woman Artists: 1550-1950” (1976); the backlash of the 1980s; the resurgence of women’s activism in the 1990s; third-wave Gen X feminism; Millennial feminism; the Year of the Woman in 2007; the landmark exhibitions “Global Feminisms” and “Wack”; Gaga Feminism; and fourth-wave/Gen Y+Z feminism. Other issues to be addressed include: “Central Core” imagery, pattern and decoration, performance art as a feminist practice, the “Body” as a political site, appropriation as a feminist strategy, the gaze, masquerade, abstraction, intersectionality, trans-feminism, #MeToo, among others.

No prerequisites.

Art History Tutorial

Art History 300/400 | Staff | 4 credits

Under these course numbers, juniors and seniors design tutorials to meet their particular interests and programmatic needs. A student should see the prospective tutor to define an area of mutual interest to pursue either individually or in a small group. A student may register for no more than one tutorial in any semester.