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ARTH 294:

The Renaissance Artist

Spring, 2012

ARTH 294
Tuesday, 5:30-8:00, FA 166.

Web page:

Dr. Allen Farber, Associate Professor
303 Fine Arts Center (436- 2558); E-Mail:

Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 10:00-11:00 and Wednesday, 1:00-3:00, or by appointment. Notes can be left in my mailbox in 222 FAC, or messages can be left through Voice-Mail at 436-2558. I would also encourage you to communicate with me over E-Mail.

Course Description:

An important aspect of the Renaissance was the changing conceptions of the artist. This course explores the transformation from the artist as craftsman to the artist as creative genius. The social, political, economic, and intellectual contexts provided by cities like Paris, Bruges, Florence, Nuremberg, and Venic provided the settings for the changing roles and conceptions of the artist. LA

Pre-requisite: ARTH 109, ARTH 110, or ARTH 200.

Course Requirements:

1. The class will be conducted in a lecture/discussion format. I would like to encourage as much active participation in the class as possible.

2. Course readings will be largely available through the course's extensive web site. Students will be expected to read materials posted on the course's assignments page in advance of class, and to respond to the materials in a journal they will maintain throughout the semester. The journal responses will be the foundation for class discussions. At the end of the semester students will be expected to submit their journal that will be used to help determine the student's grade for participation.

3. This class is coordinated with the annual art history conference. The topic of this year's conference is the artist in society. Students in this ARTH 294 course will be encouraged to present their research at this conference. All students are expected to attend the conference.

4. Each student will be expected to write a major term paper, between 10-15 pages in length. As implied by the name "term paper," I expect students to be working on this paper throughout the course of the semester. To achieved this I want to follow a calendar of deadlines:

a. February 21: you are expected to have met with me to discuss potential topics. By this date, we should have settled on a specific topic.

b. March 13: you will submit to me an abstract and bibliography. This is a critical date since it is important for you to establish a specific direction and focus for your paper. In this abstract, you will articulate your thesis for your specific topic.

c. End of April, students will be required to present their research to the class. These presentations will be preparation for those students who are intending to present papers at the conference.

d. Last day of classes: students will submit their completed term papers. Papers should have formal documentation preferably following the MLA format. The quality of research, the clarity of the thesis and the organization, and the quality of the writing will be significant factors in evaluating the papers.

5. Class attendance in this course is important since each class missed is equivalent to a week of classes. Students will be allowed to miss at most two classes. Any more than two classes and absences will become a factor in determining your grade for class participation. We have the luxury of having a small class. For this class to be successful student participation is crucial.

6. Your final grade will be based on 75% Term Paper including the actual paper and the presentation; 25% class participation including the journal submitted at the end of the course and class attendance.

List of Topics:

(See the Assignments page for the specific readings for the class)

January 31: Introduction.

February 7: The Paris Book Industry and the World of the Medieval Craftsman: we will explore the collaborative process involved in the production of a medieval manuscript. The question of artistic identity will be examined. Special focus will be given to my own research on the role of manuscript decorators.

February 14: The Court Artist at the French Court: the class will focus on fourteenth and early fifteenth century examples of the court artist with special attention given to the Limbourg Brothers. Court culture and the significance of having a position as a member of the household of an artistocratic court played an important role in elevating the social status of artists.

February 21: Jan van Eyck as Court Painter for the Duke of Burgundy: this class will explore a number of the major paintings by Jan van Eyck through the lens of his role as the court painter for the Duke of Burgundy. Significantly none of the paintings by Jan that have come down to us were made directly for the Duke of Burgundy, but they were made for individuals associated with the court. These patrons were not the old nobility but members of the court who come from middle class or bourgeois backgrounds. This will provide a perspective to consider the status of van Eyck and the role he played in the "invention" of oil painting.

February 28: Robert Campin and Rogier van der Weyden and the World of the Urban Painter: Both of these artists worked in the world of the urban workshop. They produced their works for the urban clientele. Attention will be given to an examination of major paintings by both these artists that focus on the role of the artist.

March 6, The Baptistry Competition in Florence and Competing Attitudes of the Artist: Traditional art historical studies of the Italian Renaissance put major emphasis on the competition to complete what was intended to be the east doors of the Baptistry of Florence. Attention is regularly given to the different styles of the two major competitors, Ghiberti and Brunelleschi. An examination of the social, economic, and intellectual contexts of Florence along with primary documents associated with the competition reveals constrasting attitudes to the nature of the artist. Ideas of artistic independence and individuality compete with attitudes of the artist as collaborator.

March 13, Poet and Scientist: Fifteenth century Italy provided the artists with different intellectual contexts for the artists. Mathematics and the related fields of cartography and astronomy were providing the merchant, banker, and explorer important new tools to gain wealth and explore the world. Artists like Masaccio and Piero della Francesca were strongly influenced by this. Linear perspective provided the artist the ability to rationally order space in a painting like the way maps were ordering the world. At the same time, poetry influenced by literary humanist culture presented an alternative artistic vision. An artist like Botticelli did not approach his paintings rationally but rather poetically. The ties artists established to the scientist and poet played an important role in elevating the status of art to that of a liberal art.

March 27, The Art and Science of Leonardo da Vinci: this class will examine what has been regularly seen as Leonardo's "universal" genius. Through an examination of the notebooks of Leonardo and some his principal paintings, most especially the Mona Lisa, the class will emphasize the unity of Leonardo's thought as both a scientist and poet. The Mona Lisa will be understood as a visual statement of the nature and status of painting and the achievement of the artist.

April 3: Michelangelo and Artistic Creation: Influenced by Neo-Platonic philosophy popular in intellectual centers in Italy at the end of the fifteenth century and the beginning of the sixteenth, Michelangelo emphasized the role of the artist not as a maker but as a creator. The class will focus on some of the most significant works by Michelangelo including the David and the Sistine Ceiling with its narrative of the Genesis story.

April 10: Albrecht Dürer and the Fashioning of the Artist: The literary historian Stephen Greenblatt wrote a major book in the early 1980s entitled Renaissance Self-Fashioning in which he examined what he labels as self-fashioning where the individual constructs an identity from the materials presented by their culture. This becomes a very useful critical perspective to understand the remarkable series of self portraits created by Albrecht Dürer. Dürer, who emerged from the world of the traditional craftsman of his father, explores different conceptions of the artist including the rational artist grounded in mathematics and artist as creative genius.

April 17: Titian and the Venetian Renaissance: this class will explore the different artistic and cultural setting presented by Renaissance Venice. It will explore how Titian emerged as a dominant artist in the sixteenth century.

April 24: Student Presentations.

May 1: Student Presentations.

May 8: Conclusions.



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