Art: The European Tradition in Art and Architecture


This course provides an introduction to Western art and architecture from the fourteenth century to the present. We will study significant works of architecture, sculpture, pictorial art, and work in newer media in relation to their defining characteristics. Artworks will be considered in terms of their subject matter, technique, patronage, related art theory and criticism, and the historical and cultural circumstances surrounding their production and consumption.

Aims and Objectives

The primary aim of this course is to cultivate in students an appreciation and critical understanding of art that will enrich their lives for many years to come. The course will also provide a broad historical foundation for the further study of art and culture.

By the successful completion of this course, students should demonstrate: 

  • Knowledge of major periods and key monuments in Western art history, from the fourteenth century to the present

  • An understanding of the relationship between artistic technique and the expression of a work’s underlying concept
  • The ability to analyze works of art in terms of their visual effects, to correctly read architectural plans and elevations, and to analyze a building in terms of its spatial effects
  • An understanding of the varying interpretative approaches that have been brought to bear upon the art of the past, and of the strengths and limitations of these differing methodologies
  • The ability to use visual and spatial analysis of specific works of art and architecture in the service of a critical argument
  • The ability to evaluate differing interpretations of works of art and to make their own critical judgments on the arguments advanced

Course Structure

The course is taught in a combination of lectures and seminars. The lectures are organized chronologically and thematically. There are two distinct seminars each week. One is devoted to engaged class discussion of artworks introduced in lectures. In this seminar, students will develop their visual analysis skills. The other seminar is dedicated to the discussion of assigned readings. These readings consist of a mixture of historical and literary texts related to artworks, key texts in the history and criticism of art, and recent critical writings. Both seminars will develop student competence in using words to discuss visual and spatial experience. Where possible, seminars will include visits to examine locally available art and architecture in person.