ARTHIST 114G Understanding Art: From Leonardo to Warhol

ARTHIST 114G | B&E, EDSW, EMHSS, LC | Semester Two 2020 | City Campus | 15 points


How can we look at and really see visual images and art objects? How do we observe, analyse, interpret and understand paintings, monuments and sculptures? In this course students will learn how visual images are constructed, how they generate ideas and emotions, how they ‘work’ on their consumers (that is, 'us'), as well as how they can be interpreted and understood. To these ends the course involves close and intensive study of specific paintings and sculptures. As much as possible the images and objects selected for study are compelling and memorable in themselves.

Learning outcomes

A student who successfully completes this course will have the opportunity to:

  • acquire knowledge of art historical styles and apply it 
  • understand and carry out visual analysis
  • acquire skills in report writing, critical thinking, academic literacy and presentation

Topics covered

Images and objects are studied in terms of their structural, formal, thematic and iconographic (meaning-producing) features. They are also placed in the social and cultural contexts in which they were produced and used in order to more fully understand how the production of meanings are context-specific.

The various ways the one image or object can be, or has been, interpreted and understood are studied, while the limits of verbal interpretation of images are also considered.

A range of questions are addressed:

  • Is seeing learned?
  • Can an image or object be read in the same way as a verbal text?
  • Why is it so important to be an active viewer?
  • How and why can we learn so much about seeing and understanding images and objects from the close study of art?

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