Art 126: Foundations of Art History II: Renaissance to Modern


Professor Michelli
Location and Times: CART 131, Tuesday, Thursday
Section 1: 2.00-3.22; Section 2: 3.30-4.52
Office: CART 277
(262) 595 2113
Final Exam:
  • Section 1: Tuesday May 13, 2014, 3.30-5.30 pmm
  • Section 2: Thursday, May 15, 2014, 3.30-5.30pm

Required set book:
E H Gombrich, The Story of Art (16th ed), Phaidon, 2008
Supplemental book, Lynn Mackenzie, Non-Western ARt, A Brief Guide (2nd ed), Prentice Hall, 2001


In this second of the Foundations of Art History courses, we will reap the benefits of the approach begun in the first course, although the relative continuity of worldview in the period covered by that course may have masked what we were doing. Now, however, we have the challenge of changing worldviews, stimulated by the exhaustion of the old one when it finally became impossible to deny its limitations. New ways forward emerged from time to time creating an ever greater variety of appearance and purpose, until the Avant Garde went into crisis in the late 1960s and resigned. After that, there was a bewildering proliferation of art forms did't seem to lead anywhere and often offended the public. Since the early 1980s artists, scholars and the public have seen the need for a new history of art that can unite the art of today with the heritage of artistic endeavor that went before it. Unfortunately, many artists reject that heritage as irrelevant. People want to make sense of it all but it seems to be impossible.

Continuing the approach begun in Art 125, we will seek to achieve that reconciliation with the past by investigating a series of spiritual paradigms through which to examine western art and our ideas about it. We will look at four paradigms, which I call Pluralism, Classicism, Sensualism, and Quietism. The Plural paradigm is probably the oldest, and it was so strongly overlaid by the others that it is difficult for us to recover it now. But we will need to do so towards the end of the course. The Classical paradigm is the next oldest and also the most obvious to us - it is at least 2,500 years old, and because it was adopted by the Roman Catholic Church its methods and values are deeply ingrained in western consciousness. It is primarily intellectual, and emphasizes skill and beauty as criteria for the evaluation of art. Many people approve of this. The Sensual paradigm is much younger - it is only about 500 years old. It too was exploited by the Church, and although its orientation is primarily physical and emotional it harmonizes with Classicism in that skill and beauty are still the main ways to evaluate it. Many people approve of this too, and the two paradigms act as complements and validations for each other. After this, though, it gets difficult.

The Quietist paradigm is the youngest - about 140 years old at most. This paradigm has not had time to become natural to us, and it has not been exploited by the Church either. Furthermore, because Quietism emphasizes neutrality and intuition, and seeks to stimulate these by withdrawal or challenge, its values are in conflict with Classicism and Sensualism. So art produced under the Quietist paradigm can be difficult to evaluate, which upsets and annoys people. But this whole way of thinking becomes much easier to understand when it is seen as the "flip side" of the much older Pluralist paradigm. That one is about the paranormal, and the art produced under it is evaluated through meaning and symbolism. Once we have this bunch of values to use, we don't worry so much about skill and beauty and the art becomes worthwhile again. But but these values had been buried by 2,500 years of alternative approaches and were left lurking like ghosts in the backs our minds to create anxiety and confusion.

So you can see that there are good reasons for the modern discontent with art and artists, and for the confusion over how to evaluate their products and how to look ahead. None of the paradigms goes away when it loses its leading edge. It merely becomes part of our subconscious assumptions and values, and these enrich or conflict with the currently leading paradigm. Today, we have four major paradigms to contend with, and we can only find our way forward by making them conscious.

In this course, then, we will examine the paradigms through the art produced under their influence, and also through some of the written legacy of the people who helped to formulate them. Thus we will think about Plato's definition of art and beauty and their purposes, Castiglione's thoughts on style, Kant's and Schopenhauer's redefinition of art and beauty and their purposes, and Danto's and Belting's conviction that the history of art has ended, and we'll see what the Pope is trying to do about it all. We will also look at the ways in which an image or building draws on our living experience in order to communicate to us: the effects of composition, color, completeness or non-completeness, and optical illusion. These areas are often dismissed as "art appreciation", with the assumption that we analyze them only in order to recognize "great" art (and you already know that's irrelevant today). But they are more usefully understood as methods by which artists make aspects of thought and reality perceptible to us. As such, they are the indispensable tools of the art historian.

Course Grading

There will be a short-answer or possibly a computer-graded in-class quiz every week to keep you up to date. Plan on gaining a passing grade for every one. Prepare for the quizzes by listening attentively in class, reading the specified Secret History of Art material, and practicing on the anonymous "lightning tests". Your grades will be averaged for 80% of your course grade. Missed quizzes count as zero and will bring down your average.

Extra Credit is "banked" in advance, and you may use it twice only. If you miss or fail a quiz, I will automatically "cash" you an extra credit for a 75% (C) passing grade for the problem quiz. I will do this twice only. If you take and pass all the quizzes, I will automatically "cash" the extra credit for a 3% course grade improvement. So note: if you miss or fail more than two quizzes, there are no further chances. The grade you get for this course is the grade you will have earned.

Plan on getting all this right first time. Come to all the classes. Listen attentively. Take all the quizzes. Study for them. Then keep them all carefully. In the event of any queries, the professor's decision is final unless you can produce the original documentation.

Participation is required - I will call on you directly, using the name tags in the attendance pot and you may volunteer (polite) comments and questions yourself using your surplus tags for 20% of your course grade. For the full 20% credit, aim for 40 participations (about 1 -2 per class).

Art Department Classroom Conduct Policy:

The Art Department also expects conduct appropriate for a university classroom. We have no tolerance for disrespectful behavior, which includes but is not limited to: private conversations with your classmates during a lecture or demonstration, rude comments and/or physical threats directed towards the instructor or your peers, and sleeping in class. Similarly, cell phones and pagers must be silenced before class starts, for they are disturbing to the instructor, your fellow students, and to the overall rhythm of the class. Cheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated and will be punished to the fullest extent of university policy and the law. Each instructor also reserves the right to determine his or her own specific classroom conduct policies.

Your actions will result in a significant lowering of your final grade. The instructor reserves the right to pull you aside and talk to you individually, to have you removed from class, and to report you to the Dean of Students' office.

Art Dept. Attendance Policy:

Regular attendance in class is mandatory. Once a student obtains 3 unexcused absences, that student's final grade will be lowered one full-letter grade. If a student misses a critique or major demonstration, that absence will be counted double. Missing over nine classes without a legitimate excuse will result in course failure. (This policy is consistent with the attendance policy held by the entire art dept.)


The Art Department reserves the right to use reproductions of student work for promotional purposes, including the departmental website.

Conceal Carry:

"Weapons are prohibited in UW-Parkside buildings and all outdoor events. Anyone found in violation will be subject to immediate removal in addition to academic and/or legal sanctions".

Gen. Ed:

This class is also a general education course in the ARTS AND HUMANITIES that addresses the following prescribed competencies: Critical Thinking, Communication through Creative Expression, and Social and Personal Responsibility.