History of American Art: 1607 to the Present

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History of American Art: 1607 to the Present
Art History 364 (Fall 2012)

Tuesday and Thursday 9:30-10:45 am; Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, Rm. L140

Professor Lauren Kroiz

Office: Elvehjem Building, Room 212

E-mail: kroiz@wisc.edu

Office Phone: 890-3831

Office Hours: Mondays, noon-2:00pm or by appointment


This course will examine the history of American Art from the period of earliest European settlement through the present. Works of art and other forms of material culture will be explored and discussed within the context of philosophical, historical, social, and cultural developments. In this course, works of art and artifacts are interpreted not as formal objects isolated from history nor as passive objects that "reflect" the past, but rather as active agents that have the potential to influence and shape broader historical, social, and cultural patterns. Although the course will mainly cover works of painting, sculpture, and architecture, other forms of material culture, especially the decorative arts, will also be considered. Attention will also be given to the writings of artists and critics, as well as texts by contemporary art historians, historians, and other scholars which illustrate the variety of methodologies and interpretations that are currently being brought to bear on American art, architecture, and material culture.

Success in the course is contingent upon the student's attending classes, participating in class discussions, keeping up with reading assignments, writing two short papers, and adequately preparing for examinations. Students that come to all class periods and actively participate in class activities will earn the highest grades in the course. There will be three non-cumulative exams spaced evenly throughout the course. Exams will consist of a mix of slide identifications, comparative essays, and essays based on course readings. The papers will be based on close reading and careful interpretation of an essay relating to American art and considering it relative to one (or more) works of art of the student's choosing. A percentage of your grade will also be based on class participation – including attendance, level of participation in class discussions, and short quizzes.


The principal objectives for the course are threefold:

  • Learn tools of description and analysis that will enable you to talk intelligently and cogently about works of art. This will include, but is not limited to, recognizing and explaining techniques, visual characteristics and period styles.

  • Become familiar with select artworks produced in the United States from 1607 to the present and with methods of interpretation that will enable you to understand what meanings these works had to artists who produced them and viewers who valued them at specific moments in history. In other words, we will learn how to talk about works of art in their political, social, and cultural contexts.

  • Develop skills in critical reading, writing, and discussing that will be of use throughout your college career and beyond.

Course Requirements
Success in the course is contingent upon attending classes, keeping up with reading and writing assignments, and preparing for examinations. The latter will require memorization of a limited number of artworks and relevant information about them. Students that come to all class periods and regularly engage with the course material (that is, prepare at least FIVE hours outside of class per week consistently throughout the semester) will earn the highest grades in the course.
Readings. You are expected to do the readings in advance of class each week. The following text is required for the course:
Reading American Art, ed. Marianne Doezema and Elizabeth Milroy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998). [referred to as RAA throughout this syllabus]
Other required reading assignments (primarily at the beginning and end of our course) are posted on our Learn@UW site.
Short primary source readings (no more than 5 pages for each course meeting) will also be announced periodically in class and available for download from our Learn@UW site.
Examinations. There will be three non-cumulative tests, spaced evenly throughout the semester. These exams will consist of a mix of short answer identifications of artworks and terminology, and short essay questions. They will take up the whole class period on the day when they are given. Exams are designed to test your knowledge of important works of art discussed in lecture and the readings, while also measuring your grasp of important concepts. I will devote some class time to discussing exam format in advance and I will send out preparation guidelines via email at least one week prior to the exam date.
Specific guidelines for exams will follow, but know they will demand a certain degree of memorization of information about works of art and vocabulary. Memorization is only one part of the work and learning required, but an area that demands discipline and regular practice. You will be held responsible for basic information about important works shown and identified in class that are illustrated on the Art History website—particularly the artist’s name, the full title, and the approximate date of the work’s creation (approximately 10 works per week). This is the basic information of art history, and without mastering it you will be unable to gain a coherent understanding of the larger movements and issues. In dating a work we will permit a leeway of ten years (+/- 10 years), stressing that you learn dates by thinking of how that single work relates to larger stylistic and cultural tendencies. 
If you keep up-to-date (using flashcards, for example), memorization of the works will be easy, enjoyable, and will facilitate your understanding of new material; if you wait until the examinations, memorization will be much more difficult and less rewarding. Learning vocabulary will require a similar degree of diligence; words with which you should be familiar will be announced in class and listed on our website.
Papers. There will be two short papers for the course. The first paper will be a short visual analysis of a work of art in the Chazen Museum of Art in relation to an assigned reading. The second paper will be a slightly longer, more interpretive paper, requiring you to analyze another work of art in the Museum. Requirements for both papers will be discussed more fully. PLEASE NOTE: THESE PAPERS REQUIRE YOU TO CONSULT WITH WORKS IN THE CHAZEN MUSEUM, which is open Tuesday-Friday, 9am-5pm, Thursday until 9pm, and Saturday and Sunday, 11am-5pm; THE MUSEUM IS CLOSED ON MONDAYS; please plan accordingly. Your papers must be TYPED and double-spaced; no work will be accepted via email.
Class Participation. A substantial percentage of your grade (15%) is based upon your attendance and participation. Attendance will be taken, though this is only part of your grade; you also will be assessed based on the extent of your participation in class activities, including (but not limited to) orally participating in discussions.

Distribution of Grading

Test 1 20%

Test 2 20%

Test 3 20%

Paper 1 10%

Paper 2 15%

Attendance & participation 15%

Grading Scale: The grade scale will follow the University standards, but might vary in view of exam results: 94-100, A; 89-93, AB; 84-88, B; 79-83, BC; 74-78, C; 65-73, D, 64 and below, F. Grades are not rounded up.
Alternative Assignments

MA and PhD students will write a final paper (15-20 pages) instead of the exams.

MFA students may produce a final project and a short paper (5-7 page paper) instead of the exams.

Advanced undergraduates may choose to write a short (5-7 page) final paper instead of Exam 3. These papers and projects must engage with the material presented in lecture and readings. See me with regard to specific expectations and deadlines.

All undergraduates may choose to create a short (3 minute) podcast about a work of American art in the Chazen Museum with a bibliography of relevant sources instead of Exam 3. See me with regard to specific expectations and deadlines.


There is a website for this course http://arthistory.wisc.edu/ah364/index.html You will find lots of things there and on our Learn@UW page in downloadable format as the semester progresses, including a copy of the syllabus, paper guidelines, and exam guidelines (available approximately one week before each exam). In addition, required image lists for each lecture are available there for you to print out if you wish to use them to follow along in lecture. There are three things you need to know in advance about the website:

  1. The website should not be used as a replacement for lectures or the readings.  Readings and lectures will cover material which will help you contextualize information about individual works of art; thus simply knowing information about particular images from the website is not enough to succeed in the course.

  2. If you are off campus you will need to log on with your UW NetID to access the full-sized images. Due to copyright restrictions only the thumbnail images are available to the public.

  3. I will do my best to make sure the website is current and accurate. However, I do not control the site directly, and thus there may be a time lag when changes have to be made. If you notice a discrepancy or problem, PLEASE TELL me as soon as possible. Any changes/problems will be announced in lecture AND/OR on the classlist email.

Communications information

I welcome questions and am always eager to discuss any thoughts you have related to material covered in class. Please visit me during office hours or make an appointment if you have anything you wish to discuss. Talking with me AFTER CLASS is best, as I’m usually preparing before class.

Use of Email. I will reply to your emails as quickly as possible; sometimes it may take a day to get a response. The more clearly you can state your question the easier it will be for me to reply. I will not—under any circumstances—discuss issues relating to your performance in the course over email out of interests in security and because of the potential for misunderstanding. This includes requests to miss an exam, or hand in a paper late. Please recognize that sending an e-mail stating that you are handing in a paper late or missing an exam DOES NOT constitute or imply my acceptance; gaining permission means discussing the issue together and reaching a mutually-accommodating solution.
Classlists. Classlists have been set up for the whole course and for individual sections, which will allow us to send emails to you containing information that will help you succeed in the course. Please make sure your email is current with My-UW.


Attendance Policy. You are graded on attendance and participation (15% of grade). Each student is expected to attend all class sessions. This is particularly important given that the students’ lecture notes will form the basis for the examinations. Grade penalties will begin after two absences and failure to attend class regularly will result in a failing grade. PLEASE NOTE: material is covered in lecture that is not available elsewhere; should you miss class, try to get the notes from a classmate. I will not give out lecture notes.
Make up Policy. Make up exams will be given only in extenuating circumstances and with my prior approval. Any absences due to serious medical conditions or deaths in the family must be supported by written documentation. If you are a travelling athlete, your coach must send me a letter to excuse your absence. In addition, all written work must be submitted on time—no exceptions. Your grade will be lowered by one-half letter grade per day late (A to AB, for example) until the work is handed in. No late work will be accepted after one week. Exceptions may be made only in case of medical emergencies supported by appropriate documentation. If there is a valid reason you are unable to submit work on the day it is due, you must consult with me BEFORE the deadline to make arrangements. Failure to comply with this policy could result in a grade of “0” for the exam or essay in question. PLEASE NOTE: sending an email announcing you are handing something in late or missing an exam is not acceptable; you need to talk to me in person.
Assignment Retention Policy. You are expected to retain a copy of any assignment you complete for our class for the duration of the semester either by photocopying or saving onto a backup drive.

Academic Integrity Policy. All work you do in this class must be your own. The two most common types of academic dishonesty are “cheating” and “plagiarism.” Cheating is the act of obtaining or attempting to obtain academic work through the use of dishonest, deceptive or fraudulent acts. Plagiarism is representing the work of someone else as one’s own and submitting it to fulfill academic requirements; this includes borrowing ideas, words, sentences or paragraphs from books and periodicals as well as from the Internet without properly citing your sources. If you commit an act of cheating or plagiarism, there are serious repercussions; on the consequences, please see the University of Wisconsin-Madison Disciplinary Guidelines at http://students.wisc.edu/saja/misconduct/academic_misconduct.html If you have any questions, please speak with me.

Special Needs and Accommodations. If you have special educational needs (i.e., trouble with timed written exams, or with note-taking), you should register at the McBurney center and contact me DURING THE FIRST TWO WEEKS OF CLASS to make arrangements. For help with your writing, you are encouraged to contact the Writing Center, 6171 Helen C. White Hall, tel. 263-1992. In addition to one-on-one consultations, they also offer non-credit classes of one or a few sessions each, to help you with a range of writing issues .

Lecture Hall Rules. There is no eating or drinking allowed in the Elvehjem Building, since crumbs and spills attract bugs and bugs are attracted to paintings. PLEASE DEPOSIT ANY FOOD REMAINS IN RECEPTACLES OUTSIDE THE BUILDING OR NEAR THE ENTRANCES. Do not sit in the aisles due to fire code regulations. Please arrive to class on time. If you have to arrive late, leave early, or typically can’t make it through class without a bathroom break, please enter (or exit) quietly and with minimal disruption. Also, please keep any whispering to a minimum. Switch off cell phones and other noisy electronic devices during class time. Consider whether note taking on your laptop is a distraction or a study aid. In our dim room your neighbors (and you!) may be disturbed by your email, chats, web surfing, and Facebook updates; these are not appropriate uses of our class time.


*Subject to Change at Discretion of Instructor

All changes will be announced in class and via email.

9/4 Introduction to the Course and to the History of Art in the United States

READ: The syllabus for this course

UNIT 1: 1607-1840s
9/6 Inventing America

READ: Colin G. Calloway, Excerpt from New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the

Remaking of Early America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998),

timeline and 8-23.

Week 2: COLONIAL PERIOD (1607-1770s)

9/11 Portraiture and Self Image

READ: Wayne Craven, “The Seventeenth-Century New England Mercantile Image: Social Content and Style in the Freake Portaits,” RAA, 1-11.

Hand out assignment

9/13 Painting in England and/or the New Republic

READ: Paul Staiti, “Character and Class: The Portraits of John Singleton Copley,” RAA, 12-37.


9/18 Picturing a Revolution

READ FOR 1st PAPER: Henry M. Sayre, “Using Visual Information: What to Look for and How

to Describe What You See,” in Writing About Art (Prentice Hall, 1999), 27-57.

DUE: Bring a draft of your 1ST PAPER to class
9/20 The Peale Family and the Transition to the Federal Period
READ: Roger B. Stein, “Charles Wilson Peale’s Expressive Design: The Artist in His Museum,”
RAA, 38-78.


Week 4: 1820s-1840s

9/25 Envisioning the American Landscape
READ: Alan Wallach, “Thomas Cole and the Aristocracy,” RAA, 79-105.

9/27 Marketing Art

READ: David Jaffee, “A Correct Likeness”: Culture and Commerce in Nineteenth-Century

Rural America, RAA, 109-127.

Week 5: 1830s to 1840s

10/2 The Politics of Painting Everyday Life

READ: William T. Oedel and Todd S. Gernes, “The Painter’s Triumph: William Sidney Mount

and the Formulation of a Middle-Class Art,” RAA, 128-149.

10/4 EXAM 1
UNIT 2: 1840s-1918

Week 6: 1840s-1850s

10/9 The Vanishing Frontier

READ: Kathryn S. Hight, “‘Doomed to Perish’: George Catlin’s Depictions of the Madan,” RAA,

10/11 The Body Politic

READ: Joy S. Kasson, “Narratives of the Female Body: The Greek Slave,RAA, 163-189.

Week 7: 1860-1870s

10/16 Art of the Civil War

READ: Kristen P. Buick, “The Ideal World of Edmonia Lewis: Invoking and Inverting Autobiography,” RAA, 190-207.
10/18 The West as America

READ: Nancy K. Anderson, “‘The Kiss of Enterprise’: The Western Landscape as Symbol and

Resource,” 208-231.

Week 8: 1870s-1890s

10/23 Art and Science: Thomas Eakins

READ: Elizabeth Johns, “The Gross Clinic, or Portrait of Professor Gross,” RAA, 232-263.
10/25 The Long Career of Winslow Homer

READ: Jules D. Prown, “Winslow Homer in His Art,” RAA, 264-279.

Week 9: 1890s-1910s

10/30 Roles for Women

READ: Griselda Pollock, “Mary Cassatt: Painter of Women and Children,” RAA, 280-301.
11/1 The City as America (Part 1: Photography)

READ: Alan Trachtenberg, “Image and Ideology: New York in the Photographer’s Eye,” RAA, 302-310.

Week 10: 1910s-1918

11/6 The City as America (Part 2: Painting)

READ: Patricia Hills, “John Sloan’s Images of Working-Class Women: A Case Study of the Roles and Interrelationships of Politics, Personality, and Patrons in the Development of Sloan’s Art, 1905-1916, RAA, 311-349.

11/8 EXAM 2


Week 11: 1919-1930s

11/13 Art and Art Critics: Producing National/Female Painting

READ: Anna C. Chave, “O’Keeffe and the Masculine Gaze,” RAA, 350-370.

11/15 New York and/or America

READ: Carol Troyen, “The Open Window and the Empty Chair: Charles Sheeler’s View of

New York,” RAA, 371-386.

Week 12: 1930s

11/20 The Midwest as America

READ: Wanda M. Corn, “The Birth of a National Icon: Grant Wood’s American Gothic,RAA, 387-408.

Week 13: 1940s-1950s

11/27 Depression-Era Art

READ: Ellen Wiley Todd, “The Question of Difference: Isabel Bishop’s Deferential Office Girls,” RAA, 409-439.
11/29 Abstract Expressionism and Color Field Painting

READ: Michael Leja, “Jackson Pollock: Representing the Unconscious,” RAA, 440-464.

Week 14: 1950s-1980s

12/4 Assemblage, Happenings, and Performance

READ: Allan Kaprow, “Happenings in the New York Scene,” (1961) in Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 15-26.
12/6 POP, Minimalism, and Postmodernism

READ: Thomas Crow, “Saturday Disasters: Trace and Reference in Early Warhol,” in Modern

Art in the Common Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), 49-68.

Week 15: 1980s-NOW

12/11 Postmodernism and After

READ: Robert Venturi, Excerpts from Complexity & Contradiction in Architecture (1966), 16-22 and118-119.
12/13 EXAM 3

Art History 364 Syllabus, Fall 2012 Page of

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