Course Title:  01:082:387  Realism

Academic Credits:  3 credits

Mode of Instruction:  Lecture

Course Prerequisites:  None

Core Curriculum: None

Course Description:

Analysis of themes and characteristics of 19th-century realist art, especially in England and France, and topics such as photographic realism, orientalists, pre-Raphaelites.

This course will focus on visual arts created in England and Europe from the 1730s through the 1860s, a period known for its artistic and political revolutions and for its conflictual relationship with tradition. It will explore broad artistic movements and styles, such as Rococo, Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Orientalism, and Realism. The works discussed will include celebrated paintings such as David’s Oath of the Horatii, Goya’s The Third of May, Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, Turner’s The Slave Ship, and Courbet’s The Stonebreakers as well as Canova’s sculpture, Daumier’s printmaking, and Daguerre’s early photography.

Among the topics to be addressed are the shift from history paintings to everyday life scenes; the politics of the body from the fall of the revolutionary hero to the rise of the ordinary citizen; landscape and its embodiment of personal and national identity; the impact of science and technology on the making and interpretation of art; and the representation of race as informed by racial theories and anxieties. Rather than an exhaustive survey, this class will consider a relatively small number of key works by each artist. The lectures will be supplemented by critical readings by artists, critics, and art historians that approach the course material from diverse perspectives.

Learning Goals:

  • The ability to interpret the formal attributes, discuss the historical contexts, and assess the social functions of artworks and objects of material and visual culture from a broad chronological and geographic span and from diverse media.
  • The visual literacy necessary to analyze and critically evaluate the images that comprise our increasingly media rich and technologically driven world.
  • The ability to write and speak about images with clarity and rigor.
  • By the end of the semester, students should be able to recognize the style and approach of each artist and analyze the meaning, historical circumstances, and visual characteristics of specific works from England and Europe, made between the 1730s and 1860s.
  • Students will improve their ability to speak and write about art and visual culture
  • They will develop the skills for writing a point-by-point compare and contrast, an essential tool in art history and image analysis more generally.

Required and Recommended Course Materials:

Nineteenth-Century European Art- Petra ten-Doesschate Chu ISBN-13: 9780131886438 or ISBN-13: 9780205707997.   
The page numbers listed in the syllabus are from the 2003 edition; if you have another edition, you will have to determine the corresponding pages. A copy of the textbook will be on reserve at the Art Library.


Midterm exam (the exam will include 4 take-home questions and an in-class compare/contrast of 3 pairs of images that will require knowledge of the material you have learned in class and from the readings)

Final exam (the exam will include 4 cumulative take-home questions and an in-class compare/contrast of 3 pairs of images


1.  Short writing assignment (preparation for the midterm exam)
2.  Compare and contrast visual analysis or exhibition review paper (a separate assignment sheet will be posted on Sakai; 4 pages, typed and double-spaced; you will be required to go to the Zimmerli Art Museum in New Brunswick or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City to complete the paper
3.  Reading response paper (a separate assignment sheet will be posted on Canvas; 3 pages, typed and double-spaced)


  • A: Regular attendance and participation in every class discussion. Your participation also contributes to the quality of the discussion and reveals your familiarity with the course material
  • B: Regular attendance and participation in half of the class discussions.
  • C: Regular attendance and only occasional participation.
  • D: 3 or more absences as well as rare or no class participation. As a result, your participation has little or no basis for evaluation.
  • F: More than 5 absences or you do not show up to class.


15% Attendance and class participation
10% 1 short writing assignment 
20% Compare and contrast visual analysis or exhibition review paper
15% Reading response paper
20% Midterm exam
20% Final exam


Isabel Taube

Disclaimer:  These course descriptions/synopses pages have been provided as samples and the information should not be considered accurate or current.  For actual course information, refer to the course site hosted by a Rutgers Learning Management System (Sakai, Canvas, etc.) as of first day of class.