Course Title:  01:082:368  Modern American Art 1876-1945

Academic Credits:  3 credits

Mode of Instruction:  Lecture

Course Prerequisites:  None

Core Curriculum: None

Course Description:

American visual and material culture from 1876 to the mid-20th century.

The history of modern art in the United States has traditionally been told from the perspective The history of modern art in the United States has traditionally been told from the perspective of the East Coast; more specifically, New York City. Yet the mystique of “the West,” a construct inextricable from settler colonialist ideology, loomed large in all aspects of North American culture during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, deeply informing the era’s emerging artistic traditions. This course will explore what happens when we survey the development of American modernism with a focus on the West—both as an idea and, increasingly, a culturally dynamic rival to the East. Beginning in the immediate wake of the Civil War, we will consider how westward expansion transformed existing practices of landscape painting as well as their novel, photographic counterparts. Turning to the decades between the turn of the twentieth century and the Second World War, we will explore a variety of modernist movements that borrowed from European counterparts with an eye toward New World realities and identities. Artists associated with the Stieglitz Circle, the Harlem Renaissance, Mexican Muralism, Regionalist Painting, and Surrealism will all be discussed, as will self-taught artists working outside the modernist mainstream. The second part of the course will focus on the two decades following World War II. On both the east coast and the and west, these years witnessed a creative efflorescence of astonishing proportions, catalyzed by a nascent counterculture in which movements for gender and racial equality played crucial roles. After surveying canonical movements like Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism with a view to their western roots and inclinations, we will turn toward California and the distinctive forms of practice that emerged from the state’s avant-garde literary enclaves, progressive movements, and Black as well as Chicanx communities. A final session will jump forward in time to consider how contemporary artists of indigenous ancestry have appropriated and critically intervened within received conceptions of the West, raising issues about the nature of American identity that concern many socially engaged artists working today.

Learning Goals:

This course is intended to provide a focused study of key works associated with art and visual culture produced in the United States or by artists born in the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 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. They also will improve their ability to speak and write about art and visual culture. In particular, they will develop the skills for writing a point-by-point compare and contrast.

Required and Recommended Course Materials:

The following textbook will be available for free download: Angela M. Miller, Janet C. Berlo, Bryan J. Wolf, and Jennifer L. Roberts, American Encounters: Art, History, and Cultural Identity (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2008). All other readings will be available on-line at the Sakai site for the course or on reserve at the Art Library, Voorhees Hall. Questions about the readings will be included on both exams, so it is imperative that you keep up with the readings.





Fall, 2022- Alex Bigman  Syllabus

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.