Course Descriptions & Syllabi

387 Realism

Course Description

Prerequisites: Art History: 105, 106 or permission of the instructor

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.

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.


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

Course Instructor

 Isabel Taube

FALL 2020

Syllabus: The syllabus will be available on the Learning Management System (Sakai/Canvas) as of first day of class                

DISCLAIMER: The Course 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.) first day of class.


Susan Sidlauskas, Chairperson

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Carla Yanni, Undergraduate Director

Tamara Sears, Graduate Program Director

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