Building Resonance (echo) by Benjamin Gale-Schreck

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ART H 384 A: American Art

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Meeting Time: 
MWF 12:00pm - 1:20pm
ART 003
Susan Casteras
Susan Casteras

Syllabus Description:


Frederic Edwin Church, Twilight in the Wilderness, 1860 (

Dr. Susan P. Casteras (
Professor, Art History
Office Hours: Monday + Wednesday, 10:30 - 11:30 AM
Room 302
School of Art + Art History + Design


Required Images

Important Midterm Information

Final Exam Information

Final Exam Study Questions




Course Description:

This course will survey American painting from the late colonial period through the advent of modernism. Initially, lectures will concentrate primarily on history painting (by Trumbull, West, Copley) and historical "Grand Manner" portraiture by Stuart and others.  Considerable attention will be given to early 19th-century American landscape, beginning with Cole and including the Hudson Rivers School and national imagery of Manifest Destiny by Church.  Images of the West by Moran and Bierstadt are another focus, followed by the luminist style of Head and Kensett. Genre painting is another critical area, particularly as reflected in canvases by Mount, Bingham, Spencer, and Johnson. Painting during the Civil War and beyond will be addressed, from key subject pictures by Homer and Eakins to landscapes by the American Ruskinians and visionary painters like Inness, Blakelock, and Ryder. American Impressionism will be studied in art by Cassatt, Chase, Twachtman, and the Ten.  The contributions of Whistler and Sargent will be examined, while the early 20th century considers works by Henri and the Eight as well as signal events like the onset of modernism in the Armory Show.    


Required Texts:

Frances Pohl, FRAMING AMERICA: A SOCIAL ART HISTORY and Sylban Barnet, SHORT GUIDE TO WRITING ABOUT ART (older editions are fine)


General Methods:

Lecture and image analysis are the main methods, and regular attendance is crucial.  Students are urged to find a "study buddy" for when you miss class.  If you become ill, contact this person for notes, etc.  Students are responsible for ALL REQUIRED IMAGES (to be posted on Canvas) for the midterm and final exams.


Recommended Background: 

Those with little Art History background, undergraduate or graduate, are welcome, as well as majors in the field or those with interests in American visual culture. 


Learning Goals:

These include understanding the main artists, themes, and developments in American art; learning analytical skills; and deepening/broadening writing skills about art.


General nature of assignments:

Students should read subjects parallel in synch with weekly topics explored in class.  There will be two short papers (2-3 pages double spaced, each), as well as a midterm and final exams.



The final grade will be based on this percentage distribution:

20% for each of 2 short papers = 40%

25% midterm grade

35% final exam (Dec. 17, 8:30 am - 10:20 am, Art Bldg. Room 003)


School of Art Engagement, Participation and Learning Policies


Engagement and Participation:

Success in this class depends on regular attendance, since Pohl's book rarely explores objects with the detail that I do in most of my lectures.  In addition to taking notes, be sure to read the assigned pages in Pohl. If you miss receiving an image list or assignment, ask your study buddy or contact me via email so I can send you this information.


All papers are to be in 12 point typeface and double-spaced, with one-inch margins all around.  Grading will be based on style as well as content, so you must DOUBLECHECK your grammar and spelling as well as whether you have expressed your ideas clearly.    For any footnotes/endnotes, you may use Chicago or MLA style; information on how and what to footnote--and how to create a bibliography--are REQUIRED reading in Barnet's text.

Extensions for late papers are not granted except for a very good reason (e.g., medical issues or a family emergency). You must email or see me to discuss such situations.

Academic dishonesty or plagiarism is unacceptable in this class, so please review UW rules on this subject.  If you use another writer's words or ideas, you MUST footnote, even if you arrive at the same judgment on your own. You must also cite any sources that you find or "borrow" from online; I/my reader can detect a cut-and-paste approach. Overall, IF IN DOUBT, FOOTNOTE!!! Remember that I know many of the authors on American art, so I will recognize when the prose style and content do NOT belong to you. The Barnet book is your required source on footnoting and other aspects of writing about art, so be sure to read these sections BEFORE you write a paper.  Remember that online sources (unless official museum websites or scholarly journals) can be dubious in content because they are typically not written by experts in the field.

Paper Assignment #1

Paper Assignment #2

Paper Checklist

Paper Guidelines

Key Issues to Consider About 19c Landscape Painting


Students Needing Accommodation:

I am, of course, glad to offer assistance, but remember that the UW requires students to notify professors no later than two weeks after the start of the quarter re: any accommodations needed for a class.  For additional details, contact the Disability Resources for Students in Schmitz Hall.

Catalog Description: 
Achievements and issues in painting, architecture, sculpture, and other arts in the United States from the colonial era to the present.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 5, 2016 - 9:01pm