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ART H 381 A: Art Since World War II

Meeting Time: 
MWF 10:00am - 11:20am
ART 003
Adair Rounthwaite
Adair Rounthwaite

Syllabus Description:

Art H 381 – Art Since World War II

Professor Adair Rounthwaite

M/W/F 10:00-11:20 am, Art Building room 003, office Art 367



 Tetsumi Kudo, "Cohabitation Between Man and the Transistors," 1980-81


Course description

The period from 1945 to the present is among the most dynamic in the history of global art production. This class is a survey of the past 70 years that familiarizes students with the incredible changes the concept of art has undergone in this era. We focus on the innovations that occurred in a wide range of media, including painting, sculpture, photography, and performance, as well as on the relationships between these practices. We will consider how art has sought not only to reflect but also to shape the world around it, through transforming social relations and acting as a site for materializing non-mainstream thought and experience. Connecting our discussions will be a consideration of what types of viewership artists have sought to foster, and how those goals relate to the local and global contexts in which they produce their work.


Learning goals

In this class, students will:

  • Become familiar with the major movements and tendencies in art from 1945 to the present.
  • Gain a sophisticated visual vocabulary for analyzing artwork from this period, and for discussing its relationship to broad social and political transformation.
  • Develop their skills in the close visual analysis of artworks.
  • Visit local art institutions and experience artworks in person.


Grade breakdown

25% - Midterm test, in class on Wednesday, April 26. The tests will consist of slides which you must identify and discuss based on the lecture, accompanied by short-answer questions that address the readings. A short-list of images to study will be available ahead of time.

30% - Final test, in class on Wednesday, May 31. The final has the same format as the midterm.

10% - Two-page (c. 500 word) response to a local exhibition of contemporary art (from a list of options TBA)

30% - Artwork Analysis essay (c. 1800 words). Students will write a short essay that performs an analysis of an artwork in the Seattle Art Museum’s permanent collection exhibition “Big Picture: Art After 1945.” This assignment will involve a round of peer review on your draft prior to submission of the final text.

5% - Participation, including reading the assigned texts, arriving punctually, and contributing to class discussion.



The required course readings are available as PDFs on Canvas. You will be required to answer short questions about these readings on the tests.

Those students who want a comprehensive textbook to provide additional context and narrative about art in this period are invited to buy Jonathan Fineberg, Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being, 3rd edition. Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2011. The Finberg text is not required, but I have provided page numbers for additional reading for many of the lectures listed.


Catalog Description: 
Art of Europe and the United States in the decades since World War II: painting, sculpture, and architecture, multiplication of new forms (video, performance pieces, land and installation pieces), changing context of patronage, publicity, and marketing.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:20pm