Professor Pepe Karmel

V43.0400 Fall 2003, M/W 11:00-12:15 PM

e-mail: tel:212.992.9536

office hours: Monday, 5:00-5:30, Tuesday, 3:00-3:30, or by appointment

Teaching Assistant: Helen Burnham. e-mail::


What makes modern art modern? Is it the subject matter (factories and airplanes), the formal language (geometric shapes and brilliant colors), or something else? This course will argue that, if there is a defining feature to modern art, it is the tension between the urge toward melodrama and the urge to escape it.

Required Reading:
Fred S. Kleiner, Christin J. Mamiya, and Richard G. Tansey. Gardner’s Art Through The Ages, vol. II (Harcourt, 2001), Chapters 28, 29, 33, and 34.
Classes, Exams, and Grading

This class will consist primarily of a series of lectures. However, one class, at the end, will be reserved for discussions. Questions are welcomed at any point in the lectures (though not too many during any given lecture).

There will be two exams, a mid-term (on Monday, October 27) and a final (on Wednesday, December 17). The mid-term will consist of slide identifications and brief essay questions. The final will include at least one long essay, as well as slide identifications.

Grades will be based approximately 70% on exams and 30% on your research paper.

Research Paper

Writing this paper should offer you an opportunity to experience the pleasure of looking hard at a work of art, the challenge of thinking about larger intellectual issues, and the pain of doing actual research. A research paper is not merely a summary of other people’s ideas and discoveries. It is, ideally, a kind of feedback loop in written form. You should begin by looking through the relevant chapters of Art Through The Ages for an image (painting, sculpture, print, photograph, work of architecture) that excites you. Having selected an image, your goal is to uncover relevant information and ideas. The ideas you bring to bear on the image should enrich your experience of it; but, at the same time, you should test these ideas against your own perception of the image, and against whatever factual information you can discover. Watch out! Don’t believe everything you read in books.

You might start your research by looking through the texts listed in the notes on pp. 1139-1143 of Art Through The Ages and in the bibliography on pp. 1164-1177. You should also look in Bobcat for books and exhibition catalogues discussing the artist you have selected. Do NOT rely on Google or Yahoo! to do your research. These search engines will turn up many web pages with false or—at best—predigested information. You can, however, find a great deal of useful material by consulting the “Internet Reference Tools for Art History” listed on the next page of this handout.

Research material falls into three broad categories.

“Primary” sources consist of the art works themselves or of contemporary documents related to the art works (letters or statements by the artist, contracts with dealers, newspaper reviews, etc.). You will not have the time to search for unknown primary sources buried in archives, but primary sources of this type are often reproduced in exhibition catalogues or catalogues raisonnés (catalogues listing and reproducing all the works by a given artist), and in anthologies such as Herschel B. Chipp’s Theories of Modern Art: A Source Books by Artists and Critics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968)—a good book to buy, incidentally.

“Secondary” sources consist of books on individual artists (“monographs”) or the essays and catalogue entries written by scholars for exhibition catalogues. These typically summarize information gathered from primary sources and then go on to offer a particular interpretation of the particular art work or of the artist’s work as a whole.

“Tertiary” sources (to coin a phrase) would include books on larger art movements, or on particular issues in the interpretation of art. Textbooks like Art Through The Ages, encylopedias, etc. also fall into this category, or maybe these should be called “quaternary” sources. Usually, by the time you get to this level, the information has been so thoroughly chewed over that it has been reduced more or less to pap, devoid of intellectual sustenance. Avoid “quaternary” sources.
You should consult at least two or three secondary and tertiary sources in order to learn about different interpretations of your chosen artist. You should then consult as many primary sources as possible in order to find information supporting or disproving these interpretations. Your paper (7-10 typed, double-spaced pages) should be written in an “A-B-A” structure:

A: Begin by describing your art work and any information directly related to it.
B: Summarize different possible interpretations of the art work.
A: Return to the primary sources and to your own reaction to the work, and show how they support one interpretation or another.

Please remember the basic rule of academic writing: give credit where credit is due. Credit for information can be given simply in a footnote. Credit for ideas should be given briefly in the text (“As Linda Nochlin has written…”) and more fully in a footnote.1 Quotations must be indicated by quotation marks. Once in a while you will find a genuine piece of scholarship on the Internet (say, in a museum web site); this must be cited like any other source: “As noted in an entry in the Metropolitan Museum’s web site,” with a footnote to the web address. Readers of your paper will assume that anything not footnoted is your original research, observation, or idea. Make sure this is true.

1Linda Nochlin, ‘Morisot’s Wet Nurse: The Construction of Work and Leisure in Impressionist Painting,’ in Nochlin, Women, Art, and Power and Other Essays (New York: Harper and Row, 1988), p. 39.

Important additional link:
Internet Reference Tools for Art History



1. Wed, Sept 3: Overview: the problem of defining “Modern Art”

2. Mon, Sept 8: The 18th Century: Sentimentality and Sophistication

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 780-787; 836-849.
Suggested Reading: Hugh Honour. Neo-Classicism. Penguin, 1968

3. Wed, Sept 10: Napoleon and the French Revolution: History as Drama

Required Reading: Art Through the Ages, pp. 849-854, 859-860.
Suggested Reading: Walter Friedlaender, David to Delacroix

4. Mon, Sept 15: Romanticism: Art and Melodrama

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 860-880, 903-904.
Suggested Reading: Eugene Delacroix. The Journal of Eugene Delacroix.
Robert Rosenblum. Modern Painting and the Northern Romantic Tradition: Friedrich to Rothko. 1975
William Vaughan. Romantic Art. 1978

5. Wed, Sept 17: The Dilemma of Architecture: “In What Style Shall We Build?”

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 853-858; 880-883.
Suggested Reading: Henry-Russell Hitchcock. Architecture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. 1958

6. Mon, Sept 22: Realism: the Reaction Against Melodrama

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 883-887; 891-901.
Suggested Reading:
Peter Galassi, Corot in Italy: Open-Air Painting and the Classical Tradition. 1991
Francis D. Klingender. Art and the Industrial Revolution. 1947, revised 1968
Linda Nochlin, Realism. Penguin, 1972
Barbara Novak, American Painting of the Nineteenth Century. 1969, revised 1979

7. Wed, Sept 24: Impressionism: “Pure Opticality”

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 904-916.
Suggested Reading:
Linda Nochlin. Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, 1874-1904: Sources and Documents. 1966

8. Mon, Sept 29: Post-Impressionism

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 913-924.
Suggested Reading:
Herschel B. Chipp et al (eds.). Theories of Modern Art: A Source Book by Artists and Critics, section on Van Gogh and Symbolism, pp. 29-123.

9. Wed, Oct 1: Pompiers and Symbolists: More Melodrama

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 896-897; 924-934.
Suggested Reading:
Robert Goldwater. Symbolism. 1979
James Harding. Artistes Pompiers: French Academic Art in the 19th Century. New York: Rizzoli, 1979.

10. Mon, Oct 6: Expressionism and “Musical” Abstraction in Austria & Germany

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 934-935; 1008-1010.
Suggested Reading:
Kandinsky, “Reminiscences,” in Robert L. Herbert (ed.), Modern Artists on Art, 1964
Chipp, Theories of Modern Art, statements by the Expressionists, pp. 146-192

11. Wed, Oct 8: Matisse and the Fauves

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 1005-1008.
Suggested Reading: Chip, Theories of Modern Art, statements by Matisse, pp. 130-141.

12. Mon, Oct 13: Early Modern Sculpture: The Disputed Body

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 929-930, 1011, 1036-1037, 1060-1061

13. Wed, Oct 15: Picasso and Early Cubism

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 1011-1017
Suggested Reading:
Alfred Barr. Picasso: Fifty Years of His Art. 1946
Françoise Gilot and Carleton Lake. Life with Picasso. 1964
Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, 1933 chapters 1-5 (to 1914)

14. Mon, Oct 20: From Cubism to Geometric Abstraction

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 1017-1020, 1026-1032, 1048-1052
Suggested Reading: Gleizes & Metzinger, “Cubism,” 1912, in Herbert, Modern Artists on Art

15. Wed, Oct 22: Modern Architecture: Engineering and Geometry

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 934-938, 1050-1060, 1103-1107
Suggested Reading:
William J.R. Curtis. Modern Architecture Since 1900. 1982, revised 1987
Peter Blake. The Master Builders [Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, F.L. Wright]. 1960

16. Mon, Oct 27: Mid-term exam

17. Wed, Oct 29: Radical Art, Radical Politics: Dadaism and Constructivism

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 1024-1026, 1032-1036, 1046-1048
Suggested Reading: John Willett. Art & Politics in the Weimar Period. 1978

18. Mon, Nov 3 Modernism against Modernism

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 1030-1031, 1038, 1064-1071
Suggested Reading: Kenneth E. Silver. Esprit de Corps: The Art of the Parisian Avant-Garde and the First World War, 1914-1925. 1989

19. Wed, Nov 5: Surrealism: Melodrama Revived

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 1038-1046, 1063-1064, 1075-1077
Suggested Reading:
Lucy Lippard (ed.). Surrealists on Art. 1970
James Lord. A Giacometti Portrait. 1965, 1980.

20. Mon, Nov 10: The New American Empire and “The Triumph of American Painting”

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 1074-1075; 1077-1079.
Suggested Reading:
Dore Ashton. The New York School: A Cultural Reckoning. 1972
Clement Greenberg, “American-Type Painting,” in Greenberg, Art and Culture: Critical Essays, 1961
B.H. Friedman, Jackson Pollock: Energy Made Visible. 1972, rev. ed. 1995

21. Wed, Nov 12: The New York School

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 1079-1083

22. Mon, Nov 17: Neo-Dada & Street Photography

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 1090-1095
Suggested Reading:
Walker Evans. American Photographs. 1938
Robert Frank. The Americans. 1959
Calvin Tomkins. The Bride and the Bachelors--Five Masters of the Avant-Garde: Duchamp, Tinguely, Cage, Rauschenberg, Cunningham. 1965

23. Wed, Nov 19: Pop Art

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 1095-1097 Suggested Reading:
Pepe Karmel, "Penn's Beautiful People," Art News, December 1984, pp. 82-90.
Andy Warhol. Popism. 1981

24. Mon, Nov 24: Minimalism, Post-Minimalism, Conceptual Art, and Earthworks

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 1082-1088, 1099-1103
Suggested Reading:
Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author,” 1967, in Barthes, Image/Music/Text, 1977
Gregory Battcock. Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology. 1968
Lucy Lippard. Eva Hesse. New York: New York University, 1976.
Tom Wolfe. The Painted Word.

25. Wed, Nov 26: Post-Modernism and Identity Politics

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 1116-1137
Suggested Reading:
Judy Chicago, Through the Flower: my struggles as a woman artist, 1975, revised 1982, esp. pp. 52-57 and 70-92.
Craig Houser, Leslie C. Jones, and Simon Taylor. Abject Art: Repulsion and Desire in American Art. Whitney Museum of American Art, 1993
Melissa Meyer and Miriam Schapiro, “Waste Not Want Not: An Inquiry into What Women Saved and Assembled [Femmage],” Heresies, Winter 1978
Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Screen, 1975; reprinted in Laura Mulvey, Visual and Other Pleasures, 1989, pp. 14-26.

26. Mon, Dec 1: Post-Modern Architecture: In What Style Shall We Build Today?

Required Reading: Art Through The Ages, pp. 1107-1113, 1137
Suggested Reading:
William J.R. Curtis. Modern Architecture Since 1900. 1982, revised 1987
Charles Jencks. The Language of Post-Modern Architecture.1977
Robert Venturi, Denise S. Brown, and Steven Izenour. Learning from Las Vegas. 1976

27. Wed, Dec 3: Contemporary Art: Allegory and Melodrama

Suggested Reading:
Craig Owens, “The Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory of Post-Modernism,” Parts 1 and 2, October 12, Spring 1980, pp. 67-86; October 13, Summer 1980, pp. 58-80.

28. Mon, Dec 8: Discussion session
Final Exam: Wed, Dec 17, 4:00-5:50 (not 3:30-4:45)