History through Art Class Notes

Congratulations!  You found it!  Each day after our class, I will post key points from the new material we covered that day.  

12/12/12  Women Artists

You will research a female artist from one of the time periods we have covered in class.  For your book page you will have:
  1. an introductory paragraph about women artists in history
  2. within that paragraph, a direct citation from your source
  3. bullet points about the artist you choose
Your homework:

You will write an introductory paragraph talking about women artists in history:
  • Introduce the topic- talk briefly about why women have been under-represented in the art world and in art history books
  • Introduce your artist 
  • Credit your reliable source somewhere in your intro paragraph- this is called a direct citation. Either say in your own words (paraphrase) their idea or use a direct quote.  There are different rules for each of those possibilities.  Look up instructions on how to do this (consult the noodlebib connection to the MLA handbook OR the library site I gave you in the first entry on this page). Remember we are working in MLA format and you want instructions about writing citations in that specific way.
  • Please note:  for your book's Works Cited page for tomorrow you will have TWO sources to cite- one about women artists in general and one (at least, you could have more) about your specific artist.
You will write bullet points about a female artist from one of the time periods we covered.

BY 7PM TONIGHT, you will send me 2-3 images of this artist's work.  You may send more if you like but we will be able to spend less time on each if you send many.  My email and phone number are on the syllabus.  Let me know if you are switching artists.  

Tomorrow in class, when we do the slides, you will each present your artist in the same way you have been presenting your research each day in class.  

http://arthistoryresources.net/ARTHLinks.html is a great place to start researching!

12/5 Northern Renaissance/High Renaissance

12/4 Proto-Renaissance/Early Renaissance
  • Florence was set up politically, economically and culturally for the beginning of the Renaissance!
  • Cimabue, Duccio, and Giotto straddled the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in the proto-renaissance. 
  • a contest to create doors for the Baptistry building at the Duomo (cathedral) made Ghiberti famous.
  • We looked at art from Ghiberti, Donatello, Massacio, Van Eyck, Ghirlandaio, Durer, and Botticelli.
  • We talked about Savonarola and the Bonfire of the Vanities.

12/3 Medieval Art
Key points:
  • Medieval art covers a long period of time.  Most art that we see from that time is art that was preserved by the church so it's religious in nature.  Other art, secular (not religious) in nature existed but did not survive in the quantity or quality of the religious work.
  • We looked at paintings mostly today but the middle ages were also known for  beautiful, ornate illuminated manuscripts and mosaics.  
  • Artists in the middle ages made brave attempts at understanding perspective.  Although we could see progress over time, it wasn't really until the Renaissance that artists were able to master the subtleties of perspective drawing. 
  • Three important painters from the middle ages were Cimabue, Duccio, and Giotto.
  • Cimabue lived from 1240-1302 in Florence and he also did mosaics.  He was the first artist of the middle ages to paint more naturalistic figures, using more realistic proportion and shading. 
  •  According to Vasari (who wrote the book The Lives of the Artists), Cimabue was the teacher of Giotto.
  • Duccio lived in Siena from about 1255-1260 to 1318-1319.  Some people say he may have studied with Cimbue.  He became famous for working with light and shadow to create soft, colorful forms and faces more realistic and with more emotion than had been the style up to that point.  He also focused on painting the draped fabric of clothing realistically around the human form.  
  • Giotto lived in Florence and was also an architect.  He changed painting by working more realistically with perspective and by painting people in more realistic, less organized arrangements to tell his story (for instance, face-to-face). He created drama by often painting the moment just before something important happened (like Judas just about to kiss Jesus to betray him to the soldiers).  Giotto is considered by many to be the artists who tipped the art world into the Renaissance.  

11/30 Roman Art
Key points:
  • The Romans absorbed other cultures through conquest.  Cultural aspects that they admired, they made their own (like Greek sculpture)
  • Many examples of Greek sculpture that we have today are only with us because the Romans copied them.  
  • The Roman custom of wax funerary mask-making was replaced with the creation of more durable portrait busts in the style of the Greeks with one exception- many of them were very lifelike and realistic- a 'warts and all' reality.
  • Buildings and houses were lavishly decorated with paintings (frescos) and mosaics.  On the outside, relief sculpture told stories and pediment sculptures decorated the top front of many structures.
  • Most of the examples of Roman paintings come from the town of Pompeii- preserved in the ash of Mount Vesuvius.  
  • Unlike in ancient Greece, artists became unknown artisans again (as in ancient Egypt).  They were often slaves from other cultures that were defeated by the Roman conquests.
  1. research Roman art.  Copy your article and include your citation in your noodlebib list.
  2. work on your Roman art book page.
  3. Fine tune and add finishing touches to other pages created this week.
  4. If you have make-up work to do, or research to take further from this week, do it this weekend.  We will go over it on Monday.
11/29 Greek Sculpture

Ancient Greek sculpture showed the influence of the Egyptian aesthetic but over time the rigid, stylized forms became more and more realistic.

Greek sculpture has 3 main periods:
Archaic- In the archaic period that started around 600 BC, statues shows a lot of similarities to the rules of the Egyptians.  They were stylized, with clenched hands and stiff postures.  But Greek sculpture did have one important difference- the human figure was freestanding, unsupported by a backing or other form.  Common in this period were statues of young men (kouros) and young women (kore).  They were used as temple offerings or in graves.  They were clothed and painted in bright colors.  
Classical-  Something interesting happened in the Classical period- a change in stance or posture.  It was called 'contraposto' and was essentially the shifting of weight to one leg.  It was developed by sculptor and mathematician, Polychitus.  The first example we have of it in art is in a sculpture called the Kritios Boy 480 BC.  This one is actually attributed to a sculptor named Kritios (notice how here, unlike in Egypt, we actually know who some of the artists are!).  Sculptors in this period were interested in making sculptures that looked like real live bodies. They portrayed bodies capable of movement and bodies in motion. They often used young male athletes as models and worked to work very realistically.  But as often happens when you focus on something visual, it becomes  exaggerated in interpretation.  Human form very quickly went from realistic to exaggerated.
Hellenistic- In the Hellenistic period, sculptors really pumped up the exaggeration of fabrics- this started in the Classical period but reached its height in the Hellenistic.  Folds in clothing became epic and poetic (imagine the soundtrack to the video we watched about Ployclitus!).   Sculptors in the Hellenistic period were interested in expression of emotion and expressive posture or position- think of the anguish of the Dying Gaul.

11/28  Ancient Egyptian Art

 Life in Ancient Egypt

The term ‘ancient Egypt’ refers to a very long period of time from 3,000 BC to 300 AD.  Egypt was ruled by a succession of pharaohs during this time and most of the artwork we can refer to today comes from the tombs of the pharaohs.   The religion of ancient Egypt had many gods and goddesses.  The ancient Egyptians had a strong belief in an afterlife and took very seriously the need to be prepared after death with material things they would need to live that afterlife. 


Paintings in ancient Egypt varied very little over that long expanse of time, and they generally followed a strict set of rules set forth in the early part of the period.  Images were symbolic and stylized.  Humans were portrayed in orderly but unrealistic form- with torsos usually facing forward, feet facing to the side, heads in profile and the one visible eye looking forward.  In a similar manner, animals were stylized as well.  Unruly groupings like a team of horses or a herd of animals being hunted were layered and often looked almost stacked up on each other.  People tended to look very much the same and were idealized in perfect proportion.  Things like skin tone and the sizes of hands and feet were very symbolic; for instance, pale skin was usually reserved for women and brown skin for men, and hands and feet were bigger on people who worked for a living like farmers, and smaller on royals.


 Ancient Egyptian sculpture was usually carved of limestone or granite, or sometimes cast in bronze.  It is a mystery how the Egyptians, who used copper tools, were able to carve granite, one of the hardest stones in the world.  Sculpted figures were stylized and not usually very realistic.  In a sculpture of Menkaure (aka Mycerimus or Mycerinus), the pharaoh and his queen stand together, upright and symmetrical. Their faces and bodies are stylized and not very natural looking. The queen stands slightly behind the pharaoh and both figures have one foot slightly in front of the other as if taking a step. 

 Art in the Amarna Period

A notable exception to the stylization of ancient Egyptian art was during the Amarna period which took place during the reign of Akhenaten.  Akhenaten made a radical change in the religion of the time.  There had always been many gods and goddesses but Akhenaten declared there to be one god- Aten, a sun god and for his relatively brief reign only Aten was worshipped in Egypt.  Art also changed during this time, becoming more fluid with more curved lines.  Paintings and sculptures depicting the pharaoh and his queen, Nefertiti and their children were unusually loving and casual compared the tradition of very formal art up to this time.  Akhenaten was also always depicted with an elongated head and a very curvy, almost feminine body.  One theory is that he had a sickness that had deformed his body.  Another theory is that in the new monotheistic (one god) religion, male and female qualities were both present in one god, therefore the pharaoh was also represented as being androgynous.  After Akhenaten died, his son Tutankhamen became pharaoh and re-established the many gods and goddesses.   For the most part, art also returned to its traditional style. 

 What was important to people in ancient Egypt?

 The religion of ancient Egypt with its many gods and goddesses had a strong emphasis on the afterlife.  It was of great importance to prepare for that afterlife.  People wanted to do whatever they could to make sure they had all the comfort, prestige, and support from the gods in their afterlives that they had enjoyed in their lives on earth.  They believed that preserving things from their physical life would ensure that those things would be available to them in the next life.  They wanted to take it all with them, and did many things to that end, from preserving their own bodies right down to mummifying their cats!  Great riches and beautiful things were stored in the tombs in preparation for the life beyond.   They believed in a kind of magic that would make these physical things accessible to them when their lives on earth were over. 

 How is this reflected in their art?

 Because of their need to provide for themselves and their departed loved ones in the afterlife, ancient Egyptians created many beautiful works of art that were part of or put into tombs.  They believed that this beauty and wealth and comfort would follow the deceased onto their next life. 

 Janson, H W. "Egyptian Art." History of Art. 2nd ed. Englewood Cliffs,

     NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1981. 50-65. Print. 
  1. Continue your research on ancient Egyptian art. Use your "Research Attempts" form.
  2. Print the article you find/or take notes on it. Bring these to class. List this article under "Works Cited" in your noodlebib account.
  3. Work on your book page for Ancient Egypt. Bring this to class.

11/27  Today we covered Prehistoric Art.  Some key points:
  • Cave art was painted deep inside caves, some underground, where people didn't generally pass by or hang out as far as we can tell.  
  • Cave art is present in many countries around the world and shows a remarkable aesthetic sensibility.  We have no evidence of more primitive art leading up to this.
  • Themes in cave art usually involve animals and hunting.  Also, dots, like polka dots are a common theme, as well as the outlines of hands.  These images are very often layered over each other.
  • At this point in history, humans were nomadic. living in hunter/gatherer communities.
  • One theory about why humans created cave art is that it was part of ritual magic in support of a good hunt.  The art was made in caves, not as decoration, but in an attempt to influence the outcome of a hunt.  It was repeated (layered) for each new hunt.
  • Another theory is that it was a rite of passage type ceremony to prepare young men to be hunters.  
  • New discoveries about prehistoric art can change prevailing theories or ideas about prehistoric life and people.  A cave recently discovered in Mexico brings up the possibility that cave art may have begun even earlier than we thought and may change historians' ideas about Neanderthals.  
  • Small, portable sculptures were also carved at this time and also seemed to be related to hunting and fertility magic.  The Venus of Willendorf is one.  
  • As cultures around the world settled into more farming (agrarian) communities, art changed.  We looked at a clay sculpted skull, common in the burial ceremonies of the Middle East, when family members were often buried under houses.  We also looked at Stonehenge in England, and the stone petraglyphs at Easter Island, and Serpent Mound in Adams County Ohio.  
  • One question to consider as you think about what you saw today:  What do you think was the relationship that prehistoric people had with nature?  How did they see themselves in relation to the natural world?
  1. Research some aspect of what we saw today- find out something you didn't already know.  Be prepared to discuss this in class.
  2. Record your research history on the "Research Attempts" chart and bring it to class with you tomorrow.
  3. Add the citation for the article you choose in your research to your list on noodlebib.  
  4. Work on your seminar book page for this topic and bring it to class with you tomorrow. Draft form is fine. 
  5. Please take some time to explore this virtual tour of the Lascaux cave.  Ask a parent to visit the cave with you if you are afraid of the dark!  This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen on the internet.   http://www.lascaux.culture.fr/#/en/00.xml

11/26  Nice job setting up your noodlebib accounts today!  

Key Points-  
  • You will need to plan to work on your books each night to stay on track.  Go over your syllabus for the exact details and info about what to do if you are sick.  Remember to plan your work time, balancing your responsibility to this class with the time you have available for work each night.  You will need to devote some weekend time to keeping your book coming together.
  • Not all internet sources are reliable and trustworthy for scholarly research!  Part of tonight's homework is to look at the library site to learn more about how you can determine if a site is reliable.
  • Bring your syllabus, morning verse sheet, research attempts sheet,  main lesson book (in progress), and your homework research results with you each day.
  • Homework:
  1. Print out the syllabus if you have not already.
  2. Print out research attempts sheets.
  3. Create your main lesson book cover page.
  4. Visit the library site and read about reliable sources for research.  Write down 3 key points regarding reliable sources and be prepared for a discussion about them in class tomorrow.  Here is the link to the site:  http://libraryschool.campusguides.com/content.php?pid=330301&sid=2701531
Ann Frank,
Nov 23, 2012, 11:06 AM
Ann Frank,
Nov 23, 2012, 5:47 PM