Tuesday, October 26, 2010

ART HIST 3AA3: Duchamp interviews

Consider Duchamp's thoughts on art in relation to Warhol's responses and the comments from Lydon and Levene on rock.

ART HIST 3AA3: Andy Warhol Interview 1964

Compare and contrast Warhol's responses to those of Lydon and Levene during their interview.

ART HIST 1A03: Chicago Style Guide

As you continue to work on your papers some of you may be wondering about citation methods. In the discipline of Art History papers generally conform to the Chicago Style (or Turabian Style) guidelines. These are available for your consultation online at McMaster. The link is provided here:


The assignment that you have been given is not a research paper. However it is possible that you may consult textual sources in the process of writing. Should this happen you must provide a bibliography and footnotes (or endnotes) to ensure that you have given credit to those sources in the process of formulating your own ideas.

Friday, October 22, 2010

ART HIST 3V03, Spring 2011: Pics

Some of the sights you can expect to see! Follow us on Facebook and watch for the new ART HIST 3V03 course webpage coming soon to McMaster!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

ART HIST 1A03: Notes on the Course Design and Objectives

The following notes are intended to provide some further guidance on the structure of this course and the expectations of the instructor with respect to your performance. Some of these points will be addressed in your upcoming tutorials (Oct. 18, 19):

What should I expect from this course?

ART HIST 1A03 is an introduction to the study of artistic media and techniques. The aim of this course is to establish a foundation for those who choose to continue with the study of art and art history (either professionally or out of general interest). The course material will progress thematically, treating a variety of established techniques in painting, sculpture, printmaking, drawing and architecture. Along the way the course will consider some important theoretical developments in art. ART HIST 1A03 serves as a foundation for an introductory survey of art history (ART HIST 1AA3). Art history concerns itself with the interpretation of objects (works of art and architecture) and seeks to expand our understanding of their use, meaning and purpose within the context of the societies and cultures in which they were created. As with any attempt to interpret things from the past, the way we interpret can also tell us much about ourselves and the way that we think today. In this sense the practice of art history is also self-reflexive and its benefits extend well beyond satisfying our desire to look at beautiful (or, in some cases, not so beautiful) objects.

What is expected of me?

To perform well in this course you must be prepared to confidently recognize works of art and architecture discussed in lecture (also found in the readings). To do this you will need to be able to identify works by naming the artist(s) or architect(s), titles and dates. Obviously you will also need to know the media and techniques used (for works of art). You will need to be familiar with the theoretical issues and general themes addressed with respect to art and architectural developments (treated during the latter part of the course) You must also be prepared to recognize art and architectural terms (know their spelling and meaning) and correctly use them when discussing works. These are the basics and they are necessary to permit you to discuss works from the course with clarity. In addition to this you will need to demonstrate an engagement with the material that reflects an ability to think critically. Raw data is only beneficial if it can be put to use. You need to use the information you gain from the lectures, readings and tutorials as the foundation for deeper understanding of art practices and their importance in history. You are not expected to simply identify works, techniques and terms and should you accidentally assume this to be the case you should be ready to perform adequately at best.

What should I expect of myself?

Even though it is a cliché it is fair enough to say that you will only get back what you put into this course. Education is a collaborative affair and no amount of lecturing (no matter how engaging) will compensate for passive reception on the part of the student. Contrary to what some might believe knowledge is never dispensed from the lectern. ‘Knowing’ is something we all come to in our own way. Those who teach offer their understanding of things to open paths for students. The student who shines is the one who takes this material and builds upon it in her or his own way. Before sinking your teeth into the course ask yourself what you would like to gain from the experience and what you are prepared to do to meet your objectives. Attending lectures and tutorials and following readings are basic requirements but it is also important to determine, for yourself, a purpose for the exercise. Once you have done this you can put the course to good use.

Some Thoughts on Examinations (including tests)

Tests or exams are usually preceded by a measure of panic. Questions of the order below frequently follow during review sessions:

How many pages do I need to write? (if the test or exam has essay questions)
Do I need to know the dates of the works or can I just use titles?
Does it matter if I spell the artist’s name incorrectly?
Can I just use the artist’s last name or do I have to use the whole name?
Does the final exam cover all the material in the course?


As you can see these questions all reflect a common desire to pare down the amount of material for which each student is responsible. This is understandable in light of the gravity of the situation (particularly if the test or exam counts for a large percentage of the final grade). On the other hand these questions also betray a lack of preparedness on the part of the students who ask them (and, to a certain extent, a misreading of the purpose of the test). In the interest of clarification (and in the hope that I can dissuade you from asking such questions at a later time) I’ll offer a few guidelines on tests and exams in the field of art history and, most particularly, in this course.

1. Quality is important. Quantity is no substitute. Some write clearly and succinctly while others write well at great length. This is purely a matter of personal style. However those who write volumes poorly gain nothing from their efforts.

2. Knowing the facts is a basic prerequisite. Names, dates, titles, etc., become familiar with consistent study (attending lectures, tutorials, reading and reviewing images in your text). Time is required so give yourself time. Don’t leave familiarization until the last minute.

3. Correct spelling is also a basic prerequisite. We all make mistakes and a spelling error or two in the context of an otherwise well-written test will hardly lead to a low grade. On the other hand glaring errors in spelling signal poor communication skills and a lack of familiarity with the subject matter. These problems cannot be fudged at exam time.

4. Be strategic in your studies and in your writing. No student can be expected to know everything well. Demonstrate your strengths as much as possible by building upon what you do know.

5. Do not treat facts as an end. Facts are simply the building blocks for critical discussion. Correctly identifying works and throwing in memorized vocabulary terms for good measure will do little to help if you have nothing to say about them. The purpose of an examination is not to test your ability to memorize. You want to demonstrate your interpretive skills along with the facts.

Some Closing Thoughts on Performance

Sometimes students face difficulties in their coursework and have a hard time understanding why they didn’t perform to their expectations. This is not uncommon at the first-year level though it is possible for any student to experience this in any year of study. Rest assured that this is not always a matter of falling behind with work. Even students who ‘burn the midnight oil’ can encounter problems of this order.

Though many factors can contribute to a dissatisfying performance I have found that in many instances the difficulties can be traced to the student’s misunderstanding of what he or she believes will satisfy the requirements of a given assignment or test. There are no strict guidelines to guard against this but it is useful nonetheless to clarify some of the general differences that mark a poor effort in relation to an adequate, good or excellent (outstanding) performance. Here is a list of observations to help with this clarification:

Poor (F -D range): A poor paper displays a lack of clarity with respect to the subject matter and incorrect handling of facts or data. Confused content is also frequently matched by technical errors (grammar, spelling…), repetition and a reliance upon obvious statements or description.

Adequate (C range): An adequate paper tends to tell the reader about the material in question. Facts are offered without support. The writer relies upon the reader’s knowledge of the subject and assumes that no explanation is necessary. Such papers are often marked by repetition, technical weaknesses (grammar, spelling…) and a cursory familiarity with the most general concepts discussed in the course. Comments may also be marked by obvious statements or a tendency to simply describe the works in question.

Good (B range): A good paper seeks to discuss the subject as it has been treated in the lectures and readings. Facts are supported by comments that display an understanding of key issues addressed in the course. Commentary does not extend to original ideas. The writing is clear and generally free of technical errors.

Excellent (A range): An excellent paper displays a solid understanding of facts and concepts treated in the course. Commentary reveals evidence of critical thinking about the material and offers signs of original thought. The writing is clear, concise and sophisticated.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

ART HIST 1AA3: Fresco Technique Diagram

Some of you have requested that I post the fresco technique diagram used in lecture. Here it is: