Modern Art in Europe and North America, a one semester online syllabus

Who was Andy Warhol? What is Romanticism? Can abstract art mean something? This course will survey the art and architecture of the modern era. We will focus on turning points in the historical narrative including the political and industrial revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries, the rise of cities and of a middle class. In the 20th century we will examine abstraction and the impact of two world wars, the Cold War, and the unwinding of colonialism. Throughout, we will examine the stylistic development of “isms,” including Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, and many others. The art and architecture produced in the 19th and 20th centuries laid the foundation for the world we live in now, and this class will help make sense of its extraordinary complexity.

What is modern?

The basics
A brief guide to the history of Western culture
What is art history?
Introduction to art historical analysis
How to do visual analysis
Describing what you see: Sculpture, Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure, 1951
Becoming modern
Representation and abstraction: looking at Millais and Newman

Romanticism: self versus state

Standards during a time of change
Introduction to the Salon and the Royal Academy (essay from The Met)
A beginner’s guide to Romanticism

Art historical analysis using Francisco de Goya, Third of May, 1808, 1814, quiz
Francisco Goya
    The sleep of reason produces monsters, Los Caprichos (plate 43), 1799, quiz
    The Family of Charles IV, c. 1800
    And there’s nothing to be done, Disasters of War (plate 15), 1810
    Saturn Devouring One Of His Sons, 1821-23

Romanticism in France, quiz
Baron Antoine-Jean Gros, Napoleon Bonaparte Visiting the Pest House in Jaffa, 1804
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, La Grande Odalisque, 1814 (and essay), quiz
Théodore Géricault
    Raft of the Medusa, 1818-19, quiz
    Portraits of the Insane, 1822
Eugène Delacroix
    Scene of the Massacre at Chios, 1824
    The Death of Sardanapalus, 1827
    Liberty Leading the People (July 28, 1830), 1830, quiz
François Rude, La Marseillaise (The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792), 1833-36

Germany, quiz
Caspar David Friedrich
    Monk by the Sea, 1808 or 1810, quiz
    Abbey in the Oak Forest, 1809 or 1810, quiz
    Solitary Tree (or Lone Tree), 1822
    Woman at a Window, 1822

England, quiz
Henry Fuseli
    The Nightmare, 1781, quiz
    Titania and Bottom, c. 1790
William Blake
    The Spiritual Form of Nelson Guiding Leviathan, c. 1805-9
    The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, c. 1799-1800
John Constable
    John Constable and The English landscape
    Wivenhoe Park, Essex, 1816
    The Hay Wain (Landscape: Noon), 1821
    View on the Stour near Dedham, 1822, quiz
    Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, 1831
J.M.W. Turner
    The Harbor of Dieppe, c. 1826
    The Fighting Temeraire, 1839
    Slave Ship, 1840, quiz
    Rain, Steam, and Speed — The Great Western Railway, oil on canvas, 1844
John Martin, The Great Day of His Wrath, 1851-53
John Nash, Royal Pavilion, Brighton, 1815-23

United States, quiz
Thomas Cole,  
     The Oxbow, 1836, quiz
    The Architect’s Dream, 1840
    The Hunter’s Return, 1845
George Catlin, The White Cloud, Head Chief of the Iowas, 1844-45
Emanuel Leutze, Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1851
Frederic Edwin Church, Niagara, 1857 and Heart of the Andes, 1859

Issues in Romanticism

Rethinking old and new: early photography and the Pre-Raphaelites

Early photography

Early photography: Niépce, Talbot and Muybridge

Louis Daguerre, Paris Boulevard, 1839

Making Daguerreotypes (video from the Getty Museum)

Lady Clementina Hawarden, Clementina and Florence Elizabeth Maude, 5 Princess Gardens, c. 1861

Julia Margaret Cameron, Mrs. Herbert Duckworth, 1867

Carleton E. Watkins, Eagle Creek, Columbia River, 1867

Pre-Raphaelite art and its broader sphere, quiz
A beginner’s guide to the Pre-Raphaelites
Sir John Everett Millais
    Isabella, 1848-49
    Christ in the House of His Parents, 1849-50
    Ophelia, 1851-52, quiz
    The Vale of Rest: where the weary find repose, 1858
William Holman Hunt
    Our English Coasts (“Strayed Sheep”), 1852, quiz
    The Awakening Conscience, 1853
Ford Madox Brown, Work, 1852-65 (video from the Tate)
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
    Ecce Ancilla Domini, 1849-50
    Beata Beatrix, c. 1864-70
    Proserpine, 1874
Emily Mary Osborn, Nameless and Friendless, 1857
William Dyce, Pegwell Bay, Kent – a Recollection of October 5th 1858, 1858-60
John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, Thoughts of the Past, exhibited 1859
Edward Burne-Jones, The Briar Rose (The Briar Rose, The Council Chamber, The Garden Court, and The Rose Bower), c. 1890

William Butterfield, All Saints, Margaret Street, London, 1849-59
Charles Barry and A.W.N. Pugin, Palace of Westminster, London, 1840-70

Terms and concepts to know:

  • Royal Academy of Arts (RA)
  • Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB)
  • Medieval
  • Raphael
  • Quattrocento
  • John Ruskin
  • Camera obscura
  • Daguerreotype

Realism: inventing the avant-garde

France and the Second Empire, quiz
Thomas Couture, Romans of the Decadence, 1847
Haussmann the Demolisher and the Creation of Modern Paris
Charles Garnier, Opera House, 1860-75
Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux​, Dance, 1865-69

Realism in France
A beginner’s guide to Realism, quiz
Gustave Courbet
 The Stonebreakers, 1849
 A Burial at Ornans, 1849-50
 The Artist’s Studio, 1854-55
Rosa Bonheur, Plowing in the Nivernais, 1849
Jean-François Millet
    The Gleaners, 1857
     L’Angélus, c. 1857-59
Édouard Manet
    Le déjeuner surl’herbe (Luncheon on the Grass), 1863
    Olympia, 1863, quiz
    A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1882
Eva Gonzàles, A Loge at the Théâtre des Italiens, 1874

An Introduction to The Peredvizhniki (The Wanderers)
Ilya Repin, Krestny Khod (Religious Procession) in Kursk Gubernia, 1880-83

United States

Francis Guy, Winter Scene in Brooklyn, 1820
William Sidney Mount, Bargaining for a Horse, 1835
Richard Caton Woodville, War News from Mexico, 1848
Eastman Johnson, A Ride for Liberty—The Fugitive Slaves, c. 1862
Frederick Law Olmsted, Central Park Plan, 1869
Thomas Eakins
    The Champion Single Sculls (Max Schmitt In A Single Scull), 1871
    The Gross Clinic, 1875
James Abbott McNeil Whistler, Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket, 1875
Winslow Homer
    The Life Line, 1884
    The Fog Warning (Halibut Fishing), 1885
    Northeaster, 1895
Grafton Tyler Brown, View of the Lower Falls, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, 1890
Henry Ossawa Tanner
    The Banjo Lesson, 1893
    Angels Appearing before the Shepherds, c. 1910

The Academy of San Carlos
Mexican Independence

José María Velasco, The Valley of Mexico from the Santa Isabel Mountain Range, 1875

Terms and concepts to know:

  • Avant-garde
  • Paris Commune
  • Ornans
  • Nivernais
  • Baron Haussmann
  • Napoleon III
  • Urbanization
  • Salon Carré
  • Gleaner
  • Tuileries Gardens
  • Salon des Refusés
  • Royal Academy
  • formal analysis
  • contextual analysis

Impressionism: the rejection of permanence


What does “Impressionism” mean?
Impressionism: painting modern life
Impressionist color (essay)
Impressionist space (essay)
Berthe Morisot
   The Cradle, c. 1872
   Hunting Butterflies, 1874
Edgar Degas
   At the Races in the Countryside, 1869
   The Dance Class, 1874
   Visit to a Museum, c. 1879-90
Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street; Rainy Day, 1877
Mary Cassatt
    In the Loge, 1878
    Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878
    The Coiffure, 1890-91
    The Child’s Bath, 1893
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
    How to recognize Renoir
    The Grands Boulevards, 1875
    Moulin de la Galette, 1876
    Madame Georges Charpentier and Her Children, 1878
    Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1880-81
    The Large Bathers, 1884-87
Claude Monet    
    How to recognize Monet
    The Argenteuil Bridge, 1874     
    The Gare Saint-Lazare, 1877     
    Poplars, 1891
    Rouen Cathedral Series, 1892-94
    Water Lilies, 1918-26

Terms and concepts to know:

  • Japonisme
  • en plein air
  • scumble
  • boulevard
  • bourgeois
  • impasto
  • Giverny
  • Rouen Cathedral
  • flâneur

Post-Impressionism: the subjective eye

An introduction (essay from The Met), quiz
Georges Seurat
    Bathers at Asnières, 1884
    A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, 1884-86
Paul Gauguin
    Self-Portrait with Portrait of Émile Bernard (Les misérables), 1888
    Vision After the Sermon: Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, 1888
    Oviri, 1894   
    Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?, 1897-98
Vincent van Gogh
   The Potato Eaters, 1885
   Self-Portrait Dedicated to Paul Gauguin, 1888
   Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889
   The Bedroom, 1889
   The Starry Night, 1889
Paul Cézanne
    An introduction
    The Bather, 1885-86
    Madame Cézanne, in the Conservatory, 1891
    The Card Players, 1890-92
    The Basket of Apples, 1893
    Still Life with Plaster Cupid, c.1895
    Mont Sainte-Victoire, 1902-04
    The Large Bathers, 1906

Terms and concepts to know:

  • Color theory (Michel Eugène Chevreul and Ogden Nicholas Rood)
  • Divisionism
  • Passage
  • Neo-Impressionism
  • Rene Decartes
  • Brittany
  • Arles
  • Subjectivity
  • Île de la Jatte
  • Orientalism

The End: art of the Fin de siècle quiz

Gustav Klimt
    Beethoven Frieze, 1902
    The Kiss, 1907-08, quiz
    Death and Life, 1910/15

Fernand Khnopff, I Lock My Door Upon Myself, 1891

Sir Frederic Leighton
    An Athlete Wrestling with a Python, 1877
    Bath of Psyche, 1890
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Listening to Homer, 1885
Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones
    The Golden Stairs, 1880
    The Depths of the Sea, 1887
    Hope, 1896

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Moulin Rouge, 1893-95
Auguste Rodin
    The Walking Man, c. 1877
    The Burghers of Calais, 1884-95
    The Gates of Hell, 1880-1917
Camille Claudel, The Age of Maturity or Destiny, 1902
Hector Guimard, Cité entrance, Paris Métropolitain, c.1900

Arnold Böcklin, Self-Portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle, 1872
Franz von Stuck, The Sin, 1893

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1910

Catalonia (Spain)
Antoni Gaudí, Church of the Sagrada Família, begun 1882

United States
John Singer Sargent
   The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, 1882
   Madame X, 1883-84
   Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, 1885-86
Louis Comfort Tiffany
   Hair Ornament, c. 1904 (video from The Met)
   Vase, 1913 (video from MoMA)

Terms and concepts to know:

  • Aesthetic Movement
  • Art Nouveau
  • Catalonia
  • Demimonde
  • Fin de siècle
  • Jugendstil
  • Modernisme
  • Symbolism
  • Synthetism
  • Vienna Secession

Expressionism, Henri Matisse, and the edge of abstraction

A beginner’s guide to 20th century art
Representation + abstraction: Millais’s Ophelia and Newman’s Vir Heroicus Sublimis
Art + context: Monet’s Cliff Walk at Pourville and Malevich’s White on White
An Introduction to Photography in the early 20th century

An introduction
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
   Street, Berlin, 1913 (video from MoMA)
   Self-Portrait as a Soldier, 1915
Wassily Kandinsky
   Improvisation 28 (second version), 1912
   Brief film of the artist painting
Alexej von Jawlensky, Young Girl in a Flowered Hat, 1910
Egon Schiele
   Seated Male Nude (Self-Portrait), 1910
   Portrait of Wally Neuzil, 1912

Fauvism and the art of Henri Matisse
A beginner’s guide to Fauvism
Henri Matisse
   Bonheur de Vivre The Joy of Life), 1905-06
   Dance I, 1909
   The Red Studio, 1911
   Goldfish, 1912
   Conserving Henri Matisse’s The Swimming Pool, 1952 (video from MoMA)

Terms and concepts to know:

  • Die Brücke
  • Der Blaue Reiter
  • Blue Four
  • Synesthesia
  • Primitivism

Picasso, Cubism, and Italian Futurism, and the analysis of form

Pablo Picasso (early)
   Early Work
   Portrait of Gertrude Stein, 1905-06   
   Reconstruction of Stein’s Paris studio
   Inventing Cubism, quiz
   Picasso and the new language of Cubism
   Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907
   Reservoir, Horta de Ebro, 1908
Georges Braque

    Viaduct at L’Estaque, 1908
    The Portuguese, 1911, quiz
Pablo Picasso (later)
    Still Life with Chair Caning, 1912
    Guitar, Glass, and Bottle, 1913
    Guitar, 1912-14
    Guernica, 1937
Fernand Léger, Contrast of Forms, 1913

Italian Futurism, an introduction
Carlo Carrà, Funeral of the Anarchist Galli, 1910-11
Giacomo Balla, Street Light, c. 1910-11
Umberto Boccioni
   Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, 1913
   Dynamism of a Soccer Player, 1913

Terms and concepts to know:

  • Futurism
  • Manifesto
  • Papier collé
  • Analytic Cubism
  • Synthetic Cubism
  • Spanish Civil War
  • Guernica

The Great War and its aftermath

Dada, quiz
Introduction to Dada (essay)
Marcel Duchamp
   Nude Descending a Staircase, No 2
   In Advance of the Broken Arm, 1915/1964
   The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), 1915-23
   Fountain, 1917/1964, quiz
Raoul Hausmann, Spirit of the Age: Mechanical Head, 1919

Russian avant-garde
Russian Neo-Primitivism: Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov
Kasimir Malevich and Cubo-Futurism
Kasimir Malevich, Suprematist Composition: White on White, 1918
Suprematism, Part I: Kasimir Malevich
Suprematism, Part II: El Lissitzky
Constructivism, Part I
Constructivism, Part II
Tatlin’s Tower

Varvara Stepanova, The Results of the First Five-Year Plan, 1932

The Bauhaus: Marianne Brandt
The Bauhaus: Marcel Breuer
Lyonel Feininger, Cathedral for Program of the State Bauhaus in Weimar, 1919
Paul Klee, Twittering Machine (Die Zwitscher-Maschine), 1922
László Moholy-Nagy
   Telephone Pictures, 1923
   Composition A.XX, 1924

National Socialism (Nazi)
Paul Troost, The House of German Art and the Entartete Kunst exhibition
Art in Nazi Germany

Nazi looting: Egon Schiele’s Portrait of Wally

Terms and concepts to know:

  • Readymade
  • Stalin
  • Lenin
  • USSR
  • Neue Sachlichkeit
  • National Socialism
  • Bauhaus
  • Walter Gropius
  • Entartete Kunst
  • Weimar Republic

Abstraction and Surrealism

Experiments in abstraction
Who created the first abstract work?
Abstract art and Theosophy
De Stijl, Part I: Total Purity
De Stijl, Part II: Near-Abstraction and Pure Abstraction
De Stijl, Part III: The Total De Stijl Environment
Piet Mondrian
   Composition in Brown and Gray, 1913 (video from MoMA)
   Composition No. II, with Red, Blue, and Yellow, 1929
   Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow, 1930
Constantin Brancusi, The Kiss, 1916
Käthe Kollwitz, Memorial Sheet of Karl Liebknecht, 1919-20

Metaphysical painting
Giorgio de Chirico, The Anxious Journey, 1913 (video from MoMA)

Introduction to Surrealism, quiz
Man Ray, The Gift, 1921/c.1958
Rene Magritte
   The Treachery of Images (Ceci n’est pas une pipe), 1929
Alberto Giacometti, The Palace at 4am, 1932  
Salvador Dalí
   The Persistence of Memory, 1935
   Metamorphosis of Narcissus, 1937
Meret Oppenheim, Object (Fur-covered cup, saucer, and spoon), 1936, quiz

Terms and concepts to know:

  • Unconscious
  • Subconscious
  • Id, ego, super-ego
  • Automatism
  • Exquisite corpse
  • Sigmund Freud
  • Psychoanalytic
  • Metaphysical
  • Photomontage
  • Paranoid-critical activity

Pre-war modernism in the U.S. and Latin America

United States


Jacob August Riis, “Knee-pants” at forty five cents a dozen—A Ludlow Street Sweater’s Shop, How the Other Half Lives, c. 1890

The Ashcan School
An introduction
George Bellows, Both Members of This Club, 1909
Elizabeth Sparhawk-Jones, The Shoe Shop, 1911

Alfred Stieglitz, The Steerage, 1907
Charles Demuth, I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold, 1928
Marsden Hartley, Portrait of a German Officer, 1914
Joseph Stella, The Voice of the City of New York Interpreted, 1920-22

Georgia O’Keeffe, The Lawrence Tree, 1929

Figuration and Social Realism
Grant Wood
American Gothic, 1930
    Parson Weems’ Fable, 1939
Ben Shahn
The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti, 1931-32
Miners’ Wives, c. 1948
Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, Nipomo California, 1936
Reginald Marsh, Wooden Horses, 1936

Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942
Walker Evans, Subway Passengers, New York City, 1930s and 40s (video from The Met)
Jacob Lawrence, The Migration Series, 1940-41
Norman Rockwell, Rosie the Riveter, 1942
Horace Pippin, Mr. Prejudice, 1943

Gordon Parks, Off on My Own (Harlem, New York), 1948

Architecture + design
A Landmark Decision: Penn Station, Grand Central, and the architectural heritage of NYC
Van Alen, The Chrysler Building
Corbett, Harrison, Hood,, Rockefeller Center, 1930s
Glass Chair at the 1939 New York World’s Fair
Frank Lloyd Wright
   Fallingwater (Edgar J. Kaufmann House), 1935-38, quiz
   Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, 1942-1959
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Seagram Building, 1958, quiz
Marcel Breuer, The Whitney Museum of American Art (now The Met Breuer), 1963-66

Latin America, quiz

Frida Kahlo Introduction
   Frida and Diego Rivera, 1931
   The Two Fridas, 1939, quiz
Los Tres Grandes: Siqueiros, Rivera, and Orozco
Diego Rivera
   Sugar Cane, 1931
   Detroit Industry Murals, 1932-33
   Man at the Crossroads, 1933
   Man Controller of the Universe, 1934
   Calla Lilly Vendor (Vendedora de Alcatraces), 1942
   Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Central Park, 1947
José Clemente Orozco, Dive Bomber and Tank, 1940

Joaquin Torres-García, América Invertida (Inverted America), 1943

Wilfredo Lam, The Jungle, 1942-43, quiz

Lygia Clark, Bicho, 1962

Terms and concepts to know:

  • Fresco
  • Ashcan School
  • The Eight
  • 291
  • Muckraking
  • Mexican Revolution
  • Great Depression

Postwar/Cold War

Jean Dubuffet
   View of Paris, The Life of Pleasure, 1944
   Childbirth, 1944
Dame Barbara Hepworth, Pelagos, 1946
Alberto Giacometti, Walking Man II, 1960

Abstract Expressionism, quiz
Abstract Expressionism, an introduction
Willem de Kooning, Woman, I, 1950-52
Mark Rothko
   No. 210/No. 211 (Orange), 1960
   Mark Rothko (video from MoMA)
Jackson Pollock    
   Why is that important? Looking at Jackson Pollock
   Jackson Pollock, Mural, 1943
   Paint Application Studies of Jackson Pollock’s Mural, 1943 (video from the Getty Museum)
   The Painting Techniques of Jackson Pollock (video from MoMA)
   ​Conservation | Pollock, One: Number 31, 1950 (video from MoMA)
Lee Krasner, Untitled, 1949
Barnett B. Newman
   Barnett Newman (video from MoMA)
   Newman, Onement I, 1948
Robert Motherwell, Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 57, 1957-60

The New York School
The Impact of Abstract Expressionism
Josef Albers’s Homage to the Square Series
Jasper Johns
   Flag, 1954-55
   White Flag, 1955
Robert Rauschenberg
   Bed, 1955
   Canyon, 1959
Ad Reinhardt
   Abstract Painting, 1963
   Ad Reinhardt (video from MoMA)
   The Painting Techniques of Ad Reinhardt (video from MoMA)
Helen Frankenthaler
    Mountains and Sea, 1952
    The Bay, 1963, quiz

Frank Stella, The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II, 1959

Beyond New York
Ruth Asawa, Untitled, c. 1958

Terms and concepts to know:

  • action painting
  • color field painting
  • Clement Greenberg
  • Harold Rosenberg
  • Cold War
  • Beats
  • Zip
  • Carl Jung
  • Collective unconscious
  • Art Brut

Insta culture: the origins of now

Gary Winogrand, Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles, 1960
Pop Art, an introduction, quiz
Andy Warhol
   Coca-Cola [3], 1962
   Gold Marilyn Monroe, 1962
   Marilyn Diptych, 1962
   Campbell’s Soup Cans, 1962
Marisol, The Party, 1965-66
James Rosenquist, F-111, 1964
Claes Oldenburg, Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks, 1969-74
Gerhard Richter, Uncle Rudi, 1965
Sigmar Polke, Bunnies, 1966

Introduction to Contemporary Art

Terms to know:

  • Irony
  • Ben-Day dot
  • The Factory
  • Velvet Underground
Cite this page as: Smarthistory, "Modern Art in Europe and North America, a one semester online syllabus," in Smarthistory, November 10, 2018, accessed July 6, 2020,