Introduction to the Visual Arts - 1st year

Designed for the student with little or no previous art background as well as for intended art majors. The emphasis of this course will be on developing visual literacy by critically examining the cultural role of the visual arts within societies. Students will gain critical perspectives on different approaches to finding meaning and value in diverse media by analyzing form and content within a work of art through a survey-based format. Students will additionally participate in applied art exercises that will enrich their understanding of the course material.


By the end of the course, students will be able to:

1. Recognize art as an expression of culture;

2. Examine the traditions and functions of art making within cultures;

3. Analyze the communicative, social, aesthetic, spiritual and expressive functions of art;

4. Analyze the range of media, artists, art styles and art-making practices that are used to create art in various cultures;

5. Recognize the role of the major art centers in the world and the practices and purposes of defining art within these communities;

6. Identify different styles of artwork and be able to understand how they function within an art community;

7. Demonstrate critical thinking skills by observing, conceptualizing and organizing information.


Course topics will include the following:

1. The beginnings of art: Early Civilizations: China, India, Europe, Egypt

2. The arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas:

a. Overview of the arts of the African continent
b. Traditional arts of Oceania and Australia

3. The Arts of Asia: Examples of Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist art and architecture

4. The early arts of Europe: The Classical ideal in the West

5. The Modern age of the 19th/20th century: Europe/America

6. Global diversity: Contemporary art forms of the Information age

Method of Instruction:

1. Lecture

2. Group discussion

3. Audio-visual, artifact, slide presentations

4. Art demonstrations

Types of Assignments:

1. Weekly assigned readings

2. Research paper

3. Small art projects

Sample Text:

1. Preble, Frank, Artforms, 7th edition, Prentice Hall 2001

2. T. Barrow, Ph.D., Art and Life in Polynesia, Charles Tuttle Company, 1982

3. Masks: Faces of Culture, J. Nunley, C. McCarty, Harry Abrams, INC., Publishers in association with the Saint Louis Art Museum, 2000

4. Cd Rom: “Pacific Arts,” Prell, 2001

5. Additional hand-outs, visual aids