Monday, March 5, 2012

History and Art

The Getty Center, Los Angeles
With degrees in art history and history, I have my feet firmly planted in both disciplines. I used to teach in a Humanities program which had several lectures and discussions on several periods of Western Art. Because of my background, I was always dismayed by the approach taken by the lectures for this course, either focusing on the story of the image or the movement to and from the Classical Ideal, essentially does it look like Greek art. Many historians do not seem to understand (or at least the one who prepared the lectures for this course) is that the art is a document of its time just like the texts they assigned and can be analyzed in much the same way. When I had a chance to do the lectures for this course, I totally re-wrote the art ones with this in mind. For example, I pointed out that the neoplatonic philosophy of the Renaissance (they read a bit of Marsilio Ficino) influenced the work of Sandro Botticelli and Michelangelo. I don't know if the students appreciated these new lectures, but I learned that I was a better art historian than I realized.

All this is a long introduction to two recent guest posts by Jaquelyn Whiting on "Art and History" at Free Technology for Teachers. This two part blog post (here and here) details ways to use art in the high school classroom. There are plenty of ideas and links. Her curriculum ideas would be useful in college courses as well, and I hope, help historians bring art into their lectures and discussions. Even if you don't teach, here posts provide a friendly  entree into the world of art.

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