Spring 2015 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions

Rosen, Mark
Discipline and Number
AHST 2331 Section HN1
TR Time 10:00 AM - 11:15 AM
Course Title
Understanding Art

Description of Course:

Because UT-Dallas encourages interdisciplinary explorations of the links between the sciences, technology, and the arts and humanities, Leonardo da Vinci makes a compelling subject to introduce ideas about bridging these diverse fields. We will approach him from many different directions and discuss what meaning he might have carried to his era and our own. The crowded Florentine workshops of the 1460s and 1470s will provide the starting point for Leonardo's career, and we will follow him through his long stays at the Sforza court in Milan, his return to newly republican Florence, and his other travels ending at the French court of Francis I.

Among the topics we will discuss are Leonardo's training in Verrocchio's studio; his engineering, military, and cartographic projects; the traditions of portraiture and the altarpiece which Leonardo inherited and his role in changing them; the distinction between artistic production in Florence as opposed to in Milan and the many other ducal courts of Italy; the causes and meaning of Leonardo's experimentation with media and technique; the change in the Italian political and artistic climate during his life; Leonardo's relationship with contemporaries such as Bramante, Michelangelo, Raphael, Machiavelli, the condottiere Cesare Borgia, the mathematician Luca Pacioli, and the many others whom he inspired or was inspired by; and close readings of Leonardo's writings and drawings regarding war, machines, the human body, perspective, and optics. We will also discuss the latest finds in Leonardo studies, a field in which there have been several important discoveries lately.

Because the majority of CV students will not have had any background in this material, we will move on two tracks. One is to serve as a basic survey of the artist, so that you can grasp the major artistic developments that took place during the period and how his works both fit into and worked against the norms. The other will be to read the texts closely and discuss them in a seminar setting, as well as discuss current themes and developments in Leonardo studies. We will alternate between lectures and discussion, with about half of the time in each meeting devoted to a mini-lecture on a topic, and the other half dedicated to talking over the reading or a specific topic.

Required Texts:

1. "Leonardo on Painting," ed. Martin Kemp (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989)
2. Martin Kemp, "Leonardo da Vinci: The Marvelous Works of Nature and Man," 2d ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)
3. Leon Battista Alberti, "On Painting," trans. Cecil Grayson (London: Penguin, 1991)

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:


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