In this course of 48 lectures, we’ll survey the great monuments of European painting, sculpture, and architecture from the age of Charlemagne to the onset of World War II. Students will become familiar with works by the greatest, most influential artists of Western civilization, including Giotto, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Monet. In the course of this survey, we’ll witness the birth and fruition of a brilliant European civilization, emerging from the shadow of the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages to become one of the most dominant cultural forces in history.

Art enriches our lives every day. We see it in the decor of our own homes, in the architecture and design of the buildings and monuments in our town, and in the museums and galleries we visit. But art can be an intimidating, even overwhelming, subject, especially without a good foundation on which to base your views. This 36-lecture course offers just that foundation. Unlike most art history classes, this course does not emphasize dates and events, although you will be introduced to many historical tidbits. Instead, more than half of the course is devoted to an introduction to the most essential features of every work of art, including color, line, perspective, composition, and shape, as well as less understood but no less important elements such as point of view, time and motion, and light and texture. Delving deeply into each topic reveals both secrets that artists have used for centuries and more recent innovations. As we study different media, from drawings and prints to painting and sculpture, these lectures not only discuss but demonstrate the difference between oil, tempera, glazes, and acrylic paint and between engraving, etching, aquatint, silkscreen, lithography, and other printing methods. After studying subjects and symbolism in art and discussing the various types of art, including landscape, still lives, portraits, and genre paintings, we put all this knowledge together and apply it as we examine the great styles of Western art from the 13th century to the art of today.