Art in World Cultures

Course Overview

Units at a glance

Pablo Picasso once said, “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” Art speaks to our emotions and imaginations. It allows us to see the world in different ways and fulfill the need to create. In this unit, we will begin our exploration of the history of art around the world. We will learn about some of the common forms of visual art and discuss why people create art. We will also explore some of the careers that relate to art history.

In this unit, we will explore some of the aspects that help make great art great. We’ll learn more about the basic building blocks of artworks, including lines, color, texture, shape, form, and space. We’ll also discuss how these building blocks are used with art by looking at some of the design principles that artists use to arrange art elements within a piece of art. We will discuss design principles such as harmony, proportion, balance, and dominance.

How can you identify a good piece of art? Art critiques can help us better understand artworks and help us identify those pieces of art that illustrate superior skills. In this unit, we will learn more about art critiques, including why we do art critiques and how context can influence them. We will also walk through an art critique of a famous French Romantic painting The Raft of the Medusa by Theodore Gericault.

When did humans begin creating art? What did the first pieces of artwork look like? What function did early artwork have for people? Prehistoric art represents the earliest human art. Although these artworks are shrouded in mystery, they give us a small glimpse into the lives and beliefs of prehistoric people. In this unit, we’ll learn more about some of the artwork that has been found from prehistoric times, including cave paintings, sculptures, and megaliths. We’ll explore what is known about these pieces of art and what they might tell us about the people that created them.

As human societies continued to develop, so did their art. The great ancient societies, such as Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece, produced some of the most famous pieces of art and architecture known to the world. In this unit, we will focus on three of the ancient cultures from the Mediterranean and Near East, including the Sumerians, Ancient Egypt, and Ancient Greece. We will examine the characteristics of art from these groups and explore some of the pieces that they produced.

As human societies continued to develop, so did their art. The great ancient societies, such as Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece, produced some of the most famous pieces of art and architecture known to the world. In this unit, we will focus on three of the ancient cultures from the Mediterranean and Near East, including the Sumerians, Ancient Egypt, and Ancient Greece. We will examine the characteristics of art from these groups and explore some of the pieces that they produced.

In Western art, the period known as the Renaissance produced some of the most famous works of art, including the Mona Lisa, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and The Last Supper. These works of art helped shape Western art as we know it and became part of our popular culture. In this unit, we will learn more about the art produced during the Renaissance as well as Early Netherlandish art. We will be introduced to some of the greatest artworks produced in Western art and learn more about how their artists were influenced by the social world around them.

From massive geoglyphs to sculptures made of jade, indigenous cultures in the Americas have created some amazing works of art. In this unit, we will focus on pre-Columbian art in the Americas. In doing so, we will look at art from the Olmec, Maya, Aztec, and Inca cultures as well as art created in North America, such as beadwork, basket art, and totem poles.

The Renaissance in Europe is often regarded as the height of art. It produced great masterpieces and some of the greatest artists in history. However, art didn’t end when the Renaissance ended. Instead, new artists innovated, revived classical forms, and challenged themselves. In this unit, we will consider four of the main art periods and styles that came after the Renaissance, including Baroque, rococo, neoclassical and Romantic art.

During the 19th century, the beginnings of modern art emerged. Styles and periods such as Realism, Impressionism, and Postimpressionism formed the foundation for later art styles and movements. The development of photography also provided artists with both a new art form and new inspiration. In this unit, we will learn more about the art and artists that shaped the early modern period and look forward to postmodern and contemporary art.

Africa is home to the earliest humans and some of the earliest known art. Although African art has sometimes been dismissed as “primitive,” the art produced in Africa is some of the longest continuously practiced art in the world, and its influences are seen across the globe. In this unit, we will learn more about premodern African art, including rock art, sculpture, and masks. We will also learn more about some of the most famous examples of African architecture.

Does art reflect the world around us? Can we learn about a culture from the art it produces? Pacific or Oceanic art offers us a chance to explore how the natural world, religious beliefs, and other aspects of culture affect the art created within a group. In this unit, we will examine some of the art created in Polynesia, Micronesia, Melanesia, and Australia, exploring how the art has been influenced by culture, the Pacific Ocean, and other aspects.

Course Highlights

Examine the social, political, religious, and culture influences found in art.
Learn more about American, African, and Oceanic art.
Trace the development of Western art from the ancient Greeks to modern art.
Explore the beginnings of art and the people who made them.

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