Course 2019-2020 a.y.


Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 31
CLEACC (6 credits - II sem. - OBS  |  L-ART/02)
Course Director:

Classes: 31 (II sem.)

Suggested background knowledge

Students are expected to have an effective knowledge of English, both spoken and written.

Mission & Content Summary


This course traces a history of European painting and drawing in relation to evolving ideas of nature. Through a number of detailed case studies of visual artists working in Europe between 1600 and 1900, the course illustrates the various modes of observation and representation which were put in place to study, depict, and communicate knowledge about the natural world. In particular, we focus on drawing and painting as the predominant forms of representation of nature. Bringing together the history of art and history of ideas, the course explores the intersection between images and knowledge of nature in early modern Europe. Students are invited to develop their visual skills and to reflect critically about the history of natural heritage in historical perspective.


The course is divided into three parts:

  1. Introduction: painting and drawing, their techniques and early development;
  2. Pictorial genres: after the introduction, the first section deals with the history of pictorial genres, ie. still life and landscape. In Europe, pictorial genres were a standard form of representation of the natural world which developed in the urban context. We look at the particular moments in which certain genres were first emerged and we consider how these forms of representation circulated throughout Europe.
  3. Artists: in the second part of the course, each session present a single artist. Examples of artists we study may include: Michelangelo Merisi or Caravaggio, Jean-Siméon Chardin, J.M.W. Turner, Camille Pissarro. By looking closely at the production of one artist, we are able to situate his work historically in relation to the works of other artists or to the context of production so as to produce an overall narrative of the history of art and nature.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Distinguish between different artistic media and techniques, especially drawings and paintings.
  • Appreciate the role of observation and primary texts to interpret works of art.
  • Consider Europe’s natural heritage in historical perspective.


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Analyse the iconography, visual language and technique of works of art of the period, especially paintings and drawings.
  • Deploy some historical knowledge about the art of Early Modern Europe.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the socio-cultural and epistemological dimensions of the natural environment.

Teaching methods

  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Company visits
  • Exercises (exercises, database, software etc.)
  • Case studies /Incidents (traditional, online)
  • Group assignments
  • Interactive class activities (role playing, business game, simulation, online forum, instant polls)


This course combines traditional frontal teaching (lectures) with museum visits, seminar-based activities and guest lectures. Attending students have the chance to probe the course’s themes and ideas through the informal presentation of group case studies. For the latter activity, students work in small teams and present an exhibition or display to the rest of the class in a dedicated session.

Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)
  • Individual assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)
  • Group assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)
  • Active class participation (virtual, attendance)


Attending students sit a final exam comprising three open questions (2 hours) (60% of final mark). Attendance to 75% of the classes is mandatory (20% of final mark). Attending students are those who are physically present in class for at least 75% of classes. Active participation to seminar discussions and contribution to the group work is part of the requirement for attending students (20% of final mark). After the third exam session, all students are considered as non-attending.

  • Two open questions in the exam grades the ability of students to understand the themes of the course, as complemented by the readings. The third question evaluates the students' ability to perform visual analysis on images similar to those seen in class.
  • Clarity of presentation and the ability to place images in a historical narrative also are considered.


Not attending students sit a final exam comprised of three open questions (100% of final mark). The evaluation grades the ability of students to understand the themes of the course, as complemented by the readings; the ability to place images in a historical narrative; the depth of analysis; and finally the clarity of presentation.

Teaching materials


For attending students, the compulsory readings (journal articles or book chapters) and class material (primary texts) are made available as a book or on the online platform. Power Points and other visual resources are uploaded on the Bboard online platform after each class. Two glossaries also are available to students in preparation for the exam.


In addition to the compulsory readings and other material available on Bboard, non-attending students are required to read the first part of the following book:

  • E. GOMBRICH, The story of art, Phaidon, 1950, first ed. 
Last change 01/06/2019 16:19