Faculty of Arts & Science

Special Topics Courses

The Department of Art History offers several special courses. Special topics courses are developed to cover emerging issues or specialized content not represented in the main curriculum. Not all courses are offered each semester—see the Arts & Science timetable for availability.

Fall 2022 

Time/Format: Tuesdays 10:00–12:00, in person

Instructor(s): Maya Harakawa

This introductory course will survey the interrelated history of Blackness and artistic production in the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Canada. Starting in the eighteenth century with the advent of the transatlantic slave trade and covering up to the Black Lives Matter movement, the course proceeds chronologically and considers Black Art within its larger social context. By discussing the aesthetic qualities of artworks and the careers of Black artists alongside the history of anti-Black racism in North America, we will explore both how the visual has been used as a tool of domination and how art can challenge or subvert racist ideologies. At the end of the course, students will be familiar with the primary figures, debates, and works of art that constitute the field. They will also be comfortable discussing the history anti-Black racism and its current manifestations. Topics include: the visual culture of slavery and abolition, hemispheric and transatlantic modernisms, the racial politics of “outsider” and “folk” art, the Black Arts Movement, and art and mass incarceration.

Time/Format: Tuesdays 13:00–15:00, in person

Instructor(s): Ross Fox

This is an object/artifact-based course that serves as an introduction to furniture history with primary focus on the European and Canadian furniture in the Royal Ontario Museum. Instructional strategies include the fundamentals of artifact analysis and the methodologies of furniture study. Stylistic developments in the furniture of France, Britain, and the United State are highlighted as a backdrop to understanding Canadian furniture of the 17th through early 19th centuries, thereby revealing both its shared characteristics and its distinctiveness. Both high style and vernacular trends are examined, as the latter was more likely to influence the Canadian situation. Also considered are social, economic and political forces that help to explain preferences in styles, designs and forms, as are craft organization, construction techniques, and conservation issues. Students will also be acquainted with primary/archival documents as a source for Canadian furniture history. The course will also include an exploration of the concept of the "period room" as a mechanism for the display of furniture in museums and historic houses and its application to the ROM's European and Canadian galleries, past and present.

Winter 2023

Time/Format: Wednesdays 14:00–16:00, in person

Instructor(s): Karine Tsoumis

This seminar will explore the production, circulation, and consumption of ceramics during the early modern period, a time of increased global trade and connectivity. This course will take the Gardiner Museum’s collections of East Asian and European ceramics made between ca. 1500 to ca. 1800 as a starting point to investigate ceramic’s place at the nexus of global forces of trade and empire, and their local context of production, use, and display. Our approach will be thematic and will bring students to familiarize themselves with different methodologies in the study of clay through readings across disciplines. Topics will include the mobility and trade of ceramics; the circulation and dissemination of styles; ceramic bodies, techniques, and technologies; the appropriation and transformation of objects; collecting and display; the social and domestic functions of ceramics; clay’s mimetic potential and cross-media connections; dining rituals and the consumption of tea, coffee, and chocolate; and representation, among others.

Class discussions and course assignments will be grounded in the close study of objects selected from the museum’s collections of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain, Japanese porcelain, European tin-glazed earthenware (in particular Italian Renaissance maiolica and English Delftware) and European porcelain. Throughout this course, students will therefore develop their knowledge of these ceramic traditions and the questions they raise, while gaining an understanding of their place within the visual and material cultures of the early modern world. The seminar will convene each week at the Gardiner Museum, thus offering opportunities for the direct study of objects in the galleries as well as supervised handling sessions.

Time/Format: Wednesdays 13:00 - 15:00, in person

Instructor(s): TBA

Many art collections in Canada contain Byzantine and Post-Byzantine icons that were originally created in Greece, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and other eastern European places. This seminar gives learners an in-depth focus on the iconography and techniques of icon painting by comparing collections. Learners will visit the Malcove collection in the University of Toronto Art Museum and the ROM to study these works first hand. The seminar will also include a guest presentation and discussion with the iconographer Symeon van Donkelaar who produces pigments using natural minerals found in the soil and rocks of Ontario. By the end of this course, learners will have a detailed understanding of the many techniques that are part of the process of creating a religious icon; they will each develop an analysis of one icon in a Canadian collection; and they will deepen their appreciation of the complex settings for icon appreciation and veneration as an aesthetic environment that is charged with symbolic meanings.