AH 251: The Museum Experience
Albertus Magnus College
New Haven, CT


 Jerry Nevins, Professor
203 Aquinas Hall

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Greek and Roman Galleries Opened April 20, 2007 Greek and Roman Art Galleries, 1st floor

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

Download the audio file. MP3 (2.0 MB)


     Art history and art appreciation courses are traditionally taught with projected images in a darkened room. Contrast that with the experience of viewing actual works in beautifully lit and presented displays. This course in art appreciation will provide an authentic experience of living art. This course asks you to appreciate art from a personal, lively point of view.

     We are fortunate in that we are in close proximity to some of the greatest institutions for collecting, presenting and interpreting art in the world. Art must be engaged personally to be understood and appreciated. Subtleties such as color, scale, texture, space and many other qualities of a work can never be fully understood in a projected image. You the viewer must put your self in the place of the artist as they created the work and engage it personally and physically.

     This course focuses on the personal experience and response to art. It is not limited to any particular time period -- you literally have the entire visual history of civilization to engage. On each outing, you will choose a work or a related body of work to write about. Follow your intuition as you begin each new exploration. What excites you? What do you want to learn more about? Take time to fully engage the work. Follow up with research about the materials (medium), cultural context and biographical information about the artist. Write a 3-page paper for four of your outings and include images of the work, including details. For two of your outings you may submit a captioned series of photographs of your visit.

     This is a level C course. As part of the Invitation to Insight program, this course seeks to engage you in a discourse about human creativity from around the world and from all eras. It seeks to foster in you critical thinking skills relevant to gaining a deeper understanding of visual art. After taking this course, hopefully you will continue to visit museums for lifelong enrichment and education as well as enroll in art history courses at the college.

Goals of the written component of the course:

o Understand and use the vocabulary of art

o Identify some of the purposes of art and the roles of the artist

o Perceive the elements and principles of design and explain how they are being used in a work of art. ( how these serve expressive and conceptual purposes).

o Understand how the materials and processes involved in the production of a work contribute to its meaning.

o Discuss art in an historical and cultural context... for example how cultural context, world view, environment, science and technology influence the works produced.

o Develop a lifelong personal love and appreciation for the visual arts and that you will continue to enrich your life through regular visits to museums.

o Identify works of visual art by title, artist, style, place of origin and historical context.

o Demonstrate knowledge of, and the ability to decode and analyze, symbols and concepts.

How to Proceed:

This is essentially a travel course. Your classroom will be the institutions you visit on a weekly basis. Don't think of your outings to the museums as school work rather, take along a family member or friend and make a day of it. This is not a process that can be rushed. If you approach this class as a regular class with a body of work to get through that is, assigned readings , tests to take, time put in... you may find yourself at a loss. Plan for 6 outings during this Mod or semester. One outing is to New York City, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one is to Hartford to visit the Wadsworth Atheneum and one to New Haven to visit The Yale Art Gallery. The other 3 outings may be chosen among the list in the syllabus. Note: Undergraduate day students may elect to visit the British Art Museum twice and the Yale Art Gallery twice. Arrive at each museum with the intent of taking a general tour given by a docent. Docents are volunteers who are experts in the collection... every museum has some. They will show you highlights of the permanent collection. This is a good way to learn the layout of the museum and gain an overall sense of the collection. The tours generally last an hour and are free. Another overlooked but really important resource in any museum are the guards. They watch over the collection every day and hear the docents and curators talk about the work on a daily basis. I make it a point to engage a guard with pieces that I'm looking at a museum and I'm always pleased with the result.

Take a break, then go back and wander on your own. What are you drawn to? Narrow down your choice to three pieces and take another break. Now go back, notebook and digital camera in hand and decide to focus in on one piece. It may be sculpture, painting, photography, modern or ancient. It may be one or more works included in a special collection or it may be a work from the permanent collection. If from the permanent collection, you can take pictures of it to include in your paper. A digital camera is especially handy. Remember to turn off your flash! Take several pictures of your chosen object. Photograph close up details. These pictures are an important part of the papers you will be writing.. Photograph the outside and the inside of the museum too... These will be needed for your blog postings.

"W" Course Requirements:

Post 4 "papers" with multiple photographs from 4 of your visits. Each paper is to be between 750 - 1000 words in length. Post just photographs with captions from 2 more of your visits. A minimum of 15 - 20 images from each visit would be appropriate. Be sure to annotate them with name of artist, date, medium and style or movement. If you are feeling adventurous, you may certainly visit other great museums in NY City in place of Connecticut museums. These might include The Museum of Modern Art, The Guggenheim and the Whitney... There are many more possibilities... too many to list here. If you find yourself going to Boston then instead, then by all means you may visit one of the major museums there as well. Check with me first, however. It's important to allow a most of a day for a visit to a major museum... have lunch there, relax.... have fun... take your loved ones... children, parents, spouse or best friend!

Writing Center: All "W" courses have a requirement that you visit the writing center with your first draft in hand to receive feedback and or help in fine tuning it before submitting it. The Writing Center is located in Rosary Hall, second floor.

Student Learning Outcomes from Writing Center

Rubric for Writing

How to Use the Germaine Writing Center

"W" Classes

Topics to be covered in each paper:

Context: Carry a journal on each outing. In it, write down information regarding date, period, type of work, artist, etc. (A digital camera is handy here to record this information quickly and easily.) Here are a few of the questions you might address: When was the object made? Did it serve a function? Was it made for religious or secular reasons? Does the work contain symbolism? What do the symbols mean? Is a message or lesson communicated? What were the cultural, political, economic, social or religious influences on the life of the artist and the community in which he/she worked? How does the style of the work reflect the time or culture in which it was made? Why did the artist make it? Was it a commission? Was there a patron? Was it a personal mission or vision?

Biographical information about the artist. Take a paragraph or two and put the artist into context through their personal history.

Formal analysis.... What do you see? What does the composition look like? What stands out the most when first approaching the work? How did the artist use color, line, texture, material (wood, clay, steel, paper, canvas, etc.) What about the use of scale, proportion and balance? How does the size of the object contribute to its impact or meaning? Take notes in your journal... detailed notes.... look harder than you imagined possible. No detail is unimportant. Keep writing. Explain how the artist consciously uses these various elements. This translation of visual information into text will help clarify what you are seeing. What have other critics or art historians said about the formal elements of a piece? You may quote or attribute those ideas. You are probably not used to looking so closely and carefully at a visual object. Verbalizing what you see is hard to do. Keep at it. Details matter!

1. Summarize the overall appearance of the object. Then move into details. You may begin at one side and move across or go from top to bottom.

2. Note the elements of composition -- line, balance, texture, perspective, color, contrast. What is the medium -- acrylic, oil, conte, etc.?

3. Let your eyes pull you into the experience. What do you see first? What next? And so on.

Style analysis.... What style does the piece fit into? What art movement, i.e., Impressionism, Cubism, Expressionism, etc. How does this piece illustrate the essential qualities of that style or period? Include a reference to larger cultural or historical issues surrounding the creation of the work. What iconography did the artist use? Before the modern era, artists often worked with many traditional icons of mythology or religious meaning. Place the artist's use of the iconography in the context of his era and how it might be different from the same subject treated in a different stylistic era.

Personal Discovery... This is essential. The central thesis point of the paper hinges on this. What drew you to the piece in the first place? Why did you choose this piece in the face of the myriad of possibilities? What is your emotional response? Your first-person account of your encounter with the artwork is at the heart of each writing assignment.

Summary and Template:

Don't stress too much about writing your papers. I understand that this is probably your first class in academic art... This template will break it down for you and make the process go much easier...

1) Write one paragraph of your impressions of the day... set the scene.... Did you go alone? Who was with you? What were your first impressions upon arriving at the museum? Post 1 or 2 pictures... Write 1 paragraph.

2) Write a brief history of the museum itself. When was it built? Who was the architect? What style is the building? 1 paragraph.

3) Convey your general impression of the whole collection. Can you identify some of its strengths? Were there special exhibitions? 1 paragraph... 1 or 2 photos posted.

4) Choose 1 artist to focus on and specifically, one piece. Concentrate on this for the next 3 paragraphs. This artist and work should appeal to you personally.

-Begin with a description of the piece and artist's name. What medium (oil on canvas, marble, etc..) What size is it? When was it executed? (1 or 2 photos)

-Write a brief biography of the artist...
-What movement does the work fit into? (Impressionism, Surrealism,, etc... or period, Rococo, Baroque...) -What artist of work came before this piece that might have influenced the artist's vision? Name the movement.
-What work or movement followed?

Post detail shots (close up) of the work as well that support your impressions.

-Wrap up paragraph.... Total length about 750 words - 1,000 words... can go higher...

That's it... break it down like this and the paper should go smoothly

As a reminder, if you use any words written by someone else, set them off by italicizing them (highlight them and hit the "I" button in the editor). Cite where the source came from. You can copy the url and paste it under the quote if it came from an online source.

Most of all, have fun with this!

ePortfolio Requirement: All "W" classes at Albertus Magnus College are required to post two examples of their work in ePortfolio. Near the end of class, take what you consider to be your best 2 papers and post it there. Since it is already posted here, you will have all of the content for it, so it is a matter of a few clicks to fulfil that requirement.

Resources for writing:

Important links:

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Timeline of Art History.

Extremely useful trove of information. Searchable database by artist, movement, medium, period, etc.

Art History Resources on the Web  Maintained by Dr. Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe Professor, Department of Art History, Sweet Briar College. Amazingly rich resource!

Dartmouth Writing Program Center    How to write about art. How to master the art of "simultaneously analyzing and describing the work of art you have chosen to discuss."

The Smithsonian Museum    

Home page of the Smithsonian, a good place to begin research.

Checklist or Rubric for assessment of performance in writing about art, compiled by M. Bartel, Goshen College


Browse through all of the following museums. Begin your research, if possible before encountering the work in person. Each museum will have a current show curated by the museu, These shows provide focussed scholarship which will help in writing your papers... you are not limited to these specific shows, however.... Any work in each museum is a possibility. Photography is not generally alllowed in the special shows as much of the work had been borrowed from other institutions. Many special shows have an exhibition catalog you can purchase or borrow for enough time to take pictures with your digital camera from it. It is always a good idea to check with the guard regarding their photography policy. Often times you can find the works on the internet with Google images and postcards are sometimes offered for sale in the museum shop.

Think about your outings in terms of having a fun adventure! Getting the motivation to go may be an obstacle to overcome at first, but after you get there, I can promise that you will be glad you went. Think of each outing as a "mini vacation" and don't rush it... take your family.

The following installations are only a suggestion. I am more interested in you discover them for yourself something new and exciting... it may very well be one of the permanent collections or it may be a temporary show.

Metropolitan Museum of Art , 84th and 5th Ave, NYC

Greek and Roman Galleries

"The spectacular redesign and reinstallation of the Museum’s superb collection of classical art is nearing completion. On April 20, 2007, the New Greek and Roman Galleries, which include the dramatic Leon Levy and Shelby White Court, will be unveiled, concluding a 15-year project and returning thousands of works from the Museum’s permanent collection to public view. The new galleries will house objects created between about 900 B.C. and the early fourth century A.D. Works on view will trace the evolution of Greek art in the Hellenistic period and the arts of southern Italy and Etruria, culminating in the rich and varied world of the Roman Empire. First-floor galleries will be dedicated to Hellenistic and Roman art, and the wholly redesigned mezzanine level—which overlooks the stunning new court from two sides—will include galleries for Etruscan art as well as the Greek and Roman study collection. Together, the astonishing assembly of works on display—some never before seen by the public—will bring to life the aesthetic and philosophical roots of Western civilization."

Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT

The YCBA holds one of the most comprehensive collections of British Art outside of London. The Center places special emphasis on art from the 17th Century to the present.
Yale University Art Gallery

American Paintings, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts
Ongoing, third floor

"The Yale University Art Gallery’s collection of American paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts has a long history, spanning nearly two and a half centuries. A comprehensive selection of highlights is on view, ranging from one of the earliest American paintings, the 1670 portrait of John Davenport, the first minister to the New Haven Colony, through mid-twentieth-century masterpieces by artists such as Edward Hopper and Thomas Hart Benton. Outstanding examples of furniture, turned wood, glass, pewter and other metals, ceramics, and textiles are also on display."

The Free Audio tour is highly recommended!

Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT


The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT

The Museum of Modern Art, NYC

The Bruce Museum, Greenwich, CT

New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT

Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, CT

Western Art Movements by Century:

Identify your chosen artist as a member of one of the following movements then do a search for that movement to learn more to include in your paper.

5th to 18th century Merovingian · Carolingian · Ottonian · Romanesque · International Gothic · Renaissance (14th-15th) · Mannerism (16th) · Baroque - Classicism (17th) · Rococo - Neoclassicism - Romanticism (18th) 19th century Realism · Historicism · Biedermeier · Gründerzeit · Barbizon school · Pre-Raphaelites · Academic · Impressionism · Post-Impressionism · Neo-impressionism · Divisionism · Pointillism · Cloisonnism · Les Nabis · Synthetism · Symbolism · Hudson River School 20th century Modern art · Avant-garde · Cubism · Expressionism · Abstract expressionism · Abstract · Neue Künstlervereinigung München · Der Blaue Reiter · Die Brücke · Dada · Fauvism · Neo-Fauvism · Art Nouveau · Bauhaus · De Stijl · Art Deco · Pop art · Photorealism · Futurism · Suprematism · Surrealism · Color Field · Minimalism · Nouveau réalisme · Lettrism · Installation art · Lyrical Abstraction · Postmodernism · Conceptual art · Land art · Performance art · Systems art · Video art · Neo-expressionism · Neo-Dada · Outsider art · Lowbrow · New media art · Young British Artists · Relational Art · Video game art 21st century Remodernism · Stuckism

241 listed visual art movements at Wikipedia with links to articles


Academic Expectations: Plan to spend the better part of a day traveling to and visiting any of the above museums. 1 trip to New York to the Metropolitan Museum of Art is required as well as one trip to the Wadsworth Ateneum in Hartford. You may choose among the other museums listed to plan what you'd like to do. Photograph the museum with your digital camera and an interior shot or two. Post your image to the class blog with personal comments. remember to turn off your flash when inside a museum and to onlytake notes with a pencil.

Post to the class blog! This is an important part of your grade! It is important to learn from each other, find out tips of what to see, and encourage each other on. Each week, after your outing, post an image or two and tell us something about your trip. Building community this way is very important to make your online experience in this class a richer one. Your regular posts let me know that you are keeping up with your museum visits. Post at least twice each week that class is in session. Posts can be details about your travels, what you saw, questions, comments on what others in the class are up to, etc. Posting is like coming to class. If you don't post, you are skipping class. attendance will be taken twice each week. Each of your posts to the class blog are time and date stamped so you can't fudge this one.

The primary basis of your grade will be your written work done as the class progresses. Create your own blog when you sign up for the class blog. Post your papers there. Provide a link to it each week on the class blog.. There will be a total of 4) 3 page papers due, spaced evenly through the 8 week term. 2 of your outings will be documented with numerous photographs and captions from your visit. If your papers come in at the end of the class, but you are posting to the blog regularly, he highest grade you could earn would be a C. (for A level work). If your papers are coming to me in a timely fashion but you don't participate much in the blog, then the highest grade for the class you can receive will be a "C" (with A level papers.) Academic honesty is important. You must cite all information in your written work.
Write about your piece, artist or show from an enthusiastic, personal point of view yet also support your ideas with research on historical and cultural context as well as biographical information about the artist(s). Keep a journal/notebook that you bring with you on each outing. Take notes and write down impressions about the art, the museum, the experience, etc. Try your hand at some sketching (even if all you can do is stick figures!) Draw the frame and place the major figures and leading lines of the painting. Follow the light. Where is the focal point?

Technical Requirements: A digital camera with usb cable to connect to computer usb port or a card reader, connected to your usb port (preferred). -A reliable Internet connection from home. Broadband is pretty much required. If you are having technical problems at home with your computer or Internet connection, there are numerous opportunities on campus to do your work both in various computer labs around campus and in the library. Know how to create online accounts, upload text and images, and how to save your work into folders on your computer and how to locate and browse to those folders to retrieve it. Learn to post images and text to the class blog.

Tradition of Honor: As a member of the Albertus Magnus College Community, each student taking this course agrees to uphold the principles of honor set forth by this community, to defend these principles against abuse or misuse and to abide by the regulations of the College. The Internet is an incredible resource for a broad range of information. It is important, though, to understand and adhere to all copyright laws. Plagiarism is a severe breach of academic integrity. Plagiarism is defined as submitting for credit the work of another as one's own, and would include directly copying a classmate's work; copying the content of a web site, textbook, or any other source, without providing attribution (e.g. without noting the URL or crediting the author); and/or, paraphrasing the words or work of another, since changing a few words (or their order) does not change the essential ideas that are being copied. For more information regarding plagiarism and guidelines on citing resources appropriately, please see: You are here to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to become thoughtful, competent liberal arts graduates. This is accomplished only through the development and expression of your own ideas. Don't cheat yourself out of this experience by using another's work. If you have any questions, please let me know.

Tradition of Respect: In our class: 1) Everyone is allowed to feel they can work and learn in a safe and caring environment; 2) Everyone learns about, understands, appreciates, and respects varied races, classes, genders, physical and mental abilities, and sexualities; 3) Everyone matters; 4) All individuals are to be respected and treated with dignity and civility; and 5) Everyone shares the responsibility for making our class, and the College, a positive and better place to live, work, and learn.

Accommodations for Special Needs
: Please advise the instructor of any special problems or needs at the beginning of the semester. Those students seeking reasonable accommodations based on disabilities should contact the Director of Academic and Student Disability Services, Aquinas Hall, Room 114 at (203) 672-1050, or email, to obtain a Faculty Accommodation Letter. Albertus Magnus College complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

In order to respect the independence, rights and dignity of students with disabilities, the College initiates services only after a student makes a voluntary disclosure of a disability to the Office of Academic and Student Disability Services. Students who are approved for accommodations are responsible for approaching instructors in a timely manner to provide faculty accommodation letters and to arrange how accommodations will be implemented. Accommodations cannot be retroactive, so we strongly advise students to make accommodation appointments as soon as possible.

In providing reasonable accommodations, the College shall not fundamentally alter the nature of programs, services, or activities; require waiver of essential academic standards or violate accreditation requirements.


 It is the responsibility of the student to officially drop or withdraw from a course.  However, failure to attend a course for 14 calendar days may result in an administrative withdrawal from the course. The policies on course withdrawals and administrative withdrawals may be found online at

Albertus Magnus College adheres to the definition of a credit hour in compliance with, and as defined by, NECHE commission policy.

Contact me through email

Jerry Nevins

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M.C. Escher
Hand with Reflecting Sphere
, 1935 Lithograph

Mary Cassatt (b.1845, Allegheny City, PA; d.1926, France) A Caress, 1891 Pastel on paper Harriet Russell Stanley Fund

New Britain Museum of Art
Permanent collection

View of Ferry Point c. 1860 25 1/2 in. x 35 1/4 in. (647.7 mm. x 895.35 mm.) Ellen Noyes Chadwick (November 15, 1824 - 1900, Lyme, Connecticut)

Florence Griswold Musuem, Old Lyme
Permanent Collection

American Paintings, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts
Ongoing, third floor