Spotlight Course in Art History at Nyack College


Offered Spring 2012 (Manhattan Campus)

ARH320—Art as Visual Theology: Vincent van Gogh (3 credits)

This seminar course examines the art of Vincent van Gogh as a medium of visual theology. Vincent van Gogh is one of the most famous painters in the history of art. His paintings are widely celebrated as an example of post-impressionist use of expressionist color. However, many interpretive narratives of Vincent’s life and work, sometimes burdened by sensationalized myths, fail to recognize the formative and enduring place that Christianity and the history of Christianity in the visual arts held in Vincent’s conception of art as form of creative faith. The artist’s own letters articulate his strategic development of a visual expression of a sacred presence in modern life. In examining the evidence of this visual theology in specific examples of Vincent’s art, this course examines the significance of his thematic and formal choices. We will trace the origins of Vincent’s religious beliefs in his own family history as well as his reading of books such as The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis and John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim's Progress. We will consider the artistic models of Rembrandt van Rijn, Jacob van Ruisdael, Eugène Delacroix, and Jean-François Millet as well as Vincent’s engagement with his contemporaries Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard. ARH320—Art as Visual Theology: Vincent van Gogh takes advantage of the rich holdings of art by Vincent van Gogh at the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.