Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
First-Year Seminar


FYS Section A29. The Art of Writing about Art

“Looking is not as simple as it looks,” said the painter Ad Reinhardt. Can writing help us to look, and eventually see, more intensely? This seminar explores writing as a way to think about the visual arts. We look at a variety of efforts to do so, from Renaissance biographers to modern poets. We’ll consider how these authors’ goals and anticipated readers shaped the forms of their writings. Today, a museum curator will write about a work of art very differently than a New York Times reviewer might describe it for her readers. If works of art are primarily visual, then how and why do these written texts have such a powerful effect on shaping their meanings? Although this is primarily an art history course, we also explore the discipline’s connections to other ways of thinking and writing: art criticism, art journalism, philosophy, poetry and experimental prose. Assignments will allow students to translate what they see into words, across several different genres of art writing.

Ellen McBreenEllen McBreen
Associate Professor of Art History