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ARTH 52 — The Artistic Eye: Vision and the History of Art

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: On-campus (About Formats)
Duration: 6 weeks
Date(s): Apr 18—May 23
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Apr 20
Unit: 1
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $385
Instructor(s): Michael F. Marmor
Limit: 40
Class Recording Available: No
Status: Open
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Apr 18—May 23
6 weeks
Refund Date
Apr 20
1 Unit
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
Michael F. Marmor
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
An artist’s eye is “artistic” not only for its ability to discern good taste, but for what the human eye does biologically to shape seeing and perception. This course will review great art from all ages, showing how eyes begin the process of vision and what this means to an artist. The human eye is not a camera: the retina captures images through imperfect mechanisms that limit how artists interpret things like contrast, depth, shading, and color. Art is unquestionably a complex cultural enterprise and not a scientific one, but understanding the eye can enhance the appreciation of art. Conversely, great art can help illuminate the complexity of vision.

This course will consider art from ancient Pompeii through the Renaissance to impressionism and the advent of modern art and abstraction. It considers questions about vision and art such as: What was Leonardo da Vinci’s greatest contribution to art? (Hint: It was not the Mona Lisa.) Did El Greco need a good pair of glasses? Why do some portraits eerily follow you about the room? Why do Seurat paintings appear to shimmer? Did van Gogh’s magnificent yellows come from drugs? Does eye disease alter the artistic process? The course includes diverse other artists such as Rembrandt, Titian, Munch, Cézanne, Escher, and O’Keeffe.

Professor of Ophthalmology and Human Biology, Emeritus, Stanford

Michael F. Marmor has been at Stanford for 45 years. He has taught about retinal physiology and disease in the medical school and about art and the eye to undergraduates in the Human Biology program. He has written many medical papers as well as four books on art, with the latest, The Artistic Eye, forthcoming. Marmor has helped to curate exhibits at the Cantor Arts Center and the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris. He received an MD from Harvard.

Textbooks for this course:

(Recommended) M F Marmor and J G Ravin, The Artistic Eye: Vision and the History of Art (ISBN 978-0810948495)