Social History of Art


                Welcome to Social History of Art

 Created By Robert Baldwin

Associate Professor of Art History, Connecticut College

Art History Dept. Faculty Profile Page

1,1000 PP Slide shows of Art by Artist / OFF LINE UNTIL 9/25/14


NEW PUBLIC LECTURE (tied to Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch)

Fabritius’ Goldfinch, Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring, and Kalf’s Still-Life with Nautilus: Humble Subjects and High Aestheticism in Dutch Baroque Art

After 1660, Dutch culture shed its traditional Calvinist simplicity and burgher austerity for courtly beauty, refinement, and leisure  These three case studies in later 17th-century Dutch art clarify different aspects of the new Dutch burgher embrace of aristocratic aesthetics. To elevate mundane Dutch subjects to the "higher" world of Art, painters such as Vermeer, Fabritius, and Kalf developed hyper-aesthetic styles featuring dramatic light, poetic color, and abstracting brushwork. By combining refined effects and aesthetic quality with everyday subject matter, Dutch Baroque artists contributed significantly to the growing autonomy of the aesthetic sphere which later artists took further. And by raising the status of everyday scenes and still life, Dutch artists helped those categories attain new value in 18th-century art, even among courtly collectors.  / I have given this lecture at public libraries in Connecticut including Branford, Madison, Essex, Old Lyme, East Lyme, Lyme, and Mystic. Intertested parties should contact me at


Use the SEARCH box at the right to search the thousands of pages on this site for any topic. For example, type "Jew" to find my essays and bibliography on anti-Semitism in Giotto and Piero. 

(If you find a dead link, please email me at 

Purpose of the Web Site      

Up since Feb 1, 2010, this web site offers a selection of writings from 30 years in Art History including 250 essays and articles,  an archive of 73,000 images of Western art  in 2,300 Powerpoint slide shows by subject matter (members only), an archive of 1,100 slide shows of 60,000 images by major artists before 1920 (members only), 4 slide shows of 200 art works in Italy arranged by city for travelers, 30 thematic bibliographies, syllabi for 8 courses in Renaissance and Baroque art, Gender, and Landscape, detailed outlines and summaries of major historical points for 150 art works from the Survey course (1400-present), a section on primary texts featuring 19th-century American writings on Indians and Manifest Destiny; videos of select lectures in Renaissance art (to be expanded), and 1700 of my art photos, mostly close-ups, on the Art Galleries page.  

The 3,050 pages of scholarly material can be searched for keyword in the white SEARCH box at right. This site targets a larger, educated public while offering materials useful for young professors creating courses in late Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque art, Gender (1300-1775) and Landscape (1300-2000).

If you join this site as a Member, you can download any of the 2,000 PP slide shows on art by subject matter. To receive the whole archive for $25.00, contact directly at  

GRADUATE STUDENTS: See my "Guide to Job Searching in Art History" with suggestions for interviews and surviving CAA (on the MISC INFO page).

The 237 essays posted use a variety of methods depending on when each piece was written. My work before 1988 used traditional iconography, at times fused with stylistic analysis as seen in my thesis on the humble mode of style and theme in Northern Renaissance and Baroque religious art. Since 1988, I have retooled to work in the social history of art. A 1991-2 fellowship in the Yale Agrarian Studies Program allowed me to move into cultural studies. My debts to teachers and colleagues are many and include my undergraduate professors: Gene Dwyer, Kathleen Brandt and Carol Krinsky, my graduate professors: Sidney Freedberg, Konrad Oberhuber, Henri Zerner, James Ackerman, and Mark Haxthausen. After graduate school, Keith Moxey was important as a guide. With respect to the social history of art, I owe much to T.J. Clark though I worked with him the least. As one of his teaching fellows and an auditor of his courses in 1980-2, I was introduced to a set of new questions and approaches which helped me rethink my discipline.  



ART BY SUBJECT: 55,000 Images by subject matter in 2,100 Power Point slide shows (members only)

ART BY ARTIST: selection of slide shows of art by artist (from my archive of 2,000 artist slide shows - members only)
ART LECTURES: my survey course lecture slide shows packed with comparative images; select lectures from my other courses on Gender, Landscape, and Renaissance and Baroque Art (members only)
ART IN ITALY BY CITY: for travelers planning art-filled trips, these slide shows depict major art works in Italy by city 
MY ART PHOTOS: ca 2,000 close-up photos of art taken on site in recent years (small, web size images - contact me for larger images and images of whole works)
ESSAYS BY PERIOD: 235 essays and unfinished book projects on Western art and cultural history since 1300. I add some 20 new essays annually. Images of some less familiar works are posted in the album "Art for Essays" on the ART GALLERIES page. Use the SEARCH box on the main page to search all of my essays by keyword for any topic. This page includes parts of unfinished book projects on Bruegel and Landscape and on Vermeer and Music. 

ESSAYS, THEMATIC AND PH.D. THESIS: 28 essays on broader thematic topics, most on gender topics, but also including "History Painting," "Mythology in European Culture," "Art as a Language 1400-2000," "Gardens in Art 1700-1940," "Nobility as Virtue in European Culture, 1400-1700," "Slaughtered Pig and Ox in Northern Art". This page also includes my 1983 PhD thesis on the Humble Style and the Inner Eye in Northern European Renaissance and Baroque Religious Art.

OUTLINES TO SURVEY WORKS (begun Jan 2013)  When finished later this year, this study guide for undergraduates will offer detailed outlines of major historical points for 150 canonical works of Western art from 1400-present. Necessarily a work in progress, these outlines will run 1-2 pages per work.

BIBLIOGRAPHIES: 30 thematic bibliographies compiled in the 1980s and 1990s before on-line databases made this work obsolete. Few have been updated. Topics: Bee, Bird, Breast, Child, City, Clothing, Common Man and Peasant, Courtesan, Eyes-Sight-Blindness, Food, Hercules, Horse. Jews, Magdalen, Maps (Early Modern), Money (Early Modern), Museums, Music, Orpheus, Other, Prodigal Son, Rembrandt Historiography, Sea, Shit, Tears and Crying, Triumph, Turk, Vernacular (Early Modern), Women and Gender

MISC INFO: 1) Guide to Job Searches in Art History; 2) Guide to European Art Museums and Sites; 3) Guide to Digital Cameras (updated frequently); 4) Guide to Art Photography in Museums; 5) Guide to Classical Mythology (written for undergraduates); 6) Guide to Painting Materials, Techniques and Conservation (for students); 7) list of popes from the 13th to 17th centuries; 8) list of the major Medici; 9) eulogy for Konrad Oberhuber

SYLLABI AND LISTS OF REQUIRED WORKS for 9 courses. These syllabi are packed with thousands of primary source readings in 9 courses asllows: 

1) Survey Part Two

2) Landscape in Western Art from 1300 to the Present

3) Gender and Art from the Late Middle Ages to the 18th Century

4) Italian Early Renaissance

5) Northern Late Medieval and Early Renaissance

6) Italian High Renaissance and Mannerism

7) Northern High Renaissance

8) Italian, French, and Spanish Baroque

9) Northern Baroque


PUBLIC LECTURES: a list of 18 current public lectures with abstracts.


VIDEOS OF LECTURES In Feb 2011, I began filming and posting select lectures on art. Compressed for the web, the visual quality is not great.  More videos are planned. The current roster includes:

Donatello, David; Perugino, Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter; Botticelli, Mythological Paintings; Campin, Annunciation; Van Eyck, Ghent Altar, Leonardo's Drawings,Madonna of the Rocks, and Mona Lisa, and Raphael, School of Athens and Disputa.

Videos are posted at and linked on the VIDEOS page here.


TEXT ANTHOLOGIES The table of contents to two anthologies of primary sources on gender and on nature from classical antiquity to the early 18th century comprising 8,000 pages of material. Copyright law prevents me from posting the texts but all are readily available in English translations. Those researching a given topic may find these lists of texts useful.

NEW ITEMS LISTED: New or substantially revised items. This is a list, not a set of links. Links to new items can be found under their respective pages.



Additional Comments on the Essays

Most of my academic work is posted under ESSAYS. Since I began teaching in 1983, I have begun writing scholarly essay on each of the 1,000 “Required Works” discussed in my nine courses on Western art. I add 20 essays a year.

I began writing these essays to develop and clarify my own thinking and to create study materials which could be emailed to students after class. As much as any ongoing research, these essays have helped me raise the intellectual level of my courses and to require a higher level from my students. 

Four essays stand out for their larger value as broad discussions of major cultural movements or shifts.

Changes in Late Medieval Christianity / under Essays / Medieval

Renaissance Humanism (parts 1 and 2) - an overview of the Renaissance / under Italian 15th Century Art

The Reformation and Art / under 16th Century Northern Art

The Counter-Reformation and Art / under Italian and French 17th Century Art

There is also a long essay on Romanticism, though here I work outside my area of expertise. The ESSAYS are divided by century with sections at the end on  methodology and on specialized themes, mostly tied to gender, which transcend one century. Of course, many essays are rich in thematic discussion including one-point perspective (ESSAYS / Italian 15th Century). and Renaissance mythology (essay on Botticelli's Mythologies) while the titles of others conceal more material. For example anti-semitism is discussed at some length in Giotto's Scrovegni Chapel and in Piero's frescoes at Arezzo and in a separate essay under Essays / Medieval / "Prejudice".


Areas of Weakness and Strength

My essays on 18th, 19th, and 20th century art rely more on secondary source readings and do not reflect real expertise. Except for landscape, my research and teaching focus on European art from 1300 to 1700. My essays in this time frame are more original, contextualized, and packed with quotations from primary sources. Extensive reading in primary texts has been my focus for two decades and has allowed me to replace all readings in art history with primary texts. Instead of asking my students to regurgitate what other scholars have written, they read primary texts and analyze major art works on their own. In this way, they learn to read and look critically on their own, think more broadly, and problem solve.


Feedback on This Web Site

While I welcome feedback, I do not have time to write emails discussing art historical questions or to comment on theories and interpretations. My focus remains on my research and teaching. Nor can I accept invitations to critique unpublished work.  


My Web Site Designer

This web site was created by Mason Bogert, my director of Information Technology and all-around computer trouble shooter. A self-taught computer whiz, Mason created this web site in an hour at age eleven.


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