The Survey of Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Survey of Art History has been, for at least a century, the standard undergraduate introduction to the great works of art and architecture. The canon—objects and monuments deemed to be the most significant—forms the nucleus of the course’s content. Textbooks by Helen Gardner, H.W. Janson, and Marilyn Stokstad have been instrumental in shaping the composition of the canon, which invariably includes such works as Stonehenge, the Great Pyramids, and the Pantheon, and artists Jan van Eyck, Michelangelo, and Peter Paul Rubens. While the monuments that comprise the canon are important, many other remarkable objects and influential artists never make the cut. Adding to this problem is the fact that many Survey courses focus only on “Western” traditions.
How then can we preserve the canon, while also looking beyond it?
This exhibition is one approach to this question. It features 55 objects from the Metropolitan Museum of Art selected by students in two sections of ARHS 110 Survey of Art, Part 1 in the fall semester of 2017 at Kenyon College. Students were instructed to choose objects not found in the course textbook, Janson's History of Art: The Western Tradition, and to consider how their chosen works might be included. They wrote formal analyses, conducted research using the Open Access resources available at metmuseum.org, and summarized their findings for this exhibition. As students gained a better understanding of their chosen objects, they were also able to contextualize them within the themes, periods, and cultures represented in Janson's History of Art. While our exhibition can supplement the material in any Survey course, we hope that the project as a whole will serve as a model for instructors looking to expand the canon, and give students a more nuanced perspective of art history.