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Thursdays, February 2 – February 23, 1 – 3pm


James Van Der Zee. Couple in Raccoon Coats (detail), 1932 (printed after 1980). Detroit Institute of Arts. © Detroit Institute of Arts / Gift of Dr. Delano A. Willis / Bridgeman Images

$220; members $198
(4 classes)

About the Class

This class will explore the remarkable flourishing of Black art, literature, and music centered in Harlem in the 1920s and ’30s. We will read excerpts from Zora Neale Hurston’s short story “Spunk” and Nella Larsen’s novel Passing and the poetry of Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen. Through the artwork of Horace Pippin, Elijah Pierce, Aaron Douglas, Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett, and Romare Bearden, we will explore a range of African American expression.

The course will also focus on Albert Barnes’s connection to the Harlem Renaissance and his friendship with Alain Locke. Dr. Barnes began collecting West African sculpture in 1922, positing it as “equal to the great art manifestations of all times”—a radical opinion at the time. And writing about his African collection in Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life, he championed the nascent “New Negro” movement that became known as the Harlem Renaissance.

The class is online-only. More about online classes.

This course will:

  • Increase your understanding of art-related concepts.
  • Increase the ways you think critically about art.
  • Improve your ability to communicate about art.
  • Deepen your appreciation for cultures and histories outside your own.

James Van Der Zee. Couple in Raccoon Coats, 1932 (printed after 1980). DTR3599274. Detroit Institute of Arts. © Detroit Institute of Arts / Gift of Dr. Delano A. Willis / Bridgeman Images


Michael Williamson

A member of the Barnes faculty, Williamson studied at Yale University and the Milton Avery Graduate School of Bard College. He taught art history and studio art for nearly 30 years at Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia. Williamson has an active art practice and has shown his paintings locally.

Art in Context

Art in Context courses connect works of art to history: What was happening politically, socially, and culturally at the time a piece was made? How did these circumstances shape the artist’s formal choices?

Recent Barnes Class Testimonials

“[The] professor was highly engaging, facilitated excellent discussions, and [was] very knowledgeable. I learned a lot about teaching art history from watching her.” Course: Matisse and Picasso with Martha Lucy

“Every single second of the course was a productive, valuable, and interesting use of my time. The instructor's enthusiasm and reference to outside resources sparked a greater interest in me as a learner and resulted in me exploring even more on my own. I couldn't have enjoyed the experience more.” Course: Salvador Dalí: Surrealism and Beyond with Jonathan Wallis

“I am not an artist and prior to this course I had not thought about what an artist might be 'thinking,' as opposed to 'feeling.' I loved this course and plan to immerse myself in color theory.” Course: Visualizing Memory with Lucas Kelly

“This course is equal to or exceeds art history courses I have taken at several major universities in terms of syllabus and quality of instruction.” Course: The School of Paris with Joseph Tokumasu Field