Curating German 201

German 201 Focus on Reading :

Tensions in the Modern Age – Art as a Reflection of the Times

German 201 is an advanced intermediate level language course that examines the explosion of art and industry at the turn of the century.  The class  provides students with an introduction to the period of the German Empire or Kaiserreich 1871 – 1918.


This epoch in German history is emblematic for modernism and included substantial opportunities for women. Extra emphasis was placed on the stories of these women artists.

Course content includes:

  • Overview of the key political figures and events of the period
  • Art movements of the time: Historicism, Naturalism and German Expressionism
  • Vocabulary specific to visual art
  • Featured Artists: Carl Spitzweg, Adolph Menzel, Käthe Kollwitz, Paula Modersohn-Becker as well as Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc and Gabriele Münter of “Blaue Reiter”          

Target audience

The course is intended for students who have completed two years or at least six quarters of German. It provides students the opportunity to work intensively on their reading comprehension skills, but also challenges them to improve their writing and to fine tune speaking skills.


Teaching Methods

Texts + Field Trips + Technology:

  • Biographies, letters, journal entries and works of art provide the source material for class discussions and activities. Students  work independently and collaboratively to gain the skills necessary to articulate their understanding of the texts and their interpretation of the works of art.
  • Virtual and actual museum visits integrate primary materials in the classroom and further critical thinking by providing students with an engaging learning experience.
  • Canvas tools are used to organize and collect the work completed by the students, thus curating the learning process.  Students can readily share their work,  revisit or explore further the information posted by fellow students. The course becomes more interactive.

Museum Visits:

  • Art Institute of Chicago : European paintings, prints and drawings
  • Block Museum:  Presentation by Corinne Granof, Curator of Academic Programs, on prints by German artists in the collection
  • Grohmann Museum: Art Collection dedicated to the evolution of human work
  • Milwaukee Art Museum – Mrs. Harry L. Bradley Collection of seminal expressionist works


Online Museum Resources:

  • German History Museum Site  – Deutsches Historisches Museum (Lebendiges Museum Online)
  • Museum of Modern Art – German Expressionism
  • Zeitklicks – an interactive history site sponsored by the German Ministry for Culture
  • Käthe -Kollwitz-Museum – Berlin, Germamy
  • Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum – Bremen, Germany
  • Lenbachhaus  – Munich, Germany


1. Discussion Post #1:  Presentation of a painting or work of art from the European Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago.

  Post by Miki Nagahara

2. Discussion Post #2:

  • Research an object, discovery or new invention from the time of the German Empire. Write a 2-page paper in German describing the object’s history.
  • Upload a picture, a few vocabulary words and a bullet point list of facts to share your work with your fellow students.
  • Prepare a short aural presentation for class.

3. Image Analysis: German Expressionism

  • Write a one-page detailed image analysis of a painting by a German expressionist painter using the requisite vocabulary to describe technique, color, space etc.
  • Upload an image of the work and include its title, the date of creation and the artist’s name
  • Prepare a short aural summary of your paper in class for your fellow students
  • Lead a discussion of the work by posing two questions to the group

4. Final Projects

  • Write a three page pager that includes biographical information about a German expressionist painter, describes one of her works of art in detail and includes your personal interpretation or analysis of the work using the requisite vocabulary , grammar and syntax.
  • Create a webpage to accompany the paper that will serve as a poster presentation on the final day of class

Course Objectives

In addition to improving language proficiency, this course strives to teach students to make connections between language, culture and society. This interdisciplinary approach is directly supported and enhanced by the museum visits. Students interact with  objects from cultural archives and experience the art that they are studying. Their curiosity is heightened when they are tasked to analyze a painting or to compare two artists using their best German. They may be surprised to see how they respond to the color, texture or size of an artwork and they must think critically when interpreting a work within the context of its time. By the end of the quarter, students are able to reflect in German on the historical, political, social and artistic currents of this fascinating time in German history.

Student outcomes:

  • Demonstrate an independence in the ability to read subject matter that is new
  • Increase breadth of vocabulary in the areas of history and art
  • Present researched information to an audience of peers in the target language using paragraph-level discourse
  • Summarize historical information, write short biographical narratives and describe works of art in the target language


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