Course outline

CS 99D - The Science of Art
Winter Quarter, 1999
Marc Levoy
Handout #1

Table of contents:


Florence address:

Marc Levoy
+39(055)2268053 (laboratory downstairs)

Home campus address:

Marc Levoy
Gates Computer Science Building, Room 366

Office hours:

Tue/Thu 3:30pm - 4:30pm and by appointment

If you can't find me in the faculty office, you can often find me in the graphics laboratory on the ground floor. If I'm not there, I might be at the Galleria dell'Accademia, the Medici Chapel, or asleep at home because I've been up all night scanning.

Class schedule

In this seminar, we will study the development of Western illusionistic art from the Renaissance through the end of the nineteenth century. There are 4 main topics, as shown below, and we will consider each from the standpoint of science and of art. To enrich our coverage of this material, we will also study several secondary topics, as shown. The positioning of these, after each main topic but just before each Student Day, gives you time to write your papers and prepare your oral presentations, as you can see from the rightmost column.

January 7 Introduction
Topic 1: Perspective
January 12 Perspective through the Renaissance
January 14 The geometry of perspective
January 21 Perspective after the Renaissance paper #1 assigned
January 19 The structure of intellectual revolutions
January 26 Student Day paper #1 due
Topic 2: Illustration
January 28 Anatomy and landscape
February 2 The physical sciences paper #2 assigned
February 4 Modeling in computer graphics
February 9 Student Day paper #2 due
Topic 3: Light and Shadow
February 11 Light sources and reflection
February 16 Shadow, interreflection, perception paper #3 assigned
February 18 Light and shadow in art
February 23 Student Day paper #3 due
Topic 4: Color
February 25 Color theories through 1800 some questions about color
March 2 Student day (continued)
Modern color theory project proposal due
March 4 Color in art
March 9 Computer graphics rendering
March 11 Project presentations final projects due
March 15 project writeups due



Reading is an integral part of any humanities course. In this seminar, we will read some primary works - by famous artists and scientists, and some secondary works - by critics and historians. These readings, mostly book chapters and a few books, will be made available for purchase from Elena in the front office or will be xeroxed and handed out in class. If you miss class, you can pick up the xeroxed handouts from Elena. You are expected to complete the readings on time and be prepared to discuss them in class. These readings also constitute the primary source material for the three short papers that you will write.

Here is a list of those required readings that will be available in book form:

  1. Kemp, M., The Science of Art, Yale University Press, 1990.
  2. Leonardo Da Vinci, Leonardo on Painting, translated by M. Kemp and M. Walker, Yale University Press, 1989.
  3. Kuhn, T.S., The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, second edition, enlarged, University of Chicago Press, 1970.
  4. Minnaert, M.G.J., Light and Color in the Outdoors, translated and revised by L. Seymour, Springer-Verlag, 1993.
  5. Gardner, H., Art Through the Ages, tenth edition, Harcourt Brace, 1996.

Gardner's book is a standard textbook on art history. Many of the examples I will show in class come from this book. The last time I taught the course, students found it useful to buy it. It will also bring lasting enjoyment. However, it is heavy and expensive, so I do not require it. Also, if you already own another standard art history textbook (some Stanford courses require Honour and Fleming's The Visual Arts: A History), then you can use it in place of Gardner.

In addition to these required readings, I have compiled a bibliography (handout #3) of materials relevant to each topic in the course. These materials, typically book chapters or research papers, either cover the current topic in greater depth than we have time for in class, or they focus on a single artist or work. You are welcome to draw on this material when writing your papers, and you are especially encouraged to look through it before choosing a final project.

Three short papers

Writing is also an imporant part of any humanities course. In this seminar, you will write three short papers (5 double-spaced pages each). The topics for these papers will be the first three topics in the seminar: Perspective, Illustration, and Light and Shadow. On the dates indicated in the course outline, I will hand out a list of specific questions related to the current topic. Most of these questions will relate to the readings we have discussed in class, but some of them will refer to items in the course bibliography. You may choose any of these questions to write about, or you may choose another subject for your short paper if you clear it with me in advance. Papers must be typed or printed, not handwritten, and they must be turned in on the date indicated. As you can see from the outline, you have one week to write each paper.

An oral presentation

Once during the quarter, each of you will present the key ideas of one of your papers orally in class during Student Day. Given the limited class time available for these presentations, they will necessarily be short - about 15 minutes each. Decisions regarding who presents on which day will be made informally, probably in class. Your presentation is not intended to be a reading of your paper, but a proper talk. In other words, it should be lively and should engage the class in discussion. If two or more of you choose the same question for your papers, you will be expected to meet before class and coordinate your talks so as to minimize repetition.

The final project

In addition to the three short papers, you will also complete a project of your own choosing. This can be a programming project, a longer paper (10-15 double-spaced pages), or something else: an experimental demonstration, a work of art, etc.. Alternatively, you may expand one of your short papers into a long paper, but I will expect a fresh angle and additional research if you choose this option. A list of suggested topics and readings will be provided, but I encourage you to be creative; just check with me before going too far out on a limb. Projects will be presented orally on the last day of class and submitted (in whatever written or tangible form is appropriate for the project) by Monday, March 15.

Grading policy

Evaluation criteria: The three short papers will each count as 15% of your grade, the oral presentation and class participation as 15%, and the final project as 40%. There will be no exams.

Attendance: Since this is a small-group seminar, attendance in class is mandatory. One unexcused absence will be allowed. Beyond this, each unexecused absence will subtract 5% from your grade for the course.

Late assignments: Since the readings and assignments come in rapid succession, it is important that each be completed on time. To allow for unforeseeable circumstances, you will be allowed one weekday of grace on one of your short papers. Beyond this, late papers will be penalized by 10% per weekday that they are late. Obviously, your oral presentation cannot be late. On the final project, neither the presentation nor the writeup may be late.

About collaboration

You are welcome to discuss any aspect of the course, including the paper questions, your oral presentation, and your project, with anyone you like. However, your writing should be your own. You are also permitted to quote, paraphrase, or borrow ideas from others, but you should always cite your sources. Use standard bibliographic form. Substantive discussions with classmates about paper questions should be cited with a numbered reference in the text (1) and an entry in the list of references, like this:

	1.  Pat Hanrahan, personal communication.

On the project, you are permitted (and encouraged) to form teams of two or three people and to partition the work amongst you. To insure fairness, I will ask each team member to privately describe the division of labor on the team and how much work was done by each member.

Course web pages

A hierarchy of web pages has been created for this course. Its home page is:
Links from this page point to all handouts, schedules, and so on. After the final presentations, we will also link into this hierarchy any student-produced images or demo programs that seem appropriate.
Copyright © 1999 Marc Levoy