Jessica Cresseveur

Art Historian and University Lecturer



Iconography in Visual Art

UPDATE!! (12/15/2016): This class is now published! Check it out at

Class description:

Iconography, or the use of symbolism, appears in the art of almost every age and every culture. The content of portraits, still-lifes, and genre ("slice-of-life") scenes often contains deeper and more complex ideas than meet the eye. In this course, we will examine the significance of iconography in the art of several cultures, as well as in the visual culture that surrounds us everyday. An engaging project will be assigned to deepen students' understanding of the course material.

This class is intended as a "beginner's guide." No previous study of the visual arts is necessary to enroll or reap the benefits. 

Click here to view my outline.

Class project:

For your project, you will design your own iconography for a visual work of your choice. This may be an everyday form of visual communication, such as a sign or an advertisement, or something more formal, such as a still-life painting.

Please provide a brief explanation of what your image symbolizes, and how you believe it would effectively achieve your intended goal (selling a product, providing a warning, directing people to a location, tell a story, etc.).

Videos in this lesson:

  • Introduction 
  • Lesson 1: Iconography in Everyday Life
  • Lesson 2: Genre Painting I: Van Eyck
  • Lesson 3: Genre Painting II: Vermeer
  • Lesson 4: Vanitas Still-Life I: Steenwyck
  • Lesson 5: Vanitas Still-Life II: Audrey Flack
  • Final Thoughts


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