Course Details

Program dates


Travel dates


Course credits

Art 337C, A/HI 337C, ART 494

Total credits: 15


Art Studio majors with senior status, BFA status, or instructor permission.

Portrait of Cynthia Camlin

Cynthia Camlin

Professor, Art & Art History
FI 240B
Portrait of Monique Kerman

Monique Kerman

Associate Professor, Art Department
FI 115
Group of students at Rouffignac, France

“Figure & Symbol: From the Cave to the Studio” is a unique international course exploring deep historical sources of figurative art and its contemporary practice. The linked courses in Studio and Art History combine an intensive studio experience focusing on the human form with an anthropological and multicultural approach to figurative art and the first-hand study of Paleolithic cave painting. The quarter-long course starts and ends on campus and in-between travels to France for a 28-day program featuring a residential intensive studio program, visits to Paleolithic art sites, and five days exploring art in Paris.

Program Highlights

Please enjoying the Louvre installation in France

Art 337c begins on Western’s campus with an observational study of the human form with drawing and painting media and readings introducing the anthropological themes of the course: body art and tattooing; totems and animal symbolism; shamans, sorcerers and hybrid bodies. Art History 337c, the linked course in Art History, explores continuities in figurative image-making across divergent time periods and cultures, with a special focus on early human figuration. In Art 494, a capstone interdisciplinary Studio course, students select research topics for further study and develop a cohesive sequence of self-directed projects.

The 4-week travel program starts with intensive daily studio practice at the site of an artist residency program in an historic village one hour north of Toulouse in southwest France. In the first week, students are exposed to a range of technical approaches in short assignments. Drawing, collage, and painting techniques will be expanded with pattern, repetition, fracture, transfer and the incorporation of chance processes. In the second week, students begin individual creative projects responding to research topics and visual sources.

Midway through the residential program the class travels north to the Dordogne, a region of France with the highest concentration of Paleolithic art. From our base in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, the class visits caves at Cougnac, with art from 25,000 to 14,000 before the present, and Combarelles, Font de Gaume, Bernifal, and Rouffignac, with art from 17,000 to 12,000 BP. Les Eyzies also has the best prehistory museum in the region and several sites of early habitation and remains, including the site for which “Cro-Magnon” was named. With these rare, first-hand experiences, students will learn about the latest scholarship and consider theories for the first symbolic practices of early humans.

A 5-day trip to Paris art and anthropology museums, with a cross-cultural survey of figuration from ancient to contemporary art, will conclude the travel segment of the course.

For the final portion of the course students return to campus to finish individual creative projects while also completing research projects for the Art History course. Final art projects are presented at the end of Fall quarter in a B-Gallery exhibition.

Les Combarelles France

Expectations of Participants

With or without reasonable accommodations, must be able to stand or sit for 6-8 hours in an art studio. Each day students will walk to and from the center of the village which is on a steep hill with cobblestone streets. Students should be able to stand for prolonged periods and walk on hilly, uneven terrain.

Arriving and leaving various sites, students will carry their own suitcases/backpacks on trains and buses that do not have elevators. Students should be able to carry their belongings without assistance.

Activities include visits to cave sites that require standing and walking, sometimes in narrow walkways with stairs and a flashlight or dim lighting. Student should be able to tolerate confined spaces, and stand or walk for hours at a time.

Refrigeration is available for the duration of the program.

Students must work with the WWU Disability Access Center, Wilson Library 170, (360) 650-3083, For service eligibility, a complete diagnostic description from a qualified professional is required. Specific accommodations or services are determined on an individual basis and are modified to meet the unique needs of the student and their academic experience. Accommodation policies and procedures are highly individualized and centered on self-advocacy, realistic self-appraisal, and student growth. Each quarter, students need to activate their approved accommodations for each class. Students choose which of their approved accommodations they want to activate for each class.

Participants must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to departure.

Auvillar Bridge in France with a red bicycle in front of the water.