An intensive and structured engagement with the visual heritage of many cultures throughout the centuries, the history of art major requires not only the study of art history as a way to acquire deep and broad visual understanding, but also a self-conscious focus on the contexts and meanings of art. By encountering the architecture, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and material culture created within a variety of historical frameworks, students will deepen their understanding of political, religious, philosophical, aesthetic, and social currents that defined those times as well. As a consequence, students will face art and issues that challenge preconceptions of our own era.
One of the strengths of our commitment to a liberal arts education at Amherst is that you can major or double-major in art history and go on to a career in a wide variety of areas. Our students have been double-majors in biology, chemistry, French and English, and they have gone on to med school, law school, business school, and any number of professions. Some of them have also become artists, art historians, and architects. Our program, which you can’t experience anywhere else in the college, intends to nourish the diversity of your interests and helps you discover a new intellectual framework that will forever support you in your later life.
Faculty: Professors Abiodun *, Courtright, Morse, Staller ‡; Associate Professors Arboleda * and Rice; Assistant Professors Carey and Vicario *; Visiting Professor Koehler (Chair).
* On leave 2023-24. † On leave fall semester 2023-24. ‡ On leave spring semester 2023-24.
The concentration consists of a minimum of 10 courses (12 with honors project). With the help of a department advisor, each student will devise a program of study and a sequence of courses that must include:
- One introductory course in the history of art
- Two courses in the arts of Africa, Asia, or the Middle East
- One course in European or American art before 1800
- One course in European or American art after 1800
- Two upper-level courses or seminars with research papers, one of which may be a course outside the department with a focus on visual arts in the student’s research paper
- One Studio elective (preferably before Senior Year)
- One additional Studio or related elective
Many of our courses could count for two of these requirements. For example, an upper-level course in European art before 1800 with a required research paper will fulfill two of the requirements. An introductory course in the arts of Asia will fulfill two of the requirements as well.
Candidates for honors in this concentration will, with departmental permission, take ARHA 498-499 during their senior year. Students must apply and be accepted at the end of their third year, usually the last week in April.
Majors in the History of Art must satisfy a comprehensive assessment by participating in an undergraduate student conference in the final semester of the senior year. Each student will be expected to prepare a brief presentation that will demonstrate how a text of their choice could expand and develop one research project completed to satisfy the requirements for the major. It should elucidate of the link between their work and future goals. Students seeking department honors will be expected to present on their senior thesis.