History of Art Departmental Information

History of Art examines the wide range of things that humanity has made and looked at and endowed with meaning - from the imposing facade of an imperial palace, to the colorful glory of stained glass or oil painting, to an artist's intimate sketches. The discipline encompasses the study of painting, sculpture, the graphic media, and architecture, as well as an extensive variety of visual forms produced for purposes that run far afield of the traditional territory of "art" itself (advertising, say, or ritual and ceremony, or popular entertainment).

Students become conversant with the world's cultures and develop skills in visual analysis in order to understand how images, objects and built environments communicate. They also learn to employ a broad selection of interpretive methodologies. Through careful work with original sources and a wide-ranging study of comparative cultures, our students learn to consider how art objects were understood in their own time and place, and how they continue to function in the contemporary world. In doing so, history of art students become acute observers and interpreters of the visual environment.

A major in History of Art provides an excellent general foundation for work in a range of careers which rely on visual literacy as well as training in the humanities. Graduates of our program have pursued careers not only in university teaching and research, museums, galleries, auction houses, but also in arts administration, art therapy, design, advertising, criticism, journalism, publishing, libraries, computer and digital technology, and historical preservation.

Organized visits to museums in Cleveland, Detroit, Toledo, and other nearby collections are an integral part of the Department's academic program.

Resources and Special Opportunities

  • The Fine Arts Library, housed in Tappan Hall, is a major research collection of books and periodicals of international scope in addition to up-to-date on-line and CD-ROM resources.
  • The Eleanor Collins Visual Resource Collections is not only one of the best teaching collections of slides and photographs in the United States, but also contains significant research holdings in Asian art. The vast collection of imagery is supported by an exceptional staff providing service and training in digitization and research in scholarly art.
  • Helicon, the Department's undergraduate association, sponsors a variety of activities such as films, museum trips, speakers, and social events. All History of Art majors are eligible to join; notices of meetings and events are posted on the bulletin board in the Tappan Hall lobby.www.lsa.umich.edu/histart/undergraduate/helicon
  • The Helicon Review is an annually published, student run, scholarly journal showcasing exceptional undergraduate work. All essays and theses written for a history of art class during a student's undergraduate career are eligible for submission. Students need not be art history majors or students of LSA to apply.
    Contact: theheliconreview@gmail.com
  • The History of Art Student Services Office, located in 50 Tappan Hall, maintains files of information on career options, internships, study abroad programs, graduate schools, Museum Studies programs, and fellowships.

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