About the Department of the History of Art

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ahs_grad_graduationWelcome to Art History at UCR!

With its recently established PhD program, a well-respected MA program and a rich and varied array of undergraduate courses, the department provides a congenial and stimulating context in which to explore the history of art in different cultures and periods. Through close collaboration with departments such as History, Comparative Literature, Ethnic Studies, English, Anthropology, Music and, of course, Art, our teaching and research are embedded in the wider fields of the arts and humanities and we see art history as an essentially interdisciplinary activity. All members of our distinguished faculty are internationally recognized and actively publishing – see our individual faculty profiles– and our teaching and supervision of students at all levels is informed by these research interests. Covering medieval to the contemporary periods, our research and teaching deals with images and artifacts from Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Why study art history? Throughout history, art and architecture have been among the most powerful means of social interaction and communication. Today, the visual dominates our world more than ever before. The discipline of Art History attempts to analyze how images and materials have been used in the past and are used in the present through a thorough understanding of their visual, contextual, and ideological bases. The History of Art is a unique discipline in that it allows students to approach and to access a great variety of subjects through the study of material culture. At both the undergraduate and graduate levels, students examine works of art in relation to the historical, political, cultural, social, philosophical and theological circumstances surrounding their creation.

Undergraduate studies in Art History are designed to contribute to the general education of all students, stressing an understanding of the visual arts within their cultural and historical contexts.

A major in Art History is essential preparation for graduate work in the discipline, and it also provides an excellent background for those planning to attend graduate and professional schools in other areas, or for those entering a more general job market.

At the graduate level the department offers an MA degree to prepare students for further academic study at the doctoral level, and for careers in art critical writing and in museums, galleries, and other arts institutions. The MA may be completed in two years of full-time study, with the first year focused on coursework and the second on the research and writing of the thesis. This well-established MA program has recently been complemented by a separate PhD program. With its strengths in both the early modern and modern / contemporary fields, the department can offer specialist supervision in several specific areas, including the histories of architecture, sculpture and photography. Students working on photography can take advantage of internships and courses held at UCR’s California Museum of Photography. Research at all levels is supported by the department’s Visual Resources Center.

The Department of Art History is a lively and stimulating place and we look forward to hearing from you.

The Department of the History of Art is committed to the intellectual inquiry and rigorous analysis of artistic practices from across the globe and across time. It is our belief that a socially and politically responsible art history produces encounters with and the study of diverse cultures, which inspires both tolerance and ethical conduct, reminding us of our shared humanity.  The repeated instances of xenophobic, racist, and misogynist language that characterized the recent presidential election is antithetical to the principles of this department which stands for the inclusion of a plurality of views. This rhetoric and the actions it engenders threaten the core values of our department, our university, and the UC system as a whole. Echoing the words of UC President Janet Napolitano, we “remain absolutely committed to supporting all members of our community and adhering to UC’s Principles Against Intolerance.“ We are concerned that some now face  heightened risk of harassment and as a department we condemn discrimination, marginalization, and violence against any member of our community. We affirm our commitment to the diverse student population of UCR and offer our support and protection to students who feel vulnerable, due to their immigration status, gender or nationality.   The current political climate has only sharpened our convictions about the imperatives of studying histories and diverse visual cultures.  Critical thinking, factual argumentation, and lucid debate are even more vital in a climate of derisive language, images, symbols, and behaviors.  One cannot underestimate the value of understanding history in shaping our collective future.