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Art History

Topics and Ideas in Art History

The study of art history at Hampshire involves the analysis, criticism, and
investigation of the visual arts from a wide range of perspectives. Our courses
cover the history of painting, prints, photography, sculpture, architecture, and
design, often studied in terms of topics and ideas rather than stylistic
periods, with an emphasis on depth of inquiry. Our explorations are not
characterized by any single methodological approach—on the contrary, we share a
commitment to the rigorous investigation of works as material artifacts and
to theoretically sophisticated historical analyses from a wide variety of
viewpoints. We consider all forms of visual culture to be worthy of analysis
(from the ephemeral to the monumental) and consider all objects for their
intrinsic properties and as visual evidence. Individual works are considered
for their formal complexity in order to make critical hypotheses; those
conclusions are then used to make connections to a diversity of kinds of
histories—the specific social, political, economic, religious, philosophical,
and cultural circumstances that shape the making and the reception of
works of art.

Studying Art History

Our position in the Five Colleges allows us to use the many local museums and
galleries as our laboratories, and courses are sometimes designed in
conjunction with museum exhibitions. Art history is a fundamental area of
inquiry in the humanities and cultural studies at Hampshire, by its very nature
strongly interdisciplinary, and at Hampshire students have created
concentrations which relate art history to curatorial studies, sociology,
critical theory, urban studies, memory studies, religion, history, and
literature. Often students fuse their art historical studies with work in the
arts (music, dance, painting, book arts, sculpture, performance art, creative
writing, and architecture). Our students go on to careers in museums,
galleries, architecture firms, auction houses, publishing, teaching, and to
advanced degree programs in art history and visual and critical studies.

 In a world that is increasingly dominated by visual expression, understanding
the vocabulary and operations of the visual arts has become increasingly vital.
Our emphasis on learning techniques for analyzing visual materials and locating
them within time and place has consequences that extend beyond historical
constructions. The historical study of the visual arts proposes that by looking
into the past, we are encouraged to view the present with new outlooks that
encourage a meaningful scrutiny of the present—including the relationship of
visual culture to moments of conflict and transformation.


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