Art History and Theory
Art historians ask questions and seek answers about artists, patrons, audiences, art worlds, the artistic objects themselves, and when, how and why those works were created. In a sense, art historians “excavate” history in art through their research. Art historians are scholars who thus specialize in the reading and interpretation of art works as historic and cultural documents, examining works of art within their historic and cultural contexts.
The arts are among the oldest forms of human record-keeping and human discourse – meaningful communication that expresses and shapes cultural ideas and practices. Artists are scholars, who inherit this tradition of discourse, with an ancestry and heritage dating back to early humans. Trained artists must therefore study both visual art practices and art history in order to be successful in their area of specialization, achieve the level of training expected of professionals in any field, and, in short, to call themselves “artists.” Art history also provides artists with the ability to place their own work and contributions within a larger cultural and historic perspective.
Critical theory helps art historians and artists to develop more penetrating lines of investigation. Theory guides these professionals to think along deeper and more complex lines about a subject and provides insights.
The Western Art department provides both Art and Art History students with a broad foundation in western and non-western art history and in theory, emphasizing the development of solid research, writing and presentation skills.