The goal of the Art History Department is to equip students with a critical understanding of the historical and theoretical concerns that have shaped the production, circulation, and reception of art, visual culture, and architecture over time and around the world.
About the Major
Art History encompasses the study of visual and material culture, performance, and the built environment across geographies, media, and technologies. The transdisciplinary nature of art and architectural history allows students to draw upon a broad range of subjects and approaches that span the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. Concentrators hone skills in visual literacy, critical thinking, written and oral communication, and engage with innovative digital technologies. Many of our courses provide students with opportunities for experiential and project-based learning, from working with collections at the Wellin Museum and Burke Library, to field trips to regional museums and historical sites, to creating virtual exhibitions and digital visual narratives.
Students Will Learn To:
- Analyze material and visual culture and/or the built environment as a form of visual literacy
- Apply art historical and interdisciplinary methods of analysis to the study of material and visual culture and/or the built environment
- Draw connections between the past and present to illuminate the relevance of both
- Identify how particular scholarly discourses and practices have contributed to social, structural, and institutional hierarchies in art history’s own history
A Sampling of Courses
Ways of Seeing: Vision, Technology, Media
This course provides students with a historical and theoretical foundation for understanding how contemporary visual media informs, persuades, and shapes our experience. Our starting points will often be the types of images that surround us today: social media news feeds and advertisements, infographics, selfies, stock photos, and CAPTCHA tests. Students will engage with foundational texts in visual and media studies and develop tools to critically analyze, discuss, and write about the images that come to us through physical and virtual networks.
Explore these select courses:
This class involves the study of the formless divine and the corporeal nature of the body in South and Southeast Asian art. We will examine representations of the Buddha, the Jina, gods and goddesses, queens and kings, and an array of apotropaic motifs in sacred art and architecture from India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and Indonesia. Case studies are chosen from a period spanning over two thousand years, beginning with the third century BCE and ending with portrayals of the divine in contemporary art.
This course surveys the art and architecture of Europe during the Middle Ages from ca. 500-1400. We will focus on key artworks and monuments made and built in Europe from the Visigoths and Vikings to the Valois court, as well as examine cross-cultural interactions across religious and political boundaries in medieval Africa, the Arctic, and the Mediterranean. Students will develop an awareness of the production, function, and social context of medieval visual culture through the close study of architecture, manuscript, metalwork, mosaic, painting, sculpture, and textile. Despite our historical distance from the Middle Ages, we will also consider how medieval imagery remains relevant to our current visual world.
Art & Social Change explores the history of artistic production as political activism. From the early efforts of painters, sculptors, and photographers in the nineteenth century to more recent developments in experimental media, artists have offered not only social critique but also attempted direct political intervention. Whether addressed to issues of race, class, gender, globalization, or ecological precarity, this course grapples with art’s ability to affect social change.
This course examines architecture’s historical relationship with the environment by engaging with broad Anthropocene questions. We will trace changing conceptions of "nature" through the study of the co-production of architecture and the environment, and the ways in which designers continually reconceive the human-nature relationship. Topics include colonial land management, materiality, infrastructure and resource extraction (eg. Erie Canal, dams, solar farms), waste, architecture of logistics (eg. Walmart and Amazon), eco-cities and sustainable urbanism, and landscapes of food production.
Meet Our Faculty
Director of Cinema and Media Studies, Professor of Art History
film history; documentary, experimental and avant-garde film; cinema and place; institutional histories of organizations that have served independent film; 20th century American literature
Assistant Professor of Art History
South Asian art; visual culture of Indian Ocean trade; churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples in Kerala; syncretism; religious iconography; artistic agency; digital art history
Assistant Professor of Art History
Medieval and early modern art in Northern Europe; Scandinavian studies; economics and trade; religious iconography; history and methods of art history
Professor of Art History Emeritus (retired)
historic preservation; European art of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries; neoclassicism;history of furniture; environmental and ecological implications of architectural design; urban planning and landscape
Explore Hamilton Stories
Careers After Hamilton
Hamilton graduates who concentrated in art history are pursuing careers in a variety of fields, including:
- Account Manager, Sotheby’s
- Vice President and Real Estate Counsel, Lehman Brothers
- Cataloguer, Lang Antiques
- President, McGraw-Hill Professional
- Sales Manager, NBC News
- Senior Vice President, William Doyle Galleries
- Tour Coordinator, Academic Arrangements Abroad
- Presidential Innovation Fellow, The White House
- President, Nye & Co. Auctioneers