Art History

Art History

Ranging from ancient architecture to contemporary art and cultural studies, the broad scope of faculty specialization within the Department of Art History exhibits the diversity of approaches and topics that students can explore during their MAPH year. Those who wish to supplement their study in Art History with coursework in other areas often take classes in Cinema and Media Studies, Classics, Comparative Literature, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, English Language and Literature, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Latin American Studies, and Visual Arts.

Selected Faculty


Niall Atkinson

Architecture and Urban History in Late Medieval and Early Renaissance Italy

Sample Courses

ARTH 30603 - Image and Text in Mexican Codices (Claudia Brittenham)
In most Mesoamerican languages, a single word describes the activities that we would call “writing” and “painting.” This seminar will investigate the interrelationships between image and text in Central Mexico both before and immediately after the introduction of alphabetic writing in the 16th century.

ARTH 37509 - Reading Artists Writing (Darby English)
The purpose of this course is to think deeply about the writing of artists and its considerable implications for the practice of art history. We will ask questions such as: What kind of knowledge is produced when a visual artist writes? What is art history’s responsibility to the artist’s discourse?

ARTH 39800 - Approaches To Art History (Savannah Esquivel)
This seminar will examine a range of methodological approaches to doing the work of art history. Through close reading of key texts, we will interrogate how various authors have constructed novel ways of seeing and understanding visual and material objects.

ARTH 42250 - Materiality & Medieval Art History (Aden Kumler)
In recent years the role played by materials and concepts (both implicit and explicit) of materiality in relation to European medieval culture have preoccupied medievalists working in a wide range of disciplines. This seminar aims to critically confront this scholarly work with a range of medieval objects and practices.

ARTH 45005 - Landscape and Religion in Chinese Art (Wu Hung)
This course explores the relationship between landscape and religion in Chinese art. Possible topics include the origins of landscape representations, the religious significance of landscape images, the landscape environment of religious structures, and landscape aesthetic and the notion of transcendence.

For an extended listing of classes and descriptions, visit the Art History course page.

Recent Art History Thesis Projects

“The Iconography of Repetition in Yue Minjun and Fang Lijun”
Louis Ho, MAPH ’10
Advisor: Wu Hung

“Facing the Holy: Heads of John the Baptist in Late Medieval England”
Ginny Robbins, MAPH ’12
Advisor: Aden Kumler

“Matires de la Enseñanza? The politics of death in Leopoldo Méndez’ En Nombre de Cristo”
Laura Mart, MAPH ’14
Advisor: Claudia Brittenham

Ugly Myths: Autonomy and Commitment in the Formal Violence of Max Beckmann’s Perseus Triptych”
Molly Bauer, MAPH ’16
Advisor: Andrei Pop

Curatorial Option

Art history students may also be interested in the Curatorial Option, which allows MAPH students to focus specifically on the object-driven research and skills that are central to the discipline of Art History as well as to professional or scholarly careers in museums, collections, and exhibition spaces.