Division of the Arts

Art History and Visual Culture

The Art History and Visual Culture Program offers the opportunity to explore visual art and culture through courses across a broad range of periods and societies, and through close student-teacher interaction. The program emphasizes learning how to look at and write about visual material, particularly in introductory courses. Bard’s proximity to New York City allows for visits to museums and galleries; courses are frequently designed in conjunction with current exhibitions. In addition, the art and architecture of the Hudson Valley provide a fruitful resource for original research. The program maintains close contact with local institutions so that students can study original documents and work as volunteer interns during the summer or January intersession. Advanced students may also work with faculty at the Center for Curatorial Studies on campus and at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City.

Students intending to major in art history and cultural history should work with their adviser to develop individual study plans that reflect their interests and meet the program’s distribution requirements, which give them the chance to encounter a wide range of artistic practices across cultures and time. Students need a total of four art history courses to moderate, including either Perspectives in World Art I or II (Art History 101, 102). Moderated students must take at least one program course per semester thereafter.

Course requirements for graduation include (in addition to Art History 101 or 102): one course in studio arts, film, or photography; Theories and Methods of Art History (Art History 385), typically taken in the junior year; a set of period and geographic requirements; and at least two 300-level art history seminars (in addition to Art History 385). One course may satisfy both the seminar and period/geographic requirement. Before undertaking the Senior Project—a major thesis that examines an original art historical issue—the student is encouraged to demonstrate reading knowledge of a language other than English. Each May, seniors give a short presentation of their topics in an informal colloquium.

Recent Senior Projects in Art History and Visual Culture

  • “Evolution of Nonobjective Art in the Russian Avant-Garde, 1900–23”
  • “Fabricating Realness: Yinka Shonibare and Dutch Wax Print Textiles”
  • “Invisible Invitations: A Meditation on the Sentimental, Sociopolitical, and Philosophical Significance of Park Benches”
  • “The Woodstock Artists Association: Synthesizing the Modern and Traditional”