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Art History

Undergraduate Programs in Art History

The discipline of Art History teaches students how to analyze and interpret works of fine art (paintings, drawings, prints, and sculpture), photography and moving image media (film, video, television, and digital art), material culture (ritual objects, fashion, advertisements, and the decorative, applied, and industrial arts), and the built environment (architecture, urbanism, and design). The department takes it as axiomatic that the skills of visual literacy and analysis are not innate but may be acquired through training and practice. Objects of study are drawn from the cultures of Africa, Asia, the Americas, from the Middle East; from Western, Central, and Eastern Europe; and from antiquity to the present.

Art History is a historical discipline that seeks to reintegrate the work of art into the original context of its making and reception, foregrounding its significant status as both historical document and act of social communication. At the same time, Art History seeks to understand the ways in which the work of art transcends the historical moment of its production, taking on different meanings in later historical periods, including the present. As part of their visual training, students of Art History become proficient in cultural analysis and historical interpretation. Art History thus envisions itself as uniquely well positioned to train students from a variety of disciplines in the light of the dramatic visual turn that has gripped the humanities and the sciences over the course of the last decade, with more and more disciplines becoming vitally interested in visual forms and modes of communication.

Graduate Programs in Art History

The doctoral program in Art History at Stanford is relatively small, and affords the graduate student the opportunity to work intensively with individual members of the faculty. The Doctor of Philosophy degree is taken in a particular field, supported by a background in the general history of art. Doctoral candidates also undertake collateral studies in other graduate departments or in one of the University's interdisciplinary programs.

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