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About Our Department

In the visually accelerated world of the 21st century, art history teaches us to slow down our thinking and to look closely. It fosters a habit of asking: What does this image mean? What did it mean to the artist who made it? What can it tell me about the time when it was made? What was the context in which it was made, and for whom it was made?  And how has it been received—who has lauded it, revered it, owned, displayed, or hated it?

The VCUarts Department of Art History—a community of faculty, students, artists, curators and museum professionals—takes a range of approaches to answering such questions. We embrace the fact that art history is one of the most interdisciplinary of disciplines, drawing from philosophy, anthropology, history, religious studies and literary studies. As such, art history is a dynamic field of study, and it is an ongoing multi-generational conversation, grounded in rigorous methodologies for

  • creating historically oriented interpretations of artworks;
  • making reasoned statements about ways in which visual art enhances our lives;
  • connecting artworks to the complexity of life, of civilizations, of daily experiences across time and around the world.

Insofar as artworks embody all sorts of human values—historical, cultural, aesthetic political and spiritual—studying art history fosters a particular kind of critical engagement with the world, often prompting us to consider the relevance of the past to current issues, debates, and social practices.