Art History

Art History trains students to develop a critical awareness of the role cultural production plays in the creation and contestation of structures of power as well as identity. Understanding a variety of visual languages - ancient to modern, east to west - and the ideologies hidden therein could not be more relevant in a world today awash in overt and covert visual messages. The inherently interdisciplinary nature of the Art History program teaches students to approach artworks from a multiplicity of theoretical angles: social history, symbolism, literary interpretation, feminism, marxism, biography, anthropology, sociology, etc., thus preparing them to understand how knowledge may be constructed and deconstructed. Since HWS is fortunate to have a significant collection of works of art, all theoretical approaches are grounded on object based analysis, making it possible for many classes to offer the unique opportunity to study prints, drawings, paintings, and sculpture, among other mediums.

Program Learning Outcomes

  • Students will gain extensive knowledge of the history of art from various geographic and cultural contexts and perspectives.
  • Students will develop the skills necessary to be able to write both descriptively and analytically about works of art in a variety of media.
  • Students will advance their skills in research and writing so that they are able to complete an independent research paper on a topic of their choosing under the close mentorship of an Art History faculty member.
  • Students will learn to read critically and carefully. They will read texts from various disciplines and learn to synthesize numerous theoretical and methodological approaches to thinking about and understanding the production, dissemination, and historicizing of human cultural production.
  • Students will learn to identify the social, political, and cultural factors that shaped the production of art within a specific geographic and historical context. This includes an understanding of the ways race, gender, and class, among other differences, shape the making, viewing, and meaning of art.

Student Resources

Student Profile: Lucas Mischler '20

Lucas Mischler '20

Major: Architectural Studies and Art History Double Major

“I signed up for Professor Liliana Leopardi’s 'Renaissance to Modern' class in my first year. Her love for Renaissance art was visible and contagious. Through her lectures, I began to understand the power of art throughout history and its influence on modern society and culture - things I felt intuitively but could now place within an intellectual framework. This class was a springboard for further Art History coursework and in time, I declared my major with Professor Leopardi as my adviser.”

Meet Our Faculty

Classes in the art department are intimate, allowing access to personal guidance from professional artists in making decisions about your schooling and career. Advising is a key component of making the most of your college education, and the faculty at Hobart and William Smith work closely with you to define a course of study that is challenging and inspiring. Below you will find the artists, innovators and educators that you will work with over your four years at HWS. Meet the entire department >

Art History News

Stephanopoulos Donation Adds Iconic Historical Photos to HWS Collections

Tue, 03 Nov 2020

Horace Cort, ÒDr. Martin Luther King Jr. addresses about 2,500 persons in Hurt Park in downtown Atlanta todayÓ December 15, 1963, vintage Associated Press wirephotoA new gift from journalist George Stephanopoulos adds approximately 650 new items to the Collections of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, bringing depth and breadth to his 2019 donation of politically…

Davis Gallery Hosts Crafting Democracy Events

Mon, 02 Nov 2020

Art Exhibit Fall  CPaige_KColton-208Art and politics come together in a series of events hosted by the Davis Gallery at Houghton House. Crafting Democracy features a fiber arts exhibit, a handmade zine and a…

Remembering Clarence “Dave” Davis Jr. ’48

Thu, 17 Sep 2020

Davis Dave Visit 0148Clarence A. “Dave” Davis Jr. ’48, whose generosity and vision have transformed the Colleges’ visual arts facilities and operations, passed away earlier this month. Davis was born on Sept. 2,…

Perry ’20 Teaching at Trinity School While Attending UPenn

Fri, 24 Jul 2020

Morgan Perry 20 AStarting this fall, Morgan Perry ’20 will pursue her master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania while teaching visual arts at Trinity School in Manhattan as a Penn Fellow…

Student Art Exhibition Goes Virtual

Thu, 25 Jun 2020

student-art-exhibition-2020In a museum, the preparator is responsible for the physical installation of an exhibit. In the practicum class taught by the Clarence A. “Dave” Davis ’48 Visual Arts Curator Anna…

Secor ’10 Donating Art Sale Proceeds to Food Bank

Mon, 27 Apr 2020

FadingLight2016Painter James Secor ’10 is turning art into food during the coronavirus pandemic. Based in Montpelier, Vt., Secor has created an online store offering postcards of his paintings — and…

More Art History News

Sample Courses

Our students choose from a variety of introductory and advanced courses in architecture, art history and studio art, each designed to provide students with a foundation in visual culture as well as the creative means of discovery and self-expression. Below, you'll find a sampling of some of our most popular classes.

Class Complete Course List

African American Art
Discover some of the contributions Black artists have made to American art by studying significant movements like the evolution of the Black aesthetic and the emergences of civil rights and Black pride. Expand your understanding of the arts by enrolling in ALST 225, African-American Culture, and study more elements of African American culture like literature, dance, film, music and visual arts.

Spotlight: Recent Grad

Recent Grad

Kristina Weston '17

Current Position: Department Coordinator, Old Master Paintings Department, Christie’s

Current Location: New York, NY

Majors: Art History

Read More