The History of Art and Architecture concentration offers training in the historical interpretation and critical analysis of the visual arts and architecture. It develops the skills of visual discrimination and verbal expression fundamental to art historical analysis.
Encompassing material from the widest range of geographic and historical origins, art history is itself a multifaceted discipline embracing many different methods, perspectives and interests. Sometimes it deduces from works of art the time and place of their making, or the identity of their makers. Sometimes it examines how concepts, ideals, and sensibilities of people of the past are expressed in their art, and further, how that art influenced wider aspects of their culture. Sometimes it explores within large-scale fabrications (buildings, towns, cities) the dynamic between human and natural worlds. These and other approaches are reflected in the teaching and scholarship of the History of Art and Architecture faculty.
Training in the critical analysis of art seeks to clarify the perception—and understanding—of how artworks relate to the techniques and materials used in their making, and to the environment in which they are seen. It also fosters the ability to make and explain judgments of quality and value. Instruction in critical analysis is aided by the history of art and architecture department’s partnership with one of the world’s greatest teaching museums, comprising the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Sackler Museums. This offers students a unique opportunity of first-hand study of original works of art in many media.
Concentration requirements insure that students are well versed in both the historical and critical facets of the field. Generally, course work offers coverage of the history of art, while a sequence of small-group tutorials develop critical skills. For students with a special interest in architecture, the concentration offers courses on architectural history and urban planning, while also helping to advise in, and coordinate, relevant coursework undertaken beyond the department. Courses in the History of Art and Architecture undergraduate curriculum are structured as a three-tier system, consisting of a sequence of entry-level and field-specific introductory courses, upper-level courses, and tutorials.
History of Art and Architecture (HAA) 1, HAA 10, and HAA 11 are general, conceptual introductions (to world art from pre-history to the present, history of later western art, and history of world architecture, respectively) each of which could serve as a point of entry into the courses and concentration of History of Art and Architecture.
Tutorials are small-group seminars which discuss the methodology of the discipline or examine a specific research topic in the discipline. These are intended to provide increasing expertise in critical and analytical thinking, and serve as a basis for independent senior research projects. The senior thesis offers a student the opportunity to apply in greater depth one or more of the methods and aims developed in courses and tutorials, although, of course, theses often deal with subjects not included in class work.
The concentration in History of Art and Architecture can be pursued in conjunction with several other concentrations, most commonly Visual and Environmental Studies, English, Anthropology, Literature, area studies, or Romance Languages. Together with the Departments of the Classics, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and Anthropology, the Department of History of Art and Architecture initiates students in the study of archaeology.
Architecture Studies is a track within the History of Art and Architecture concentration, jointly administered by the History of Art and Architecture and the Graduate School of Design. The track has its own requirements, which are detailed here. Students wishing to pursue other specific interests may receive advising from appropriate faculty as arranged by the director of undergraduate studies.
Requirements for all concentrators, joint and full, provide exposure to a variety of areas within art history, as well as allow for the selection of a major field focus from among the following: African, Ancient (Egypt, Ancient Near East, Greece, Rome), Architecture, Baroque and Rococo, Byzantine, Chinese, Japanese, South Asian, Islamic, Latin American/Pre-Columbian, Medieval, Modern and Contemporary, and Renaissance.
A History of Art and Architecture concentration is an effective core to a liberal arts education, and not merely pre-professional training for future art historians. The history of art and architecture is virtually unique among academic disciplines in studying the products of societies in every part of the world over the entire span of history, from the Paleolithic cave paintings to the works of our closest contemporaries.
Students concerned with joint concentration, credit for work done elsewhere, and late transfer into History of Art and Architecture should consult with the director of undergraduate studies. All concentrators should arrange advising appointments with the director of undergraduate studies at the start of each term.