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Art History

Art History Area Overview

Art History is the study of visual cultural production, and seeks to combine both visual and verbal experience. Beginning with a visual object and its historical context, Art History is an inherently interdisciplinary field that also draws on the rich intellectual traditions of anthropology, literary theory, philosophy, linguistics, psychology, and history for interpretation. Art history was established as an academic discipline in Europe and the U.S. in the nineteenth century. Art historians work in both universities and museums and typically study art in its broader cultural and intellectual context.

Faculty members in art history teach a wide range of broadly defined lecture courses and more specialized seminars in their areas of research. Subjects regularly taught by the full-time faculty in art history include Pre-Columbian Art; Latin American Art; Medieval Art; Northern Renaissance and Baroque Art; Twentieth Century American and European Art; Contemporary Arts; and the History of Photography. Affiliate instructors enrich these offering with additional courses, including Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century European Art, and Twentieth Century Design.

Bachelor of Arts In Art History

Students majoring in art history take a total of 12 courses (36 hours) in art history and 3 courses (9 hours) outside of art history that complement their studies in the field. Basic survey courses and a seminar on art historical theory and method are required for all majors, as is a range of courses in each of four broad periods and cultures. Students can also develop proposals for independent research or projects related to internships, for which, with faculty approval they can receive academic credit.

The Houston community is a rich environment in which to study art and art history. Its large and diverse range of art collections include, among others, the renowned Museum of Fine Arts and its branches in decorative arts, the Museum of Printing History, and the Menil Collection, which have permanent collections. The Holocaust and Contemporary Arts Museums, and the Center for Contemporary Craft, as well as many alternative art spaces and galleries focus on traveling exhibitions. Art History students are encouraged to avail themselves of these collections for coursework, internships, and general self-enrichment.


An undergraduate major in art history develops special skills in writing, critical thinking and analysis of visual and cultural information that can provide the basis for a variety of professional careers. The two main career paths for those who wish to continue working directly in the arts are: curatorial and education positions in art museums and galleries, and teaching and research in universities. Such careers usually require further graduate study in art history in terminal M.A. or Ph.D programs. Art history majors have also gone on to graduate study in Law, Architecture, Library Science, Arts Leadership, Creative Writing and many other fields.


Art history majors with an art history GPA of 3.0 or higher are eligible for internships. Interns learn about the operation of for-profit and non-profit art institutions by working as gallery assistants, curatorial and research assistants, and in educational programming and preparations departments, including: the Blaffer Gallery of the University of Houston, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Menil Collection; Lawndale Art Center; Diverseworks, the Museum of Natural Science; the Holocaust Museum, the Museum of Printing History, and the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. Specific information regarding eligibility, requirements and opportunities is available from the faculty and from the undergraduate advisor. Students may develop proposals for academic credit connected with an internship in consultation with art history faculty.