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Art is the signature of civilizations.

When you study the history of art, you study the history of power, identity, and culture in human societies across the globe. Leading to a bachelor of arts degree, the art history major looks at creative works in context, tracing the human experience throughout the ages in relation to the visual art, sculpture, and architecture of a given time. Whether considering ancient Islamic tiles or the work of contemporary Worcester artists, you’ll gain insight into art’s ability to reflect and resonate with social and cultural beliefs and events.

Your understanding will also consider the technologies of art-making and the ways the visual arts shape broader conversations about our culture and what it means to be human. By conducting research with faculty, curating exhibits, or participating in the digital reconstruction of an ancient temple, you’ll bring your classroom learning to bear in hands-on activities that will prepare you for an exciting career.

Catalog Requirements for:

Why Study Art History at Clark?

  • Find inspiration and pursue internships in a state brimming with renowned arts institutions, including Boston-based treasures such as the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln; and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams.
  • Become active in Worcester’s own arts community, which includes the Worcester Art Museum (free admission for Clarkies); ArtsWorcester, supporting contemporary artists in the city; and Preservation Worcester, which advocates for Worcester’s amazing architectural heritage.
  • Benefit from a wealth of opportunities to apply and deepen your knowledge — whether by serving as a gallery intern at Clark’s Schiltkamp Gallery, interviewing local artists, or exploring conservation techniques at Clark’s Archives and Special Collections.
  • Create and collaborate in the wider context of Clark’s Visual and Performing Arts Department (V&PA), a tight-knit community that includes students majoring in art history; media, culture, and the arts; music; screen studies; studio art; and theatre arts.

The Art History Path

As an art history major, you’ll complete at least 11 courses — ten in art history and one in studio art. The program offers courses in ancient, Renaissance/Baroque, modern, and non-Western art. You should plan to take at least one course in non-Western art, and at least two courses in each of the other areas. All students take three core courses:

  • From the Stone Age to Our Age: Monuments and Masterpieces of Western Art
  • Art, the Public, and the History of Worcester (a Problems of Practice course)
  • The Art of Art History: Teaching and Methods (senior capstone)

As part of the senior-year capstone course, you’ll lead a semester-long weekly discussion section for the introductory course From the Stone Age to Our Age, an opportunity that allows you to share your enthusiasm for and knowledge of art.

Like many art history majors at Clark, you might choose to complete a second major; e.g., studio art, history, philosophy, or geography. Requirements for the major are slightly different if you double-major.

Skills you will learn include:

  • How to visually analyze a work of art
  • How to write and speak coherently and persuasively
  • How to integrate different kinds of knowledge (visual analysis, historical documentation, content learned from scholarly articles) into a coherent, persuasive paper

Patricia M. Plamondon Undergraduate Award in Visual and Performing Arts
The Patricia M. Plamondon Award is given to juniors and seniors who have demonstrated their talent in and commitment to the arts and for whom the award will serve to enhance their studies, research, or project-related travel. The award is made annually by a vote of the full-time faculty of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts.

During your junior year, you might be accepted into the art history honors program. Joining the program means you’ll work closely with a professor to create a thesis on a topic of your choice. Examples of recent honors thesis topics are:

  • The Birth of a Venetian Venus: From the Page to the Painting
  • Burnside Fountain: A Story of Failure
  • Queer Relationality: Ray Johnson’s Silhouettes as Glyphs, Dumps, Letters and Holes
  • “The Nation Which Rejects the Home”: Katherine Dreier and a New Museum for the American Home
  • A Comparison Between French and Italian Books of Hours: The Tension Between Female Agency and Idealized Womanhood
  • The Triumph of Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Black Self in Conflict with Modernity
  • Primitivist Nostalgia and Postwar Solitude: The Emotionalism of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s 1924 Umbra Vitae Woodcuts
  • The Temple at Antiochia ad Cragum: An Examination of Roman Imperial Architectural Mouldings
  • Connoisseurship 101: An Exercise in Attribution and Understanding in the Worcester Art Museum’s “Antonio Montalvo’s Wife and One of His Sons” by a follower of Agnolo Bronzino (1503-1572)

Building your foundation

The Clark Experience

We structure our curriculum around Liberal Education and Effective Practice (LEEP), which connects classroom learning with action through world and workplace experiences.

Learn More

Faculty and Programs in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts