Art history provides a broad forum for the study of culture. Through formal analysis, iconographic study and contextual investigation, art historians refine the understanding of an object's meaning by locating it in the historical moment of its production, defining its function, establishing the contemporary aesthetic standards by which it was judged, and reconstructing the critical response of its various audiences.
Through such a thorough analysis, we do not deny the object its power, aesthetic or otherwise, but make meaning evident by determining what it is that constitutes its authority to a particular audience.
In art historical training, students acquire a visual literacy that when applied to analytic thinking produces a profound understanding of culture. Art historians provide students with the skills to interpret a wide array of ideas — religious, political, social, scientific and literary — that are presented in visual form. In so doing, we encourage our students to study original works of art. Moreover, we present students with technical knowledge concerning the processes of artistic production, collection, and display. As we live in an increasingly visual world, students learn the skills necessary for an historical appraisal of the past, and most importantly, a critical evaluation of the present.
Art history forms the bridge between studio practice and a liberal arts curriculum. In studio art classes, art history students participate in the creative process in a direct manner and gain insight into the complex process of creativity as it demands intellectual acuity, manual dexterity and emotional expression. As historians, critics, and producers, art history students, therefore, are prepared to engage the world of visual culture in a multitude of ways.