The Art History major at the University of Maine prepares students for our media-rich and symbolic world by emphasizing the analysis and critique of visual culture. The major opens up opportunities for graduate study in the field and prepares students for careers in related fields as well, including anthropology, communications, museum studies, gallery work, arts administration, arts journalism, filmmaking, and studio art.
Art History B.A.
The Department of Art offers the Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History. Students begin the program with two introductory courses that survey historically significant objects and monuments – including paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, pottery, photographs, film and video, and architecture – from ancient times to the present. These introductory courses consider the form, content, and meaning of these works in terms of their social, political, economic, philosophical, and cultural contexts. From its foundation courses through its highest-level seminars, Art History at the University of Maine stands out for its emphasis on theory, diverse methodologies, and the epistemology of the discipline.
A strong awareness of the historiography of the field is instilled from the introductory courses onward. The curriculum stresses research by teaching students in the introductory courses the essential value of primary sources and peer-reviewed secondary sources as they work through their studies. Building on this first-year experience, second-year courses focus on how to collaboratively develop important questions, present research in formal writing assignments and oral presentations, and meet the discipline’s professional standards. Upper-level seminars engage students in open discussions of their research as it unfolds, leading to focused research essays. Two upper-level seminars dedicated to the principal underpinnings of the field – art theory and criticism and critical methodologies – engage students in critical thinking about the discipline itself. For their capstone experience, students present a research paper to the public for open commentary, preparing them well for participating in professional conferences.
The program treats Art History within the greater context of visual culture, encouraging students to consider wide classes of objects as valuable windows into culture. In considering the wealth of material culture from any given epoch, students learn how visual language functions as a complement to the written or oral record. The program also emphasizes academic writing skills and interdisciplinary research. In addition to courses in Art History, students take two Studio Art courses to provide insights into the working methods of artists and the creative processes that foster critical thinking and visual literacy. Students must also take two courses in a foreign language to broaden their research capabilities in the field. The major highly recommends that its students enroll in the Honors College. Throughout their course of study, students can expect a very high degree of individual attention.
Art History Minor
The minor in Art History is designed to serve the needs of students from a broad range of fields. After studying a comprehensive survey of the Western Tradition, students may select upper level courses according to their interests. These courses include offerings in both the Modern era (1800 onward) and the Classical, Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque eras that preceded it.
The required introductory studio course will expose students directly to issues of artistic creativity, an essential component to understanding Art History. Transfer credits will be accepted for one hundred level courses only.
Art History Student Learning Outcomes
1) Knowledge and History of the Canon: students learn to draw freely and knowledgeably from the historical canon, with clear knowledge of periods, their contexts, and the artworks representing the diversity of ideas defining them, in classroom discussions, public presentations, and research papers.
2) Writing Abilities: students learn to articulate ideas clearly, carry arguments cogently, demonstrate effective rhetorical persuasiveness, and synthesize claims and evidence from primary and secondary sources with their own theses.
3) Oral Presentation Abilities: students learn to articulate ideas clearly, carry arguments cogently, demonstrate effective rhetorical persuasiveness, synthesize claims and evidence from primary and secondary sources with their own theses, and design coherent and effective digital presentations of visual materials.
4) Engagement of Critical Language: students learn to use increasingly sophisticated critical terminologies and historically contextualized theories, in both oral and written presentations.
5) Historiographic and Methodological Awareness: students learn to remark on how knowledge in the discipline evolves, assess the pros and cons of different research methods in relation to specific topics, account for differing approaches to the same topic, identify the explicit and implicit assumptions of scholars, and analyze how arguments are structured to achieve various effects.
6) Research Proficiency: students learn to find appropriate primary and secondary sources in research databases, library catalogs, museum and gallery records, and archives; assess the historical and intellectual value of what they find; and engage sources critically in papers, presentations, and classroom discussions.
7) Proficiency Synthesizing Ideas: students learn to interpret texts, arguments, and rhetorical strategies; identify discourses and counter-discourses in texts; use texts as bases for their own theses and conclusions; and properly credit their sources. Direct evidence comes from papers, presentations, and classroom discussions.
There are many internship opportunities for students majoring or minoring in Art History. Our students have worked as interns at the Portland Museum of Art, the University of Maine Museum of Art, the Hudson Museum, and local galleries such as the Aucocisco Gallery in Portland. In addition, Art History students have participated in conferences, including the Maine Medieval and Renaissance Conference and national conferences, such as the Neo-Platonic Studies Conference and the National Honors Colleges Conference. Art History students also have been active participants in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Awards conference. Some recent undergraduate and graduate research topics include: “Kandinsky and Science”; “Momentary Momentum: A Case Study for Museum Theory”; “Duchamp, Audience, and the Limits of Art”; “Goya’s Black Paintings”; “Chavin Weaving Identities”; “The Road to Campostello: Progressive Pilgrimage Narratives”; and “Diversions of Pleasure: Early Islamic Courts (661 –1000CE).”
Our students have access to many academic resources, including JSTOR and ARTstor, as well as other important research databases and resources available through Fogler Library and interlibrary loan. Students also have ample opportunities to work with objects first-hand at the various museums across the state and beyond. They also can participate in travel-study courses as well as both faculty- and student-lead initiatives to major art collections in the United States, Canada, and Europe. The program encourages students to spend at least one semester studying abroad, either through foreign universities or the University of Maine’s International Programs Office. Each semester, the Department of Art hosts a Visiting Artist/Guest Lecturer Program that brings scholars from a broad range of disciplines to lecture and work with students.
Student Groups and Awards
Art History students have several opportunities to win Department of Art awards, including:
- Vincent Hartgen Award, which grants funds for research travel, the University of Maine Museum of Art Internship, which allows students to intern at the university’s museum as part of their coursework or capstone project.
- David Shoemaker Award, which grants research funds.
- Additionally, students may compete to participate in an undergraduate research presentation in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Students are encouraged to join the Art and Design Collective, a student-run organization that organizes lectures and trips to museums and galleries.
Career and Graduate Opportunities
With its focus on critical thinking in verbal and nonverbal forms, the Art History Program prepares students for many career options, in addition to continued study at the graduate level. The major prepares students for careers in museums (curator, registrar, educator), art galleries, arts administration, antiquities, communications, historic preservation, art conservation, teaching, arts libraries and arts criticism. Many of our students go on to work in galleries and museums. The rigorous academic training of the program also has prepared several students for admission to law school.
- Master of Arts in Liberal Studies
- Interdisciplinary Master of Education
- Interdisciplinary Doctor of Philosophy