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A Culture of Care >> Read Smith’s plans for the fall 2021 semester.

The History of Art

Barbara Kellum teaching art history

Students in art history classes might focus on ancient ruins, European landscape painting or Japanese anime. Our classes place value on the study of original objects, and students at all levels make site visits and do research in museums. Whether a student is interested in East Asia or North America, Maya ceramics or medieval manuscripts, the art history program seeks to understand questions of visual literacy and the roles that art and architecture play in our present world.


All graduating art majors and minors will:

  • Develop familiarity with original works of art and/or architecture and with research tools appropriate for the discipline, including print scholarship, online databases and various reference materials.
  • Communicate their ideas effectively in written, oral and (as appropriate) material form, including public presentations that rely upon the display of visual images or artwork.
  • Engage a range of disciplines in their work, in the spirit of a liberal arts education.

Art studio and architecture majors and minors will demonstrate:

  • Mastery of practices or techniques in the current field of practice for at least one medium (e.g, painting, installation, photography, digital media).
  • Fluency in an extensive and pertinent vocabulary for describing their own work and the art historical antecedents with which it shares relationships.
  • Familiarity with professional practices and global perspectives within the cultural landscape of contemporary art.

Art history majors and minors will:

  • Learn to read original objects, architectural settings and written scholarship analytically and synthetically.
  • Demonstrate familiarity with the different ways that spaces, monuments, and objects have intersected with lived and imagined experiences throughout history and the world over.
  • Demonstrate expertise in self-directed research, including fluency with a range of methodologies and debates across the discipline.


Brigitte Buettner, Yanlong Guo, Barbara Kellum, Dana Leibsohn, John Moore, and Frazer Ward.

Courses in the history of art are divided into areas that reflect breadth in terms of both geography and chronology.


11 courses, at least one of which must address the Americas, one Europe and one another geographic area, for example, such as Asia, Africa, the Islamic World.

Requirements include:

1. ARH 110 Art and Its Histories, normally to be completed before the junior year
2. One course in studio art
3. Six courses in the history of art at the 200-level, consisting of a mix of lecture courses and colloquia, of which four have to focus on pre-1800 (Group A) and two post-1800 (Group B)
4. Three courses at the 290 level and above, one of which has to be a seminar (to be taken at Smith)

Art History—Methods, Issues, Debates is recommended for art history majors. Students entering Smith with a 5 on the AP art history exam may choose to be exempted from ARH 110, replacing it with another art history course at the 200-level or above.

Students planning to major or to do honors work in art history will find it valuable to take courses in literature, philosophy, religion and history in the first two years. A reading knowledge of foreign languages is useful for historical courses. Courses may require one or more trips to Boston, New York or other places in the vicinity to study original works of art.

**In response to the current unprecedented circumstances, the Department of Art is allowing up to two Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) courses from Academic Year 2020–21 to count towards the major.


Brigitte Buettner, Yanlong Guo, Barbara Kellum, Dana Leibsohn, John Moore, and Frazer Ward.

Designed for students who, although they major in another department, wish to also focus on the history of art. With the assistance of their advisers, students may construct their minor to be as specific or comprehensive as they desire within the skeletal structure of the requirements. 


Six courses: ARH 110 Art and Its Histories; three additional courses in the history of art covering both Group A and B; and two courses at the 290-level and above, one of which has to be a seminar (to be taken at Smith).

Director of Honors, History of Art

Frazer Ward

The college's official requirements, guidelines and deadlines are available on the class dean's website.

Every year the art department organizes an informational meeting about honors, an 8-credit class focused on independent research. We strongly encourage interested students to attend this discussion of important deadlines and the timeline for applications. Department guidelines and practices related to honors can be found on the art department's honors page.