Art history is the analysis of visual data in a historical context. Hampshire students concentrating in this field learn not only how to analyze works of art as objects or monuments in their own right, but also to understand and interpret them in relation to the historical circumstances, endeavors, and conflicts of the culture and region in which they were made.
Students read and interpret visual art works as records of a culture’s imagination and its larger societal concerns, while developing diverse critical methods and originality of thought.
Art history is an exciting area of inquiry, by its very nature strongly interdisciplinary, and at Hampshire students have created concentrations that relate art history to curatorial studies, sociology, memory, spirituality, literature, and architecture.
Sample First-Year Course
Realism in Nineteenth-Century Art
This course will explore the various aspects of realism in nineteenth-century art, from the idealized and/or photographic renderings of the human form and landscape, early documentary imagery (phrenology, hysteria, ethnic types) to the shift of realism into a politically charged type of art (Courbet, Millet, Meunier) and late nineteenth-century forms of naturalism as a realism transformed into spectacle. Works of literature (including Balzac, Zola, Dickens) will be read alongside artistic objects in order to document and examine the mutually enriching and problematizing developments in realism in both media.
Sample Courses at Hampshire
Art & Exile
The Body in Modern Art
Books, Book Arts, Artists’ Book, Bibliophilia
The Collector: Theory and Practice
Colonialism in the Visual Arts
Dada & Surrealist Visions
Degas, Van Gogh, Gauguin
Europe After the Rain: Reconstructing Modernity
Introduction to Visual Culture
Modernism & Modernity
Realism in Nineteenth-Century Art
Symbolists and Decadents
The Residue, the Detail, the Intimate
Visual Culture & the Holocaust
Through the Consortium
African Art & Diaspora (AC)
Art and Death (SC)
Dreaming of Italy (SC)
Evaluating Greek Art (UMass)
Gods & Mortals (MHC)
Great Themes in Art (UMass)
Impressionism & Post-Impressionism (UMass)
Facilities and Resources
The Five College Consortium houses a number of museums open to Hampshire students and faculty. These, as well as a partnership with nearby Historic Deerfield, give students access to art and material culture from a wide range of geographic and historical contexts.
The National Yiddish Book Center, housed on Hampshire College’s campus, contains more than a million volumes of Yiddish literature and is host to hosts of public programs ranging from concerts to readings, films and exhibits.
The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College houses more than 14,000 works of art in its permanent collection, along with its changing exhibition space, the Fairchild Gallery, and a newly renovated Teaching Gallery.
The Smith College Museum of Art is best known for its collection of nineteenth and twentieth century paintings and sculpture, and also houses the state-of-the-art Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.
The permanent collection of the Mt. Holyoke College Art Museum, one of the oldest teaching museums in the country, includes Asian Art, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiquities, medieval sculpture, early Italian Renaissance paintings, and other treasures.
The University Gallery at UMass Amherst maintains a massive permanent collection emphasizing works from the latter half of the twentieth century.
All of these spectacular collections are open to use by Hampshire students of art history, and frequently utilized by Hampshire classes.
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is located on the Hampshire College campus and is the foremost force in a new movement to celebrate the previously under-recognized artistic field of children’s book illustration.