The art history program offers an exciting exploration into the cultures and societies of the world. Analyzing and writing about art, students come face to face with the core issues that have troubled and inspired civilizations for centuries—right and wrong, truth and heresy, life and death. Stimulating lectures and class discussions combined with faculty-mentored research projects aid students in viewing history through the lens of the world’s finest painting, sculpture, and architecture.
Given the wide array of artistic traditions, the program encourages students to take the initiative and study a variety of historical periods from different parts of the world. Two mandatory survey courses in European art cover everything from prehistoric cave painting to contemporary abstract expressionism and expose students to some of the key masterpieces that have shaped art theory and production. These introductory classes whet the students’ palettes for more specialized study as they begin to craft their own schedules with medieval and baroque courses, Islamic and Asian, writing and theory, a relevant language, and various elective classes.
Some of the most memorable learning experiences come from hands-on experience outside the classroom. The art history program offers internships in the BYU Museum of Art and other galleries and museums where students work side-by-side with curators and education experts in designing exhibitions, cataloguing paintings, or exposing the local community to the arts. The art history study abroad programs are famous across the campus. Student and faculty groups tour multiple countries in Europe, including England, France, the Netherlands, and Italy. Nothing quite compares to hearing lectures in St. Peter’s Basilica, wandering through the galleries of the Louvre, or taking notes in front of the glittering mosaics of St. Mark’s in Venice.
The art history program culminates in a Senior Thesis class where students select one of their research papers and then work one-on-one with a professor to expand their ideas, incorporate critical theory, and refine their writing. One of the most rewarding parts of the process occurs at the Senior Thesis Symposium, when the students engage an audience of faculty members, family, and peers in a new perspective on a piece of art.
Art history brings a new sensitivity to the way students and faculty look at the great cultures of the past and present. It establishes the foundation necessary for careers in the visual arts, including teaching, museum and gallery work, architecture, and conservation and restoration. At the same time, the writing and analytical skills art history teaches make a valuable launching pad for disciplines as diverse as musicology, medicine, or law.