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Why Study Art History?

Art history provides an excellent opportunity to develop the essential skills and talents that lie at the core of a good liberal arts education, including informed and critical reading, writing, and speaking. To these, it adds a particular attention to critical looking, building core skills in analyzing how the visual and physical qualities of buildings, images and objects can be used to communicate. In art history, we study the art and architecture of cultures around the world and across the millennia. We take a variety of approaches to our objects, but focus on understanding their aesthetic and historical significance as well as their social relevance. We ask how people make meaning in visual terms and, in turn, how we read and understand a world that is largely presented to us as visual information. Since Chicago is fortunate enough to boast a large number of world-famous museum collections and some of the world’s most extraordinary architecture, many of our classes emphasize on-site study and field trips.

With its broad historical, cultural, geographic, and methodological range, art history satisfies the expectations of burgeoning specialists while it also offers an excellent formation for those who intend to specialize in other areas. While many of our majors go on to careers in museums, galleries, arts reporting or academe, many others have successfully brought the skills honed in art history classrooms to the worlds of business, law, medicine and international relations.