Art History

Mission Statement

Our mission is to understand better the meanings and purposes of the visual arts, including their historic development, their roles in society, and their relationships to other humanistic disciplines.

Our students can think critically and communicate clearly about art objects and cultural artifacts in multiple socio-cultural contexts and intellectual/historical traditions. To this end, the art history major develops the following skills: knowledge acquisition, critical thinking, analysis of visual and textual primary and secondary sources, advanced research and writing skills, sophisticated oral presentations and visual literacy.

Our courses include a variety of offerings drawn from Western art, Islamic Art, and non-Western Art. Our faculty is comprised of active scholars who promote inquiry, life-long learning, and cultural understanding in their research and teaching.

We aspire to be one of the best undergraduate programs in art history in the country. We seek to meet the needs of a variety of students with a diversity of career objectives.

The art history major at Santa Clara is distinguished by excellent teaching and mentoring, challenging courses, as well as opportunities for study abroad, peer educating, and student internships at local and Bay area institutions. Moreover, we also support, in conjunction with our fully-accredited campus museum, a dynamic series of docent classes for our students.

Our alumni have been accepted into graduate programs at the University of Texas at Austin, University of Chicago, UCSB, Southern Methodist University, the Pennsylvania State University, Indiana University, and the University of Southern California, as well as at professional programs at Sotheby's in New York and London, as well as Christie’s. Our alumni are well equipped to pursue graduate work in art history, museum studies, and arts administration, as well as other fields including, but not limited to education, medicine, government, business, and law.

In sum, the art history major fosters numerous opportunities for personal and professional growth. Emphasizing both aesthetic and intellectual values, we encourage rigorous inquiry coupled with creative imagination, reflective engagement with society, and a commitment to working toward a humane and just world.


Goals and Objectives for Student Learning

Goal 1. [Knowledge Acquisition]
Students graduate with an awareness of the breadth and depth of the world of visual and material culture, both through time and across geographical boundaries.

  • Students can explain the general developments of visual and material culture in the west and at least one other culture outside the traditional western canon.
  • Students can analyze and evaluate primary and secondary visual and textual sources using appropriately the vocabulary of the discipline of art history.
  • Students can explain connections between the visual properties of the object and its social, cultural, intellectual and historical contexts and meanings using appropriately the vocabulary of the discipline of art history.

Goal 2. [Disciplinary Competence: Core Practices/Critical Thinking]
Students can think critically about art objects and cultural artifacts in multiple socio-historical contexts and intellectual/historical traditions.

Goal 3. [Disciplinary Competence: Origins and Methods]
Students know the fundamentals of Art History’s history and its methods—including those borrowed from other disciplines.

  • Students can describe the broad outlines of the history of the discipline as presented in the discipline’s foundational texts.
  • Students can apply and evaluate a variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary methods.
  • Students can describe the historical and / or ethical issues related to the collection and display of art.

Goal 4. [Research and Communication]
Students can communicate effectively the results of their research in written and oral form.

  • Students can formulate a hypothesis, research it using appropriate research tools and indices, develop it into a thesis, and present their work in both written and oral formats that display well-researched, well-argued / supported, appropriately formatted, and professionally delivered presentations.