Indiana University Bloomington

Department of the History of Art

GREETINGS AND WELCOME TO OUR SITE.  The study of art history and visual culture have been transformed over the past several decades, with the growing realization that images are fundamental to the human imagination, and to human interaction in every sphere, from politics and economics, to spirituality and the dialogs we are all constantly engaged in that help define and even transform our societies. All over the world, and from the earliest rock paintings to contemporary times thoughtfully composed imagery lies at the heart of the human condition. I am proud to say the IU-Bloomington Department of the History of Art is among the most forward looking in the country.  In the brief statement that follows let me sum up our mission within the university.

Art history explores and explains the myriad ways that art, artistry, and aesthetics inhabit the very core of human thought and action. Art participates in the making of both societies and history, while mediating experience and nourishing people’s imaginations and inner lives. It engages every aspect of life in all societies, while both fueling and being fueled by all elements of visual culture. Art history is a critical component of the humanities, which are essential to all serious education at every level, from K-12 to graduate school.

Our Mission

Our mission includes the following goals, constantly refined and improved: 
1.  Maintain a dynamic, sophisticated, and multi-disciplinary research agenda that has produced many publications and projects. 

2.  Provide knowledge of the worldwide history of art and visual culture to undergraduates from all areas of the university, giving students the ability to recognize and comprehend the many social, spiritual, political, and economic roles art plays in people’s lives.

3.  Train graduate students, both (MA and PhD) for fruitful careers in teaching, museum work, art librarianship, and related professions, and help develop their grant garnering skills.

4.  Teach and refine research, communication, and critical evaluation skills for all IU students, with special intensity in our Honors Program.  Prepare undergraduate majors for graduate study.

5.  Offer lecture programs and related activities for students, IU faculty, and community members, often in conjunction with other units (Friends of Art, Fine Arts Studio, Kinsey Institute, I.U. Art Museum, area studies programs and departments) to promote richer understandings of art and visual culture.

Teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate level is a priority of the department.  In so doing, we serve students from all over the university, and have large numbers of undergraduate majors and minors, and a high number of masters and doctoral students. Our undergraduate students find that an emphasis on art history serves them in very good stead, even though their careers blossom into other fields, across a spectrum of professions as wide ranging as business and medicine.  Our graduate students have excellent records of success in obtaining prestigious external grants and employment in the field. The graduate students run the Art History Association (AHA).  It is very active with monthly lectures, outreach to the community, and an annual Spring symposium, entirely student-organized and featuring a nationally renowned keynote speaker. This past year our undergraduate majors followed suit, founding their own organization, an unusual and impressive undertaking testifying to their seriousness.

In research our faculty are very active, and widely recognized for the high caliber of their publications. They frequently receive prestigious fellowships and awards, and they are often involved in projects that offer great insight into the visual world and help move the discipline of art history forward. May I invite you to examine their C.V.s, located elsewhere on this site, so that you can see the sorts of research they undertake and the activities they are involved in.

In case you are interested in visiting our campus, let me say that Bloomington is nestled beautifully in the hills of Monroe County. Within the university and all around our community you will find a thriving arts and culture scene, with tremendous venues for music and theater, delicious restaurants, and a thoughtful disposition and welcoming bent of mind. Many people have come to Bloomington to attend IU, and then found themselves unwilling to leave. Our university possesses the fantastic liberal arts character that the illustrious Herman Wells engendered, and that spirit permeates our town as well.

I hope you enjoy our website, and I hope we have the opportunity to welcome you to Bloomington sometime soon.

Patrick McNaughton
Chancellor’s Professor of African Art History
Chair, Department of the History of Art