From social media posts, to film, to political advertisements, to the built environment around us, we live in a world saturated with visual imagery. In Art History, we study how monuments, art, and architecture actively structure our experiences.

Courses in Art History equip students to understand and articulate how and why art objects communicate, and to read and understand our built environment. Making sense of new and unfamiliar images, understanding how images and places work on the people experiencing them, understanding how images, objects and environments make contact with diverse and distinct audiences, are all essential skills for navigating and reshaping the world in which we live. 

Our course offerings cover multiple cultures across the globe and are diverse across time and place. 

We invite students to consider the art and architecture of the Americas under colonial Spanish rule, the history of European art and architecture over centuries, to consider the thinking and problem solving that shaped Modern and Postmodern art and architecture, to encounter the history and techniques of global film practice, to understand the celebration and critique of consumer culture through art, and to discover the lasting impact of the art of Asia on our global imagination. 

We often travel to regional and national art collections and have a strong relationship with the University Art Gallery and the University Archives.

Intrigued by questions such as: 
  • Why is it that almost everyone attending elementary school in the United States at one time or another learns to make a linear perspective drawing?
  • Why are there so many equestrian monuments in the United States, and why are they powerful?
  • Why would anyone pay $450,000,000.00 for a painting?
  • How and why do people represent their god or gods? Why don’t they?
  • How has globalization changed what things look like? 
  • How can art and architecture respond to crisis and war?
  • Why do I feel so connected to this film?  
  • Why does our campus look like the setting for a ghost story?

In an art history course in Sewanee, you’ll consider questions like these, and topics such as:
-how the ways people see, and communicate in images, are specific to a particular time, culture, place, and world view,
-why, when, and how art objects and architecture have been used to assert conquest and political power, as well as to protest and resist political power,
-when, why, and how art objects and architecture have articulated and enforced differences of gender, class, and race, and how they can work to critique and redress divisions,
-how art objects and the built environment have been used to grapple with and respond to crisis and disaster,
-how and when people have used artwork and architecture to define and connect with the divine. 

What can you do with an art history degree?

You can do all kinds of things with a degree in Art History, the skills it teaches you, and the questions you learn to consider as part of your degree. Some recent graduates of the Art History program at Sewanee have gone on to:

-complete a Master’s degree in Arts and Cultural Management at King’s College London,
-pursue a PhD in Classical Archaeology at the University of Texas at Austin,
-become Director of The Sir Elton John Photography Collection,
-pursue a PhD in Film Studies,
-teach English in Nice, France,
-become an interior design assistant at Bunny Williams, New York,
-work as Director of Art Fairs and International Relations, Miles McEnery Gallery, NYC,
-act as VP/Director of Corporate Accountability to a global asset management firm,
-become a Teacher Artist,
-receive a Masters of Education in Organizational Leadership and Communication,
-become an Associate at QuiVive Global Advisory LLC working on sustainability and impact
oriented investments, 
-pursue a Masters in Secondary Education at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University

The Guarisco Endowment Fund for Art, Art History, and Visual Studies

The Guarisco Endowment Fund for Art, Art History, and Visual Studies provides an annual, full-tuition merit award for our top Art History majors in their senior year.  For more information, please contact the department chair, Jeffrey Thompson.



A Sampling of Courses

Art History

Programs of Study & Related Programs

Requirements for the Major & Minor in Art History

Requirements for the Major & Minor in ArtWebsite

Requirements for the Minor in Film Studies | Website


Meet Some Professors


Jeffrey Thompson
Associate Professor of Art History

Carnegie Hall 307, Ext. 1493