What Is Art History?

What is Art History?

Image: Pietro Torrigiano, St. Fina, c. 1495 CE, courtesy of Una D'Elia.





What is the unique power of images, monuments, and buildings? Why are statues defaced or adored? Why do images provoke tears, veneration, arousal, or anger? How does the built environment inspire faith or signify home? These are some of the kinds questions that art historians investigate. Art history is the systematic and critical investigation of how images, objects, and spaces shape and express the concerns of human societies. At its core is the study of human interaction with things that have been built, painted, carved, stitched, printed, photographed, filmed, manufactured, or digitally coded. We are not only concerned with how and why images and objects came to be, but how they functioned within their specific cultures and continue to affect our world today. At Queen’s, we explore art, material cultures, and the institutions of art in a global and multi-cultural context and through a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives.

Courses in Art History give students an opportunity to study a broad range of topics including medieval art and aesthetics, technical and scientific approaches to the study of art, the Renaissance and the global Baroque, Indigenous arts of North America and abroad, the arts of the African diaspora, global design and craft history, the history of photography, contemporary and digital art, and curatorial/heritage management. Art history students have unparalleled opportunities to study works of art first hand in the collections of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre on campus, through courses offered at the Bader International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle in Sussex, England, and in our unique Venice Summer School program. 

Whether students are immersed in a digital reconstruction of lost or threatened buildings and environments, or using the most advanced digital imaging technologies to see the “hidden” background of a Netherlandish painting, classes at Queen’s give students direct experience with art as well as the advanced technologies to understand art.

Our Programs

Art History Undergraduate Program

B.A. in Art History

Art History Graduate Programs

M.A. and Ph.D. Art History

Master of Art Conservation program

Our Master's Program