Department of Art History
The mission of the Department of Art History is to promote scholarly inquiry into the history of art, in all its different media, in a wide range of historical periods and world cultures.



At the start of the first year of my second stint as chair of Art History, I would like to extend the warmest of greetings to everyone, especially our students and supporters.  Our previous chair, Tom Dale is off on a well-deserved sabbatical after serving for six very eventful years.  In that time, we all benefitted from his remarkable energy and dedication.  I will do my best to match his fine example, moving forward with the development of curatorial studies as a key part of our curriculum and, in many other ways, looking to better serve and educate are students. 

These are exciting times for Art History.  Our geographic and cultural reach is greater than ever.  Last year, we were fortunate enough to add a brand new area to our course offerings with the arrival of a specialist in Islamic art, Jennifer Pruitt, and to fill our recently vacated position in Chinese art with Yuhang Li.  This year, Shira Brisman joined our department, so we once again have a specialist in Northern European art, 1450-1850.  We are also thrilled to have two faculty members, whose courses were previously cross-listed in Art History, transfer into the department: Preeti Chopra, who joined us last year, is a specialist in architecture, urban history, and visual studies with an emphasis on South Asia; and Michael Jay McClure, who just transferred, is a specialist in contemporary art, new media, and theory. 

Whatever the area, our faculty members are not only talented scholars, but also dedicated teachers, committed not only to imparting knowledge, but to helping students develop into better readers, critical thinkers, and writers, and thus better prepare both our undergraduate and graduate students for nearly any career they may pursue.  We are very grateful for all the support that has been given to us to help us carry out our mission.


We are pleased to welcome two new faculty members to Art History this fall:

Shira Brisman and Michael Jay McClure. 

Shira Brisman is an innovative scholar of early modern painting and print culture. She  joins us from Columbia University in New York, where she has completed a two-year Mellon post-doctoral fellowship.  A graduate of Yale University, Dr. Brisman, completed her Ph.D. dissertation on the topic, “Briefkultur: Art and the Epistolary Mode of Address in the Age of  Albrecht Dürer” in 2012. 

Her current research investigates the boundaries between privacy and society, patterns and aberrations, religious modes of thinking and categories of secularization. Her first book manuscript, Albrecht Dürer and the Epistolary Mode of Address, argues that the experience of writing, sending and receiving letters shaped how Dürer conceived of the message-bearing properties of the work of art.  A second project, Contriving Balance, is a historical portrait of the concept of symmetry. This book will explore how the early modern mind sought correlations, imagined rotations, and interpreted deviations from expected patterns.  Her research has been supported by fellowships from the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, the Albrecht Dürer Scholarship at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies.

Michael Jay McClure joins Art History as Associate Professor, teaching the history and theory of contemporary art.  He received his MA and Ph.D. in History of Art from Bryn Mawr and also holds an MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  Having taught in the UW Art Department since 2006, while serving as affiliate of Art History, McClure hopes to strengthen the department’s commitment to interdisciplinary exchange, curatorial studies, and to expanding visual analysis to encompass otherwise overlooked elements of visual and creative culture. 

McClure’s research elucidates the ways in which the interrelated strangeness of form, the dispersion of the figure, and the disintegration of media in contemporary art perform a break from modernism. McClure insists we mark this break in the bounds of form, medium, and signification as “queer” in its radical challenge to legibility, including the ways in which bodily forms have been identified and made to signify in terms of gender and sexuality. 

More generally, McClure specializes in contemporary art’s relationship to post-structuralism, psychoanalysis, new media, and modernism, and has a long-standing commitment to explicate the volatile intersection between art, gender studies, and queer theory. He has considered artists such as Matthew Barney, Nan Goldin, Pipilotti Rist, Trisha Donnelly, Andy Warhol, Pierre Huyghe, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Jasper Johns, and the dancer Jonah Bokaer.

His first book manuscript, is titled Rematerialized: Queer Objects in Contemporary American Art, and he is completing a second book project, tentatively entitled, Notes on an Exhibition: Contemporary Art and Forms of Reference. His honors include the Emil Steiger Distinguished Teaching Award and the Mrs. Giles M. Whiting Dissertation Fellowship in the Humanities.