Dear Colleagues, Students, Alumni, Auditors, and Friends,

As an undergraduate, I was required to take one Art History class. This “Art Humanities” requirement was just a box that I needed to check off on a form (yes, a print form and not an electronic one!). Or so I thought.

Very quickly, I learned that this course had so much more to teach me. To understand a single painting, we would spend most of the class exploring concepts that I was learning in my other courses in Religious Studies, Philosophy, and History. Suddenly I understood why people would walk into a museum and carefully examine a visual or material object, and not just rush through to the museum shop and café.

As I write these words reminiscing on my undergraduate Art History class, it is the first day of the Fall 2019 semester. The campus is suddenly full of students, some new and some returning, all on their way to class. And many of them will walk into a class that they think will merely check off a box, only to discover new worlds and new possibilities.

The Department of Art History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison strives to be a place where students can have such experiences. We have award-winning teachers and researchers who help teach visual literacy and inspire inquiry in the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea.

This year we welcome a new faculty member, Prof. Jennifer Nelson, who specializes in Early Modern Art. We also re-introduce Prof. Yuhang Li, who has just been promoted from Assistant to Associate Professor. We will have many exciting announcements about new faculty books and publications over the 2019–20 academic year. In addition, we will host our first annual Howard Schwartz Memorial Lecture in the spring.

As we near the celebration of our 100th year as a department (in 2025), I am proud to say that the Department of Art History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has a bright future. We will continue to work to inspire the next generation of students who walk into our classrooms expecting to fulfill a requirement, and who walk out with a much greater sense of fulfillment.

If you are interested in learning more about our department, please do not hesitate to contact me.

On Wisconsin!

Jordan D. Rosenblum
Belzer Professor of Classical Judaism
Max and Frieda Weinstein-Bascom Professor of Jewish Studies
Chair, Department of Art History


Through our innovative research, teaching, and outreach activities, the department takes a leading role in promoting visual literacy, emphasizing careful attention to continuities and differences across time and space. Examining expressive media, from archaeological artifacts to new media technologies, we explore the ways in which art and visual and material culture are fully integrated into larger cultural histories. In our specialized focus on images, objects, and the built environment, we promote critical and creative approaches to analysis, problem-solving, writing, and visual communication in a variety of media. Through interdisciplinary collaborations, we aim to encourage aesthetic, historical, economic, and ethical questions in order to produce new knowledge, sophisticated readers, engaged writers, critical viewers, and confident cultural citizens who are well prepared to thrive in global society.

Our strengths lie in the great breadth of our faculty’s areas of specialization and course offerings, the diversity of our approaches, the interdisciplinary emphasis of our research and teaching, and our engagement with curatorial and museum studies. The department pursues innovative research and offers engaging courses in a wide range of areas, including to name a few: African and African Diaspora art; American material culture; Contemporary art and theory; Chinese Art; Curatorial Studies; Early Modern European art; Islamic art and architecture; Japanese art; Medieval European art; Print Culture; Photography, Film, and Video; Vernacular architecture; Victorian art and material culture, and Visual studies and Critical Theory.



Founded in 1925 by the distinguished German scholar Oskar Hagen, Art History is a dynamic department that teaches and pursues cutting-edge research in the history of art, material culture, and visual culture, ranging from the prehistoric to the contemporary and from Africa, Asia, and Europe to the Americas. Through the 1970s, James Watrous, one of Hagen’s doctoral students, continued the department’s growth in size, scholarship, and significance. He fulfilled Hagen’s dream of building a museum as a laboratory for the Department of Art History. Today, Art History shares a handsome building with the Chazen Museum of Art and the Kohler Art Library. Here students pursue original research that draws on the resources of theses collections. In partnership with the Chazen and other local and regional museums, we offer our students rare opportunities to engage in hands-on learning about objects and the curatorial process through special exhibitions

  • Each year, the Department of Art History serves more than 100 undergraduate art history majors and approximately 35 graduate students who are in various stages of their master’s and Ph.D. programs.
  • We recruit students from throughout the United States, Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe.
  • Art History graduates have continued their studies at the graduate level at other top schools.
  • Art History graduates are pursuing a broad range of careers, including faculty and curatorial positions at major universities, colleges, galleries, and museums where they are making significant contributions through important publications and exhibitions.
  • Our internationally recognized faculty have held prestigious fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Museum and Library, the Getty Research Foundation, the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, and the Center for Advance Study in the Visual Arts.