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

As I write these words, we are preparing to transition back from a year spent on Zoom. Many are excited to return to in-person teaching, research, and meetings. Others are nervous. And many – like myself – are both.

While this year, like the previous 1.5 years, will be impacted by the pandemic, we are working hard to craft a dynamic teaching and learning environment for each and every student. I have been impressed by my colleagues’ collaborative work behind the scenes. Everyone has shared teaching tips – from which software worked best for certain classes to sharing information about the latest museum collection that was offering open access high quality images. While the ocean swells rocked our ship, we stayed on course thanks to an “all hands on deck” approach.

One thing that this year-and-a-half has highlighted is the power of images. From the mundane (shopping for groceries using an app with an icon of a shopping cart rather than in a store using the tangible object of a shopping cart) to the awesome (in every sense of the word, running the gamut from Olympic victories to political insurrections), images have been the primary means through which many have interacted with the world outside their pandemic bubble. The power of visual images and material objects is a central concern for the Department of Art History. Our students engage with images and objects in order to develop visual literacy, a skill that allows them to both grapple with and produce new knowledge. Therefore, our students are learning skills that directly apply to their everyday lived reality.

As we prepare to return to the in-person classroom, I want to acknowledge that, for the first time in almost 30 years, we will begin a semester without Prof. Gene Phillips as an active member of our faculty. We celebrated the well-deserved retirement of Prof. Phillips in true 2020 fashion, with a wonderful virtual event attended by scholars across the globe (and posted on our Department’s YouTube channel). While we will miss Prof. Phillips’ experienced and collegial voice in our Department, we are excited to announce that the study of Japanese Art History will continue at the University of Wisconsin-Madison thanks to the generous endowment of the Joan B. Mirviss Chair in Japanese Art.

In addition to this endowed chair, last year we were also thrilled to announce that Prof. Jennifer Pruitt is the recipient of the newly endowed Howard and Ellen Louise Schwartz Faculty Fellowship in Islamic Art and Architecture. This fellowship was a true team effort, as it was created through a generous gift from Ellen Louise Schwartz, as well as a gift from the Art History Board of Visitors and a Morgridge Match made possible by John and Tashia Morgridge. Given the difficulties and uncertainties of the world in which we currently live, it is especially exciting for our Department to have such wonderful news signaling brighter days ahead!

As a Chair, I am often asked for my main “talking point” about the Department. While some might tire of being asked this question, I enjoy it because I believe whole-heartedly in my answer. We are a world-class Art History department at a world-renowned state university. Therefore, our students – regardless of the size of their bank account – have access to a top-notch art history education. Whatever their level of privilege – or lack thereof – our students can walk out of a seminar taught by a well-respected art history professor and then wander through the amazing collection of the Chazen Museum of Art or browse the shelves of the Kohler Art Library – all without having to leave the building (a fact even more appealing during winter in Madison!). This experience of access to education is a mission that all of my colleagues share pride in contributing to.

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.