History of Art + Visual Culture

History of Art + Visual Culture

Department Head: Leora Maltz-Leca

The History of Art and Visual Culture (HAVC) department offers thought-provoking courses focused on a wide range of media, spanning time periods from ancient to contemporary and embracing diverse critical perspectives. Generally based on reading, close examination of actual works and small group discussions, courses emphasize critical thinking and analysis, clarity of written and verbal communication, and an understanding of the value of artistic expression across cultures and throughout time.

Open to both undergraduate and graduate students, HAVC courses are rich and varied, taught by faculty scholars with fabulously diverse interests ranging from ethnomusicology to landscape in American film, the role of femme fatales in Western art, contemporary African artists, French surrealism and much more. Behind-the-scenes access to the RISD Museum’s extraordinary collection of 85,000 works of art – from early Egyptian relics to 21st-century experimental light sculptures – provides students and faculty with unparalleled opportunities for in-depth research. HAVC faculty work to provide access to actual works of art – both at the RISD Museum and elsewhere – image reproductions of works in books or on screen.

In addition to its strong disciplinary focus, HAVC offers comparative examinations of the critical dialogue among art historians representing various cultural traditions. Interdisciplinary approaches also invite further exploration of the artistic traditions of the world, critical theory and visual culture, art historiography, aesthetics, object conservation, and the histories of art and design in various media, among other broad topics.

"Visual literacy is the primary language of engagement in our image-saturated, multisensorial environment. With expertise in the broad spectrum of the art history discipline, faculty in our department are uniquely positioned to equip the next generation of artists, designers and creative thinkers with the analytical tools needed for navigating the complexities of our world. In the process, students also sharpen their latent creative abilities and skills." Leora Maltz-Leca - department head