Art History and Criticism (BA) | Webster University

Art History and Criticism (BA)

Saint Jerome in the Desert - Raffaello Guidi After: Palma GiovaneArt history explores the world and its cultures through artistic productions. It provides insight into the values and concerns of various peoples, the ways in which they interpreted and interacted with their environment, and helps to determine the impacts and outcomes of such outlooks on our future. Through such critical engagement with the past and present, the art history student becomes uniquely situated to help determine his or her community’s and culture’s identities and its decisions.

In this, the Art History and Criticism program participates within Webster University’s mission to create global citizens. The program’s close relationship with the department’s studio programs lends a strong contemporary focus to the department’s outlook, and the student’s studies, while a simultaneous focus on the foundations of contemporary culture provide historical groundwork. In addition, the diverse curricular offerings of the university complement the interdisciplinary nature of art history, allowing students to pursue interests in other disciplines that also assist in their art historical studies. After taking introductory courses in both areas, students take advanced courses in two major tracks—early modern art and modern/contemporary art. Additional offerings in non-western and ancient art round out the learning opportunities. As a final project, Art History and Criticism majors produce a thesis in an area of their choosing and present it at the annual Art History and Criticism Symposium.

Webster’s global focus provides art history students with several unique opportunities for expanding their studies. The London campus offers the full art history and criticism degree, while other international campuses offer opportunities to pursue other interests or fulfill other requirements. In addition, the department offers two alternating short-term study abroad trips to Venice for the Biennale and to Florence to study Renaissance art. At the same time, the department has relationships with many local (St. Louis and Webster Groves) artistic institutions to enhance a student’s experiences, from internships at a museum or gallery, to networking with local professionals. The art history student group, the Art History Society, actively pursues these opportunities by visiting institutions, inviting speakers, and sharing an interest and excitement for the field with a larger community.

Anonymous Benin Artist - 18th-19th Century - bronzeThese relationships—local, national, and international—are sustained because the Art History and Criticism faculty are also active professionals in their field. They curate exhibitions in the Hunt Gallery, publish scholarship and criticism, and speak publicly on a regular basis. They bring that same professionalism to their courses and to their students. Although we firmly believe in the power and importance of art history as a liberal arts degree to empower an inquisitive and flexible mind to succeed in any situation, we also prepare students for work in the art world should they choose to continue in that career. The program balances a strong art historical foundation for further study with space for students to explore other interests whether specifically complementary or not. This unique blend of local and global outlook, of professionalization and exploration, of art history and other fields, has enabled our students to successfully pursue paths to graduate school, museums, art foundations, galleries, academics, and ultimately to contribute to their community in whichever form and field they choose.

Degree Requirements

Sample Curriculum

The following curriculum for an Art History and Criticism major is an example only. It represents the department’s concern that an ARHS graduate have some working knowledge of the materials and techniques of art practice, an exploration of historical and cultural topics, ideas, and methods outside of art history and general education requirements; a pursuit of language both for research and a better cultural understanding; the encouragement of study abroad to study works in person; and the gaining of practical experience in the field. With the substitution of two elective courses (or addition of two courses), the sample curriculum below could also be used to attain the Certificate in Curatorial Studies, or the Certificate in International Art Studies.  See the Degree Requirements link and the Degree Audit Worksheet for specific requirements and options.

Freshman Year
ART 1010 Creative Strategies 3
ART 1110 Introduction to Drawing 3
ARHS 2200 Current Art 3
DESN 1210 Design Concepts 3
FRSH 1200 GCP First Year Seminar 3
ARHS 2210 History of Western Art 3
MUSC 1052 History of Rock and Roll (GCP ARTS/WCOM) 3
PHIL 2320 Contemporary Moral Problems (GCP SSHB/ETH) 3
RELG 2070 Introduction to Eastern Religions 3
THEA 2040 History of Theatre: Restoration to 1915 (GCP ROC/OCOM) 3
ARHS 2000 Art Forum 1
Sophomore Year
ARHS 3110 Early Renaissance Art 3
ARHS 3210 Nineteenth-Century Art 3
ART 2410 Painting I 3
HIST 2210 Early Modern Europe (GCP ROC/CRI) 3
GRMN 1090 Elementary German I (GCP GLBL/INTC) 3
GRMN 1091 German Workshop 1
ARHS 2320 Asian Art 3
ARHS 3120 High and Late Renaissance Art 3
ARHS 3250 Modern Art 3
HIST 2230: Age of Total War: Europe 1890–1945 3
GRMN 1100 Elementary German II 3
GRMN 1101 German Workshop 1
Junior Year
ARHS 3130 Northern Renaissance Art 3
ARHS 3270 Contemporary Art I 3
ARHS 4600 Topics: English Country Houses 3
ANTH 1300 Intro to Archaeology 3
PSYC 1100 Intro to Psychology (GCP SSHB/CRI) 3
ARHS 2700 Intro to Curatorial Studies 3
ARHS 3150 Baroque Art 3
ARHS 3280 Contemporary Art II 3
ART 2610 Printmaking Concepts and Techniques 3
PHIL 2630 Environmental Ethics (GCP PNW/ETH) 3
ARHS 2000 Short-Term Study Abroad Venice or Florence 3
Senior Year
ARHS 4610 Reading Course: Historiography 3
ARHS 4700 Cultural Organizations: Structure and Theory 3
ART 2530 Ceramics: Space 3
ANTH 2300 Culture and Communication 3
GRMN 2090 Intermediate German I 3
GRMN 2091 German Workshop 1
ARHS 4920 Senior Thesis 3
KEYS 4019 Art and Social Engagement (GCP Keystone) 3
PHIL 2510 Philosophic Classics 3
GRMN 2100 Intermediate German II 3
GRMN 2101 German Workshop 1


Thesis and Symposium

The final project for the Art History and Criticism major is the Senior Thesis. A student chooses a paper written for an earlier ARHS course that they found of interest and want to develop the ideas further. Typically they work with the full-time faculty member for which they wrote that paper. The student applies in the fall semester of the senior year to do the Senior Thesis in the spring semester. During the Spring semester, they meet regularly with their thesis mentor, and also periodically with the Senior Thesis director and other students.

Art History and Criticism majors present their Senior Thesis to an audience in the Annual Art History Symposium. The symposium is modeled on professional art history conferences, to provide students with an introduction to the practices of the career. Each student presents a twenty-minute paper, and responds to questions from the audience.

Additional Information