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Art History Overview

Art History at Northern Michigan University will engage you in a process of seeing and discovery that is, ultimately, an invitation to the cultures of the world. From the Zen gardens of Muromachi era Japan to the stone temple fortresses of the Mayan lords; from royal portraits of the Egyptian pharaohs to the brilliant psychological insight evident in Rembrandt’s self-portraits, the world’s legacy of artistic expression will fire your curiosity and imagination.

You will find that the uses of art historical understanding are not limited to the art of the past. Education in art history will cultivate frameworks for viewing the art and design of the present. An exciting aspect of learning how to analyze visual art is that these cognitive frameworks can carry over to the other arts too: an understanding of literature, music, drama, and folklore will be furthered through your understanding of their connection to visual art.

In surprising ways, knowing the art of the past will help you encounter the largest themes of human experience, whether psychological, religious, economic or political in nature. You will learn about the fascinating relationship of art to the intellectual history of disciplines such as science and philosophy, as well as the role that art has played in the lives of everyday people. At Northern, we encourage making connections between art and life.

Cultivating connections, Northern’s faculty are interested in a broad understanding of art and design activities. You will engage expressions as varied as architecture, industrial products, graphic designs, prints, photographs, crafts, decorative arts, performance art and media arts in our courses. Paintings and sculptures, the traditional subjects of art history, are fascinating to understand, but we view that fascination as an invitation to the world’s varied visual expressions and not as a reason to limit ourselves to those media.

Your study of art history will be an exciting opportunity to form connections: across cultures, between eras and among a variety disciplines. And, most importantly, between art and life. It is this excitement generated by discovering connections that is at the heart of learning. We invite you to share this process of discovery with us!