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Art History


Learn why the human race has obsessively been drawing naked people for thousands of years.


Art history. Now that's an easy one. Just find some guy named Art and ask for the story of his life.

Sounds simple enough.

Okay, art history is actually the study of art and how it happened. What art exactly? Well, all the art. Ever. That's the thing. Most art historians will pick a favorite period to concentrate on (personally, we'd pick the Dogs Playing Poker Period of the mid-20th Century), but this field encompasses everything.

The amazing thing about art is that it's a compulsion. We have to create it. In fact, there was art before there were modern human beings. You won't be studying that art. That's covered in anthropology. But still, pretty cool, right?

That leaves a history stretching back to what scientists call "Ye Olden Dayes." You know, just technical jargon.

Basically, art hasn't been developing in a single, unbroken line. It has tons of offshoots, stylistic experiments, and crazy people throwing paint at things.
Some of these experiments catch on and become full-blown styles. Sometimes, it's fashionable to paint the world exactly as you see it. Other times, people like it when you paint an experience or a feeling.

Even the classification of what is or isn't art is up for grabs. Most people can agree that the Mona Lisa is art and a seagull eating a rat carcass isn't. For some reason, though, a painting of that seagull would be art, so we're as confused as anyone else. The point is, we need art historians to help us with that sort of stuff.

Art reflects the culture that it's from, which helps illuminate what people were really thinking. In the Middle Ages in Europe, the only people paying for art were those in the Catholic Church. This didn't stop artistic genius Michelangelo from sneaking an obscene gesture to the Pope in a painting. Yes, that's exactly the kind of fun stuff you'll be learning.

More than that, you get to learn why he painted the gesture in the style he did, and how that relates to what came before or after. Who knew someone flipping off the Pope could end up being so steeped in philosophical meaning?

Famous People who majored in Art History

  • Gwyneth Paltrow, actress
  • Emmy Rossum, actress
  • Jake Hooker, musician
  • Abigail Folger, a victim of the Manson murders and heiress to the Folgers fortune at the time. No, really.
  • Peter Weller (PhD), actor and history lecturer

Percentage of US students who major in Art History:


Stats obtained from this source.