The Department of Art History offers an exciting sequence of courses—from introductory surveys to more specialized seminars—that explore the complex world of visual art in its different historical contexts. A central part of the art history program is dedicated to the analysis of the significant facts and forms of visual art from Antiquity to Postmodernism. This analysis encompasses an effort to frame critically and understand historically the plurality of ways in which art has been conceived, produced, used and interpreted throughout time, according to the mutable interplay of material conditions and cultural expectations that characterizes different societies. Consequently, the courses cover a vast horizon of topics, problems, and questions pertaining to artistic traditions belonging to a wide variety of periods and geographic areas, from Asia to Europe, Africa and the Americas.
Through these courses, students are gradually introduced to all the methodologies traditionally adopted by art historians, such as Formalism, Pure Visibility, Iconography and Iconology, Art Literature and Art Criticism. In the more specialized courses, students are also introduced to more recent methods of investigation, becoming familiar with theories and practices of analysis such as Feminism, the Sociology of Art, Hermeneutics, and Deconstruction among others. Thanks to a conscious, critically mediated adoption of these methodologies, students are able not only to increase their personal skills of interpretation, but also to enlarge significantly their own horizons of research.
In order to achieve such a highly individual-oriented process of learning, in which each student will be constantly stimulated to develop further his or her intellectual potential, the courses have been organized into four complementary levels, each with specific goals, aims and requirements.
With the exception of the Senior Seminar, which is exclusively reserved for Art History majors, all courses organized by the Department of Art History are also open to any interested Willamette student, regardless of his or her specific major.
Department offices are located in Ford Hall, an award-winning “green” structure designed by Hennebery Eddy Architects and built by Hoffman Construction Company. The building opened officially in 2009. The building is named in honor of the late Hallie Ford, a Willamette lifetime trustee and benefactor, who donated funds for its construction. Her portrait by Portland artist Paul Missal hangs in the main lobby of Ford Hall, creating an implicit link between the department offices and the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, which was also made possible through her generous gifts. Classrooms in Ford Hall include various seminar spaces and Ford Theater, which features a wall-to-wall screen, auditorium-quality sound, and seating to accommodate 110 people. Two large textile artworks (9 x 17 ft.) donated in 2012 by Willamette alumna, contemporary artist Marie Watt, grace the building, further reminding students and staff of the ongoing exchange between Ford Hall and the campus museum.
Closely connected to the programs and activities of the Department of Art History is the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, located a few blocks from Ford Hall. The Museum constitutes an important addition to the intellectual and cultural life of the university, for it offers an incomparably rich opportunity to contemplate works of American, Native American, European, and Asian art displayed in its permanent collection or temporarily loaned for special events and exhibits. The Museum is also an ideal place for faculty and students to conduct their research and experience, firsthand, curatorial practices and similar activities directly related to the fields of Art History, Archaeology, Museology and Art Criticism. Furthermore, many Art History classes and lectures take place in the museum’s elegant Roger P. Hull Lecture Hall, named for the much beloved professor emeritus of art history who helped found the museum (tenure at Willamette, 1970-2010).