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Art History

Name: Taylor Alessio

Year: Class of 2016

Majors: History of Art, Programs in Museums and Society

Hometown: Manalapan, NJ

I study the history of art for a number of reasons, namely because I love it. History of art offers a unique lens through which to view history, by studying the objects and art preserved in collections and museums. In this way an art historian not only has to have a deep understanding of history, but also philosophy, theology, technology, and politics. During my time at Hopkins as an art historian I’ve explored the socio-political consequences of trade in Ancient Cyprus, gained an understanding of the medieval views of Jews through German Medieval passion screens, traced the importance of Warhol’s destruction of painting through post-war Europe, and admired the simple understated beauty of the pages of the Guttenberg Bible. The Art History program at Hopkins is a small, but an exciting and vibrant program, with tons of options for interesting coursework, research, and study abroad. The museums on campus, and within the greater city of Baltimore, allow students to work hands on with objects and artifacts. Students in art history can be found curating shows on campus and in local galleries, hunting for fakes through technical museum analysis, or learning about the making of historic papers by making their own at in a paper-making studio at MICA (which I did last week!).

 Couching (removing wet paper from its mold) at MICA!

Couching (removing wet paper from its mold) at MICA!

Art History professors are some of the most amazing on campus and I think most would agree that a great art history lecture can inspire the most science and technology minded students to take a humanities course. Through some of the amazing classes I’ve taken in my time here I’ve traveled the streets of the Roman Republic with Professor Tucci, investigated art crimes with Dr. Deleonardis while exploring the Ancient Americas art market, surveyed the state of art after WWII with Dr. Warnock, and unpacked the palimpsest that is the Vatican and its art with Dr. Havens. Projects or interests from classes easily become research projects or honors theses. My experiences as an undergraduate at Hopkins have not only prepared me for graduate school, but also museum careers. Many art history students choose to minor in Programs in Museums and Societies, which is an awesome opportunity to gain museums experience and explore a number of careers in the art world (everything from intellectual property law to conservation science). Every class I take opens my eyes to the diverse and ever-expanding fields in which art historians get to work. I often joke with friends that my undergraduate training as an art historian will supply me with what I call “cock tail party” knowledge. It the stuff you can whip out of your back pocket in the chicest and most intelligent way to impress any crowd. Whether that be talking about Piero Manzoni’s Merda d’Artiste with friends at a baseball game or lamenting about the newly overly-cleaned ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with Renaissance historians.

Merda d’Artiste by Piero Manzoni

Merda d’Artiste by Piero Manzoni

 

The controversial cleaning of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling

The controversial cleaning of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling

But in reality, learning the history of art has not only taught me how to think critically, but continues to open my mind to new cultures and ideas, challenges me intellectually, and continually inspires me to continue to seek knowledge.

 

Click here to access more information about the History of Art Undergraduate Program of Study.

To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the History of Art question thread.

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History of Art

Name: Becca Krishnan-Ayer

Year: Class of 2013

Hometown: Dallas, Texas

Major: History of Art, French

 Why I Love History of Art: A Little More than History Repeating

For fourteen years of my life, I attended an all girls independent school in Dallas, Texas. One of the most unique aspects of the curriculum at my school was the course requirement for graduation of a History of Art and Music (or “HAM”) class, taught by the Dean of Students. Everyone at Hockaday raved about this course—it was essentially a rite of passage—and I always believed that the administration of my school must have had some logical reasoning behind requiring something so specific as art history in preparation for our undergraduate careers.

Musée d’Orsay

Michelangelo’s Dying Slave at the Louvre

The HAM course was my first exposure to History of Art as an academic discipline, and taking the course made me realize how relevant art history  is to our daily lives. I realized than unlike general history, art history never truly repeats itself, which is precisely what makes it so interesting to me. I discovered how integral art history can be to our critical examination of history, sociology, anthropology, science, and even technological progress. My family had always traveled a lot growing up, and without knowing it, I had been continuously developing my art education ever since I was young. Growing up, I had been fortunate enough to see Monet’s gardens and home in Giverny where he pioneered en plein air painting, intricate mosaic work at the famed Hagia Sophia, the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in the world in Amsterdam, a plethora of old master paintings and sculptures in the Louvre in Paris, and iconic frescoes of Giotto and Masaccio in the Renaissance churches of Florence. The stage had been set for me to continue down the exciting path of studying art history in college.

Monet’s gardens in Giverny

Freshmen year, I decided to take the first and second half Introduction to the History of European Art: Ancient to Medieval, and Renaissance to Modern. The History of Art department at Hopkins requires these two “survey” courses of art history in order to prepare both History of Art majors and minors for a rigorous curriculum of upper-level courses in fields ranging from Ancient and Baroque to Renaissance and Contemporary. Students have the ability to freely select which specific courses they want to take, and such flexibility I think enriches the classroom experience —not only are my classes small (and professors are more personally invested in each student as a result), but students are in the class because they were genuinely interested in it (after all, they had to find it interested enough to register for it!)

Winged Victory of Samothrace at the Louvre

Of the sixty different majors and minors offered here at Hopkins, the History of Art department arguably offers some of the most unique course selections. Aside from remaining among the top ten undergraduate programs in the nation, the department includes faculty from all over the world and from different areas of expertise. So far, I’ve taken Professor Pershler’s Modernism and Post-Modernism course, Professor Tuma’s Abstract Expressionism, an intersession course abroad in Florence entitled “Art of the Central Italian Renaissance in Florence,” Professor Maguire’s “Medieval Art and Architecture of Constantinople and Venice,” and Professor Haywood’s museum studies course “Critique of the Museum in Contemporary Art.” Next semester, I hope to take a course called “Courbet and Manet” with Professor Michael Fried, an expert in modern art criticism. My art history courses rank consistently among my favorite courses each semester because they are not structured as conventional courses are structured—there is a significant visual component, many courses are writing intensive, lectures are often a combination of historical context but also visual analysis, and in general, students must learn to look at something they have never seen before and think critically about it. Works of art guide the lectures, and as an art history student, you must connect the images projected in lecture with the actual lecture material. I think I benefit most from this sort of structure because in a certain sense, you are forced to engage more closely with the professor, the material, and other students.

I’ve also had the opportunity to build on my art education by taking advantage of the Homewood Art Workshops. I took Professor Hankin’s Studio Drawing I freshman year and am currently taking his Painting Workshop I course. I now have a much better understanding of how artists manipulate medium, organize composition, and mix color, thanks in part to these art workshops. Professor Hankin also integrates art history lectures, slide presentations, and even a trip to the Baltimore Museum of Art, into his classes. My painting workshop will culminate in a final master copy painting of our choice.

 


In terms of my future career aspirations, it’s difficult to say right now. I’m a junior, and am hoping to gain more professional experience working in the art industry. This past summer, I had the opportunity to intern with a small contemporary art gallery in the Marais in Paris. It was an incredible experience (who can complain about Paris?), and not only did I gain insight into how an independent gallery operates, I also became attuned to the more business related side of art and the international art market in general. No matter where my major takes me, I am confident that Hopkins’ undergraduate program will have prepared me well for any career in the arts or a number related fields!

Paris, Delhi, Bombay Exhibition at the Pompidou

Hopkins reunion in Paris, Summer 2011

 

Installation at Pompidou

 

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Click here to access more information about the History of Art Undergraduate Program of Study.

To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the History of Art question thread.

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History of Art

Name: Elena Fedyszyn

Year: Class of 2009

Hometown: Newport, RI

Major: History of Art, History

IF I HAVE NO ARTISTIC TALENT CAN I STILL BE A HISTORY OF ART MAJOR?

I wish I could say that I originally chose to become a History of Art major at Hopkins because I knew the department was one of the ten best in the country, or because I was aware of the great internships available through the department at local museums; but that was definitely not the case. My reasoning was much simpler: I fell in love with the subject. History of Art classes are much different than those found in any other discipline. They teach students to see and understand the world in a different light through the use of art. For those of you that are unsure, the History of Art has absolutely nothing to do with looking at “pretty pictures” and discussing whether or not you like them. (That is actually a rather common misconception among many my friends, and that is not how I spend any of my class time.)

Bma 1Although it is true that I do often get to look at works by Picasso, Van Gogh, and Raphael,  History of Art classes are rarely just confined to the classroom. I don’t think that I took any field trips in my four year of high school but class trips became commonplace in college. My classes have ventured as far as the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. and stayed as close as the Homewood Museum and MSE Library Special Collections located right on our own Homewood Campus. In these settings I was able to work with original manuscripts, actually examine priceless works of art, and see how people lived two-hundred years ago. My Native American Art class taught by Professor Lisa DeLeonardis allowed me to handle fragile works crafted by Zuni, Ojibwe, and Plains Indians that the general public never gets to see.  (Photo: Exquisite piece of Ojibwe beadwork my Native American Art class was able to work with first hand.)

These opportunities aren’t just available as part of the classroom experience; research, internships, and study abroad are all a huge part of the HistoryCross chi rho 1 of Art experience. The department offers a three week intersession emersion trip to Florence, Italy every year which is popular among History of Art and non-History of Art students alike as well as a longer summer program to London, England. Research and internships are also readily available to students in the department. In fact, the Walters Art Museum sets aside undergraduate internships every year for Johns Hopkins students and curatorial internships are also available to students at both the Homewood Museum and the Evergreen House, Hopkins’ two owned and operated museums. Practicum classes are also a mainstay of the History of Art department. I participated in two student-curated exhibitions. My most recent exhibit which is currently running in the Homewood Museum discusses hygiene, cleanliness, and grooming in the Federalist Period (if you happen to be in Baltimore it is a must see). The other was called “The Magic Object: Protection and Prosperity in Antiquity.” I was able to work with artifacts that I personally selected from the JHU Archeological Collection. Each object showcased in the library exhibition was thought to hold magical powers and protect its owner.  (Photo: An ancient lamp I included in my part of “The Magic Object: Protection and Prosperity in Antiquity” student curated exhibition. The top of the lamp is marked with a “Chi Rho” (an ancient cross monogram) to protect the precious oil held within the lamp.)

History of Art is a special major. Not only do History of Art students get to do first-hand research, go on field trips, and create their own exhibits, but we also get a good deal of personal attention from world renowned History of Art professors. History of Art is one of the smaller majors on  campus so the department is able to keep the classes exceptionally Evergreen twosmall. Even the “big” Intro to European Art class that all History of Art majors must take normally doesn’t get any bigger than thirty or thirty-five students. After the intro class students in the major are required to take a number of upper level classes from different time periods like Renaissance, Baroque, Medieval, and Modern among others. Which class you choose to take from each time period is completely up to the student though. Almost every class is taught in a seminar format and the classes are usually capped at twenty-five students, but I’ve found that they almost always end up smaller. I even had the opportunity to take classes as small as five or six students. Because my classes were so small I was able to form a number of close-knit relationships with my professors that I know will last well after I graduate.  (Photo: Evergreen has an extensive collection of rare books that arevery helpful for Art History research. It’s also one of the more beautiful places for a student to conduct research.)
Evergreen one
Unfortunately for me, however, graduation is quickly approaching and I’ll have to give up studying the History of Art for the real world. Although I
will actually be teaching high school Social Studies as a Teach For America corps member right here in Baltimore I know there are a number of Art Historical related jobs waiting for me after I am done teaching. One day I hope to either work for an auction house, as an Education Director in a museum, or curator. (Photo: A sketch from one of Evergreen House’s collection that undergraduates are able to work with.)

Working with the History of Art Department over the last four years was wonderful, I could not have asked for a better department. Not only did I receive a stellar education but I also got to attend amazing welcome back to campus parties in two of the most beautiful historic homes on the East Coast, I worked with “magic,” I found out that mouse fur eyebrows and nipple rouge were the height of fashion circa 1800, and I heard one professor refer to a Byzantine crown as “Ancient Bling Bling!” What other major could possibly give you all those opportunities? I don’t know of any. History of Art is the perfect major for anyone that is inquisitive and loves to think independently. If you are reading this blog and are unsure about what you might like to study, I think you should give History of Art a try. Since it is a smaller department all of the classes are highly specialized, well taught, and I can honestly say that I’ve yet to take a class in my department that I didn’t love!

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Click here to access more information about the History of Art Undergraduate Program of Study.

To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the History of Art question thread.

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