The Pantheon in Rome, Italy
Fauvism or primitivism? Abstract expressionism or post impressionism? Haven't got a good answer? Ask your friendly neighborhood art history major. If he/she is off romping around the world on a semester abroad, you probably just need to head down to your closest museum to find another!
Art history majors study the underlying relationship that exists between different cultures and how it influences local art. Part historian and part cultural critic, art history students help define art by placing it in its proper historical context. By examining the layers that outside social, geographic, and political forces have influenced on a piece of art, the values and institutions of that culture are revealed.
In recent years, there has been a considerable growth of interest from the general public for areas related to art history. Museums worldwide are receiving the largest amount of support they have ever known, and wonderful exhibitions are being curated rapidly. It is becoming clearer that museums, both big and small, help contribute to a community's identity and provide a common space for all people to enjoy.
How does studying abroad fit into an art history major's college experience? For one, you can have the opportunity to see the "real deal" instead of another slide on a projector screen. While studying abroad, you have opportunities to take advantage of extraordinary and accessible cultural resources by visiting cultural sights as well as museums, cathedrals, monuments, theaters, etc (all of which are an integral part of a study abroad experience). Be surrounded by the sights and sounds that inspired the artists' styles and aesthetics in the first place! Encountering works of art in their original environment is an invaluable experience to further discerning the works' contemporary significance.
Florence is the perfect city in which to study Art History abroad!
Unless you're studying American art, studying abroad should almost be a requirement for the major.
Art history majors are strongly encouraged to incorporate a study abroad experience into their college schedule, be it for a short term summer program or for a regular academic term. Don't believe me that it'll be a worthwhile investment? Let's hear from the art history majors who did study abroad, and survived to tell the tale.
Studied abroad in Greece
"While pursuing a degree in archaeology and art history, I am focusing my studies on the ancient Mediterranean world. What better way to learn about the places I read about in my text books then to actually travel to Greece and experience these places myself?! Since my study abroad experience directly coincides with my field, I think I will have a competitive edge compared to other students; my study abroad experience will definitely help me get hired after graduation. It also shows employers that I am well rounded and open to new opportunities of learning."
Traveled abroad in Germany
"Before you jet off, think about what kind of art you're interested in. If you love Impressionism, go to Paris or Amsterdam. If you go nuts for Renaissance paintings, head to Rome or Florence. Europe is notoriously packed full of "famous art" but if your niche is in African, South American or Asian art, head in those directions! You'll find the best resources where the art was originally produced. And if you have no idea what your favorite is - try Germany. It's the country that basically started the field of art history, and still has quite a lock on the subject. Lastly, most big cities (and even some medium/small towns) have art museums. Look them up before you head to town and make sure you pay a visit. The more art you see, the more you'll be able to talk and write about it in the future. Soak it up!
Fort Collins, CO
Studied abroad in Italy, Taiwan, AND China!
"I studied abroad a total of three times! First, I went on a school trip to China, which was pretty freakin' awesome. In five weeks we visited Taiwan, Hong Kong, Beijing and Guangzhou. The following summer I studied abroad in Perugia, Italy. This was in 2006, during the World Cup in Germany and I had an amazing time. Lastly, I received a grant from the Art History department to do an independent study abroad project in Taiwan. There, I did a research project on indigenous art."
Allen Park, MI
Studied abroad in Spain
"I will never forget being in Italy at the Uffizzi in Florence, looking at the journals and sketches of the Renaissance artists like Divinci's and Michaelangelo's. It was incredibly surreal to see their notes, their mistakes, their growth and progressions as artists. To be able to surround yourself with this living presence of their work was like an out of body experience. I know that's cheesy, but I cried just reflecting that I was looking at a canvas, or a page from a notebook, that they themselves had laid their hands on... You gotta go to where the good stuff is, it validates why you study what you do, it makes it real. Studying abroad and seeing how other cultures have revered art that YOU also study is a real source of connection between people and time."
I can tell from these brief stories by successful art history study abroaders that their experiences were positive and exciting. Follow in their footsteps. Important examples of art are scattered around the world, you just need to go after them! Whether you fancy the art of London, India, or Italy, there's bound to be a study abroad program out there that makes your inner artist excited!
In France, you will have a different classroom every day: Le Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, Champs Elysees, Forum Des Halles, the Videotheque, the Catacombs, Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise, Monet's garden in Giverny, and many more. -- University of Colorado, Boulder
Photo Credit: Ken Marshall Photography / BigStockPhoto.com and laru / BigStockPhoto.com