Department ofArt History
Historical + Interpretive Studies
A Humanities Major in the Arts
Students can major or minor in art history, pursue a minor in architectural history, or work toward earning a museum studies certificate. Students have the opportunity to hold internships or assistantships at Penn State’s Palmer Museum of Art, known particularly for its strong holdings in American, African American, and contemporary art.
Advanced studies with renowned scholars
Our M.A. and Ph.D. programs provide candidates with the opportunity to pursue advanced study directly with renowned scholars. The department’s faculty are internationally recognized scholars and critics known for their dedication to their students.
Contact + Connect
Research + Publications
Penn State Art History students, faculty, and staff are involved in a broad range of research initiatives. We invite you to explore.
“Kress Foundation grant to support collaborative research on pigment trade”
Sarah K. Rich, Associate Professor of Art History, and the Center for Virtual/Material Studies (CVMS) at Penn State have been awarded a Kress History of Art Grant of $20,000, along with supplemental funding from Penn State University Libraries, to facilitate research into the transatlantic trade in pigments from the mid-18th century to the mid-19th century.
The grant will support a collaborative research project titled “The Political Economy of Colorants in the Atlantic World, 1750-1850.” The project aims to uncover the economic and political contexts of the colorant trade in the Americas, Europe and Africa, highlighting the relationships among artists and different trades while also situating colorants in the context of indigenous-settler relationships and the slave trade. Colorants are dyes and pigments used for coloring materials.
Read the full article here.
Dyestuff: Historical Materials of Color
Wednesday, December 6, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Pasto Agricultural Museum
Dyestuff: Historical Materials of Color
What do wheat bran, hydrangea branches, oak galls, safflower petals, lotus pods, nutritional yeast, snails, coal tar, and mud have in common? They have all been used to make cloth colorful. Come examine these materials, and learn how they have produced extraordinary colors throughout history and around the world.
Dr. Sarah Rich is Associate Professor of Art History and co-curator of the exhibition Sad Purple and Mauve: A History of Dyes, on view until January 6 at PSU’s Eberly Special Collections Library at University Park.
Collecting the Andes
Amara Solari, professor of art history and anthropology, and Christopher Heaney, assistant professor of history, are working together on the three-part project celebrating Andean peoples and their art, culture, science, and history
Amara Solari Featured in Research | Penn State Fall 2022
Amara Solari and colleagues have scoured the Yucatán peninsula to document and preserve religious murals painted by Maya Christian artists more than 400 years ago, pairing art history with cutting-edge materials science to gain important new insights about these fragile artworks.
“Yucatán architecture and its associated artworks have remained like a time capsule of the 16th century.”
— Amara Solari
News from A&A
Art History department head’s new book examines Italian royal residences
Robin Thomas, head of Penn State’s Department of Art History and professor of art history and architecture, has written a new book, “Palaces of Reason: The Royal Residences of Bourbon
College of Arts and Architecture to honor Alumni Award winners on Oct. 5
Learn about flax’s role in the history of art at Ag Progress Days
Associate Professor of Art History
Dr. Zabel teaches courses in modern architecture, with particular emphases on the architecture of the United States, Germany, and Russia. His publications are primarily in the areas of early twentieth-century architecture, bank architecture, Prairie School architects, American public architecture, skyscrapers, and contemporary architects. His essay on Penn State’s architecture was published in This is Penn State: An Insider’s Guide to the University Park Campus (Penn State Press). His current research explores the history of the skyscraper and American popular culture, from P.T. Barnum’s oddities and NY’s Newspaper Row to the cinematic Emerald City of Oz. He is a recipient of the College of Arts and Architecture Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching, Penn State’s Graduate Program Chair Leadership Award, and the Penn State Teaching Fellow Award: The Alumni Association and Student Award for Teaching Excellence. Dr. Zabel served as Head of the Department of Art History from 1998 to 2017, after serving as interim head from 1996 to 1998. In 2019, he founded the Iconic Modern Chairs collection in Penn State’s Architecture & Landscape Architecture Library.
Centers + Venues
Palmer Museum of Art
Borland Project Space
Center for Virtual/Material Studies
Brisa Smith FloresB.A. in Art History 2016
Brisa Smith Flores completed her undergraduate career at The Pennsylvania State University. There she worked to earn three degrees, Art History, History, and Global and International Studies, along with three minors in African American Studies, Latin American Studies, and Latino/a Studies. Brisa received a Masters of Liberal Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Her thesis, “The Art of Ethnic Lynching: The Erasure of The Afro-Mexican from the National Identity of Mexico” analyzes how art and visual culture can be weaponized to maintain white supremacy. During her time in Philadelphia, she worked for the Association for Public Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Now, she is a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles in the World Arts and Culture/Dance Department, pursuing a PhD in Culture and Performance. Her dissertation topic explores the ways museums are part of the legacy of colonialism and how communities of the African diaspora across the Global South are challenging or reimaging how museums represent culture and identity. She has presented her research at major conferences such as the Association of Black Women Historians Symposium, the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora, and the International Conference on the Inclusive Museum. Brisa also serves as the Graduate Fellow for the UCLA Prison Education Program, a program that provides interdisciplinary for-credit courses in correctional facilities across Los Angeles.