Art history students examine a sculpture.

Department of Art History

Historical and 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.

Meet the Art History Faculty and Staff

Art History Department Newsletter


Department of Art History
240 Borland Building
University Park, PA 16802
814-865-1242 (fax)

Robin Thomas
Head of the Department of Art History

Erica Nodell
Administrative Support Coordinator, Department of Art History

Emily Sikora
Administrative Support Assistant, Art History

Research and Publications

Penn State Art History students, faculty, and staff are involved in a broad range of research initiatives. We invite you to explore.

Visit the Research and Publications Page

Photograph of Palaces of Reason by Robin L. Thomas.

Featured Research

Image of two bright red and dark red colors displayed above research text. From the research of Sarah Rich, Political Economy of Colorants.

"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.

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Strands of died yarn in red, yellow, and green hang from white strings.

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.

Split-screen image. On the left is a brown and red sculpture of clay, underglazes, gold leaf, and wood. On the right is a sculpture of a ceramic bird decorated with a red Coca Cola bottle cap.

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

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Three women stand facing a mural and one points at it.

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.

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faculty spotlight

Amara Solari

Professor of Art History and Anthropology

Amara Solari teaches courses in Latin American art from the pre-Columbian through the colonial period. Her research focuses on processes of cultural, visual, and theological interchange between indigenous groups and Spanish settlers of New Spain. She recently received a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in support of her research project, “Maya Christian Murals of Yucatán: Indigenous Catholicism in Early Modern New Spain,” which focuses on fragile religious murals painted by Christianized Maya artists in Yucatán, Mexico, between 1550 and 1750.

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Centers and Venues

Our broad program offerings are supported by rich research, archive, and display spaces.

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alumni spotlight

Cali Buckley

Cali Buckley is the Content Manager of Education and Intellectual Property at CAA in New York City. At her multifaceted job she coordinate grants, awards, and juries; affiliated societies; the RAAMP program (Resources for Academic Art Museum Professionals); and will be putting together new programs for education and professional development. She participates in Museums and Humanities Advocacy Days asking Congress to consider funding the Institute of Museum and Library Studies (IMLS), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and Fulbright-Hays program.