Introduction to the Special Section on Art History

The art history program at the University of North Texas helps students develop skills they need to pursue advanced study in the field. Research is emphasized throughout the major. Following a two-semester survey of art from prehistory to the present, art history students complete a course introducing disciplinary research methodologies. In this class, new art historians review some of the major theoretical models for interpreting works of art and architecture, from iconographic analysis to post-structuralism. Students additionally conduct research on original topics, working in teams through each stage of the research process, from identifying the problem to selecting primary and secondary resources to answer the questions. The paper by Shana Thompson, Caitlin Hopkins, and Erin England was written for this course.

Following a rigorous program of seven advanced art history classes on an array of global topics, which frequently includes an Honors Seminar (for which Brianna Camp’s paper was written), students enter the capstone course known as the Senior Seminar. The course is organized around a narrow topic and the senior art history majors receive a graduate-style seminar experience with heavy reading assignments and demanding weekly discussions. The seminar requires students to demonstrate the research skills they have developed during their course work. Students familiarize themselves with the published scholarship on a relevant topic, identify a new question, gather data, and select an appropriate theoretical model for analyzing primary sources. Over the course of the semester, students share their research steps with peers as they compose a lengthy piece of original research; they present their findings at semester’s end.

The fall 2010 Art History Senior Seminar examined the Spanish artist Francisco de Goya, as the papers by Andrea Blanco, Kate DePetris, Cheryl Palyu, Paige Prater, and Julie Thompson demonstrate. Each student employed an object-based approach, meaning that she focused her research on one or more works by Goya. In each case, the student considered a theme within Goya’s œuvre in light of the social, economic, religious, and/or political context of Spain circa 1800. A principal goal of each paper was to address Goya’s work within the larger visual tradition, revealing how Goya drew from other works of art to compose his surprising images. The papers included in this volume reveal the success of this effort, as the students tackled Goya’s complexity and made significant discoveries about his work.