Art History

The art history program at Pacific University offers students an opportunity to learn about the visual arts in their historical and theoretical contexts. Students explore cultures, geographic areas and time periods, in both Western and non-Western art. They also study broad thematic issues to frame art history within a global perspective.


  • Unite the visual arts with fields in the humanities, enriching your life and liberal arts education
  • Link art with history, politics, philosophy, religion, anthropology, sociology and literature in an interdisciplinary major or minor
  • Develop cultural relations with the art world in the Portland area and the Pacific Northwest
  • Intern at Pacific’s own Kathrin Cawein Gallery or other local galleries and museums
  • Learn from a dedicated faculty of scholars who thrive on one-on-one interaction with students
  • Conduct a senior year original research project and write a meaningful, analytical art historical paper of significant length


The major in art history features a global perspective with offerings in both Western and non-Western art. Courses in Western art include surveys, such as Ancient to Contemporary Art, as well as period-specific courses, such as 19th Century Art, Modern Art (1900-1960) and Contemporary Art (1960-present).

Non-Western courses include Asian Art & Architecture and Islamic Art & Architecture. Pacific also offers a Women in Art course and "special topics" courses that provide more in-depth study pertaining to students' interests. Study abroad courses offer a variety of travel opportunities, as well.

While studying art history, students explore the meaning and functions of the visual arts as created within specific historical, social, political, philosophical and religious contexts. Students also learn to look critically at a work, considering issues such as the character and evolution of form and style, iconography, and underlying ideologies and concepts. Students become familiar with methods of art analysis and the vocabulary needed to discuss and describe works.


The art history program trains students to think analytically and to effectively communicate as scholars. Students acquire problem-solving techniques that are invaluable to employers. Graduates of the art history program have skills in critical reading and thinking, research and interpretation. They clearly articulate ideas orally, visually and in writing. Our graduates work in museums, galleries, art-related nonprofit organizations and as teachers.

Art Department

The art program at Pacific University is part of the Art Department, which also offers a major and minor in studio art and a minor in photography.