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Art and Art History

Patricia Reilly teaching in the National Gallery Foundation Drawing class

Department Overview

Art is a place where history, religion, psychology, politics and culture converge. The Art Department at Swarthmore offers two avenues of study: studio art and art history. In both, students are introduced to basic skills of visual analysis and expression and to the conceptual frameworks necessary for applying them across disciplines and professions. The study seeks to answer the following questions: Why is having a keen visual intelligence so crucial to a rewarding life? Why are museums one of the first places we go to understand the culture and history of a people? What goes on between the eye, mind and hand during the process of creating a work of art?

The artists and art historians at Swarthmore College consider visual intelligence to be fundamental to a liberal arts education. We believe that the ability to understand works of art -- either through analysis or practice -- is the key to a richer understanding of the human experience. The study of art is the most direct way of developing a better understanding and appreciation of the cultures and societies of our contemporary world, the visual phenomena found in it-both in nature and in society -- and the historical record of human development. Artists have and continue to interpret their experiences and art historians have and continue to interpret the objects made.

Our students learn and create in a department that is made up of a close-knit group of practitioners and historians of art. This unique environment allows the kind of one-on-one relationship to faculty and colleagues that enables our students to gain the skills they need to succeed in their chosen paths. The proximity to Philadelphia and to some of the most important collections of art in the United States, as well as to the lively young artists scene and events such as First Friday, puts Swarthmore in a unique position compared to other liberal arts colleges across the country.

Watch: The Art of Animation stop animation class projects, Fall 2019

Tiffany Lee's Art of Animation class experiments with stop animation.

Watch: Teacher-Artist Randall Exon Lets His Imagination Be His Guide

During his 30 years at Swarthmore, Exon has been a mentor to many budding artists. Learn more about him in the Bulletin. More.

Interview with Dorcas Tang '19 

Dorcas Tang Jia Ying '19 shares about her work, her heritage and her process.  Join both Dorcas and Taty for their senior thesis exhibitions on Thursday, May 9 in List Gallery.

Gee's Bend quilt

Seniors, Maisie and Catherine publish a Gee's Bend catalog

Read: Maisie Luo '19 and Catherine Williams '19, Gee's Bend Oral Histories [PDF]

Art, Chemistry and Conservation visit PMA

Art History up-close & personal with painting conservation

Art, Chemistry, and Conservation class are guided through the PMA's Conservation Department.

Watch: The Art of Animation stop animation class projects, Fall 2019

Tiffany Lee's Art of Animation class experiments with stop animation.

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Regional Art Scene

Philadelphia and its surrounding communities have a wealth of renowned museums, galleries, and neighborhoods rich with arts events. 

Check out the regional art scene