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Art and Art History

Swarthmore art class trip to PMA Swarthmore College Painting 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.

Spring 2021 courses are still available. Sculpture II: Perfect / Imperfect

Spring 2021 is here!  Read more about our available courses.

2020-2021 Benjamin West Lecture in Art History

Join us Thursday, February 25, 4:30pm (EST) for the annual Benjamin West Lecture in Art History.  This year we welcome Professor T.J. Demos from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Zoom registration is required.  Sign up here.  
Check out the Ben West webpage for additional info.

Photo by The Otolith Group, Infinity Minus Infinity, 2019. Film still. Detail.
Conservation process of Quaker Wedding by Percy Bigland

Percy Bigland, Quaker Wedding conservation process

Conservationist Fred Koszswnik will be working on campus throughout the Spring '20 semester cleaning and repairing this painting back to its original splendor. The piece that once hung in the Royal Academy in London will hang on campus.

Assistant Professor Brian Goldstein to publish with Princeton University Press

Assistant Professor of Art History Brian Goldstein to publish with Princeton University Press

Congrats to Brian Goldstein on this wonderful news!  Professor Goldstein is set to publish If Architecture Were for People: The Life and Work of J. Max Bond., Jr.  Explore further details on the PUP website.

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.

Spring 2021 is here!  Read more about our available courses.

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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