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Art History

Located in the heart of the city and across the street from the world-class collections of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, SUNY Buffalo State is an excellent place to study art!

The college’s location is enhanced by the proximity of magnificent buildings designed by some of the greatest American architects, including H.H. Richardson, Louis Sullivan, and Frank Lloyd Wright.  Buffalo has many smaller museums and galleries as well, which provide not only a variety of stimulating art experiences, but also valuable internship opportunities with hands-on experience working in the art world. 

From the vantage point of this exciting city, embark on a series of adventures of the eye and the mind, exploring the great places and magnificent art of the five continents: pay a virtual visit to Paris and London, marvel at the treasures of the Vatican, examine the rich and varied arts of Africa, India, China, and Japan. Or learn about the great art and amazing history of your own country. You can do all this and more at Buffalo State, home to the most extensive visual-arts program of study in all of SUNY.

Why Major in Art History?

We live in a material world, a world of monuments, objects, and images. Why does our world look the way it does?  What decisions were made that led to a monument or image taking one form instead of another? Why was Louis Sullivan’s Guaranty Building (1894-96) in Buffalo built with terracotta tiles? Why was Hagia Sofia (532-37) domed? How was it that Anthemius of Tralles and Isidorus of Miletus were able to complete this building in a mere five years during a period of political and social unrest? Or why did Francesco Borromini crown the Church of St. Ivo in Rome (1642) with a spiral that is reminiscent of the Malwiya minaret (848-52) in Samarra, Iraq? Why did Anselm Kiefer paint his Nigredo (1984), Théodore Géricault the Raft of the Medusa (1819), or Artemisia Gentileschi her Judith Slaying Holofernes (c. 1620)?  How do artists, critics and the public respond to historical, social and cultural developments in creating and viewing art and architecture? How did artists in nineteenth-century Europe respond to the opening of Japan’s borders to trade? Or Incan and Aztec artists to the encounter with Europeans and colonialism? How did Michelangelo’s Last Judgment respond to the artist’s personal artistic goals and his patron’s expectations? Why was the criticism upon its unveiling so negative? These are some of the many questions that art historians ask.

Art historians analyze the art of past and present in order to understand the relationship of a monument, image or work to individual, social, cultural and historical forces. This field is one of the few that trains students to look at and analyze images systematically. In our global world, which is increasingly dominated by images, training of this sort becomes increasingly relevant. 

By studying art history, students prepare themselves to live in and understand the material world around them. An art history degree represents a good intellectual foundation for many potential careers, whether working in an art gallery or museum, in historical preservation, in archives and libraries, in art and antique dealing, in television or film, in education, in publishing or advertising.

Buffalo as a Campus for Art History

Ever wonder how an art institution works? Or want to tour a major monument after hours to escape crowds and have a close-up look?

Buffalo has many fascinating resources for the student of art history. Located in the museum district of Buffalo, SUNY Buffalo State has three major museums within immediate walking distance. Our classes regularly meet in the galleries to experience art directly and tour the facilities. Art history students are engaged in hands-on learning experiences from the moment you arrive on campus. Many students have internships at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, the Albright Knox Art Gallery, the Buffalo History Museum, or Hallwalls and other regional arts institutions. The Burchfield Penney also offers a student program- ACE- which engages students in the daily operations of the museum.

Buffalo is also home to some of the best architecture in the United States. Named the "best planned city" by the major American architect Frederick Law Olmstead, Buffalo hosts many monuments and buildings for the student of architecture and city planning. 


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Art & Design Department

1300 Elmwood Ave  •  Upton Hall 402 •  Buffalo, NY 14222
Phone: (716) 878-6032 •  Fax: (716) 878-4231