There is nothing quite like the subject of art and how it can tell a story about a country, a culture, and its people. To study art history is to study what it means to be human, and the ways in which a culture defines itself. More than that, studying art history abroad allows students to get a grasp of history that sometimes not even words can convey. From the study of art history abroad, comes a style of strategic thinking and understanding that can be applied to a variety of higher education degrees or career paths.
Why Study Art History Abroad
Venus de Milo. Tutankhamun’s Golden Death Mask. The Winged Victory of Samothrace. The Sistine Chapel. Mona Lisa. It’s incredible and historic works of art like these, and many more, that showcase why studying art history abroad can be the experience of a lifetime. The ability to absorb and see these masterpieces firsthand transforms the study of art into an even more enriching and unforgettable experience. To truly study art history, one must go beyond the pages of a textbook and out into the world where knowledge about art must begin with living it first.
Fortunately for art history students, there are numerous destinations to seek out international opportunities for hands-on learning. Narrowing down options will depend on the style, time period, and form of art you want to learn at a deeper level.
For students seeking experience to better understand ancient art forms, destinations throughout Africa and Asia can be ideal places to study art history abroad. Egypt is a well-known and perfect location for studying art history and learning more about early human civilizations, as showcased by the array of Egyptian art forms. It also doesn’t hurt to be close to locations like the Great Pyramids of Giza, that tell their own stories of human development. The same can be said when studying the art of India, Tibet, and Japan, which encompasses visual depictions characterized by surface patterning and local color.
Moving further west, locations like Greece and Italy are the perfect jumping off point to delve into Greek and Roman art, where classroom learning is complemented by easy access to iconic landmarks and a plethora of well-preserved artifacts. If medieval or Renaissance art has captured your interest, consider studying art history abroad in European destinations like the United Kingdom or Spain, where the history of both time periods is as rich as the amount of art there is to study.
For those interested in the study of indigenous cultures throughout the Americas, studying art history abroad in destinations throughout South America and Central America boast grand sculptures, architecture, and mosaics to become familiar with. Perhaps more modern accomplishments have you interested, then metropolis destinations across the United States are ideal; the U.S. provides many opportunities to explore contemporary works, as most cities have their own modern art museum.
Whichever your preferred sector of art history, the opportunities to study abroad are boundless and will only continue to grow as time goes on and human creativity is preserved.
Courses & Programs
When figuring out what art history courses to take abroad, the depth your study abroad program will take on depends on what courses you have already completed. For students who are looking to start with the basics, such as an Introduction to Art History or a survey of a specific time period of art, there are numerous options available in destinations around the world. These types of courses are especially helpful for students who are hoping to a build a foundation of knowledge that can be applied to upper level studies, such as Art History Methodology or Contemporary Art Theory.
Most art history courses abroad will focus on a specific subset of the field, like the study of Mexican art forms or 20th Century Performance Art, which allow for a deeper understanding of a specific time period and its subsequent art culture. The structure of these art history courses will vary from one program to the next, as well as from country to country.
In regards to when to study art history abroad, a summer semester program focused on Japanese art will be just as enriching as a year’s study of the Italian Renaissance. Art history courses are available year-round to accommodate any student’s schedule, but getting the most out of it will all depend on the level of work you put into your studies.
The most important thing to note about studying art history abroad, is the chance it provides to transform textbook learning to seeing and experiencing art firsthand. No matter where you might choose to study art history abroad, you’re sure to be surrounded by a destination’s art culture, in one way or another.
Studying art history abroad will typically include a component of visiting and observing artifacts and landmarks you learn about in the classroom. Some art history courses may even require students to seek out these things outside of classroom hours, and it’s highly recommend to take the time to do so, in order to attain a better grasp of your studies.
Benefits & Challenges
- Ultimate Resume Builder. If your ultimate goal is to apply your study abroad experience to an art history degree or career path, studying art history abroad will help your resume stand out all the more to employers. As noted earlier, this field of study is more than just about the art - it offers a deeper glimpse into how a country and culture sees itself, and how it has been preserved by the passing of time. The strategic thinking and global perspective that comes out of studying art history can be the most rewarding benefits study abroad students can hope for.
- Honed Artistic Eye. Whichever form or expression of art you may be interested in studying abroad, most art history courses will include a close analysis of visual materials, which will allow art history students to better understand the methods and intellectual structures behind the study of art. Most importantly, studying art history abroad will allow for understanding art a visual language, while fostering an ability to translate this into oral and written expression.