Art History

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Undergraduate Program – BA

Degrees: BA Art History and Visual CultureMinor Art History and Visual Culture


The mission of the San José State University Art History area is to enrich the lives of its students by providing an in-depth knowledge of cultural traditions and the skills necessary for applying that knowledge in the service of our multicultural society. The program also provides students with the communication skills, research techniques, and methods of critical inquiry that have become a vital part of modern life.


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Course offerings include a wide range of themes and topics in ancient, Renaissance, Baroque, modern, contemporary,and global art. Examination of the visual culture of these diverse areas encourages students to become responsible citizens through an understanding of the aesthetic, cultural and ethical choices inherent in human development.

Undergraduates majoring in the history of art undertake a 45-unit program to gain a basic knowledge of the field with a concentration in one or two areas of their choosing. The program requires students to take at least one non-Western art history course, 6 upper division units in related areas of history and the humanities, and a minimum of six units of a second language. Students are also encouraged to take at least one studio course in order to gain a functional knowledge of the creative process.


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Program Learning Outcomes (PLO)


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Graduate Program – MA

MA Art Concentration in Art History and Visual Culture

The Master of Arts in Art History and Visual Culture offers a broad education in visual culture within a dynamic department that includes a strong M.F.A. program in the heart of Silicon Valley. The program prepares students for a Ph.D. or a graduate library degree with specialization in art history. It also provides training for a variety of positions, including community college professor, image researcher, museum curator, arts administrator, conservator, and visual resources librarian.


Our program is especially strong in modern and contemporary art, architecture and design, and the art of the Renaissance. We feature a variety of special-topic courses, such as Modern Architecture, History of Photography, and History of Spectacles. We regularly teach courses coordinated with local art institutions. 

Besides featuring a wide array of courses we host a number of activities during the academic year, such as the Art History and Visual Culture Colloquium, the Art History Association Symposium, the Tuesday Night Lecture Series and a range of exhibitions in the Thompson Gallery. 


Study Abroad

The program regularly offers FLP (Faculty Led Programs) to Venice and Paris. 


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Graduate Coordinator – MA

Prof. Anthony Raynsford –


AHVC Faculty & Lecturers


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Anthony Raynsford

Associate Professor
Area Coordinator – Art History and Visual Culture

Area Coordinator – Architectural Studies

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Anthony Raynsford is an architectural and urban design historian, whose interdisciplinary research interests bridge across cultural, intellectual and art history, particularly of the 20th century. His teaching seeks to develop a critical understanding of the interlocking social and aesthetic issues faced by architects and designers, both currently and historically.


Professor Raynsford's current book project is entitled, Modernism and the Archaic City: The Pre-Industrial Past in the Imagination of 20th Century Urban Design. Revising standard accounts of modernism's break with the past, he contends that preindustrial urban forms have always been central to the ideals and images of modernist urbanism. The modernist 'discovery' of the archaic city did not, as some authors have suggested, first emerge as a means of softening the edges of earlier functionalism. Rather, his book argues, this figure of the archaic city was instrumental in defining the essence of modernist urbanism from the beginning. Related to this project are a number of works in progress, including a monograph on the writings of urban planner, Kevin Lynch.

Dr. Raynsford received his PhD from the University of Chicago and his M.Arch. from UCLA. He has taught previously in the art history departments of Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania. Publications include, "Swarm of the Metropolis: Passenger Circulation at Grand Central Terminal and the Ideology of the Crowd Aesthetic," (Journal of Architectural Education) and "Embodying Urban Design" (in Embodied Utopias). He has presented a number of papers on the intellectual and cultural history of urban design at the conferences of such organizations as the International Planning History Society and the College Art Association. His teaching interests include the histories of modern architecture and urban design; the representations of the built environment in painting, film and photography; the historiography of modern art; and aesthetic theories of the 19th and 20th centuries.


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Josine Smits


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Dr.Josine Eikelenboom Smits has taught surveys of Western art as well as upper division and graduate level courses in eighteenth and nineteenth century art history at California College of the Arts, Stanford University, UCBerkeley Extension and SJSU. 


She received a Master's degree in Art History from the Sorbonne (Paris IV). An internship at the Musée d’Orsay gave her an inside view of the French museum world. She earned an M.A and Ph.D from Stanford University for a dissertation on the nineteenth century French landscape painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, on whom she has lectured at the Louvre. In her research and writing she continues to illuminate Corot’s oeuvre in the broader cultural and philosophical context of Romanticism. She developed a second specialization as a research scholar at Tokyo University, where she studied the influence of Japanese woodblock prints (Ukiyo-e) on Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and the art of Van Gogh. She has lectured on Impressionist painting as well as on the aspect of Japonisme in Van Gogh’s work at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (Legion of Honor).

At SJSU Dr.Josine Smits teaches upper division courses in 19th century European art, as well as in global art and visual culture with a focus on the environment (Earth Life Art). She highlights the interconnectedness between culture and the natural environment by teaching such wide-ranging topics as the indigenous arts of Australia and North America; the landscape painting of medieval China and Japan; the Zen garden and the tea ceremony. She adopts an interdisciplinary approach by tracing the growth of an ecological awareness among the landscape painters of the Romantic era in Germany, England and France, who shared common fields of interest with the scientists of their time. With hands-on projects and group discussions she encourages students to delve deeply into the environmental concerns, innovative strategies, and creative responses of artists working today.

Dr.Smits has led successful SJSU Faculty Led Programs to Paris and looks forward to continuing this program every year during Winter Break.


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Sarah Mills

Assistant Professor 

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Dr. Sarah Mills is an assistant professor of art history, specializing in modern design and contemporary art. She teaches courses across departments of Design and Art and Art History in the BA/BFA and MA/MFA programs. Her teaching interests include craft theory, modern design history, speculative design, textiles and technology, conceptual art and participatory practices. Her primary research focuses on global textile design, particularly the theory and practice of modern (machine) weaving.


Her current book project asks how plastic, a kind of artificial material intelligence, transformed the practice of weaving in the United States and to what extent these changes altered the status and perception of textile design. Dr. Mills also writes on the field of electronic textiles, “expanded textiles” or fiber design in contemporary art, and intersections between technology and materiality. Her work has been supported most recently by a fellowship at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney (2022), a Chester Dale fellowship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2018 - 2019) and awards from the Decorative Arts Trust, the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust, and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, where Dr. Mills completed her M.Phil and PhD. Sarah has lived abroad in Minsk, Berlin, Konstanz, Corrientes, and Cape Town, which she considers critical to her worldview.