Painting at RISD prepares students to engage in an individual search for meaning and cultural representation through the development of strong visual skills, keen critical reasoning abilities and an understanding of broad historical and social contexts. Professors encourage both the freedom and discipline essential to this process by embracing a wide range of aesthetic attitudes and offering flexible programs, along with a place where ideas rooted in the tradition of painting are openly examined and exchanged, challenged and refined.–

Degree programs

BFA
4-year undergraduate program
MFA
2-year graduate program

Throughout the program, the conceptual and expressive aspects of painting remain central as students build on their skills through intense technical training and concentrated hands-on effort.

Arghavan Khosravi | MFA candidate

"I love that there are so few boundaries between Painting and other departments here at RISD. The faculty encourages us to experiment with all sorts of different materials like ceramics or glass, and their feedback is really helpful. My work has changes so much in just a short period of time—the stories I tell through art now are much more personal."

David Frazer | department head

“Passion and respect for the painting tradition and the discourse that informs it are central to our mission in this department. But we also take a more expansive approach, embracing the non-medium-specific, the time-based and other interdisciplinary techniques and methodologies practiced in today’s art world.”

After RISD, Painting alumni go on to pursue a wide range of interests in the art world. Those who establish gallery connections are able to work as studio artists, but the paths people choose often lead to other creative work as curators, critics, performance artists, arts administrators, gallery owners, event planners, set designers, illustrators and much more…

Alumni at work

Do Ho Suh BFA 94 | fine artist

When Do Ho Suh first left Korea to study at RISD, he didn’t realize that the experience would inspire an ongoing body of work focused on questions of cultural and personal identity. Now he divides his time between New York, London and Seoul, creating profound site-specific installations that are in high demand throughout the world. Suh’s work is included in almost every major museum collection, from the Whitney, the Guggenheim and MoMA in New York City to the Tate Modern in London to Artsonje Center in Seoul and the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo.

Julie Mehretu MFA 97 | painter

Internationally recognized painter and MacArthur Award winner Julie Mehretu is known to have concurrent solo exhibitions on opposite sides of the Atlantic. The Marian Goodman Gallery in New York and White Cube in London both showcase her large-scale abstract paintings inspired by the Arab Spring and other political uprisings around the world. In the Ethiopian-born painter’s own words, her work explores “the multifaceted layers of place, space and time that impact the formation of personal and communal identity” in an attempt to make sense of world.

Departments

Apparel Design Architecture Ceramics Digital + Media Experimental and Foundation Studies Film / Animation / Video Furniture Design Glass Graduate Studies Graphic Design History of Art + Visual Culture History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences Illustration Industrial Design Interior Architecture Jewelry + Metalsmithing Landscape Architecture Literary Arts + Studies Painting Photography Printmaking Sculpture Teaching + Learning in Art + Design Textiles