Academics

Theory and History of Art and Design

students placing artwork in mats

The Theory and History of Art and Design (THAD) department offers thought-provoking courses focused on a wide range of media, spanning time periods from ancient to contemporary and embracing diverse critical perspectives. Generally based on reading, close examination of actual works and small group discussions, courses emphasize critical thinking and analysis, clarity of written and verbal communication, and an understanding of the value of artistic expression across cultures and throughout time.

THAD concentration

With an emphasis on theory and history as tools for critical thinking and making, the THAD concentration expands your knowledge and awareness of global practices across the disciplines of art and design.

In (and out of) the Classroom

Open to both undergraduate and graduate students, THAD courses are rich and varied, taught by faculty scholars with fabulously diverse interests ranging from ethnomusicology to landscape in American film, the role of femme fatales in Western art, contemporary African artists, French surrealism and much more. Behind-the-scenes access to the RISD Museum’s extraordinary collection of 85,000 works of art – from early Egyptian relics to 21st-century experimental light sculptures – provides students and faculty with unparalleled opportunities for in-depth research. THAD faculty work to provide access to actual works of art – both at the RISD Museum and elsewhere – image reproductions of works in books or on screen.

Featured stories

The Revolution Will Be Choreographed

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Five Questions: Christopher Roberts 

A brief interview with one of RISD’s recently hired Schiller Family Assistant Professors in Race in Art and Design.

A World without America

Visiting artist Dread Scott shares his vision for change with RISD students.

people viewing artwork in the risd museum

In addition to its strong disciplinary focus, THAD offers comparative examinations of the critical dialogue among art historians representing various cultural traditions. Interdisciplinary approaches also invite further exploration of the artistic traditions of the world, critical theory and visual culture, art historiography, aesthetics, object conservation, and the histories of art and design in various media, among other broad topics.

hands holding parchment containing Asian characters