Decorative Arts & Design History

Smithsonian Associates in partnership with
The George Washington University

Courses

Courses

Proseminar in History of Decorative Arts

Required of all first-year students.  A writing-intensive course designed to equip students with the skills necessary for professional scholarship in the history of decorative arts. Examines a variety of theories and methods for analyzing objects. Teaches visual and contextual analysis skills as well as critical thinking about and documentation of primary and secondary sources.

Survey of Decorative Arts & Design History I

Required of all first-year students.  Provides an overview of major historical developments in decorative arts and design from the fifteenth century through the eighteenth century, with a focus on objects from Italy, France, England, and the Netherlands.  Individual lectures familiarize students with significant forms, materials, sites, styles, patrons, designers, and craftsmen.  The course will provide students with a working visual and historical vocabulary of significant designed/manufactured objects and a better awareness of the areas they might pursue at the History of Decorative Arts program. 

Survey of Decorative Arts & Design History II

Required of all first-year students.  Provides an overview of major historical developments in decorative arts and design of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with a focus on objects from the United States and Western Europe.  Individual lectures familiarize students with significant forms, materials, sites, styles, patrons, designers, and craftsmen.  The course will provide students with a working visual and historical vocabulary of significant designed/manufactured objects and a better awareness of the areas they might pursue at the History of Decorative Arts program. 

Elective Courses

Topics vary by semester.  Examines a single decorative art medium and/or method of production.

Courses from previous semesters have included:

250 Years of American Costume: 1750-2000 

Topics in Glass: Sources of Inspiration 

Survey of Ceramics: Global Approach 

Western Textiles 

18th Century Furniture 

Material Culture Studies

Topics vary by semester.  Introduction to traditions that have contributed to the field of material culture study.  Examines a broad range of the material world from the past to the present. Surveys the field’s historical roots and examines approaches to material culture scholarship.

Courses from previous semesters have included:

Virginia Plantations, Then and Now: Material Life and Interpretation 

Material Culture Studies 

Material Culture of the Gilded Age 

From Babbit to Rabbit: Narratives of the New Consumer’s Republic, 1945-1964  

Art and Objects of the Everyday 

Collectors and Collecting 

Seminars in Design History

Topics vary by semester.  May examine stylistic periods, individual makers/designers, or specific media, including textiles, costume, ceramics, silver, furniture, jewelry, metalwork, and glass.

Courses from previous semesters have included:

19th Century French Decorative Arts 

European Modernism 

18th Century French Furniture 

The Age of Revolution in Fashion, 1700-1825 

The Decorative Arts of Dining 

History of Western Jewelry 

French Decorative Arts, 1850-1925 

The Aesthetic Movement 

British Furniture and Interiors 

Survey of English Ceramics 

Survey of Western Textiles 

Global Decorative Arts

Topics vary by semester.  Examines specific key media, moments, or locations in the global decorative arts beyond the Western tradition.

Courses from previous semesters have included:

2,000 Years of Chinese Ceramics 

Textiles in Global Trade 

Symbolism in the Decorative Arts 

Patterns of Collecting of China 

Chinese Export Porcelain 

Museum Studies 

Topics vary by semester.  Explores the role of museums through presentations by key museum personnel, field visits to institutions, and discussions of required readings.

Courses from previous semesters have included:

Museum Curatorship 

Museums in the Digital Ag

Exhibition Planning 

The Kaufman Collection 

Design and Design History 

Topics vary by semester.  Examines key moments in design history.

Courses from previous semesters have included:

Advanced Studies in Furniture: Connoisseurship 

Women Designers of the Arts and Crafts Movement 

Objects of Adornment 

History of Furniture Making Technologies 

Studio and Contemporary Glass 

Victorian Furniture 

Art Ceramics, 1876-1976 

Survey of Silver 

History of Product Design 

History of Glass 

Victorian Costume 

20th Century Furniture 

Genealogical Research Methods 

Fashion and Modernity 

Textiles in Historic Interiors 

The Decorative Arts of Louis Comfort Tiffany 

Victorian Costume 

Special Topics in Art History and the Decorative Arts

Topics vary by semester.

Theory of Decorative Arts

Topics vary by semester.  Explores the different perspectives and theoretical viewpoints used to analyze and understand decorative arts and design.

Internship in Art History and the Decorative Arts

Internship with a professional arts institution, organization, or individual. Project to be arranged by student in consultation with academic department and field supervisor.

Independent Study

Independent reading and research on specific project under direction of faculty member.

Master’s Thesis

Research and writing on approved thesis topic under direction of faculty advisor and thesis committee.