Historical Timeline: School of Art and Art History

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  • 1882:  Students at the University of Iowa were required to study free-hand drawing.
  • 1900:  The Department of Philosophy and the Department of Classical Archaeology offered the first art history courses on the UI campus.

Portrait of Charles Cumming      Charles Cumming teaching life drawing.
Charles Cumming. Students sketch a model in Cumming Studio with Cumming far left, Physics Building, 1900s.

  • 1905-1925:  Charles A. Cumming (1880-1947) was head of the fine arts program.  He believed that knowledge of art was necessary for the moral uplifting of people.
  • 1907:  The Mark Ranney Memorial Art Library was established by Martha Ranney through an endowment in her husband's memory.

Ranney Library
Ranney Memorial Art Library, Schaeffer Hall, 1902-1907.

  • 1908:  Carl Seashore (1866-1949), a scholar of the psychology of music and the graphic arts was named Dean of the Graduate College and served until 1937.  With President Walter Jessup he developed the School of Fine Arts in the 1930s.

Portrait of Carl Seashore by Mildred Pelzer.     President Walter Jessup
Carl Seashore (by Mildred Pelzer) and President Walter Jessup.

  • 1910:  A four-year B.A. program in the Department of Graphic and Plastic Arts was established.
  • 1920:  Department of Art History and Appreciation is founded.
  • 1922:  The University of Iowa became the first major university to accept creative work in lieu of written theses for graduate degrees in the fine and performing arts.  This is the origin of Iowa Idea—the innovative plan to bring major practicing artists to the faculty and combine Art History and Studio Art into one department.
  • 1924:  Native Iowan Eve Drewelowe (1899-1988) received the first M.A. degree in fine arts granted by the University of Iowa.

Self portrait of Eve Drewelowe, 1984     "Sheaves of Wheat", 1943 by Eve Drewelowe
Eve Drewelowe, Maverick (self-portrait), 1984 and Sheaves of Wheat, 1943.

  • 1929:  Rufus Fitzgerald (1890-1966) was named director of the School of Fine Arts.  He selected the west bank of the Iowa River for the location of the arts campus.
  • 1934:  President Jessup (1877-1944) dedicated the cornerstone of a new building to be built especially for the study of art.  Inspired by the educational philosophy of John Dewey and in association with Dean Seashore, he developed the School of Fine Arts and initiated the arts campus building program on the west side of the river.

Walter Jessup laying the cornerstone of Art Building, June 2, 1934     "Ars Longa Vita Brevis Est" inscription above the entrance of the Art Building
Walter Jessup laying the cornerstone of the Art Building, June 2, 1934. Inscription above the entrance.

2017 view of the Art Building
Art Building, 2017.

  • 1934-1940:  Grant Wood (1891-1942) joined the faculty.  He was one of the leading figures in the Regionalist art movement.

Grant Wood talking with a student     "American Gothic" painting by Grant Wood
Grant Wood with student. American Gothic, 1930.

  • 1936:  The Palladio-inspired new Art Building, designed by University Architect George Horner, opened.

Aerial view of the art building
Aerial view of the Art Building c. 1940.

  • 1936-1958:  Lester D. Longman (1905-1987), Princeton-trained art historian, was hired to direct the new joint art history and studio art program.

Lester D. Longman c. 1940     1950 view of the gallery in Art Building.
Lester D. Longman (1905-1987) c. 1940. Art Building Gallery, c. 1950.

  • 1938:  The Department of Art was founded and based on the Iowa Idea of combining Art History and Studio Art. B.F.A., M.F.A., and Ph.D. degrees were added to the art program.  Longman introduced courses in modern and contemporary art and established a gallery in the Art Building.
  • 1938-1941: Art historian H. W. Janson (1913-1982) was appointed to the faculty.  He later published the History of Art, which became the leading art history survey text in the United States.  His internationalist viewpoint clashed with Grant Wood's regionalist vision.

H. W. Janson     Cover of the book "Janson's History of Art"
H. W. Janson with cover of 8th Edition of Janson’s History of Art.

  • 1938-1940s: Under Longman’s directorship the Department of Art presented exhibitions of  contemporary art, often borrowed from New York collections, and purchased works that later formed the foundation for the University of Iowa Museum of Art, including Max Beckmann’s Karneval.
  • 1940:  Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012) was the first person, first woman, and first African-American to receive the M.F.A. degree.  She studied with Grant Wood and Henry Stinson and gained critical acclaim through her socially-charged prints and sculptures.  Catlett Hall, the largest dormitory on campus, was named in her honor in 2017.

Elazabeth Catlett 1940 graduation photo     "Sharecropper, 1968 linocut print by Elizabeth Catlett
Elizabeth Catlett, 1940 graduation portrait and Sharecropper, 1968 linocut print.

  • 1941-1945: Philip Guston (1913-1980), New York School painter and printmaker was appointed to the faculty.

Portrait of Philip Guston by Edward Weston, 1930.     "Martial Memory", 1941 painting by Philip Guston
1930 portrait of Philip Guston by Edward Weston and Guston’s Martial Memory, 1941, with Iowa City background.

  • 1945-1984:  Mauricio Lasansky (1914-2012) was appointed to the faculty.  He founded the innovative printmaking program that offered the first M.F.A. in printmaking in the U.S.  He is considered a forerunner in the evolution of the graphic arts as a critical art form.  Together with his students, he established the Iowa Print Group for the exhibition of prints and the promotion of print culture.

Lasansky taking with students     One of the Nazi Drawings by Maricio Lasansky
Mauricio Lasansky with students. Nazi Drawings Series by Mauricio Lasansky.

  • 1946-1962: Owing to the influx of returning veterans on the G.I. Bill, the University of Iowa conferred more graduate arts degrees in the post-war period than any other university.
  • 1947:  Byron Burford (1920-2011) appointed to painting faculty, having studied under Philip Guston and Grant Wood.  Represented U.S. in Venice Biennale in 1968.
  • 1948: In recognition of Iowa's innovative art program, Peggy Guggenheim donated Jackson Pollock's Mural to the Department of Art.  The painting arrived on campus in 1951.

Painting studio with Jackson Pollock "Mural" on the wall for inspiration.
Art students painting in studio with Professor Stuart Edie. Jackson Pollock’s Mural on wall, January 10, 1952.

  • 1949:  Miriam Schapiro (1923-2015) received the M.F.A. degree.  She is one of the founders of the feminist art movement in the United States.
  • 1951:  Riva Castelman (1930-2014) graduated with a B.A. in Art History.  She became Director of MOMA’s department of prints from 1976-1995 and was named deputy director of curatorial affairs in 1986.
  • 1957:  Roy Sieber (1923-2001), the first scholar in the United States to receive a Ph.D. in African art history, graduated from the University of Iowa.  He went on to mentor many students at Indiana University and became a research scholar for the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution.
  • 1959-1976:  Frank Seiberling (1908-1990), art historian and Director of the School of Art & Art History, encouraged the creation of the University of Iowa Museum of Art. He greatly expanded the Art History faculty and added Intermedia to the Studio Art curriculum.  He also updated and expanded the Art Building complex with an administrative/printmaking wing and new sculpture, ceramics, and jewelry and metalsmithing studios.
  • 1964: David Hockney (1937-) was appointed to the painting faculty.  Renowned as one of the leaders of the Pop Art movement of the 1960s.

David Hockney     "A Bigger Splash" 1967 painting by David Hockney
David Hockney, A Bigger Splash, 1967, acrylic paint on canvas

  • 1966-2000: Hans Breder joined the faculty.
  • 1968:  Hans Breder (1935-2017) founded the Intermedia Program.
  • 1969:  The University of Iowa Museum of Art opened in building designed by Max Abramovitz.  Ulfert Wilke (1907-1987) was appointed its first Director (1969-1978).

Aerial view of the Art Building and Art Museum
1968 aerial view of Art Building and additions with the former Museum of Art on far right.

  • 1973-1993:  Wallace J. Tomasini was appointed Director of the School of Art & Art History.  He collaborated with Joyce Summerwill at the UI Hospitals and Clinics in 1978 to implement Project Art, a program to make art accessible to hospital patients.
  • 1975:  Charles Ray (1953-) received the B.F.A. degree.  He is regarded today as one of the most significant sculptors of his generation.
  • 1977:  Intermedia artist Ana Mendieta (1948-1985) receives the M.F.A. degree.  A student of Hans Breder, she became a seminal figure in feminist art practice of the 1970s.

Ana Mendieta  "Silueta Series", 1973 by Ana Mendieta
Ana Mendieta and her Silueta Series, 1973.

  • 1984:  Maxwell and Elizabeth Stanley donated their collection of 800 objects of African art to the University of Iowa Museum of Art.
  • 1989:  Project for the Advanced Study of Art and Life in Africa was established with Stanley Foundation support.
  • 1993:  Flooding of the Iowa River closes Art Building for the summer.
  • 1994-2009:  Dorothy Johnson was named Director of the School and the program restructured into Studio Art and Art History Divisions.
  • 2006:  Art Building West opened, designed by Steven Holl Architects of New York.

Art Building West
Art Building West, 2006.

  • 2008:  The Iowa River Flood damaged much of the arts campus and rendered Art Building and Art Building West unusable.  The Studio Division moved to former big-box store south of Iowa City, renamed Studio Arts and the Art History Division relocated to Seashore Hall on the main campus.

Studio Arts Building, 2009
Studio Arts Building, 2009.

  • 2011:  The Grant Wood Fellowship Program was founded under the aegis of the School of Art & Art History.
  • 2016:  The Visual Arts Building designed by Steven Holl Architects was opened, reuniting the Studio and Art History Divisions on the arts campus.  The Old Art Building from 1936 is to be restored and repurposed.

Visual Arts Building, 2016
Visual Arts Building, 2016.