Art History

James Turrell, "Dividing the Light," 2007

Study of the history of art enhances general education at Pomona College by revealing how meaning can be made visually. Students gain the ability to deal with the imagery of their own and other cultures more effectively and critically. Questions concerning historical method, cultural diversity, feminism and critical theory inform the Art History curriculum. Pomona College, Scripps College and Pitzer College have a joint Art History program that treats European, North American, African, African Diaspora, Native American and Asian topics through introductory and advanced courses. Students are encouraged to start with the ARHI 51A,B,C series, but may enroll in most of the upper-division courses at any time with permission of the instructor.

Specialties of art history faculty include architecture and fresco painting in Italy; the art of African artists and of artists of African descent in the Americas; the history of cities and gardens; issues of gender and the body; and the social history of North American art, including Native American traditions, from the 16th Century to the present.

Jose Clemente Orozco, "Prometheus," 1930

The Pomona College Museum of Art, the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery (Scripps), and the Clark Humanities Museum (Scripps) contain extensive holdings in American, Native American and Asian art, providing art history students with the opportunity to conduct research on original objects and to assist in the creation of exhibitions for the college and surrounding communities. In addition to preparing the art history major for graduate studies in this field, art history courses provide an excellent background for students seeking careers in a wide range of fields, including teaching, publishing, art conservation, library or museum work, law, business, and public policy.

History of Art History at the Claremont Colleges and the Invention of the Joint Program

Pitzer, Pomona and Scripps Colleges now cooperate to provide a coherent art history curriculum at the five Claremont Colleges which comprise Pomona College founded in 1887; Scripps founded in 1926; the Claremont Men’s College in 1946 [name changed to Claremont McKenna College in 1981]; Harvey-Mudd College founded in 1955; and Pitzer College founded in 1963. What “the intercollegiate joint program in art history” (sometimes identified as a “cooperative field group” or “intercollegiate field group”) does is (1) provide students from Pitzer, Pomona and Scripps Colleges the privilege of treating all art history courses in Claremont as equivalent to courses at their “home” college (and not as cross-registrations) and (2) give all students at the 5Cs access to an art history program with the depth, breadth, and internal coherence of a large art history department in a major American university.

Early Moments

Art history has been taught in Claremont from an early moment—at least from the time that Hannah Tempest Jenkins (1905-1926) arrived on campus. A student of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, she helped organize, first, the School of Art and Design at Pomona College (from 1905 onward) and then the Department of Art (formally established in 1914 when Rembrandt Hall at Pomona College was opened).[1] In these early years at Pomona College, art history was taught mainly to support instruction in the practice of art, a pattern that continued under Jenkins’ successor, Thomas M. Beggs (1926-1948), who had a B.F.A. in painting from Yale University and had studied at the Pratt Institute in New York City. Beggs taught studio art but also an introductory course in art history. Pomona’sArtDepartment during these years farmed out, so to speak, instruction art history—with Beggs as chair arranging for the College’s professors of Classics (notably Homer E. Robbins) and of German (especially Carl Baumann) to teach the subject. The first fully-trained art historian to teach in Claremont was the European (Catalan) medievalist, Jose Pijoan (1924-1930), who was not hired as a professor of art history, but of “Hispanic civilization.” Pijoan taught for six years at Pomona, then left in the year (1930) that he brought Jose Orozco to campus to paint the Prometheus in the Frary Hall refectory.

Despite Pomona College’s head start (with Jenkins and Pijoan), art history as a subject for undergraduate instruction in Claremont first burgeoned at the newly founded Scripps College in the 1930s. Here, due to the collaboration of two charismatic professors among ScrippsCollege’s founding faculty, namely, the philosopher Hartley Burr Alexander (1927-1939) and the painter Millard Sheets (1932-1955), it became integral to the innovative and distinctive Humanities Program that Hartley Burr Alexander invented and vigorously promoted. At Scripps College art history was taught across-the-curriculum within the Humanities Program by all instructors concerned, and with frequent lectures by Millard Sheets and the practicing artists and architects that Sheets gathered for Scripps’ studio art program. Scripps College fast overshadowed Pomona College’s Department of Art in the 1930s and 40s by focusing a distinctive regional, southern Californian art movement in which the making of art and the history of art were utterly integrated. [2] The art history Scripps College thus promoted had a special “applied” character: ancillary to the needs of contemporary artists, Professors Alexander and Sheets insisted that it (art history) led to, and culminated in the products of its modern practitioners who were artists first and foremost.

If World War II curtailed activity in the arts in Claremont, they (the arts) rebounded in the later 1940s. That was when it became clear that art history at Pomona and Scripps would proceed in very different directions.[3] While Scripps College’s art program continued under the vigorous leadership of an artist, Millard Sheets—he would stay until 1955—Pomona’s Art Department had no equivalent figure and was actually run by Pomona’s president, E. Wilson Lyon (1941-1969). As Scripps College was hiring David W. Scott (1946-1963), the painter who had a B.A. degree in English from Harvard University and a M.F.A. from the Claremont Graduate School, Lyon at Pomona College hired an actual art historian, a specialist in Asian art, Kenneth E. Foster (1946-1951), who had a Ph.D. from the brand new Institute of Fine Arts at New York University (founded by Erwin Panofsky et alia some ten years previously). Foster taught solely art history at Pomona’sArtDepartment; Scott taught both studio art and art history at Scripps.

David Scott, a gifted administrator and polymath, eventually earned a Ph.D. in art history at U.C.,Berkeley in 1960. When he left Scripps shortly thereafter, in 1963, for his next (and illustrious) career in Washington D.C. at the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery, the College tried to replace him with someone of similar promise—namely with Alan Blizzard (1963-present) who had an M.F.A. in painting and a PhD. in art history from the University of Iowa. Blizzard continued as Sheets had all the studio artists do—to teach practice of art of course, but also to give lectures on art to students in the Humanities Program. Only in 1966 did Scripps break the mold that Sheets had established and hire a specialist in art history, Arthur D. Stevens (1966-1999). Stevens completed a Ph.D. in art history (in modern art) at the University of Indiana in 1971. He was to become a major figure on the campuses in art history. Nevertheless, in 1969, Scripps might again hire a studio artist and an art historian quite in the Sheetian tradition (!), that is, the print maker Samella S. Lewis (1969-1984). Lewis did not, it seems, actually teach practice of art, but focused on art history and courses on African, African-American, and Asian art. She held a doctorate in art history fromOhioStateUniversity(1951).

Meanwhile at Pomona College, President Lyon sought to establish a far more conventional program in art history in theArtDepartment. Kenneth Foster, already mentioned, was a promising start, but he apparently resigned or did not succeed in having his contract renewed, and was gone at the end of 1951. Since Thomas Beggs had resigned in 1948 (to take a position at the Smithsonian Institution as Director of the National Collection of Fine Art), art history at Pomona was all but rudderless. It was true that Lyon’s new classicist, Harry J. Carroll, Jr. (1949-1983), was teaching regular courses on ancient Greek and Roman art in theArtDepartment. But Lyon still wanted instruction in medieval and modern art history in the Art Department proper. In 1950, as a stop-gap, he obtained the part-time services of a German expatriate scholar, Alois J. Schardt, who had been, briefly, the director of the National Gallery inBerlin(in 1933). Forced out by the Nazis, forbidden to teach, Schardt had fled to 1940, where eventually he became a visiting professor at Pomona College and taught for four years (1950-54). Then over the next twenty years,Lyon identified and hired a series of able, young, art historians. But none stayed for long, and Pomona’s Art Department continued to drift, or it did so at least as far as art history was concerned. Here is the list of the major people Lyon brought to Claremont between 1950 and 1970:

Seymour Slive (1951-1954) who resigned for a position at Harvard University after three years

Peter H. Selz (1955-1959) who left to become curator of painting at the Museum of Modern Art,New York, after four years

Theresa Z. Fulton (1954-1961), an important figure in art history at Pomona College, but now quite unsung, shadowy, and undocumented—

Bates Lowry (1959-1964) who left for a professorship at Brown University after five years

Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr. (1964-1970) who became curator of American painting at the National Gallery, Washington D.C. after six years

Peter S. Walch (1966-1968) who left after two years for Vassar College

Lyon’s final hire, a newly minted Ph.D. from Yale University, David Merrill (1969-1973), did not stay beyond his first contract.

Interestingly, for a brief period between 1956 and 1961, the Claremont Graduate School, founded in the early 1920s (just prior to the founding of Scripps College) had a “head of art studies,” a specialist in Asian art (the Indian subcontinent) in Joseph LeRoy Davidson, a 1951 Yale Ph.D. in art history. His courses were available under cross-registration rules to Claremont undergraduates. But again, this gifted and able art historian left after only a short while. Davidson took a professorship at U.C.L.A. where he ended as chair of the Art Department between 1969 and 1972.[4]

Key for art history in Claremont from the late 1940s onward had been the courses taught by the Pomona College classicist, Harry Carroll, in ancient Greek and Roman art and archaeology. In 1964 the newly founded Pitzer College hired a classicist, Stephen L. Glass, who immediately took over the teaching of these courses. Pomona’s Art Department continued to use them, and felt entitled too, as from an early moment, from about 1950 onward, they had been part of the Claremont Colleges’ first intercollegiate joint program, namely the Pomona-Scripps Joint Classics Program. Credit for the invention of the program goes to Harry Carroll at Pomona(1949-83) and Robert B. Palmer at Scripps (1949-77). Now with the arrival of Glass, that program extended to Pitzer College. The art historians in Claremont eyed this program with interest. But it would take another ten years for the very similar joint art history program to come into being.

As E. Wilson Lyon before him, Pomona College’s President David Alexander (1969-1991) continued to search for teachers of art history to anchor that subject area in hisArtDepartment. In 1969-1970 and 1972-1974, David Alexander arranged to have the senior scholar, the medievalist Teresa G. Frisch, supplement offerings by the inexperienced Merrill (Frisch had performed as a dean at Wellesley College in the 1960s). Then, in an attempt to stabilize the program in art history on a permanent basis, Alexander hired Gerald Ackerman (1970-1989), a Princeton Ph.D. and a scholar in mid-career who had taught successfully at Bryn Mawr College and Stanford University. This hire marked an important turning point for art history inClaremont. The era that Millard Sheets established now began to wane as the Claremont Colleges undertook step-by-step to set up art history in their various curricula as it had been generally during the twentieth century in major universities across the continent.

Arthur Stevens took the first step in the late 1960s when all fiveClaremontColleges, the founding memberPomona, plus all the newer, decided that a normal student course load would be four courses per semester, not five, and that professors would teach five courses per year, not six. That meant that the Scripps College Humanities Program would have to diminish in size if students were to accommodate their majors plus a general education. Suddenly Scripps College majors in art history could no longer count on that program for a comprehensive introduction to their subject. Would they go instead to the introductory courses at Pomona’s Art Department? This presented the novel situation of a Scripps College major having to rely on off-campus course offerings. Stevens thus attempted, and much in the way of the joint Classics program, to have all teachers of art history in Claremont cooperate to offer an introductory art history course sequence. Stevens could obtain the help of the new professor of art at Pitzer College, Carl Hertel (1966-1994); Hertel taught art history very much in the way Millard Sheets had pioneered in Claremont. But Pomona College, now represented in art history by David Merrill, would not cooperate! Merrill, for better or ill, jealously guarded his independence and autonomy as a teacher in the introductory courses.

From the Founding of the Joint Art History Program in 1972-73 to 1999

Students from the Claremont Colleges majoring in art history thus muddled through, patching together the courses they needed taught at Scripps and Pomona through cross-registration. But by 1972 the situation became untenable. Pomona College did not renew Merrill’s contract (and he left at the end of the 1972-73). During that same year, Gerald Ackerman at Pomona and Arthur Stevens at Scripps together founded the joint Pomona-Scripps art history program. This is proven by the catalogs of both colleges: for the first time, in 1973-74, both list all courses in art history at both institutions as “home college” offerings.[5] Key here is the commitment both Pomona and Scripps make in 1972-73 to a single art history program, that is, to one that combines the offerings on both campuses synergistically as if they had come from a single entity or department. For better or worse, this signaled the end of the experiment begun by Hartley Burr Alexander and Millard Sheets atScrippsCollege. Art history inClaremont was not to be ancillary to contemporary art production, but an integral and autonomous academic enterprise by itself. Still, however, the Alexander-Sheets experiment did not come to any abrupt halt here, but continued in the course offerings at Pitzer College, first under Carl Hertel, already mentioned, and then after Hertel retired (in 1994) under Michael Woodcock, Hertel’s student (Woodcock retired in 2005).

The Joint Scripps-Pomona Art History Program has continued from 1973 until the present quite intact even though Scripps produces on average many more majors than Pomona. Faculty from both colleges have nevertheless cooperated across the board—in the planning of course offerings and course times, in the mentoring of students and especially their senior theses, and on search committees for new faculty. Gerald Ackerman together with Harry Carroll, and President David Alexander hired Judson Emerick (Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 1975) to teach classic, medieval, and Renaissance art in 1973,[6] but faculty and administrators from both colleges, Scripps and Pomona, have cooperated ever since in the hiring of new faculty in art history.

This cooperation was promoted from the start by an extraordinary event. In the mid 1970s Viola Horton made a large bequest to “the Claremont College.”[7] Horton had had a grandson at Claremont Men’s College, and at his suggestion, changed her will to leave a large sum to “the Claremont College,” a mistake that her attorneys did not recognize. In the event the gift went to “the Claremont Colleges,” the closest legal entity with that name. After much intercollegiate negotiation, the deans at the 5Cs used the money to create three joint Viola Horton professorships, and designated one for the joint Pomona-Scripps art history program and the Claremont Graduate University’s program in studio art. The latter needed someone to teach twentieth-century art to conform to the new College Art Association guidelines for the M.F.A. degree. Thus all faculty in art history cooperated to hireGeorge Gorse in 1980, a specialist in Renaissance art with a Ph.D. from Brown University. As a joint Scripps-Pomona College appointment, he would go to tenure at Pomona College, but also provide one course each year in the Scripps Humanities Program. Arthur Stevens at Scripps College thus undertook to provide a course in twentieth-century art at the graduate school. The head of Scripps College’s Lang Art Gallery, David Rubin, also taught one course in modern art at the graduate school.

Not long thereafter, in the mid 1980s, faculty in the joint art history program joined to search for, and hire two further art historians. To replace Samella Lewis, who had retired in 1984, Scripps College brought Bruce Coatsto campuses, Claremont’s second fully-trained specialist in Asian art8] with a Ph.D. from Harvard University. At Pomona College, the joint program’s faculty searched for and recommended that Frances Pohl with a Ph.D. from U.C.L.A. be hired to teach twentieth-century European and American art. For several years she also taught a course in Art Since 1945 for the CGU MFA program (Arthur Stevens taught a course in early twentieth-century art).

Beginning in 1974, Scripps and Pomona College also cooperated in the setting up of art exhibition spaces and the hiring of gallery administrators, each of whom offered courses in the joint art history program. Pomona College’s Rembrandt Hall, opened in 1914, had a large room that was often used as a gallery. But only in 1936 did the College add a dedicated new gallery space at the west of the building. In 1958, that extension was demolished, and replaced by the (nearly freestanding) Montgomery Art Center. It is still in use today, having been remodeled and enlarged in 1977 and again in 2006. At Scripps College, Millard Sheets arranged for the construction of an art center with a large gallery, the Lang Art Gallery, between 1937 and 1939. It remained until 1993 when Scripps built the present Williamson Gallery.

For decades previous to 1974, the galleries at both Scripps and Pomona College were run mainly by professors (by both art historians and studio artists). But in the late 1960s and early 1970s, at the Montgomery Gallery, that pattern changed as Pomona College’s President David Alexander (1969-91), hoping to invigorate the art scene on campuses, hired a series of professional gallery directors. The first two, Hal Glicksman (1969-70) and Helene Winer (1970-72) galvanized the Colleges and southern California generally by opening the Montgomery Gallery to startlingly new areas of art production—notably to site-specific pieces (Glicksman) and “performance-” and “body-art” (Winer). The latter, curating shows at the cutting edge of contemporary art, could and did exceed campus and communal expectations and, it is rumored, hastened Winer’s departure in spring 1972.[9] For some years thereafter Pomona College went back to its former ways where the gallery was run more casually by instructors from the Department of Art.

But as art history came into its own at the Colleges as a distinct subject area for instruction (as discussed above), the Colleges sought to reestablish their galleries. Just as Scripps and Pomona Colleges had done with their joint art history program, in 1974, they joined forces to exhibit art: The Galleries of the Claremont Colleges was born (1974-1993). That was when David Steadman, a specialist in Baroque art (Ph.D., Princeton University) came to the campuses as director of the Montgomery Gallery, and Melinda Lorenz became assistant director at Lang (1974-77). The program lasted nearly twenty years in this shape. When Steadman left in 1979, Marjorie Harth took over as director (1980-2004) then Kathleen Howe (2004 to the present). Harth, a specialist in French 19th-century art, took a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Howe, a specialist in the history of photography, did her Ph.D. at the University of New Mexico. AtLangArtGallery, David S. Rubin became assistant director between 1977 and 1982, then Mary MacNaughton took over in 1983 (to the present). All of the directors offered a course per year in the joint art history program.

In 1993 the Galleries of the Claremont Colleges dissolved with Scripps and Pomona going their separate ways. Scripps rededicated the Lang Art Gallery site as a commons and built a new gallery in 1993-4 named after its benefactor, Ruth Chandler Williamson. The gallery at Pomona became once again an autonomous entity at PomonaCollege, and then in 2001, the Pomona College Museum of Art. The directors of both institutions continued and continue to participate in the joint art history program inClaremont.

Another name change occurred in 1993, when the Pomona College Department of Art became the Department of Art and Art History, the better to reflect the double aspect of its affairs. That same yearPhyllis Jackson had arrived at Pomona College as a Mellon Fellow with a Ph.D. in Art History from Northwestern University to teach African and African-American art, and was subsequently appointed as an assistant professor, tenure track.

The Joint Program, 1999 to the Present

In 2000 Juliet Koss was hired at Scripps College to replace Arthur Stevens, who had retired at the end of 1999. Koss, who holds a Ph.D. in the History and Theory of Art and Architecture from the Department of Architecture at MIT, teaches nineteenth- through twenty-first-century European and U.S. art, architecture, and visual cultures. At this time, the art historians at Scripps still offered their courses within the Scripps Art Department, which subsequently changed its name to the Department of Art and Art History and, in the fall of 2005, amicably split into two separate departments, with the Department of Art History maintaining its ties to the Joint Program in Art History at Pomona and Scripps Colleges.

In 2003, Jennifer Friedlander joined the Pomona faculty as the Edgar E. and Elizabeth S. Pankey Professor of Media Studies and Assistant Professor of Art History, having completed her PhD in Communication at the University of Pittsburgh. Her hire was prompted by the rapid growth in student interest in media studies at Pomona and at the Claremont Colleges in general. When the Media Studies Program was given a new FTE, its coordinating committee decided, with the approval of the relevant departments, to search within two fields: art history and sociology (because Media Studies was a program and not a department, its faculty had to be hired into an existing department). Frances Pohl, as coordinator of Media Studies at the time, chaired the search committee. That the Department of Art and Art History sought to add Friedlander as a member attests to a shift within the field of art history as a whole toward an interdisciplinary, if not visual studies, model. Phyllis Jackson had already introduced courses on the art of Africa and the African diaspora that included film and video history and theory. Friedlander’s focus on psychoanalytic theory in her discussion of both contemporary art and mass media further broadened the exposure or students in art history to methods of visual analysis. Friedlander’s move to join the newly-formed Media Studies Department in the fall of 2008 did not cut off this development in art history: a student may enroll in Friedlander’s course, “Theories of the Visual,” for credit toward his/her major in art history.

More recently Pitzer College has promoted interdisciplinary approaches to art history in Claremont. In 2005, a new position in art history was approved there for the Art Field Group, which invited the faculty of the Pomona/Scripps joint art history program to help in the search for candidates (George Gorse was a member of the search committee). Pitzer hired Bill Anthes, who has a Ph.D. in American Studies, with a focus in art history, from the University of Minnesota, and a track record of publications on the art of indigenous peoples in North America. With Anthes’ arrival in 2006, Pitzer College became an official member of the joint program in art history. In order to facilitate communication among both faculty and students, the position of coordinator was instituted at Scripps, for one year, in fall 2009, currently held by Juliet Koss.

And finally, in 2010, Michelle Berenger arrived at Pitzer College to teach in the joint Claremont classics program, and graciously agreed to have her courses also count for credit in the joint art history program. She would replace a legendary founding professor of Pitzer College, Steve Glass, in that position. Glass, who began at Pitzer College in 1964, retired in June 2011 just a few days short of his 76th birthday. He was one of Pitzer College’s founding professors and a participant in the joint art history program right from its start (in 1973 he permitted his course on Greek art and archaeology to count for art history credit). Glass was a 1957 Pomona College graduate with a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.

Three years before departing from Pomona College in 2004, Marjorie Harth succeeded in acquiring museum status for the Montgomery Gallery of Art. From 2001 onward, Pomona has been home to the Pomona College Museum of Art, which, since 2004 has been led by Kathleen Howe. This name change was merely one manifestation of the more ambitious exhibition and acquisition program undertaken by Harth and continued by Howe. At the same time, Mary MacNaughton at Scripps was taking full advantage of the new Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, mounting the nationally-recognized ceramics annuals and exhibitions from Scripps’s permanent collections, and bringing more traveling shows to the Claremont Colleges. With the hire of Ciara Ennis in 2007 as a full-time Director/Curator of the Nichols Gallery and the Lenzner Family Art Center, Pitzer College has also been able to offer a full and exciting roster of exhibitions, primarily of contemporary art.

Compiled by Judson Emerick for the Art History Joint Program’s Self Study of 2009-10 and revised November 2011.


[1] E. Wilson Lyon, The History of Pomona College 1887-1969 (Claremont: Pomona College, 1977), 100-101, 136-137, 213, 242-6. E. Wilson Lyon (1941-1969) was the sixth president of the College.

[2]Mary MacNaughton, “Art at Scripps: The Early Years,” exhibition catalog (Claremont, 1987), introductory essay.

[3] Oral history interview with Roland Reiss conducted by Paul Karlstrom, August 22, 1997; September 9, 1997; and June 11, 1999 in Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution (q.v. online).

[4] The Claremont Graduate University, founded in 1925, offered a Masters degree in the Fine Arts at an early moment starting in the 1930s. But this small program had no professors of its own. Davidson, for example, did not teach studio art (he seems likely to have been engaged in the graduate school’s other humanities programs). For instructors in art the graduate school initially depended entirely upon studio artists at Scripps and Pomona Colleges who taught graduate students as an overload and without any remuneration (or release time at their home institutions). Here again the “genius of Claremont,” as he was widely known, Millard Sheets, had a huge impact. But everything changed radically when the Claremont Graduate School (as it was then called) committed in earnest to its M.F.A. program and hired a professor of studio art, Roland Reiss, in 1971. Claremont’s instructors in studio art at Pomona, Scripps and Pitzer Colleges still teach courses at the graduate school, but that program is now a stand-alone autonomous operation with its own dedicated faculty. See the interview with Roland Reiss (as in n. 3).

[5] Pomona College catalogs are available at the Claremont Colleges’ Honnold-Mudd Library, in Special Collections; the Scripps College Bulletins are saved at Denison Library.

[6] Emerick goes on phased retirement, teaching half-time, in 2012-13, and retires at the end of 2015.

[7] For what follows see especially Arthur Stevens, “A Very Unofficial & Private Communique concerning Scripps College,” memo sent in September 1999 toBruce Coats andMary MacNaughton, then edited and sent January 8th, 2010, toJudson Emerick.

[8] After Kenneth E. Foster at the Claremont Graduate School who taught between 1946 and 1951, already mentioned.

[9] For full particulars see, “It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles 1969-1973,” exhibition, The Pomona College Museum of Art, Part 1, Hal Glicksman at Pomona, August 30 – November 6, 2011; Part 2, Helene Winer at Pomona, December 3, 2011 – February 19, 2012 (q.v. on-line).