Students in the Master of Arts in the History of Decorative Arts and Design program investigate the stylistic, historical, and theoretical contexts of European and American decorative arts and design from the Renaissance to the present. The 48-credit full-time master’s degree curriculum, which covers furniture, interiors, ceramics, costume, glass, graphic design, metalwork, textiles, and works on paper and other media, enables students to go beyond connoisseurship to address objects as intersections of social meaning and aesthetic theory.
Students benefit from opportunities to conduct research using local collections and work with curators, educators, and visiting scholars in Paris. They gain hands-on experience in museum practices and often pursue for-credit internships at museums, galleries, auction houses, and historic houses in the city. Graduates go on to careers as historians, curators, and scholars in museums, universities, historic houses, auction houses, and galleries; work in publishing and communications; and develop entrepreneurial opportunities.
|Survey of Decorative Arts 1||3||-|
|Survey of Decorative Arts 2||-||3|
|Electives (2, if writing a thesis)||-||6|
|Independent Study: Thesis 1, Independent Study: Thesis 2 or Electives (3, if taking exams)||-||3|
|Independent Study: Master’s Exam||-||3|
The MA program is normally completed in two or three years of full-time study or four years of part-time study. Required courses: Proseminar, Survey of Decorative Arts I and II, and an elective in either museology or art theory. Students declare major and minor areas of concentration for the MA examination after completing 24 credits; those with a 3.5 minimum grade point average may petition to write a master’s thesis.
Proseminar equips students with the skills required for scholarship in the history of decorative arts. Class discussions introduce a range of methodologies and critical approaches. Exercises train students in essential tasks such as conducting formal analyses, writing catalog entries, and making visual presentations. This writing-intensive course stresses the mechanics of expository writing through projects that require students to conduct research. Each student selects one work from the Cooper-Hewitt collection to study throughout the semester.
Survey of Decorative Arts I provides an overview of European decorative arts from the 15th through the 18th century with focus on Italy, France, and England. Discussions address the style, function, and meaning of the decorative arts in both daily and ceremonial life. Drawing on interdisciplinary readings, the course considers objects and ornament within their cultural, political, and social contexts. As the semester progresses, students explore how the transmission of style, the migration of craftsmen, and the availability of new materials and techniques gave rise to an international vocabulary of design.
Survey of Decorative Arts II examines the decorative arts from the 19th century to the present. Sessions on the 19th century consider neoclassicism, revival styles, the Aesthetic movement, the Arts and Crafts movement, and art nouveau within the broader history of the period. Individual craftsmen, firms, and important stylemakers and commentators on the decorative arts are discussed, as is the effect of industrialization on design and objects. In the 20th and 21st centuries, the course addresses modernism and industrial design. Topics include the Wiener Werkstätte, Bauhaus, art moderne, “Good Design,” and postmodernism.
Contemporary Design Studies
Students may elect to follow a suite of courses in contemporary design studies. These explore themes in design and visual, material, and popular culture, with a focus on the post-1945 period. The curriculum is enriched by its connection to the contemporary design exhibitions of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.
A sequence of three courses in aspects of 20th-century American popular culture is also offered: Twentieth-Century American Popular Culture; Advertising in 20th-Century America; and Looking at the Decorative Arts through Film. These courses, which may be taken in any order, examine the intersection of the popular and the material in American culture, and consider ordinary objects in terms of class, gender, and racial identity, and the politics of taste.
Survey of Ceramics PGHT 5716
New York City: Design of the City PGDE 5107
Scandinavian Design PGHT 5016
Graphic Design PGHT 5726
Designers and Makers PGHT 5736
American Furniture Survey PGHT 5756
1960s Japan and Global Design PGHT 5640
Boundless World: 18th C. Italy PGHT 5717