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Our School - a brief history

School of Art History & Cultural Policy

UCD was the first Irish university to offer instruction in Art History at undergraduate and postgraduate level; it also hosts Ireland’s longest running programme of training for those in the cultural sector, the MA in Cultural Policy and Arts Management. The School of Art History & Cultural Policy is Ireland’s largest academic department in Art History and provides a full range of taught modules in Art History at undergraduate level as well as running the Diploma in History of European Painting, a two year part-time course. At postgraduate level two MA programmes are offered: one in Art History and the other in Cultural Policy and Arts Management, the latter which is widely regarded as the preeminent course of its kind in Ireland, and one of the most established internationally.

The foundation of the Department of the History of European Painting in the then Faculty of Arts at UCD in 1965 marked a milestone in the history of Art History in Ireland. For the first time there was a dedicated department for the academic discipline within the Irish university system with a designated Head of Department, eminent art historian and archaeologist, Françoise Henry. However, the teaching of Art History at UCD traces to the 1930s. In 1934 Dr Henry was invited by Dr Denis Coffey, President of the University, to teach a course in the History of European Painting in conjunction with a scholarship endowed by the artist Sarah Purser and her cousin’s husband the engineer Sir John Griffith. The endowment provided for an annual art history scholarship and prize, the scholarship intended to facilitate travel and further study abroad, and provide a foundation for the training of Irish art historians for the staff of Ireland’s art institutions. In no small part due to the Purser-Griffith Scholarship and the lectures in the History of European Painting the serious study of art history gained concrete recognition as an academic subject in Irish universities with the founding of the Department of European Painting with Dr Henry as its head.  

Dr Henry retired in 1974 and with the appointment of Professor Alistair Rowan in 1977 the title of the Department was changed to the Department of the History of Art. During his tenure programme of studies expanded to include architecture and sculpture. The Chair in the History of Art was created in 1974, first held by Professor Rowan, subsequently by Professor Michael McCarthy and since 2007 by Professor Kathleen James-Chakraborty. Postgraduate degrees in Art History have been awarded since 1970 [MA] and 1973 [PhD]. The Taught MA in Art History has been central to postgraduate teaching at the School since the 1990s, augmenting the long-established profile of MA, MLitt and PhD research. The MA in Cultural Policy and Arts Management is a further important component of the School's postgraduate programme.  This MA traces its lineage to the Diploma in Arts Administration, first introduced in 1986/87 as a new postgraduate offering from the Department of the History of Art in conjunction with the Irish Museums Trust.  Over its history, that Diploma experienced changes but its present mature iteration is an integral part of the School of Art History and Cultural Policy: its place clearly reflected in that name, adopted by the former Department of the History of Art during the 2005 restructuring of UCD.

UCD School of Art History and Cultural Policy

Newman Building, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
T: +353 1 716 8162 | E: arthistory.culturalpolicy@ucd.ie