The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.


In view of the slow development of the teaching of fine arts in other colleges, it is of interest that instruction in the fine arts was provided for in the very first act establishing the University of Michigan, namely, the Catholepistemiad act of August 26, 1817, prepared by Judge Woodward (see Part I: Early History). Under the professorship designated oeconomica, a department of the fine arts was provided for under the term callitechnia. This was much broader in scope than our traditional concept of such a department, since it envisaged the teaching of all those arts which "require the intervention of taste, genius, skill, a sense of beauty," including such subjects as naval architecture and typography.

In the "act to provide for the organization and government of the University of Michigan" passed by the legislature on March 18, 1837, a professorship of fine arts in the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts was included among the thirteen professorships thereby created. The chair of fine arts was not among those occupied by any member of the first faculty when the University opened its doors in Ann Arbor in 1841.

The actual introduction of the teaching of fine arts at the University of Michigan is probably the quaintest on record; the minutes of several meetings of the Regents, starting with that of January, 1849, reveal an interesting story. Alvah Bradish (A.M. hon. '52), a portrait painter of Detroit, while on a visit to Jamaica, sent the University an alligator and some tropical fish, which were duly acknowledged by the Regents. In July, 1851, Mr. Bradish sent in a "memorial on the subject of a Professorship of Art." The Regents took no action upon it, and the memorial remained among unfinished business when President Henry Philip Tappan assumed office in 1852. In August of that year, Bradish was appointed Professor of the Theory and Practice of the Fine Arts, with no compensation, and was allowed "a room in the University buildings for reception of such specimens of art as may pertain to his Professorship." He offered no courses and had no duties, but evidently continued his painting of portraits in Detroit. In recognition of his services to the University, he was awarded an honorary master of arts degree in December, 1852. Six years passed. Some "specimens of art" had found their way to the campus, but evidently not to his room. Henry S. Frieze, Professor of the Latin Language and Literature, had begun the fine arts collection of the University in 1855, when he secured an appropriation from the Regents with which to purchase works of art in Europe. In 1858, while Frieze was busy compiling the first catalogue of this collection, Bradish petitioned the President Page  576to be allowed to deliver a course of fourteen lectures on the fine arts, offering the results of his studies. After much deliberation, the Regents grudgingly acceded to his request, voting him sixty-five dollars for "travel and board." The lectures were delivered, but Professor Bradish with some spirit returned the money. In 1861, the senior class asked that he be specially permitted to lecture to them — a recognition which he must have regarded as a triumph. The Regents allowed him $250 for this service, but evidently regretted having done so, for they refused the request of the senior class of 1862 for a similar series of lectures. Finally, to prevent further requests of the kind, the nominal appointment of Alvah Bradish as Professor of the Theory and Practice of the Fine Arts was discontinued in August, 1863.

Henry S. Frieze had received his appointment as Professor of the Latin Language and Literature in the fall of 1854 and served the University for thirty-five years, part of the time as Acting President (see Part I: Frieze Administration). His broad cultural interests extended far beyond the limits of his professorship. In addition to beginning the art collection he brought about the establishment of the professorship of music in the University and led the movement to establish the Ann Arbor School of Music in the town. It was natural that he should introduce some teaching of the history of art into his classroom through his lectures on classical archaeology, which was akin to the history of art as it was then taught. Through him the taste for the fine arts was kept alive. Lectures on the history of Greek art were given to seniors in 1872, and by 1879 Martin L. D'Ooge and Henry S. Frieze were lecturing regularly on classical antiquities (see also Part IV: Department of Greek and Department of Latin). The first graduate seminar on Roman archaeology was conducted in 1891 by Francis W. Kelsey, and the first graduate course in Greek antiquities by D'Ooge in 1892. A classical fellowship which included the study of archaeology had been established in 1889.

Thus did the courses in archaeology and history of art creep in under the wings of the Departments of Greek and Latin. In some colleges and universities it was then thought logical to give courses in Greek art and courses on the work of current excavations in Greek language departments. Aesthetics and even the history of art were taught in philosophy departments in some institutions, usually by the professor of "intellectual and moral" or of "mental and moral" philosophy. In 1892-93 the University of Michigan offered Aesthetics of Renaissance Art as a graduate course in the Department of Philosophy.

Up to that time, courses dealing with the history of art in some American universities had found their way to a permanent academic footing as an outgrowth from essentially practical art departments which at first had used the history courses only as a very general background. When courses in the history of art began to appear separately in college catalogues, professors of other subjects often served as teachers of the new subject. A survey of art in American colleges has revealed that even as late as 1912, eighty-three courses in the history of art, both undergraduate and graduate, were given in departments other than those of the history of art (Smith). Seventy-two of these, including courses in Christian archaeology, medieval and Renaissance art, and Italian painting, were given by classics departments, four by French departments, three by history, two by romance languages, and one each by Biblical literature and Semitic language departments. In 1931-32 there were some fifty graduate courses in the Page  577history of art given under classical departments — many in colleges where recognized history of art or archaeology departments existed. In the establishment of departments of the history of art, the method of approach to the subject matter has varied. Mount Holyoke for many years announced that the historical development of art was to be traced philosophically; Vassar, Wellesley, and Washington University, among others, emphasized appreciation; Cornell announced in 1891-92 that the object of its department of classical archaeology and the history of art was "to place the student in a position to perform independent investigation." Wellesley, with Indiana, followed Harvard in including practical drawing courses as an aid to appreciation. Other colleges disagreed with this program, and the controversy as to whether or not historical courses are aided by practical courses continues an active one.

At the University of Michigan, sporadic instruction in drawing and painting had been available to those interested, both on and off the campus. Miss Alice Hunt in the early years of the present century conducted classes in drawing and painting. Her offerings were announced among the courses in the Department of Engineering, and she conducted private classes which were open to Ann Arbor residents. In 1906, the Department of Architecture was organized within the College (then known as Department) of Engineering, and it was affiliated with the Colleges (formerly Departments) of Engineering and Architecture until the College of Architecture became an independent unit in 1931.

The movement which finally achieved the establishment of the Department of Fine Arts in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts owes much to the combined activities of those interested in both the practical and the historical-theoretical aspects of the subject. Practical instruction in drawing and in ink and color rendering became a part of the curriculum in architecture; later, oil painting and architectural sculpture were added. Historical courses in architecture were included in the subjects required of the student preparing for a professional career in architecture.

The need for the re-establishment of the chair of fine arts in the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts was recognized for many years. The Regents had been memorialized on the matter on several occasions before the proposal of September, 1910 — signed by Professors D'Ooge, Kelsey, and Lorch, and Dean Cooley, and naming a candidate — led to the appointment of Herbert Richard Cross (Brown '00, Harvard '01, A.M. ibid. '02) as Assistant Professor of Fine Arts for 1911-12.

After his undergraduate and graduate work in the East, Cross, a New Englander, had completed his studies at the American School of Classical Studies in Rome. He had done practical work at the Rhode Island School of Design and had taught at Brown University, Wellesley College, the University of Illinois, and Washington University, St. Louis. The new Department of Fine Arts was housed in the recently completed Alumni Memorial Hall, and Cross also became the curator of the art collections.

The University Calendar for 1911-12 announced Italian Painting of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries for the first semester, and Roman and Medieval Art and Late Renaissance and Modern Painting in France, England, and America for the second, as well as an introductory course, given each semester, covering the history of architecture, sculpture, and painting from prehistoric times until the present. This program was developed during the eleven years of Professor Cross's administration of the Page  578department to a specialization in the general field of the Renaissance and later periods, leaving the art of Greece and Rome, except as considered in the introductory course, to the courses in classical archaeology offered by the Departments of Greek and Latin.

Books for study and reference and lantern slides for the illustrated lectures were an immediate necessity. Through the years of his administration, Cross, as his budgets permitted, built up the equipment of the department. His main interest, however, was in his lectures, which presently became very popular with the undergraduates. He had an extraordinary command of English, which he used with telling effect. To him, the history of art was primarily a cultural and inspirational subject. He could become sincerely emotional over the Aphrodite of Melos, Chartres cathedral, or a Raphael madonna and could arouse, in many of his students, a genuine enthusiasm for his subject.

In July, 1912, Cross was promoted to a full professorship, which rank he held until his resignation in September, 1922. Though his interest lay primarily in undergraduate instruction, six graduate degrees in fine arts were granted during his administration, five master of arts degrees, and one degree of doctor of philosophy. In 1919 the staff of the department was enlarged by the appointment of Bruce McNaughton Donaldson (Princeton '13, A.M. ibid. '15) as Instructor in Fine Arts. In 1922, Cross was succeeded in the administration of the department by Donaldson. The previous experience of the new head of the department had been divided between curatorial and administrative work in two museums of art and university teaching. He had served as Assistant Curator in the Department of Decorative Arts and in the Department of Arms and Armor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and, later, had been appointed Assistant Director of the Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy. From 1919 to 1922 he had taught courses on medieval and Renaissance architecture and sculpture in the University.

He regarded the problem at the University of Michigan as essentially an undergraduate problem,* and, with a definite plan of reorganization in mind, studied the program of courses and rearranged the material to suit better an enlarged curriculum. The character of the instruction was materially changed. The courses continued to be announced in the annual catalogues as fine arts, but the subject matter became the history of art. The collection of lantern slides was enlarged from about five thousand to approximately twenty-five thousand items in the years 1922-37.

Miss Adelaide Alice Adams ('20, A.M. '21), who had served for some years as Assistant and Teaching Assistant, was appointed Instructor in Fine Arts in 1924.

In October, 1928, the Carnegie Corporation of New York made a grant to the University of $100,000, divided into five equal yearly payments, for the development of fine arts. Professor John G. Winter, of the Department of Latin, was appointed administrator of the fund and in January, 1929, was made, in addition to his other duties, Director of the Division of Fine Arts. The Director was placed in charge of graduate instruction in fine arts. In May, 1936, the title of the Division of Fine Arts was changed to Institute of Fine Arts (see Part VI: Institute of Fine Arts).

The general introductory course deals with the rise and development of the fine arts from prehistoric times to the Renaissance. Page  579A more detailed consideration of the Early Christian, Byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic monuments is presented in two advanced courses. The Renaissance is studied in three courses: one in the Renaissance in Italy, one in the Renaissance in France, and one in the Renaissance in Spain and the Lowlands. An introductory course in Eastern art similar in purpose and character to the general introductory course in Western art is also available. The two remaining undergraduate courses cover American art and modern European art. These courses offer the student the opportunity of including a cultural subject in his program of electives, and the completion of all these courses enables him to pursue graduate work with a preparation equal to the requirements of the graduate school of any American university.


Calendar, Univ. Mich., 1871-1914.
Catalogue …, Univ. Mich., 1844-71, 1914-23.
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"Developing the Student's Artistic Taste."Mich. Alum., 33 (1927): 587-90.
Donaldson, Bruce M."Developments in the Modern World … Fine Arts."Mich. Alum., 34 (1928): 403-7.
Editorial. Univ. Argonaut, 1 (1882): 83.
Farrand, Elizabeth M.History of the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor: Register Publ. House, 1885.
General Register Issue, Univ. Mich., 1927-40.
Hinsdale, Burke A.History of the University of Michigan. Ed. by Isaac N. Demmon. Ann Arbor: Univ. Mich., 1906.
Hiss, Priscilla, , and Roberta Fausler. Research in Fine Arts in the Colleges and Universities of the United States. New York: Carnegie Corp., 1934.
"The Lost Chair."Univ. Chronicle, 1 (1867): 102-3.
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Proceedings of the Board of Regents …, 1864-1940. (R.P.)
Shaw, Wilfred B.The University of Michigan. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920.
Smith, Earl B.A Study of the History of Art in Colleges and Universities of the United States. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1912.
University of Michigan Regents' Proceedings …, 1837-1864. Ed. by Isaac N. Demmon. Ann Arbor: Univ. Mich., 1915. (R.P., 1837-64.)