Helen Gardner (art historian)

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Helen Gardner (1878–1946) was an American art historian and educator. Her Art Through the Ages remains a standard text for American art history classes.

Gardner was born in Manchester, New Hampshire and attended school in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. In 1901 she graduated with a degree in classics from the University of Chicago.[1] After an interval as a teacher, she returned to the same university to study art history, and received a master's degree in 1918. In 1920 she began lecturing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she would spend the rest of her career, with the exception of short appointments at UCLA and the University of Chicago.[2]

Her major work, Art Through the Ages (1926), was the first single-volume textbook to cover the entire range of art history from a global perspective. Frequently revised, it remains a standard textbook at American schools and universities. In 1932 she also published Understanding the Arts, an art appreciation text directed toward educators. For both volumes, the analytical drawings were supplied by artist Kathleen Blackshear.[3]


  • Art through the Ages: an Introduction to its History and Significance. New York: Harcourt, Brace. 1926. 
  • Understanding the Arts. Chicago: Harcourt, Brace. 1932. 


  1. ^ Kader, Themina (2000). "The Bible of Art History: Gardner's Art Through the Ages". Studies in Art Education. 41 (2): 164–177. doi:10.2307/1320661. JSTOR 1320661. 
  2. ^ Sorensen, Lee. "Helen Gardner". Dictionary of Art Historians. Retrieved 16 January 2009. 
  3. ^ Landauer, Susan, and Becky Reese. “Lone Star Spirits.” In Patricia Trenton, ed. Independent Spirits: Women Painters of the American West, 1890–1945, 199–200. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995, pp. 199–200.

External links[edit]

  • The Ryerson & Burnham Library at the Art institute of Chicago. "Women of the Art Institute" exhibit, July 5–September 5, 2011. Case 3: Helen Gardner.
  • The Dictionary of Art Historians entry cited above: Helen Gardner.