When the University of California was founded in 1869, courses in painting, sculpture, and drawing were part of the curricula of the Architecture Department, Drawing and Decorative Arts Department, the Department of Domestic Art, and the Department of Drawing and Mapping. It was not until the early 20th-century that the Department of Art Practice came into being.
In 1915, Assistant Professor of Decorative Design in the Department of Domestic Art, Eugene Neuhaus, lectured on art at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. His lectures at the Exposition, and during the years following, generated so much statewide interest in contemporary fine art that by 1923 the Department of Art Practice was established on the Berkeley campus under the Chairmanship of Professor Eugene Neuhaus. In the 1930’s and 1940’s, Oliver Washburn, Stephen Pepper and Worth Ryder also served as department Chairs.
During the Department of Art Practice’s 1930 and 1931 summer sessions, Hans Hoffmann electrified students and the Bay Area community with his concepts on modern art. Subsequently, he donated 45 of his paintings to UC Berkeley. These paintings became the basis for the Berkeley Art Museum’s permanent Hans Hoffmann collection. Internationally recognized artist, Chiura Obata, was a member of the Art Practice faculty from 1932-1954. In addition to Hoffmann and Obata, the department’s faculty has included nationally and internationally acclaimed artists such as Joan Brown, Jay deFeo, David Hockney, Sylvia Lark, and Peter Voulkos. More recent distinguished artists on our faculty include Visiting Lecturers Richard Diebenkorn, Enrique Chagoya, Vincent Fecteau, Monica Majoli, Helen Mirra, Kota Ezawa, and Marianne Weems.
The department’s alumni have used their UC Berkeley training in the visual fine arts as a preparation for careers in advertising, fashion design, gallery entrepreneurship, film editing, film production, museum and gallery curating, graphics, publishing, and theater/film set design and construction. Our alumni have gone on to teach at the Academy of Art College, Alfred University, Bennington College, California College of Arts and Crafts, California State University, Carnegie-Mellon University, Chicago Art Institute, Johns Hopkins University, Memphis State University, Notre Dame University, Parsons School of Design, Princeton University, Rutgers University, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco School of Art, San Francisco State University, Stanford University, University of California, University of Minnesota, and Yale University.