History of Art and Architecture

Gretchen Holtzapple Bender

Assistant Chair and Director of Undergraduate Studies

Area of Specialization

World Art, Pedagogy, Program Development


Constellation(s): Agency, Environment, Identity, Mobility/Exchange

As assistant chair and director of undergraduate studies for the department, Gretchen Holtzapple Bender devotes her attention to teaching, curriculum development and pedagogy, and oversees the educational and pre-professional advising of around 180 undergraduate majors in HAA and architectural studies. She has enjoyed teaching at the University of Pittsburgh since 2002, offering a wide range of courses including the introductory History of World Art that she designed, several courses in modern art and architecture, and research and writing seminars on feminism and art history, Romantic landscape, Berlin Architecture, and ‘Making Space: Agency, Identity and Representing Representation’. She has played a central role in the revision of the core curriculum in the undergraduate HAA program and established a developmental advising process for the department. New initiatives that she has implemented or overseen include HAAARCH!!!!, the annual departmental showcase that features undergraduate achievement, the Museum Studies minor and the Milton Fine Fellowships in Museum Professions, and the revision of the Preservation minor. Completing her dissertation at Bryn Mawr College under the guidance of Christiane Hertel, Bender’s research focuses on the landscape practice of Caspar David Friedrich in the context of a broader and emerging European visual culture. Specifically, she is interested in the gendering of place and embodied spectatorship in early 19th-century European culture. 

Education Details

PhD, Bryn Mawr

MA, American University

Selected Publications

“Gaertner’s Compromise: Spectatorship and Social Order in the 1834 Panorama of Berlin,” journal article under review.

“Interior/Landscape: Placelessness and the Gendered Gaze in the Work of Caspar David Friedrich,” dissertation, Bryn Mawr College (Ann Arbor: UMI, 2001).

Selected Awards

Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, 2015

AMPCO Pittsburgh Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising, The Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, 2013

Tina and David Bellet Teaching Excellence Award, School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, 2008.

Doris Sill Carland Prize for Excellence in Teaching, Bryn Mawr College, 1996

Phi Beta Kappa

Current Projects

Her most recent project is WHAAM – “Why the History of Art and Architecture Matters,” a project that interweaves curricular development and pedagogical initiatives with public outreach.  The Goal of WHAAM is to articulate clearly what distinct contribution art history, as a humanistic discipline, makes to a broad range of undergraduate students in the liberal arts curriculum, to younger students in secondary schools and to the public broadly.

This project seeks to expand the mission of academic art history by emphasizing the importance of teaching and pedagogy with an interest in what purpose the discipline has for those outside it.   Central to this endeavor will be an attempt to articulate art history’s 'signature pedagogy’.  What specialized and unique processes does art history bring to the classroom? What particular skills are unique to thinking like an art or architectural historian?   And, what impact can these skills have in civic discourse and what human needs can they address?

Engaging with the critical debates central to the field of World Art Studies and the ethical imperative of thinking about difference in a global world, Prof. Bender is significantly revising the key foundation course Introduction to World Art and created a new advanced seminar, World Art: Contact and Conflict, developed with generous support from the Global Studies Center at the University of Pittsburgh.  In addition, she is developing community-based service learning programs. In 2014 she partnered with the Pittsburgh Assistance Center for Educators and Students (PACES, http://www.pittsburghaces.org/) to provide a series of workshops on public art for students enrolled in the Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy, a 6-12 magnet school within Pittsburgh Public Schools that culminated in a public art exhibition of work produced by the younger students and curated by History of Art majors: http://www.honorscollege.pitt.edu/sl-courses-haa1909 and http://www.constellations.pitt.edu/encounters.