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H. Rafael Chacón, Professor

Art History & Criticism

phone: 406.243.2735
office: Fine Arts Bldg 305B


Dr. Chacón teaches courses on: African Art, American Art, Ancient American Art, Critical Theories, European Art of the 19th and 20th Centuries, Latin American Art, Renaissance Art and Theory, Art and War, Art and Insanity, and Spanish Art. His current academic interests lie in American architectural history and historic preservation. He has recently completed a book on the life and work of Montana architect A.J. Gibson.

Teaching Philosophy

For thousands of years human beings have been making marks, shaping ourselves, and transforming the physical universe around us. Our motivations for creating art are diverse and complex, but what is certain is that they almost always transcend utility. Art history provides critical tools for understanding how we define and explain our reality, who we are as a people, what we believe in, and what matters to us most. As a discipline, art history affirms the notion that artistic expression is an integral part of our intellectual history.

My approach in the classroom is to expose the student to the constellation of ideas that surrounds the work of art. We study art as a physical entity, yet we also analyze the motivations and circumstances of the artist and the complex social matrix in which art is made and valued. We discuss the various interpretations of scholars across time and culture and we offer our own research and opinions through written and oral presentations. Through research and discussion, we attempt to recreate art's original context and, whenever possible, we seek the immediacy of first-hand contact with the work of art. This hands-on approach to art history complements the art studio program at the University of Montana and strikes a balance between the word and the image. It reaffirms our commitment to the notion that a grasp of history in all its forms is not only desirable, but necessary for the formation of the art major, the student of the liberal arts, and the responsible citizen.

Selected Curriculum Vitae

Awards and Honors

Named one of ten "Five-Star Smithsonian Journeys Experts"
TedX UMontana presentation "What My Genes Tell Me"

Recent Publications

"Montana Modernism: Contemporary Architecture in the Western State, 1945-1975," Montana: The Magazine of Western History, Summer 2013, Vol. 63, No. 2,
pp. 3-25.
"Tempus Fugit," gallery guide to the exhibition, Philadelphia, PA: The American Philosophical Society Museum.
"Van Gogh in the Rice Paddies," The International Journal of Arts in Society, Volume 6, No. 2, pp. 111-120
"Clay and the Classroom: The Ceramics Program at The University of Montana" exhibition catalog essay, Missoula: Missoula Art Museum, 9-11.
"Seventeen Inquiries," essay in catalogue, Missoula: Photography III Class, School of Art, The University of Montana, 2011, iv.
"The Miraculous Survival of the Art of Glacier National Park," Montana: The Magazine of Western History, Summer 2010, 56-74
"The University of Montana Historic District Expansion," nomination, Washington DC: National Register of Historic Places.
The Original Man: The Life and Work of Montana Architect A.J. Gibson, (1862-1927).
Inventory and Historic Background Report on the Artwork at Glacier National Park, Federal Report, Glacier National Park: 2006.
"Review of Spain in the Age of Exploration, 1492-1819," 2005.
“Coming Into Being,” in Wes Mills, New York: Printed Matter, Inc., 2004.
St. James Guide to Hispanic Artists: Profiles of Latino and Latin American Artists, Detroit: St. James Press, 2002, 12 essays on Cuban modernists.
“Creating a Mythic Past: Spanish-style Architecture in Montana,” Montana: The Magazine of Western History, Autumn 2001, 46-59.


1992 to present
Renaissance Society of America.
1991 to present
American Society for Architectural Historians.
College Art Association.
1990 to present
Association for Latin American Art.
1986 to present
American Society for Hispanic Art Historical Studies.


Ph.D with honors, University of Chicago, Illinois, 1995
M.A., University of Chicago, Illinois, 1987
B.A., Summa Cum Laude, Wabash College, Indiana, 1985