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Letha Ch'ien (on fellowship leave for 2024-2025)

Associate Professor of Art History

Dr. Ch'ien
Letha Ch'ien (on fellowship leave for 2024-2025)



Art 105

Office Hours

Advising Area

  • General


  • Art History 160A/B (FLC): Art Here, There, Then, Now
  • Art History 211: Intro to Art History Global Ren-Modern 
  • Art History 300: Graded Assistant Projects
  • Art History 442: Post-Millennial Issues in Medieval Art
  • Art History 442: The Self-Conscious Italian Renaissance
  • Art History 444: Northern Renaissance
  • Art History 450: Baroque: Object to Artwork
  • Art History 480: Site Specific: Art, Place, and Space
  • Art History 480: Race and European Art
  • Art History 490: Proseminar in Visual Culture
  • Art History 492: Senior Honors Thesis


Book: Polytopos: Venice, Empire, Art


Letha Ch’ien is an associate professor of medieval and Renaissance art history. She teaches late medieval and early modern art of Europe, race and European art, space and geoaesthetics, and the proseminar in visual art and culture. Her research focuses on identity, ethnicity, and race in late medieval and early modern Venice. In addition to her scholarly activities, Dr. Ch’ien publishes art criticism on a wide range of topics.

She has published on ekphrasis, multi-ethnic pictorial practice, and race in European art in scholarly presses. Dr. Ch’ien has presented research widely at special topic symposia internationally and at the major conferences in her field including the Medieval Association of the Pacific, Renaissance Society of America, Sixteenth Century Society, SECAC, Pacific Northwest Renaissance Conference, Renaissance Conference of Southern California, and the College Art Association. 

Dr. Ch’ien’s research has been supported by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Fulbright Program, and the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. She also has been a fellow at the Townsend Center for the Humanities. Professional training includes an NEH summer seminar and paleographic work at the Medici Archive Project and at the Newberry Library.

Public scholarship is of great interest to Dr. Ch’ien. She writes regularly for the San Francisco Chronicle and has contributed to Smarthistory, Hyperallergic, The Sundial, Artsy, and News in Context. Public speaking engagements have included the Berkeley Art Museum, the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Art.

Supporting students, especially former foster youth, in higher education is of personal importance to Dr. Ch’ien. She has served as a McNair Scholar advisor, a tutor with B2B at Laney College in Oakland, and as a mentor with Guardian Scholars at UC Davis and Berkeley Hope Scholars at UC Berkeley. She enjoys overseeing honors theses and master’s theses that have covered topics ranging from the relation of colonialism and environment in eighteenth-century fête galante paintings to early modern maps to feminist investigations of art criticism and issues of authenticity in medieval restoration projects.


PhD, University of California, Berkeley, History of Art

BA, San José State University, Art History



Selected Publications & Presentations


“Finding, Stealing, Translating: the Subject(s) of Tintoretto’s Brera Scuola Grande di San Marco Istoria” in Ekphrastic Image-making in the Early Modern Europe and the Americas. Edited by Walter S. Melion and Arthur J. DiFuria, Brill, 2022.

“Polytopos: Multi-ethnic Practice in Venetian Imagery,” in Cultures and Practices of Coexistence in the Multi-ethnic Cities of the Mediterranean World, 13th – 18th Centuries, Multi-Ethnic Cities of the Mediterranean World. Edited by Marco Folin, Antonio Musarra. New York: Routledge, 2020.


Chapter 57: Responding to the Early Modern European Tradition in Rethinking Art History, Smarthistory: The Center for Public Art History

“White Columns, White Narratives” The Sundial (Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies), September 8, 2021

"What can Bay Area museums do to avoid becoming unwitting vehicles of racism?," San Francisco Chronicle, October 1, 2020

"Bay Area professor confronts the racist aspects of European art history," San Francisco Chronicle, October 1, 2020 


"Muppet master Frank Oz shares haunting puppets from his family’s past" San Francisco Chronicle August 5, 2022

"Critical and hopeful in equal measure’: the fearless art of Faith Ringgold" San Francisco Chronicle July 16, 2022

"S.F. artist Irene Poon’s photographs capture small, beautiful moments in Chinatown and elsewhere" San Francisco Chronicle July 1, 2022

"S.F. artist Carlos Villa was told there was no such thing as ‘Filipino art.’ So he made history" San Francisco Chronicle June 6, 2022

"At 88, a San Francisco artist finally gets her first solo museum exhibition" San Francisco Chronicle May 6, 2022

“De Young’s Jules Tavernier exhibition includes the perspective of the Pomo people he painted” San Francisco Chronicle December 28, 2021

“Amoako Boafo’s soulful portraits stand up to the hype in his first museum show,” San Francisco Chronicle October 29, 2021