The University of Pretoria has long encouraged the growth and development of the study and practice of the visual arts. The journey has been one of great diversity and evolution, as reflected in a number of name changes over the years. It was only in 1960 that the partnership between visual theory and visual practice was established when the Department of Art History amalgamated with the Department of Fine Arts to form the Department of Fine Arts and Art History. In 1972, the Department of Fine Arts moved from the grounds of the Pretoria Technical College to the grounds of the University of Pretoria, and into the Old Merensky Library building. In the same year the discipline of Information Design was introduced as a specialisation of the Fine Arts course. In 1978, Prof NO Roos became the head of this Department. In the 1980s, the subject Visual Communication was included in the curriculum, providing the Fine Art and Information Design students with grounding in theoretical issues that are germane to the study of the visual arts.
Visual Communication was given full accreditation as a BA subject in 1996 and was opened to any students who wished to further their knowledge of visual culture. In 1987, the Department of Fine Arts and Art History moved to what was then the Human Movement Sciences building; and so a gym was turned into a hub of creative learning and application. Around the same time, the corporate identity of the University of Pretoria was developed by the Department; this helped the Department to gain fame throughout South Africa as a reputable design school. At the beginning of 2000, Prof M Sauthoff succeeded Prof Roos and around this time the name was changed to the Department of Visual Arts. In 2000, the study of Information Design came into its own, no longer falling under the banner of Fine Arts. At the end of 2006, Prof Sauthoff left the Department of Visual Arts and Prof Jeanne van Eeden was appointed head of this dynamic Department. Prof Van Eeden retired in 2017. She was succeeded by Prof Raimi Gbadamosi, who was with UP until 2018. In 2019, the Department of Visual Arts joined the music, drama, museum and conservation programmes to form the University of Pretoria School of the Arts under the leadership of Professor Alexander Johnson.