Program Requirements

The study of art history ranges widely, from ancient cave paintings in Central Asia to new media installations in Manhattan. Students in art history classes can expect to look closely at works of art while also investigating the context of their production as well as the ways in which they have been interpreted and understood over time. Students can also expect to find themselves immersed in questions of politics, social institutions, religion, technology, material culture, and the city.

As one of the building blocks of the humanities, art history offers perspectives on the world of the image that enhance and sustain the liberal arts in general. Studying the nature of art and its many practices equally lays a foundation for an informed understanding of our increasingly visual and digital world.


The discipline of art history encompasses the study of all forms of art, architecture, and visual culture. It is taught as a world discipline that includes art from different cultural and geographical regions of the globe and from all time periods in human history. The major in art history can serve either as a general program in the humanities or as the groundwork for more specialized training.

Twelve credits are required to complete the major: two introductory level courses; six intermediate- and advanced-level courses, two of which must be 400-level seminars; one methods seminar; two electives; and the senior essay.

100-level courses in the Introduction to History of Art series offer broad coverage of basic art history. Majors are required to take two of these core courses from a menu of up to four offerings depending on the curriculum plan for the academic year. Examples of 100-level courses include HSAR 110 Global Decorative Arts, 143 Buddhist Art and Architecture, 150 Art and Architecture of the Sacred.

Intermediate- and advanced-level courses offer more specialized surveys and themes in art history. These courses fall into one or more categories on the departmental distributional grid, which consists of intersecting geographical and chronological coordinates. Majors must take courses in a minimum of four distinct geographical categories and four distinct chronological categories. Each individual course may be counted in one geographical and one chronological category.

The methods seminar, Critical Approaches to Art History, is a wide-ranging introduction to the practices of the art historian and the history of the discipline.

Electives may include courses taken in other departments with relevance to the major program of study.

The senior essay is a research paper written usually in one term. In special cases a two-term senior essay may be approved by the DUS on petition.

History of Art majors are urged to study foreign languages. Students considering graduate work in European or American art should take German and another modern language related to their field of interest. Those planning to do graduate work in other fields should master the relevant languages as soon as possible.


The Director of Undergraduate Studies, or DUS, offers advice and counseling to majors as they plan their individualized programs for completion of the major. The DUS works closely with students to develop course schedules that meet both departmental and university distributional requirements and the needs of students in pursuit of their own personal goals and projects. Students should feel free to contact the DUS who will make every effort to provide support and insure a productive outcome to pursuit of the major.