Individuals seeking admission to the graduate program are encouraged to explore this website and, if seeking further information, to consult the Graduate Bulletin which explains in detail the graduate program.  Prospective students are also encouraged to contact the Graduate Group Chair and to speak or correspond with faculty in their field of interest.  A visit to Penn, when possible, is also a terrific way to explore the department in person.

Applications for admission to the M.A. and Ph.D. programs are submitted directly to the Graduate School ON-LINE. (Fall 2024 Application will be available October 2, 2023.  Application fee is $90.00)  It is not necessary to send any materials directly to the department.

In the personal statement, all Ph.D. applications within the Graduate Division of Arts & Sciences should address the following:

Please describe how your background and academic experiences have influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree and led you to apply to Penn. Your essay should detail your specific research interests and intellectual goals within your chosen field. Please provide information about your educational trajectory, intellectual curiosity and academic ambitions. If you have overcome adversity and/or experienced limited access to resources or opportunities in your field of study, please feel free to share how that has affected the course of your education. We are interested in your lived experiences and how your particular perspective might contribute to the inclusive and dynamic learning community that Penn values and strives to create.

Here is a link to the

Applications are reviewed by a committee headed by the Graduate Group Chair.  The chair then makes recommendations on admission to the Dean of the Graduate Division, who may approve or reject the recommendations.  The Dean also determines the number of students admitted in any given year, based on the Graduate School’s financial resources.  All admitted students receive full fellowship packages, which include tuition remission, five years of stipend, and several summers of supported research. 

The committee reviews each application very carefully and weighs all aspects of a candidate’s preparation for graduate study.  The primary elements of the application include:  academic transcript, (3) letters of recommendations, TOEFL scores for international students, personal statement (1000 word maximum), and writing sample (30 double-spaced pages maximum, including images).  All offer insights into a student’s past achievements and prospects for future development.  It is normally expected that students have a solid background in art history, but it is not necessary to have majored in art history.  In addition, applicants should demonstrate good proficiency in at least one foreign language. Two foreign languages will be required of all Ph.D and MA students before they advance to candidacy. GRE Test are no longer required for admissions. IELTS test scores are accepted but they must be mailed directly from the testing site to the Graduate Division of Arts and Sciences, 3401 Walnut Street, Suite 322A, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6228.  Students cannot mail the test results.



For the 2024-25 Admission Cycle, we are pleased to offer the James D. McDonough Fellowship in Queer Art History, funded by the Alphawood Foundation. The McDonough Fellowship will generously support one additional MA student and one additional PhD student in the Department of the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of Queer Studies in Art History. Students may pursue any field in queer art histories, from ancient to contemporary, across any geographical region. The McDonough PhD Fellowship covers full tuition, general fees, health insurance and stipend for five full years in addition to funding for a summer internship. The McDonough MA fellowship covers tuition, general fees, and health insurance but does not include a stipend. Support also includes the costs of either a travel seminar to an international queer exhibition or hosting a queer conference locally.

Applicants to the Department of the History of Art should indicate on their statement of purpose that they wish to apply for The McDonough Fellowship, and their application essay and writing sample should ideally reflect an interest in queer art history. Please write the Chair of Graduate Studies, Professor Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw ( with additional questions. 


NOTE:  Applicants, if any of your letters of recommendation are in an Interfolio databases, they CAN NOT be uploaded to the application system. Please inform your recommenders that use the Interfolio system, they need to email their letter to Darlene Jackson ( and she will upload to the applicant's file.

Fall 2024 Application deadline ~ December 15, 2023 11:59 pm E.S.T