The Major in the History of Art seeks to deepen students’ knowledge of artistic production and practice over the scope of human history, as well as to broaden awareness of the critical and interpretive aims of the discipline itself. Students develop skills in the analysis of works of art, sharpen their understanding of the social, cultural, and personal values embodied by works, and explore the relation of art history to other disciplines. The Department particularly encourages a broad geographic understanding of art production and encourages students to consider the relations and distinctions among different visual cultures.

Students are strongly advised to make an appointment each semester to discuss their progress through the major with the Undergraduate Chair. Majors are also encouraged to achieve an advanced level of French, German, or other languages as relevant to their subject interests. During their senior year majors may pursue independent research by writing an honors thesis and are invited to become regular participants in the department colloquium series.

Declaring the Major

Please be sure to meet with our Undergraduate Chair, prefereably before declaring your major, or shortly after declaring, by signing up for an appointment with the Undergraduate Chair during office hours. 

Major Requirements

Minimum Requirement: 13 c.u.

1. General Surveys: 2 c.u. (AHAS)

The department recommends one of the following surveys: ARTH 1010, ARTH 1020, ARTH 1040, ARTH 1060, ARTH 1100

The second survey can be taken from the following list: ARTH 1010, ARTH 1020, ARTH 1030, ARTH 1040, ARTH 1060, CIMS 1001, CIMS 1002, ARTH 1100, ARTH 1500 (VLST 1010), and ARTH 1800

Prospective majors are advised to take these surveys early in their undergraduate program and to discuss a course of study with the Undergraduate Chair when they begin to consider majoring in art history, preferably in the fall of sophomore year.

2. Historical Distribution Areas: 3 c.u.

Courses numbered 2000-level or higher. One course in three fields: Ancient (AHAA), Medieval/Renaissance (AHAR), and Modern (AHAM).

3. Geographical Distribution Areas: 1 c.u. (AHAG)

Courses numbered 2000-level or higher, one course from these four fields: Islamic, South Asian, East Asian, Latin American, African/Oceanic, or others as available.

4. ARTH 3000 Methods seminar: 1 c.u.

5. Seminars: 2 c.u.

Two seminars at the 3000- or 5000-level; may be double-counted (but not double-credited) toward the historical and geographical distributions.

6. Courses of Choice: 4 c.u. in selected fields of student’s interest.

7. Up to three courses for the distribution may be accepted as transfer credits, from Penn-approved study abroad courses, or from another department; these should be chosen in consultation with and must be approved by the Undergraduate Chair. Transfer credits must first be approved by the transfer credit officer. Prospective majors and transfer students must consult with the Undergraduate Chair regarding courses taken elsewhere.

8. Optional program for Honors:

Students writing honors theses are required to take 1 thesis credit in the Autumn and 1 thesis credit in the Spring semester of their senior year.

See the "Honors" page.

9. The Department of the History of Art does not require majors to enroll in specific major-related courses given in other departments or programs. Nevertheless, it is expected that majors will seek to broaden their comprehension of the cultural and historical origins of the arts with elective courses. The Undergraduate Chair assists majors in choosing electives suited to their areas of particular interest. Majors who intend to continue their studies in graduate school are encouraged to select electives in literature, history, and regional studies, among others.

10. Language requirements are not a formal part of the major, but all majors are strongly advised to achieve an advanced level in French, German or field-specific languages. A reading knowledge of French and German is useful for advanced work in many courses offered for the major and both are essential for graduate work in many fields. In addition, languages necessary to continue work in some fields should be acquired as early as possible (for example, ancient Greek, Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, Arabic, Hindi, Sanskrit, among others).

11. Double Counting: ARTH courses taken at the 2000 level may be counted, but not double credited, for either historic distribution OR geographic distribution, but not both. Seminars taken at the 3000 and 5000 level may be double counted for seminar distribution and historical distribution or geographic distribution.

12. Majors and Minors who receive a score of 5 on their Advanced Placement Equivalency for Art History can waive one of their 1000-level survey requirements and replace with an elective credit (making a total of five electives and one survey). Students will still need to complete the 13-credit requirement for the major or the 6-credit requirement for the minor, but this additional elective will take the place of a 1000-level survey.

13. Declared students cannot take major courses pass/fail, here or abroad.