Major Requirements

In consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies and other faculty, each student develops a course of study tailored to his or her interests, building a Special Field shaped by geographical, chronological, or thematic questions.

Major in Art History

The BA in art history furnishes students with a broad knowledge of art, including architecture, even as it provides an opportunity for the complementary, intensive study of an area of special interest. The basic components of the concentration are: a special field, devised in consultation with departmental instructors and the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS); a distribution of courses outside the special field; at least two research papers in art history (emerging from ordinary course work in the department); and a third-year seminar on art-historical methods and issues. Fourth-year students who wish to pursue honors in the major conduct independent research on a topic of their own devising, producing a BA Paper with the guidance of a faculty member and a graduate preceptor.

Program Requirements

Beginning with the Class of 2020, art history majors will follow the requirements outlined below. Students in the Class of 2019 have the option of adhering to the new or to the old requirements. They should meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies to address their options and any questions or concerns. Note: The new requirements do not apply to students who will be in their final year in 2017–18.

All art history majors are expected take at least one (1) course in art history at the 10000-level to fulfill their general education requirement in the arts. Although general education courses do not count for the major, they are useful preliminaries to advanced work. It is, therefore, strongly recommended that students take such a course as early as possible in their undergraduate careers. Note: Students who have formally declared the major in art history are guaranteed admission to 10000-level courses by notifying the instructor in advance.

The Standard Curriculum

The standard formula for requirements in the major goes by the sobriquet “4-3-2-1.” All art history majors must complete the following:

  • Four (4) courses at the 20000-level to meet a distribution requirement within the department. These courses shall be selected in consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Courses should be selected for maximal geographical, chronological, cultural, and methodological diversity, and for minimal overlap with the Special Field.
  • Three (3) courses at the 20000-level in a Special Field. Students develop the Special Field in consultation with departmental instructors and the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Because Special Fields reflect the interests of individual students, they range widely in topic, approach, and scope. Reading courses with art history faculty may be used to pursue specific questions within a Special Field. For more on the Special Field, see “The Special Field” below.
  • Two (2) courses at the 20000-level as free electives. Any art history courses at the 20000-level may satisfy this requirement. Courses outside the Department of Art History that relate directly to the Special Field are eligible to meet this requirement by petition to the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
  • ARTH 29600 Junior Seminar: Doing Art History. Students are expected to take this course in the Winter Quarter of the third year. Students who wish to study abroad during that quarter must meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies no later than the beginning of their third year to work out an alternative program of study.
  • At least two research papers of 10–15 pages. See "Research Papers" below.

In all of the above cases, graduate seminars at the 40000-level may count toward requirements in the major. Students are advised, however, that such courses impose special burdens of time and expertise, and admission to them is typically only by explicit approval of the instructor and may involve various prerequisites.

Students wishing to pursue honors in the major have additional requirements, described below under “Honors.”

The Special Field

The Special Field is developed by the student in consultation with instructors and the Director of Undergraduate Studies, and may take various forms. It may be defined with reference to a civilization, a chronological period, a nation-state, a cultural institution, or a suitable combination; it may be conceptual in character (e.g., art and the history of science, urban history, geography, gender and sexuality studies); it may combine historical, critical, and theoretical perspectives (e.g., politics and visual art in the twentieth century); it may be based in a particular medium or class of object (e.g., the built environment, tomb assemblages, or prints); it may combine historical and studio-practice courses (e.g., DoVA, CMST, TAPS, Music) to explore interrelations (e.g., art and dance). In many cases, courses outside the Department of Art History will be directly relevant to the Special Field; up to two such courses may be counted toward the major as free electives to complement the Special Field. 

For those writing a BA Paper, the topic normally develops from the Special Field and allows for further study in the Special Field through independent research and writing.

A proposal for the Special Field, in the form of a written petition, must be received by the Director of Undergraduate Studies and approved no later than the end of a student's third year. It is strongly recommended that students complete at least two courses in their Special Field by the end of their third year.

Junior Seminar

ARTH 29600 Junior Seminar: Doing Art History is designed to introduce the methods of art historical research. It is offered in Winter Quarter and required of art history majors; if they wish, minors may take the course to satisfy a 20000-level course requirement. Majors or prospective majors who wish to study abroad during Winter Quarter of their third year must meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, preferably in their first or second year and no later than the beginning of their third year, to work out an alternative program of study. Second-year art history majors are permitted to enroll in the Junior Seminar with permission from the instructor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Research Papers

All art history majors write at least two research papers of 10–15 pages. Students who wish to write a BA Paper should complete this requirement before the beginning of their fourth year. A research paper can be:

  • a paper written to fulfill a course assignment,
  • the extension of a shorter course paper (either during the course or after its completion) to meet the page requirement, or
  • a new paper on a topic chosen in consultation with the instructor.

The paper should include an analysis of existing scholarship and other relevant source materials. The paper should also draw on that scholarship and evidence to shape and support a thesis or argument of the student's own devising. Formal analyses of works of art and analytic papers on materials assembled by the instructor do not qualify. On completion of a research paper, students must submit an approval form, signed by the course instructor, to the Director of Undergraduate Studies. It is the student's responsibility to obtain this signature and to submit the form.


Art History Majors who wish to complete the major with honors have additional requirements.

Summary of Requirements for the Major

MAJOR: Standard Curriculum  
Four (4) courses to meet the distribution requirement * 400
Three (3) courses in a special field * 300
Two (2) courses as electives * 200
ARTH 29600 Junior Seminar: Doing Art History 100
Two (2) 10- to 15-page research papers  
Total Units 1000

*All courses must be at the 20000-level or higher.



Art history majors should see the Director of Undergraduate Studies no less than once a year for consultation and guidance in planning a special field, in selecting courses, and in choosing a topic for the BA Paper if pursuing honors, as well as for help with any academic problems within the major. When choosing courses, students should refer to the major worksheet. This form helps each student and the Director of Undergraduate Studies monitor the student's progress in the program.

In order to keep an accurate record of students' progress to graduation, students will need to regularly provide a copy of the updated major worksheet to their College advisor for processing.

Recommendations for Art History Majors

Qualified undergraduate students in art history may, with the express permission of the instructor, enroll in graduate seminars in the department. (These seminars are also open to non-majors with the same proviso.) For students interested in graduate study in art history, it is advantageous to have performed well in a graduate seminar while completing the BA.

Students are urged to also pursue upper-level language courses. If a language course is relevant to a student's Special Field, the student may petition the Director of Undergraduate Studies to count it toward electives.

Those planning to continue their study of art history at the graduate level are advised to achieve language competency equal to at least two years of college study in French or German, or in the language(s) relevant for the geographic region that corresponds to their primary area of interest.