The University of Chicago | Graduate Admissions

Art History - PhD

Division: Humanities
Degree Type: PhD

Program Description

The Department of Art History offers varied programs of specialization in the history and theory of art, leading to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Students with a BA, as well as those with an MA in art history from another institution, are welcome to apply. By encouraging exploration of diverse approaches, the faculty seeks to foster innovative study of the visual arts and material culture in major periods of European, Middle Eastern, African, East Asian, and American civilizations. We foster the cultivation of knowledge of specific works of art, of the structures within which they are produced and used, and of the ways in which the visual environment in the broadest sense generates, acquires, and transmits meaning. Methods of addressing and analyzing the range of materials that constitute visual culture are emphasized in lectures, seminars, and workshops through the oral and written presentation of research and inquiry into specific objects, periods, and problems. The Department encourages cross-disciplinary studies for students who wish to develop an understanding of the methods and materials of other disciplines, including philosophy, anthropology, and cinema and media studies.

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Specific Areas of Focus

  1. Ancient Art
  2. Islamic Art
  3. Medieval and Early Modern Art
  4. African Art
  5. Latin American Art
  6. East Asian Art
  7. Architectural History
  8. Modern and Contemporary Art
  9. Film


  • Department of Art History
  • Cochrane Woods Art Center, Room 166
  • 5540 South Greenwood Avenue
  • Chicago, IL 60637
  • Phone: 773.702.0278
  • Fax: 773.702.5901
  • Website:

Application Method

Applications should be initiated through the online application.


Deadline for admissions and financial aid: December 15

The Department of Art History admits applicants once a year for the following Autumn Quarter. Applications received after the deadline cannot be considered for financial aid.

Campus Visits

Interviews are not required; however, admitted applicants are invited to visit campus, sit in on classes, and meet with current students. You may contact faculty with questions, but there is no expectation that you do so.

Degree Objective

The Department of Art History admits applicants only for the Ph.D. degree, and does not offer a stand-along MA program. If you are interested in pursuing an MA focusing in Art History, we encourage you to explore the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH).

Application Requirements

  1. Online Application Form and Supplemental Form
  2. References: Three letters of reference should be included with your application.
  3. Graduate Record Examinations and TOEFL scores: GRE scores (general test only) are required of all applicants, including those with previous MAs. For information on additional examinations required of some international applications, see the Test Requirements page on the divisional website. The University’s GRE code is 1832.
  4. Statement of Academic Purpose: Applicants should carefully state their purpose in pursuing a graduate degree. This statement is given considerable weight in the final decision regarding admission.
  5. Writing Sample: Applicants should submit a sample of their scholarly writing that is between 15 and 20 pages in length.
  6. Transcripts: Official transcripts from all post-secondary educational institutions should be submitted with your application.
  7. Application fee

Admissions Decisions

Admissions decisions typically are released in early March. No decisions will ever be given by phone, and no decisions will be given to those who inquire by email before early March. Direct all questions about your application directly to the admissions office.


Program Requirements

Students must take a minimum of 18 courses, including the two required courses, Methodology and Historiography, and at least eight other courses in Art History. In the first year, a total of 6 of the 9 courses must be in Art History; in the second year, a total of 4 of the 9 courses must be in Art History. Two of the 18 courses must be in the student's minor field.

  1. Students concentrating in a field in Western Art must include one non-Western art history course and one course on pre-1600 European material and one on European or North American post-1600 material.
  2. Students concentrating in Asian, Islamic, Latin American, or African art must include one course outside of their geographical field area.
  3. During the fall and winter quarters of the second year, students research and write a qualifying paper – an article-length research paper – under the direction of a faculty member in the Art History Department and a second faculty advisor from any department. This work is typically accommodated in two independent research courses that count toward the 18 courses for the degree.
  4. After completing course work, the student must pass a written examination designed to test knowledge in the student's major field of study and probable area of dissertation research.
  5. Students must participate in a faculty-led workshop, where they develop their dissertation proposals and prepare to apply for grants for dissertation research. The dissertation proposal must be formally approved by the student's committee, usually composed of a principal advisor and two other specialists pertinent to the field of study, and officially appointed by the Department Chair.
  6. After satisfactorily completing language requirements, course work, and the preliminary examination, and having a dissertation proposal approved, the student petitions the Department for admission to candidacy.

The dissertation should be an original investigation that produces independent results of scholarly significance. When it is completed, the dissertation must be approved by the committee, and the student will be examined orally on the dissertation and closely related matters by members of the Art History faculty and by a representative of the Dean of the Division. With the approval of a majority of the examiners the student will be recommended for the Ph.D. degree.


Costs & Financial Aid

The Dean of Students office works to assist graduate students at all stages of their studies who seek funding to support their scholarly work. Visit the Dean of Students office website for an overview on funding support for pre-dissertation research, language study, conference travel, dissertation research, and postdoctoral fellowships.