PhD in History of Art & Architecture

Course Requirements

Eight courses (32 credits) are required to complete the doctoral program. It is recommended that two of these courses be in fields other than art history; approval of the director of graduate studies (DGS) or the student’s official faculty advisor is necessary before registering for non-art history courses. Two of the art history courses must be graduate seminars.

A specialized track option is available for students who wish to focus on the history of architecture.

Graduate students in History of Art & Architecture are eligible to enter the department’s Graduate Certificate Program in Museum Studies. The certificate’s required courses may be taken either as a part of, or in addition to, the courses required for the PhD degree.

Language Examination

A second language is required for the doctoral program in History of Art & Architecture. The language will be determined by the faculty advisor and approved by the director of graduate studies.

It may be necessary in some areas of specialization for the student to pass an examination in a third language, as determined by the advisor and approved by the director of graduate studies. Areas of specialization requiring a third language are as follows: Students specializing in African art history must successfully complete four semesters of an African language as their second language. Students specializing in Islamic art history are expected to have the proficiency level of three years in Persian, Arabic, or Turkish. Students specializing in Asian art must have successfully completed at least the equivalent of three years of training or proficiency in an appropriate primary “research” language, modern Chinese or modern Japanese (depending on the chosen field of specialization).

Additionally, students must acquire reading knowledge in a secondary Asian or a European language, as decided in consultation with the student’s advisor. To meet the requirement for reading knowledge of a second language, students can take the language examination offered by this department, successfully complete the reading course offered by the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, or enroll in language courses in the Romance Studies and Modern Languages & Comparative Literature departments. In the case of an Asian language, successful completion of second-year modern Chinese, Japanese, or Korean satisfies the department reading knowledge language requirement. The requirement for a second language for all students must be met by the end of the second semester of residence. A student may not take the Qualifying Examination until the language examination has been fulfilled.

Qualifying Examination

The PhD Qualifying Examination is the prerequisite for writing a dissertation. It is designed to reveal a mastery of a field of specialization and a comprehensive knowledge of a minor area. It is expected that the fields will include at least three different media or areas of endeavor (painting, sculpture, architecture, decorative arts, photography, or the history of criticism) and will also span at least two centuries (or more, depending on the standards of the art historical area involved).

The examination is divided into two parts: an oral examination and a written examination. The oral examination lasts two hours. At least three examiners are present, including at least one Department of History of Art & Architecture faculty member who is a specialist in the major field. The written examination is designed to demonstrate the student’s facility in carrying out research in the chosen field of expertise. After the oral examination, the examiners will present the student with a topic for a scholarly paper. Within two weeks, the student must produce a research paper of approximately 15–20 pages, plus footnotes and bibliography, on one of these topics. After conferring with the primary advisor about the areas of concentration, the date of the exam, and the names of the examiners, the student will submit the signed form to the director of graduate studies for approval. The student must coordinate the date and place of the examination with the department administrator and each of the examiners. No qualifying exam may be taken before all incomplete grades have been filed.


A dissertation prospectus signed and approved by the first and second readers must be submitted to the DGS for Graduate Studies Committee approval within three months (or at the end of the summer) following successful completion of the Qualifying Examination. The prospectus is presented to the Graduate Studies Committee and, upon acceptance, is filed with the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Records Office, at 705 Commonwealth Avenue, Suite 112.

GRS forms and procedures regarding the prospectus, abstract, and final oral defense committees must be followed. The PhD Dissertation Defense Abstract form should be submitted at least three weeks prior to the final oral exam (a.k.a. the defense). The Schedule of the Final Oral Examination form should be submitted two weeks prior to the exam. The format of the dissertation should follow the Graduate School’s Dissertation Format Requirements, available in PDF form on the Forms, Policies, and Procedures portion of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences website. Two copies of the final draft of the dissertation must be submitted to the Graduate School. In all other respects, the form of the final draft will follow the Guide for Writers of Theses and Dissertations and current supplements available form on the Forms, Policies, and Procedures portion of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences website.


All courses are 4 credits unless otherwise noted.

  • CAS AH 501, 502 Practicum in Museum Studies
  • CAS AH 504  Topics in Religion and the Visual Arts
  • CAS AH 520 The Museum and Historical Agency
  • CAS AH 521 Curatorship: Exhibition Development
  • CAS AH 524 The Object and the Museum: Acquisitions, Collections Care, and Educational Policies at the Museum of Fine Arts
  • CAS AH 527 Topics in Art & Society
  • CAS AH 528 Studies in Mesoamerican Art and Architecture
  • CAS AH 529 Seminar: 20th Century Chinese Art
  • CAS AH 530 Chinese and Japanese Calligraphy: History, Theory, and Practice
  • CAS AH 531 Modern Asian Art in a Global Context
  • CAS AH 532 Japanese Print Culture
  • CAS AH 533 Seminar: Greek Art and Architecture
  • CAS AH 534 Seminar: Roman Art
  • CAS AH 540 Europe and the Islamic World: Medieval and Early-Modern Cultural Exchange
  • CAS AH 547 Gothic Art
  • CAS AH/AR 555 Ancient American Writing Systems
  • CAS AH 557 High Renaissance and Mannerist Art in Italy
  • CAS AH 563 Alliance of Art and Power in the Baroque
  • CAS AH 570 Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century American Architecture
  • CAS AH 571 African American Art
  • CAS AH 572 Gilded Age America: Visual Culture from 1865–1900
  • CAS AH/AR 576 Collections: Ancient and Historical in Modern Context
  • CAS AH 580 Architectural Technology and Materials
  • CAS AH 582 Historic Houses
  • CAS AH 583 English Country Houses and America’s Cottages
  • CAS AH 584 Greater Boston: Architecture and Planning
  • CAS AH 585 Seminar: 20th Century Architecture & Urbanism
  • CAS AH 586 Early Modern America: Visual Culture, 1900–1930
  • CAS AH 592 Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture
  • CAS AH 593 Atonality and Abstraction
  • CAS AH 595/EN 594 English Country House
  • CAS AH 596    Seminar: Contemporary Art
  • CAS AH 597 The Baroque
  • CAS AH/EN 598 Sister Arts
  • GRS AH 699 Teaching College Art History I
  • GRS AH 716 African Diaspora Arts in the Americas
  • GRS AH 725 Colloquium in the Arts of Asia
  • GRS AH 726 Colloquium in Japanese Art
  • GRS AH 727 Colloquium in Chinese Art
  • GRS AH 731 Colloquium in Archaic Greek Art
  • GRS AH 733 Colloquium in Greek Art and Architecture
  • GRS AH 734 Colloquium in Roman Art and Architecture
  • GRS AH 742 Colloquium in Medieval Art and Religion
  • GRS AH 745 Colloquium in Early Medieval and Romanesque Art
  • GRS AH 747 Colloquium in Gothic Art
  • GRS AH 750 Colloquium in Early Renaissance
  • GRS AH 751 Colloquium in High Renaissance Art
  • GRS AH 753 Colloquium in Renaissance Architecture and Theory
  • GRS AH 757 Colloquium in Renaissance Art
  • GRS AH 758 Colloquium in Michelangelo
  • GRS AH 759 Colloquium in Northern Renaissance Painting
  • GRS AH 761 Colloquium in Southern Baroque Art
  • GRS AH 762 Colloquium in Venice and its Arts
  • GRS AH 765 Colloquium in Baroque Art in Northern Europe
  • GRS AH 766 Colloquium in Eighteenth-Century Art
  • GRS AH 767 Material Culture
  • GRS AH 777 Colloquium in American Furniture and Allied Arts, 1630–1830
  • GRS AH 779 Colloquium in American Art and Culture in the Nineteenth Century
  • GRS AH 782 Colloquium in Nineteenth-Century Architecture in Europe and America
  • GRS AH 783 Colloquium in American Architecture
  • GRS AH 784 Colloquium in American Art
  • GRS AH 785 Colloquium in American Painting Until 1900
  • GRS AH 786 Colloquium in Twentieth-Century American Painting
  • GRS AH 790 Colloquium in Nineteenth-Century Painting and Sculpture
  • GRS AH 791 Colloquium in Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture
  • GRS AH 792 Colloquium in Contemporary Painting and Sculpture
  • GRS AH 795 Colloquium in the History and Criticism of Photography
  • GRS AH 798 Colloquium in Twentieth-Century Architecture


  • GRS AH 802 Seminar: The Theory and Method of Art—Historical Writing
  • GRS AH 803, 804 Seminar at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • GRS AH 812 Seminar: Portraiture
  • GRS AH 820 Seminar: Asian Art
  • GRS AH 822 Seminar: African Art
  • GRS AH 830 Seminar: Ancient Art
  • GRS AH 833 Seminar: Greek Art and Architecture
  • GRS AH 834 Seminar: Roman Art and Architecture
  • GRS AH 837 Seminar: Greek and Roman Art
  • GRS AH 844 Seminar: Medieval Art and Architecture
  • GRS AH 846 Seminar: Romanesque and Gothic Art
  • GRS AH 851 Seminar: Fifteenth-Century Italian Painting and Sculpture
  • GRS AH 853 Seminar: Renaissance Art and Architecture
  • GRS AH 854 Seminar: Sixteenth-Century Italian Painting
  • GRS AH 863 Seminar: Baroque Art and Architecture
  • GRS AH 864 Seminar: Southern Baroque Art and Architecture
  • GRS AH 867 Material Culture
  • GRS AH 884 Seminar: Nineteenth-Century Architecture
  • GRS AH 886 Seminar: American Painting
  • GRS AH 887 Seminar: American Art
  • GRS AH 888 Seminar: Twentieth-Century American Painting
  • GRS AH 889 Seminar: Nineteenth-Century Art
  • GRS AH 891 Seminar: Photography
  • GRS AH 892 Approaches to Architectural History
  • GRS AH 893 Seminar: Twentieth-Century Architecture
  • GRS AH 895 Seminar: Twentieth-Century Art
  • GRS AH 901, 902 Directed Studies

Additional Courses

See courses listed in the American & New England Studies Program, Department of Archaeology, and Department of Classical Studies sections.