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The History of Art Major

NOTE: Majors must consult with a History of Art advisor at least once a year.

The objectives of the undergraduate program are to develop a sophisticated level of visual literacy, specifically:

  • The ability to analyze works of art and their social effects, both within their original settings and in subsequent contexts of reception
  • An understanding of the rhetoric and the politics of visual culture as it is played out in different historical moments and in different regions of the world
  • An awareness of how social, religious, intellectual, and personal values can be negotiated or manipulated through art objects and other forms of visual culture
  • The ability to engage with a wide range of critical methods and theoretical perspectives in the humanities and social sciences
  • The ability to compare art and visual representation with other forms of human communication
  • An understanding of the relations between art history and other disciplines
  • An awareness of the impact of technology on the production, dissemination, and reception of art works and of visual culture in general

A Major in History of Art must include:


  • Any 100- or 200-level course (except for HISTART 194 and 299). Note: The prerequisite does not count towards the 30 credit hours required to complete the major.
  • A100-level course may be satisfied through the Advanced Placement (AP) test, upon approval by a history of art advisor.


The major requires a minimum of 24 History of Art credits at the 200-level or higher, and six advisor-approved cognate credits.

  • At least four History of Art courses (or a minimum of 12 credits) must be at the 300-level or higher, and one of these must be a 300-level or higher seminar.
  • Three or more courses must meet the distribution requirements described below.
  • Any course at the 200-level or higher may be used to satisfy distribution requirements.
  • Courses elected with the pass-fail option cannot be counted toward the major.

Distribution requirements:

There are two kinds of distribution requirements, one focused on Time and the other onGeographical Area. The former familiarizes the student with cultural practices associated with different moments in historical time, and the latter with a variety of national and regional traditions.

Majors are required to take courses that satisfy three of the four Time periods and three of the five Geographical areas. Because every course taught falls into both time and area categories, the distribution requirements can be satisfied with as few as three courses.


1. Ancient
2. Medieval
3. Early Modern
4. Modern and Contemporary

Geographical Area

A. The Middle East (includes Western and Central Asia, and North Africa)
B. Sub-Saharan Africa
C. Asia (includes China, Japan, India, South and Southeast Asia, and the Pacific)
D. Europe and the US
E. Latin America and the Caribbean


  • One studio art course (min. 3 credits) at the 100 level or above. This course may be taken at the School of Art & Design, Architecture and Urban Planning, or the Residential College. Certain internships, approved by an undergraduate advisor in history of art, may also be used to satisfy this requirement.
  • An additional 3-credit, advisor-approved course to be selected from a discipline related to a student's particular interest in history of art.


There is no specific language requirement associated with the major program, but students who plan to pursue graduate study are encouraged to acquire a reading knowledge of languages in their chosen field of expertise.

Study Abroad

The Department of the History of Art encourages foreign study. Students who wish to earn history of art credit in a study abroad program must have the program pre-approved by a faculty advisor. Upon their return to Ann Arbor, students must submit their foreign study course work (syllabi, exams, papers, etc.) to a faculty advisor for final approval.

Upper Level Writing Requirement (ULWR) and Race and Ethnicity (R&E) courses

The department offers one upper-division course for ULWR credit each semester. Courses satisfying the R&E requirement are offered frequently. Check the listing on the departmental or LSA web site before registering.