Majors & Programs


Art History & Archaeology

About Art History and Archaeology

The Department of Art History and Archaeology at Washington University in St. Louis has a rich past and a vibrant present. One of the oldest Art History programs west of the Mississippi, the Department was an important force in establishing recognition for Art History outside of the eastern United States. The program was built by some of the foremost figures in the discipline, including Horst Janson, Frederick Hartt, Jean Boggs, and George Mylonas. The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum (formerly the Washington University Gallery of Art), founded in 1881, is home to one of the most important modern art collections in the Midwest, and is one of the most distinguished university collections in the United States.

Now over a century in the making, our graduate and undergraduate programs are small but known for their excellence. With degree programs from the undergraduate to the Ph.D. level, our faculty offers training in art from the classical period to the contemporary movement. Because of our modest size, our students receive invaluable personal attention and extensive opportunities to research and gain important museum experience.

Washington University’s Resources

Our rich resources include an excellent Art and Architecture library, an established field trip program that affords our students opportunities to visit major national exhibitions and collections, and an expansive lecture series that attracts important Art History scholars to speak and provide special seminars to our students. The Visual Resources Center actively develops digital image collections encompassing a broad range of visual culture, particularly in the areas of art and architecture, and houses a growing collection of digital images as well as a digital image subscription to Artstor and other databases with hundreds of thousands of images.

The Department of Art History and Archaeology at Washington University is an excellent choice for those seeking a program that is intimate yet broad ranging, and historically significant with an eye on the future.

The Undergraduate Program

Students in the Undergraduate Art History program study a broad range of visual culture, locating objects in their larger political and social context. We encourage our students to overlap their studies with other fascinating fields — especially anthropology, archaeology, classics, history, literature, philosophy, religion, and foreign languages — to get a comprehensive education.

Our students benefit from working closely with faculty who are excellent teachers and active scholars. They take seminars of no more than 14 students, developing writing and presentation skills that prepare them for future professional or academic work. Our students also benefit from the cultural richness of St. Louis, including the superb collections of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, The Pulitzer Foundation, and the nearby Saint Louis Art Museum. We also frequently sponsor field trips for students to travel to see major exhibitions; recent destinations include Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Washington D.C. We also sponsor one special on-site course a year, which incorporates a field trip (free to the class members) into the curriculum, such as a course on impressionism that included a five-day trip to museums in New York City, and a course on Mexican and American Art, that incorporated a five-day trip to Mexico City. In addition, we provide students with the opportunity to study abroad.

The Major

Students who declare a major in Art History and Archaeology must satisfy the following requirements to qualify for graduation.

  • All majors should take the two one-semester "introductions," during their freshman or sophomore years. These courses, Introduction to Asian Art and Introduction to Western Art, Architecture and Design serve as prerequisites for most upper-level lecture courses.
  • All majors must take at least 24 upper-level art history credits. Students may count one 200-level course toward the major.
  • Majors also take courses from three of four broad areas: Ancient and Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque, Modern European and American, and Asian and non-Western.
  • Students contemplating graduate school are urged to take significant course work in foreign languages.
  • Interested students are strongly encouraged to take courses in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Art to learn more about the techniques of working artists.
  • One three-credit course at the 200-level (including a studio course in the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts) may count toward the 24 upper-level credits required for the major.

Senior Honors

Exceptional undergraduates may have the opportunity to take part in the department’s honors program. Each spring, juniors in high academic standing may propose a research topic for a senior honors thesis, a six-credit course completed over the entire senior year. The major with honors requires a total of 33 credits.


Opportunities abound for paid and unpaid internships. The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum and the Saint Louis Art Museum offer positions in their curatorial, registrarial, and education departments. These jobs often revolve around a special exhibition, but can also involve working with an institution’s permanent collection. Recently, students have completed internships at Sotheby’s Auction House, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Regional Arts Commissions, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Study Abroad

There are many opportunities for undergraduates to get involved in the art world outside the classroom. Study abroad programs allow students to experience in depth the art of a particular culture, whether it is Italian, French, Japanese, or one of a number of other excellent options. The Department especially encourages participation in the programs sponsored by the university language programs and by the Sam Fox School.

The Minor

The Department of Art History and Archaeology welcomes students who wish to pursue a minor in art history. To earn a minor, students must take Introduction to Asian Art and Introduction to Western Art, Architecture, and Design as well as courses from at least two of the areas of Ancient-Medieval, Renaissance-Baroque, Modern-American, and Asian and non-Western.

About our Faculty and Staff

The Department of Art History and Archaeology has a faculty of eight full-time members, many of whom hold courtesy appointments in Classics; Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; and Comparative Literature. The faculty has broad-ranging expertise, from Classical Art and Archaeology to contemporary visual culture. Visiting post-doctoral fellows offer additional courses in such diverse areas as Islamic and Oceanic Arts. To support teaching, learning, and research, the department has two full-time professional staff members (an administrative assistant and a visual resources curator), one part-time professional staff member, and over a dozen student employees and research assistants.

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