Graduate Programs

The Department of Art History offers programs leading to the master of arts and the doctor of philosophy in art history. Our faculty is comprised of specialists in, to name a few: American material culture; Contemporary art and theory; Chinese Art; Curatorial Studies; Early Modern European art; Islamic art and architecture; Japanese art; Medieval European art; Print Culture; Photography, Film, and Video; Vernacular architecture; Victorian art and material culture, and Visual Studies and Critical Theory. The department encourages the study of the global history of art while investigating works in all media from a wide range of periods and a variety of world cultures.

Students enjoy close interaction with their mentors and profit from superb resources for interdisciplinary research. Faculty members have international reputations in their specialties, regularly receive prestigious awards, lecture widely, and serve on major professional boards. Graduates of the department teach at the postsecondary level or pursue careers in museum and curatorial professions, private galleries and auction houses, library or archival work, architecture and historical preservation, and conservation.

The department is housed in the Conrad A. Elvehjem Building with the Chazen Museum of Art, which has a broad historical collection with several areas of particular strength, an active acquisitions program, and facilities to host major traveling exhibitions and exhibition courses. Graduate students use these collections for research and publishing projects. They may also have the opportunity to work on exhibitions in special classes or as project assistants. The building is also home to the Kohler Art Library, which contains an excellent collection of published materials and full range of periodicals. The department possesses a large image collection and access to ArtStor.


This program is designed for students who wish to develop their academic background in art history in order to pursue a career in the art world (museum, gallery, auction house, art consulting, publishing, etc.) and for those who wish to complete an M.A. before considering a Ph.D. program. It is a two-year program. Preference for funding will normally go to applicants to the Ph.D.



The purpose of the double degree is to prepare students to work as art/visual resources librarians or visual resource managers, particularly for positions that require a stronger art background than a prior art B.A. allows. Graduating students might be employed in educational, cultural heritage, or commercial environments working with both physical and digital materials. Examples might include: art librarian at an academic institution, librarian or visual resource manager at a museum, or image manager for a publisher. Students completing the double degree program will earn both degrees.



The Doctor of Philosophy is intended for students intent on an academic career or in curating. It is the highest degree offered in the field, and students must be able to demonstrate the highest proficiency in their principal area of concentration (the major field) and from one or more related fields (called minor fields). The program typically includes several years of coursework followed by completion of a book-length manuscript based on primary research conducted over multiple years. Funding priority is given to Ph.D. students.

Students may enter the Ph.D. directly (without an M.A.) provided they commit to that path of study. Students with an M.A. in Art History may apply to count some of their M.A. coursework toward the Ph.D.



The Ph.D. Minor in Art History is intended for students outside of the department to gain familiarity with the discipline generally while also honing an area of specialization. The minimum number of credits is 9, and may be more depending on the student’s focus and particular research path.



Capitalizing on the rich offerings in the study of visual cultures being offered at UW-Madison, graduate students pursuing a Ph.D. in departments across the university may obtain a Designated Doctoral Minor in the Transdisciplinary Study of Visual Cultures. Students wishing to earn the designated minor are required to complete a minimum of 9 credit hours in specific coursework: (1) “AH801: The Study of Visual Cultures: Historiography, Theory, Methods” or equivalent (3 cr); (2) “AH802: Topics in Visual Cultures” or equivalent (3 cr); and at least 3 credits from among a wide range of listed or cross-listed courses offered by several Visual Cultures core faculty and nearly 80 affiliated members.



Students in non-PhD programs wishing to earn the Graduate/Professional Certificate are required to complete a minimum of 9 graduate-level credits in required and elective coursework. The required coursework consists of:(1) “AH801: The Study of Visual Cultures: Historiography, Theory, Methods” or equivalent (3 cr); (2) “AH802: Topics in Visual Cultures” or equivalent (3 cr); and at least 3 credits from among a wide range of listed or cross-listed courses offered by several Visual Cultures core faculty and nearly 80 affiliated members.



Applications to the graduate programs in Art History are done through the Graduate School.

For General Information about the Application Process please see the Graduate School admissions.

The following application materials and information required by the Graduate School:

  • Online Application.
  • In order to submit the online application, everyone must pay the non-refundable application fee.
  • Please see the FAQ about applying to UW-Madison here.

The following application materials are required by the Department:

  • 3 Letters of Recommendation (Submitted online).
  • Unofficial transcript for each institution attended (Submit online with graduate application)If you are admitted by the program, the Graduate School will send an email requesting an official transcript from your degree granting institution”
  • TOEFL or IELTS if international (Submitted online–send to institution code 1846).
  • Writing sample – research paper up to 20 double-spaced pages of text not including images and bibliography (12 pt. font, normal margins). (Submit online with graduate application).
  • Statement of reason/purpose (Submit online with graduate application).
  • CV (Submit online with graduate application).

For questions, please contact Teddy Kaul (

All parts of application must be completed by DECEMBER 15th.

Mark your Calendars for our Prospective Grad Student Welcome Event!

A message to all prospective students who have been accepted to our graduate program:

Please plan on joining the Department of Art History for our annual Prospective Grad Student Welcome Event! This year’s event will be a mixture of in-person events, and hybrid events with opportunities for admitted applicants to participate via Zoom with those students who are attending the event in-person. Specific details about our Welcome Event will be sent out to all admitted students soon after they have been notified of their acceptance, but, for planning purposes, please note the following details as we would love for you to set aside some time to join us in-person or virtually.

For prospective students submitting applications to be considered for admission during the Fall 2024 academic year, our Welcome Event will be Thursday, February 8, 2024 through Friday, February 9, 2024. For planning purposes, the typical schedule for the Welcome Event includes a Welcome Reception that will be held on Thursday, February 8, 2024  beginning at ~ 6:00 PM CST (and lasts a couple of hours). The full schedule of events on Friday, February 9, 2024 will have our day starting around 9:00 AM CST and concluding ~ 6:30 or 7:00 PM CST with breaks scattered throughout the day. Some things to look forward to:

· Opportunities to meet one-on-one with prospective faculty advisors.

· An introduction to some unique campus resources, such as the Chazen Museum of Art, Kohler Art Library, and the Art History Graduate Student Lounge — all of which are conveniently located in the same building as our department! (A perk students enjoy when cooler weather sets in.)

· A program overview with the Director of Graduate Studies and Graduate Program Coordinator and an opportunity to ask questions about the program.

· Lightning Round Talks by current graduate students where you will have an opportunity to learn about some of the research topics students in our program are working on.

· There will also be time to meet current graduate students working in a variety of disciplines. You will have the opportunity to chat with current graduate students about the program and learn more about what the graduate student experience might look like if you choose to join us here at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

*If you have any questions about the admissions process, the Art History program, or the Prospective Grad Student Welcome Event please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Graduate Program Coordinator: Teddy Kaul,, 608–263–2373.


The Art History Department is proud to grant two graduate student awards each year in recognition of outstanding scholarship.


The Douglas Schewe Award is bestowed annually in recognition of the best seminar or research paper produced in one of the Department’s graduate seminars. The winning graduate student presents their paper publicly at the Annual Schewe Award Presentation in the fall semester. The winning paper is selected by the Award Committee on the basis of nominations from faculty.

Douglas Schewe taught reading and English at Madison Area Technical College for 23 years until his retirement in 1993. He was also a collector of art and a familiar presence in our art history classrooms for many years, often engaging in penetrating discussions with professors in person, or by letter. In donating the funds, he specified that the paper should be “based on a plausible premise, supported by reason and logic, open to evidence and willingly discussing with academic objectivity, and criticism with those (scholars) having different points of view.”


The Transforming the Discipline Graduate Research Award is granted each year to a graduate student, whose research makes a significant contribution toward transforming the discipline of art and architectural history in terms of its structural inequities. The winning candidate presents their work at the annual prospective graduate student weekend in the spring.

The primary priority of this award is to recognize the contributions of emerging scholars underrepresented in the field (e.g., Graduate Students who are Black, Indigenous, Persons of Color, including International Students of Color, Queer and/or Trans, and/or are Persons with Disabilities). This award also recognizes research that challenges entrenched expectations through its method, subject matter, theoretical orientation, and/or mode of exposition and form. Priority will, thus, be given to work aimed at exposing, critiquing, and/or altering entrenched aspects of structural biases in the discipline.

This award can recognize research in various forms at any stage, including seminar papers, qualifying papers, exhibitions, M.A. thesis or dissertation chapters, articles, or non-traditional forms of art history. Submissions should be no more than 30 pages. Students may receive both the Douglas Schewe Award and the Transforming the Discipline Award in the same year or at different stages of their graduate career. Faculty members may nominate students or students may self-nominate. The winning paper is selected by the Awards Committee.


The Graduate Handbook provides general information about our graduate program, including expectations, degree requirements, and foreign language prerequisites.

Click HERE to download the handbook.


Financial aid comes in the form of fellowships, assistantships, research funds, and travel funds. The Admissions and Financial Aid Committee reviews applications for funding annually (in the spring), and appoints students with fellowships and assistantships based on merit. Because of the scarcity of departmental funding, students are encouraged to search broadly across campus and beyond, and to apply for assistantships and fellowships outside the department if eligible. Students should direct all questions regarding financial aid to the Department Administrator, the DGS, or the faculty member who is serving as the chair of the Admissions & Fellowships Committee.

The Department’s main goal is to recruit and retain the most promising students. Eligibility for any kind of financial aid depends on faculty assessment of the student’s potential as well as her or his performance in making satisfactory progress in the graduate program. Students must be in good standing to receive funding. Funding is prioritized for students in the Ph.D. program; the maximum amount of departmental aid is five years (and that is by no means typical or guaranteed). The department balances many considerations in addition to individual student merit, including: the number of existing guarantees to specific students; specific programmatic needs (i.e., which courses are allowed to have teaching assistants, and what project assistantships are available because professors have gotten grants); and equity in distributing appointments among the fields of concentration represented by the pool of applicants. In addition to faculty members on the Admissions and Fellowships Committee, the professors who will be teaching the courses with teaching assistants and those who have gotten a project assistantship through a grant are consulted during the review process.

The departmental deadline to ensure consideration for all forms of financial aid from the University and the Department is February 1st. This includes applications for University and Department fellowships and teaching assistant and project assistant positions. Deadlines for fellowships from outside sources occur variously throughout the academic year, beginning in the autumn; check with the Director of Graduate Studies, the Graduate Coordinator, and in some cases, the Department Administrator Grad Coordinator, for dates in each case.

The deadline for Departmental Research Awards is Oct. 15th; and for conference travel grants there are two opportunities a year with deadlines of October 15th and February 1st.


In addition to funding through the Art History program, graduate students are strongly encouraged to apply for fellowships from external federal agencies, professional organizations, and private foundations. The UW–Madison Graduate School provides access to a searchable database of external funding opportunities for graduate students. You can access the External Fellowship Database here.

For more information on Financial Aid and Fellowships, please see the Graduate Handbook, Part IV. Financial Aid.