Undergraduate Program

The art history major provides a foundation for answering key questions about what it means to be human as well as valuable skills for today’s workplaces. A specialized focus on images, objects, and the built environment promotes critical and creative approaches to analysis, problem-solving, writing and visual communication in a variety of media. Interdisciplinary collaborations encourage aesthetic, historical, economic, and ethical questions in order to produce new knowledge, sophisticated readers, engaged writers, critical viewers, independent thinkers, and confident cultural citizens who are well prepared to thrive in global society.

Through innovative research, teaching, and outreach activities, the Department of Art History takes a leading role in promoting visual literacy, emphasizing careful attention to continuities and differences across human history and world cultures. Examining expressive forms, from artifacts to new media, the department explores the ways in which art and visual and material culture are fully integrated into larger cultural histories.

WHY MAJOR IN ART HISTORY?

Art history is the most flexible of the liberal arts majors, providing basic skill sets that interest a diverse array of potential employers and graduate programs.

Our majors go on to work in a wide variety of positions in museums, historical societies and historic properties. Many are curators, registrars, archivists, art preparators, installation designers, conservators or art restorers or employed by museum education departments. They also work in the areas of art appraisal, preservation, publishing, education, art law, art advising, art dealing, architecture, photography, advertising, development/fundraising, film production, arts administration, interior design, art therapy, illustration, architecture, photography, archaeology, production design, and arts and entertainment journalism.

Our majors have gone to graduate school in a diverse array of fields, including art history, art, material culture, architecture, museum studies, arts administration, education, landscape architecture, English, history, and comparative.

Skill Sets of Major:

In a media-saturated age, there is great demand for critical thinking about images and how they convey meaning. Potential employers and graduate schools highly value the following skills.

  • We teach visual analysis, encouraging students to look closely at materials from which objects are made, the ways in which they were created, and how they produce meaning.
  • We give students the confidence to read texts critically, promoting the ability to synthesize and distill arguments and support or contradict them.
  • We emphasize and hone writing skills, creating strong and effective communicators.
  • Our focus on research helps students learn the vast array of historic and digital resources for uncovering information, as well as how research is performed and how innovative research questions are formulated.
  • We stress the importance of original interpretation and analysis, requiring independent thought rather than rote memorization; such thinking outside the box is a valuable skill.
  • We ground students in widely-applicable theories and philosophies of cultural analysis.
  • We teach the value of situating objects in historic and social contexts, creating a sense of awareness of cultural differences and alternative values.
  • We promote foreign language skills.

REQUIREMENTS OF THE MAJOR

You can begin your study of art history in several different ways. Students unfamiliar with art history usually elect introductory courses, of which two are required for the major. In Art History 104, 201, 202, 203, 210, 241, 242, and 264 (all of which are open to freshmen), students explore the principal developments in architecture, sculpture, painting, and printmaking from ancient to modern times. We strongly urge students interested primarily in western art to take the western surveys (201 & 202) in chronological order and as early in their career as possible.  They are required for majors in the standard program. There is also an Asian Option.

Intermediate and advanced courses (courses numbered 300 and above) more closely examine areas of art introduced and broadly treated in the survey courses. These courses address specific regions, periods, and topics in a more detailed manner than the broader surveys. In these and subsequent courses you will engage in more specialized art historical scholarship as you prepare and write research papers. These count towards the L & S requirement of fifteen credits of upper level work in the major. A combination of these spanning geography, time periods, and theory is required.

The 500-level proseminars are undergraduate seminars for small groups of students that focus on a specific topic. At least one 500-level proseminar is required for graduation, and should be taken as a junior, preferably after previous coursework in that area. Many students take more than one proseminar. Note: course enrollment is open to declared majors only. Information on future proseminar offerings is e-mailed to all majors well before registration begins, and as courses fill quickly, students are advised to contact instructors as soon as possible. 

The 600 Special Topics number is generally assigned to courses offered only once or occasionally. 601-602 is a museum course that is offered irregularly, generally taught in connection to planned exhibitions at the Chazen Museum of Art. This is not required, but many students do this for career development.

Students may also elect to write senior theses (692, Senior Thesis; 681-682, Senior Honors Thesis) or undertake independent research (Directed Study, 698, 699). All of these research projects require considerable planning before the work is undertaken. If you are going to write a senior thesis you should begin to discuss your plans during the junior year with the faculty member who will supervise it. Grant deadlines for senior thesis and independent projects are in the fall and winter.

For more specific information on BA requirements for the Art History major, please follow this link to the Guide.

For more specific information on BS requirements for the Art History major, please follow this link to the Guide.

To explore our department’s course offerings please visit the Course Guide.

COURSES

We offer a wide variety of courses at different levels and across geographies and time periods.

  • 100-level courses
  • 200-level courses
  • 300- and 400-level courses
  • 500-level courses: Proseminars

For more specific information on BA requirements for the Art History major, please follow this link to the Guide.

For more specific information on BS requirements for the Art History major, please follow this link to the Guide.

STUDY ABROAD

The department strongly encourages art history majors to participate in study abroad programs. Students gain firsthand experience of other cultures and languages and have the opportunity to study major artistic monuments. Credit for appropriate coursework can be applied toward the major after arrangements have been made with the study abroad program, or, in the case of non–UW study abroad programs, the Office of Admissions and Recruitment. For more information, see the Study Abroad website.

 

Effective fall 2018, undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are eligible to declare the certificate in art history.

For requirements and information, visit the GUIDE.

ADVISING

The Department of Art History individually mentors its majors toward careers in a wide range of fields. Our academic advisor and director of undergraduate studies are always available to discuss post degree options. We also work closely with the L&S Career Services office to help students best apply the knowledge and skills acquired in the art history major in conjunction with other certificates or majors. We encourage majors to seek information from art sistory faculty and advisors—as well as from L&S Advising—about career paths and internships; preparation for the job search; and applying to graduate school. Both the department and L&S also provide networking opportunities with professionals in the field (employers and alumni).

Undergraduate Academic Advisor: Teddy Kaul (ejkaul@wisc.edu)

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Quitman Phillips (dus@arthistory.wisc.edu)

DECLARING THE MAJOR

The College of Letters & Science encourages students to declare their major no later than the end of their sophomore year, and the Art History Department strongly supports this. Given the requirements of the department, students who do not declare by their junior year, regardless of their academic standing, should be prepared to add an extra two semesters to their undergraduate career.

Students interested in declaring should make an appointment with Teddy Kaul (ejkaul@wisc.edu), Undergraduate Academic Advisor.

Before coming to the appointment, the following steps should be taken:

1. Obtain a “What If” DARS Report for Art History, available through the Student Center in MyUW. Unofficial transcripts may also be useful, especially if you are a transfer student; these can also be ordered through MyUW.

2. Print out your responses to our Questionnaire for Art History Majors (also available in the Art History Department Office, 232 Elvehjem.)

3. Pick up a Major Declaration Form from the Dept. Office (or download it here). Fill out the top part of the form, and sign. PLEASE LIST ALL OTHER MAJORS. (* Non-L&S students, see important note below)

If you are declaring honors in the major, a separate form will be needed. You may pick this form up from the Dept. Office.

4. Pick up the appropriate checklist (StandardAsian OptionHonors) from the department office, or print from this Web page.

Bring all of the above and meet with the Academic Advisor. Incomplete materials will not be accepted. If you cannot make it in during the listed office hours, please e-mail or call your advisor to make an appointment to meet at another time.  Academic Advisor–Teddy Kaul (ejkaul@wisc.edu)

Important Information for Non-L&S Students:

  • If you wish to switch into the College of Letters & Science from another school/college in order to pursue a BA/BS in Art History, please make an appointment at 70 Bascom Hall (L&S Student Academic Affairs) to attend the brief workshop that will transfer you into the College. You may file your major declaration before you do the transfer workshop, but make sure they know that you have done so.
  • If you are a non-L&S student wanting to double major, you need to take a copy of your declaration form to your “home” department (after you bring all declaration materials to our department.) Letters and Science will not process your declaration until it receives the go-ahead from your department/school.

UNDERGRADUATE HANDBOOK

Please click here for the Undergraduate Handbook.

ART HISTORY UNDERGRADUATE PRIZES

The Art History Department is proud to award three student prizes each year.

Deadline for submissions: 11:59 p.m. Friday, April 19, 2019

Submit essay and any required statements to Teddy Kaul at ejkaul@wisc.edu

WARFIELD FAMILY ART HISTORY ESSAY PRIZE

The art history essay prize goes to the paper that best demonstrates high standards of writing, research, creativity, and argumentation. Any paper written for an art history class between Spring 2018 – Spring 2019 (current semester) is eligible. (If you have a writing sample from an earlier semester you are interested in submitting please contact Teddy Kaul ejkaul@wisc.edu to explain situation).

Paper length should be between 8-15 pages, not including bibliography and images. (More specifically, you can submit a paper longer than 15 pages so long as the writing portion of the paper is 15 pages or fewer. The bibliography, images, etc. can extend the paper beyond the 15 page limit.)

Non-majors may apply. Submit essay along with your name, year, major(s), and contact information.

JOSEPH RUZICKA AND SUSAN FANCHER ART HISTORY LEADERSHIP AWARD

The Art History Leadership prize is awarded to the graduating senior major who has shown the greatest commitment to the art history department through creating community, promoting our programs, and demonstrating good citizenship as well as innovative thinking and potential for future scholarly excellence.

To apply to this award, please submit a letter of support from the art history academic advisor; a letter from your faculty advisor; a resume; and a two-part statement about 1) your understanding of the value of art history in an undergraduate education as well as 2) how you in particular have contributed to the field of art history (or visual or material culture) and to the UW art history department.

ART HISTORY SENIOR HONORS THESIS PRIZE  

The Senior Honors Thesis Prize is awarded to Art History majors whose senior thesis project demonstrates extensive research, original argument, and creative thinking.  Advisors nominate candidates to apply.  To be eligible, students must be Art History majors enrolled in at least three (3) credits of Honors Thesis Directed Study (AH681/AH682) with a minimum 3.5 cumulative GPA. In order to apply, please submit your essay with a letter of recommendation from your senior thesis advisor by the 20 April deadline.

Review of applications and grant selection will be conducted by the Art History Department Curriculum Committee.

Watch our students talk about how they ended up choosing to major in art history, their favorite courses, and the skills they developed as art historians.

HOW DID YOU CHOOSE TO MAJOR IN ART HISTORY?

WHAT WERE YOUR FAVORITE CLASSES? WHAT DID YOU TAKE AWAY?

WHAT SKILLS DID YOU DEVELOP AS AN ART HISTORIAN?