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History of Art

Degree: BA

Campus: Columbus

College: Arts and Sciences

History of art is a constantly evolving discipline devoted to the study of visual arts throughout history and across the globe. Ohio State’s Department of History of Art is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the country, offering a wide array of courses in the history and criticism of art, architecture and the decorative arts, video, cinema, and film. 

Courses at the 2000 and 3000 levels introduce students to the major monuments of world art and the fundamental principles of art historical investigation and interpretation. In more advanced courses (4000 level and above) students develop a deeper understanding of selected movements of world art and of art historical theory and methodology. Instructional emphasis at this level is focused less on the acquisition of factual knowledge than on the development of analytic and interpretive skills through sustained exercises in critical reading, original research, and oral and written argumentation.

Upon admission to the university, students can declare a major in history of art within the College of Arts and Sciences.

The History of Art major requires 39 credit hours (13 courses) in art history. The core curriculum is composed of four courses (12 credit hours):

  • a writing seminar (HA4001)
  • a course in art historical theory and methodology (HA4010)
  • a senior capstone research seminar (HA4016)
  • either a course in artistic materials and techniques (HA4005) or a studio course taken in the Department of Art.  

In addition to these core courses, nine additional courses are required. Students must take at least two courses in each of the following three areas of study (with at least 4 courses at the 4000-level or above):

  • Mediterranean/European Art before 1700
  • Modern Art of Europe and the United States after 1700
  • Global Art (Asia, Africa, and Central and South America). 

Finally, students must take two additional courses at the 4000- or 5000-level in a chosen area of concentration and one additional elective course at the 5000-level.

It is strongly recommended that students take courses in foreign languages appropriate to their areas of interest.

The history of art program currently offers summer study abroad programs in France, Italy and Japan. Learn more about study abroad opportunities in the department at

Students can explore additional study abroad options through the Office of International Affairs and with an undergraduate advisor in the Department of History of Art. Many study abroad courses may be counted towards the history of art major or minor and range from year-long to lasting a single semester, session or summer. 

Students are eligible for internships at the Wexner Center for the Arts, the Columbus Museum of Art, and a number of art galleries and historic houses in the area.

The Department of History of Art offers a number of Honors courses, the formats of which are designed to be especially challenging intellectually. Honors students work closely with their faculty advisors and enjoy the benefits of smaller class size and priority scheduling. Majors in history of art who complete an Honors thesis graduate with distinction.

Visit for more on the Honors Program.

Students pursuing history of art are encouraged to conduct independent research, in addition to the research that is incorporated into many upper-division courses in the department.  

Both Honors and non-Honors students may complete a senior thesis, which consists of original research in the history of art under the supervision of a faculty advisor, and which may count towards the major. Students may also pursue independent study projects with faculty.

Students may participate in the many extra-curricular activities (e.g. lectures, workshops, museum visits) organized by HAUS, the History of Art Undergraduate Society, as well as GILD, the Group for the Intellectual Life of the Department.

Students graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history of art may expect to find employment in a wide variety of cultural and arts organizations, such as publishing firms, art galleries, libraries and museums.

Many graduates also use their skills in critical writing, thinking and research to enter fields such as non-profit management, education, journalism and marketing. 

Many specialized professions in art history—most notably museum curators and university professors—require advanced degrees. Graduates of the history of art program are regularly accepted into some of the most prestigious graduate programs in the country.

Career counseling and job placement

Ohio State’s professional counseling staff specializes in personal development and academic growth. In addition, Ohio State’s career and job placement offices around campus offer help in career planning and, as students move closer to graduation, resume writing, writing application letters and job placement. These offices can help students match interests and strengths with a promising career. Ohio State recognizes that students’ needs for career support services vary and offers special services for disabled students, veterans, minority students and international students.

The history of art program will achieve the following learning outcomes:

  • Introduce GE students, potential majors and newly declared majors to the basic ideas and major monuments of world art.
  • Help students develop a basic understanding of art historical methodology and historiography.
  • Help students develop a full understanding of the major artistic movements, artists and works of art within the specific historical eras and/or geographical regions.
  • Develop within advanced students an understanding of the theoretical and philosophical foundations of the discipline.