The Department of Art History offers programs leading to the master of arts and the doctor of philosophy in art history with emphasis on African and African diaspora art, American material culture and vernacular architecture, ancient  art and archaeology of the Mediterranean world, Chinese art and archaeology, Japanese art, medieval European art, Byzantine and Islamic art and architecture, early modern European art 19th-century art and print culture, modern and contemporary European and American art and visual culture.  The department encourages the study of the global history of art, and material and visual culture 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.

Financial aid is normally reserved for students in the Ph.D. program. The university offers fellowships and scholarships for which graduate students in art history may compete. The department awards the Margaret Davison Shorger Fellowship for the study of Italian art, the Charles C. Killin Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate Fellowship in East Asian Art, and the Chipstone/James Watrous Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate Fellowship in American Material Culture. Research travel is also supported by the Shirley L and Dr. William Fritz Mueller Art History Graduate Student Fund and the Ray Reider Golden Art History Fund, and the Joan Mirviss Fund for Japanese art. The department awards travel grants for students delivering papers at major conferences and annually appoints five to six graduate students as teaching or project assistants. Individual faculty may also offer one- or two-semester project assistantships in connection with specific research projects. In addition, the department nominates candidates for fellowships administered outside the department and the university.

Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress

To make progress toward a graduate degree, students must meet the Graduate School Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress in addition to the requirements of the program.

Master's Degrees

M.A., with available Asian track

M.A. double degree with Library and Information Studies M.A.

Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

M.A.—30 credits

M.A.–Asian track—30 credits

M.A. double degree with Library and Information Studies M.A.—64 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

M.A.—24 credits

M.A.–Asian track—24 credits

M.A. double degree with Library and Information Studies M.A.—20 credits in art history

Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement

M.A.—half of degree coursework (15 out of 30 total credits) must be completed in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.  

Art History M.A. and Library & Information Studies M.A. double degree—half of degree coursework (32 credits out of 64 total credits) must be completed in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.

Prior Coursework Requirements: Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to the master's degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison Undergraduate

Allowed up to 7 credits numbered 700 or above, and graduate level courses ART HIST 601 Introduction to Museum Studies I, ART HIST 602 Introduction to Museum Studies II and ART HIST/​HISTORY/​JOURN/​L I S  650 History of Books and Print Culture in Europe and North America.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count up to 15 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison University Special students. coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master's degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Credits per Term Allowed

12 credits

Program-Specific Courses Required

ART HIST 701 Practicum in Art History: Bibliography, Historiography, Methods

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement

3.00 GPA required.

Other Grade Requirements

No other grade requirements.

Probation Policy

The status of a student can be one of three options:

  1. Good standing (progressing according to standards; any funding guarantee remains in place).
  2. Probation (not progressing according to standards but permitted to enroll; loss of funding guarantee; specific plan with dates and deadlines in place in regard to removal of probationary status.
  3. Unsatisfactory progress (not progressing according to standards; not permitted to enroll, dismissal, leave of absence or change of advisor or program).

Advisor / Committee

All students are required to conduct a yearly progress report meeting with their advisor, scheduled by December 17 and completed by April 30. Failure to do so will result in a hold being placed on the student's registration.

Assessments and Examinations

No formal examination required.

M.A. thesis

Time Constraints

The thesis, written in consultation with the major professor, must be completed no later than two semesters after thesis work begins.

Master's degree students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

Language Requirements

Reading competency in one language.

While students may pursue a stand-alone M.A., those who wish to pursue a Ph.D. should apply directly to that program. Admission to either program is offered to applicants who have an outstanding undergraduate record of academic achievement.  The successful applicant typically presents both a compelling statement of purpose for graduate studies and an advanced research paper.  To be considered for admission, applicants must have taken the GRE recently (within five years of their application deadline).  To be competitive in some subfields, applicants should have training in at least one foreign language.  Applicants are encouraged to contact prospective faculty advisors for more details.  Non-native English speakers must present TOEFL or IELTS scores.

Admission to the Asian M.A. track (Chinese or Japanese art) is offered to applicants who have similar qualifications and training, but with an East Asian emphasis and demonstrated skills in the East Asian language appropriate to the intended field of specialization. 

Knowledge and Skills

  • Mastery of techniques for visual analysis (examining features such as materials, proportion, light, color, form and narrative structure) of single images and for comparative analysis of multiple images and objects.
  • Advanced proficiency in interpreting images/objects in ways that take into account the historical contexts in which they were produced and received.
  • In-depth knowledge across a range of time and geography to reach an understanding of the ways in which art and its meaning are rooted in culture.
  • Advanced ability to locate and enlist research resources in both print and digital form and assess the strengths and weaknesses of various types of resources.
  • Advanced knowledge and skills necessary to interpret images/objects in ways that consider a variety of theoretical perspectives.
  • Ability to assess and critique complex scholarly arguments and evaluate the strength of the visual and textual evidence presented.

Professional Conduct

  • Advanced skills in effective and impactful communication in both written and oral form in ways that acknowledge diverse audiences in an increasingly global society.
  • Skills in public engagement such that our students are able to effectively communicate complex ideas to a lay public in written, oral, and digital form in keeping with the Wisconsin Idea.

Faculty: Professors Andrzejewski, Buenger, Cahill, Casid, Chopra, Dale, Drewal, Geiger, Marshall, Martin, Phillips (chair); Associate Professors McClure; Assistant Professors Brisman, Li, Pruitt