Art History Undergraduate Program


The study of art history is not simply about memorizing artists and artworks; rather, it is a lens through which we look to analyse the broader trends of history in general. Art History is the study of the objects (including architecture) built, or events performed or filmed, specifically to express visually a culture’s ideas, inspirations, aspirations and values. These objects include paintings, sculptures, architecture and landscape architecture, photographs, films, stage performances and mass media. Artworks are a unique medium through which artists, their patrons, their audiences, and their critics can communicate across time, allowing modern viewers to see the world through others’ eyes. What did people value? What did artists try to communicate through their work, both overtly and subliminally? How did they rationalize their world? The study of art history provides an avenue into exploring these questions.

As an art history major at Queens College, students will be exposed to art and artifacts across a broad array of time periods and geographic regions. The Art History major provides a general introduction: to the techniques, principles, and theory of art making; to the broader cultural significance of the arts in an increasingly global society; and to the history of human artistic expression across the globe and throughout time. Art History at QC is global and provides an opportunity to study the visual arts of Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas, from the Stone Age to today. It is multi‐disciplinary and students explore art and history, archaeology, religion, philosophy, sociology, anthropology.

What to do with an Art History degree from Queens College?

The possibilities are endless and rewarding. Art History majors learn the importance of “attention to detail” so common in many job advertisements. The arts are visual and we look to learn. More specifically, students develop the critical thinking, visual analysis and writing skills necessary for today’s job market and our contemporary image‐saturated culture. A degree in art history prepares students for a variety of career options. Art History is the foundation for: teaching of the arts in K‐12 schools; local, state and federal arts administration; public and private art and cultural museums; libraries and community centers; publishing and journalism in the arts; and art conservation and historic building preservation. Art History prepares students for careers in architecture, landscape architecture, and advertising.

Degree Requirements

1. ART HISTORY COURSES: 30 credits

30 credits in Art History, total, distributed as follows:

A. Introductory Surveys: 6 credits ONLY (2 courses MAXIMUM)

ARTH 101 and 102 are required. ARTH 001 may be substituted for ARTH 101 or 102, but only if it was taken before the student elected to major in Art History.

NOTE: No more than 6 credits from ARTH 001, 101, and 102 may be applied to the B.A. degree. That means that you cannot take all 3 intro courses for credit. If you do take all three courses, 3 credits of those total 9 credits will not be applicable to your graduation requirements (i.e., you get NO credit of any kind for the third course).

B. Upper-Level Electives: 21 credits (7 courses minimum; you may take more than that)

These courses must be selected from ARTH 110–115, 200–299, and 310–349. They must include at least one course from at least three of the general areas of Art History: Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance-Baroque, Modern, and Non-Western. Once you have had a course in each of these three different areas, you may take any other electives you wish. However, we recommend that you take courses over as wide a spectrum as possible, because you never know what sort of work opportunities will be available when you graduate, so you should be able to present yourself to potential employers as having a broad general background in the field.

Majors with suitable preparation may take graduate courses for major credit, with the permission of the instructor.

You cannot take more than three art history courses in the same semester, unless you get written permission from the art history advisor.

C. Senior Methos Colloquium (capstone course): ARTH 300. 3 credits (1 course)

This is a required course for all art history majors, and must be taken in your final year in the program, not before (if you take it sooner, you will be underprepared and will do poorly). This is different from all other departmental courses, because it is not about any particular geographical area or time period. Rather, it is a “professional preparation” course, designed to introduce you to two kinds of “methods.” One is practical: how to do research, write an effective research paper, and deliver an effective slide-illustrated lecture. The other is theoretical or methodological: to learn about the different kinds of questions that art history asks, and the various intellectual methods for answering those questions.

At present, this course is only offered one time per year, either in the Fall or Spring semester. Please check with the department when it will next be offered, no fewer than two semesters before you plan to graduate.

 2. COURSES IN THE HISTORY DEPARTMENT: 6 credits (2 courses)

Majors must also take 6 credits in the History Department, which must be chosen in consultation with the undergraduate major advisor. This is because art history is one branch of the larger field called history, and you need to be aware of other kinds of historical inquiry and method. There is no restriction on what courses you may take in the history department; any 2 history courses will fulfill this requirement. However, you are advised to choose broad intro-level courses, since upper-level courses for history majors may require too much prior background. Also, you might want to choose courses in the history of some area, culture, or time period whose art you are interested in, to provide you with further depth in art history (i.e., if you are most interested in modern art, take modern European or American history; if you like the art of China, take Chinese history).