Department of Art and Art History
Graham Oddie, Chair
Visual Arts Complex
UCB 318
Boulder, CO 80309
T: (303) 492-2419

The art history program at CU Boulder gives students an interdisciplinary foundation in the history of art to prepare them for careers as scholars, museum professionals and related creative professions in the history of art. Its main objective—through graduate seminars, teaching opportunities, museum internships and scholarly fieldwork—is to foster critical thinking about contemporary and historical forms of art as well as visual and material culture.

Students develop their specialized interests from a combination of individual mentoring and collaborative approaches to intellectual inquiry. The program offers a supportive environment committed to debate and experimentation applicable to a variety of career choices. Graduates typically regard their two years in the art history master's program as a formative period of intellectual growth and professional experience.

Our diverse faculty offers a constantly changing curriculum of seminar topics geared to highlight current research, and a strong foundation in critical historiography and contemporary critical theory. Students in our interdisciplinary program also take advantage of exciting course offerings in cultural anthropology, classics, history, a wide range of literature programs, ethnic studies, gender and women's studies, art practices, and new media.

Our intimate atmosphere offers exceptional opportunities to work with permanent faculty and distinguished art historians from other institutions through our Visiting Scholars program. This longstanding feature of our graduate curriculum brings four to six leading scholars to campus every year to present their current work in a graduate seminar, public lecture and informal events.

Areas of specialization include: African/Diasporic Visual Studies, medieval art, early modern art, Pre-Columbian art, Colonial Latin American art, Asian art, Native North American art, modern art and architecture, contemporary art and critical theory/museology. When available, ancient art may constitute an area. 

For more information please see the department's Art History area page and the MA Art History degree page


Required Courses and Credits

A minimum of 30 credits must be completed, of which 21 must be completed in residence on the Boulder campus. No more than 8 credits of independent study credit may be applied toward the degree. A limit of 9 credits of transfer credits may be applied toward the degree.

Our program offers two plans. In the research-based MA, students will write a thesis in their last semester. This is typically the track that students will join upon entering the program. However, students may also opt to enroll in or change to the course-based MA plan, which does not require a written thesis. This should be decided in consultation with the student’s advisor/mentor and Director of Graduate Studies.

Required Courses
ARTH 6929Seminar: Methods/Theories of Art History 13
ARTH 6959Master's Thesis (Art History)6
Or 6 credits in ARTH at the 6000 level 2
Students are required to take five 3-credit 5000 or 6000- level art history courses, for a total of 15 credit hours. Students may choose their five courses from four out of the following areas: Medieval Art; African/Diasporic Visual Studies; Early Modern/Renaissance Art; Pre-Colombian/Colonial Latin American Art; Native North American Art; Asian Art; Modern Art and Architecture; Contemporary Art; Critical Theory/Museology. In consultation with your advisor and when available, Ancient Art may constitute an area.15
At least one 3-credit, 3000-level or above course in a department outside the Department of Art and Art History that supplements the major or minor areas of specialization.3
Additional courses to meet the 30-credit minimum.3
Total Credit Hours30

Foreign Language Proficiency

All programs in the Department of Art History require proficiency in languages relevant to the field of study. Students should consult with their advisor regarding the language required for their field at the beginning of their first year. All MA students should ideally demonstrate proficiency in one foreign language during their first year of the program. Language exam structure may vary based on the requirements of the faculty member supervising the test.

Generally, a faculty member chooses reading selections from various subjects that are deemed appropriate. With the aid of a dictionary, students are expected to complete a translation of the text presented for testing. The exam is graded by a faculty member. Students do not need to pass a reading language exam if they have previously and satisfactorily completed coursework with a grade of B or higher equal to three consecutive semesters at the undergraduate level, before enrolling in the MA program.

First-Year Review

During the last two weeks of April, students are evaluated during the first-year review. It focuses on a review of student coursework and performance, on selecting the major and minor areas of study in preparation for the comprehensive exam (see below) and on the selection of a thesis topic, if applicable.

Comprehensive Exam

This exam is given in October of the second year to measure the graduate student's knowledge of art history at the MA level. It consists of essay questions pertinent to the student's major and minor areas of study. The comprehensive exam consists of two essays: a two-hour essay in the major area and a 90-minute essay in the minor area. Students must pass the comprehensive exam in order to be eligible to register for thesis credit hours. 

All students must pass the comprehensive exam in order to graduate, including non-thesis coursework based students. Students in the course-based MA plan will take 6 additional credits in 6000- level art history courses instead of doing a thesis abstract, written thesis and defense. 

Thesis Abstract ("Pre-Thesis Review")

By the end of the semester preceding the student's thesis semester, the student will prepare an abstract of approximately 1–2 typewritten pages, with attached bibliography, outlining the thesis topic and method of inquiry. The thesis abstract must be approved by the student's pre-thesis review committee in order for the student to register for thesis hours.


This should demonstrate scholarly research and writing in art history, should be based on independent study and analysis and should represent the equivalent of 4–6 credits. In most cases, the master's thesis is the equivalent of a 30–50 page paper, exclusive of end notes, bibliography and illustrations.

Thesis Defense

In consultation with the thesis advisor, thesis plan students will select a thesis committee that consists of not less than three members of the art history graduate faculty, including the thesis advisor. The student will then schedule the thesis defense and prepare all necessary paperwork. The thesis must be submitted to all members of the thesis committee at least one week before the thesis defense. Graduate School guidelines ("specifications") must be used to prepare the MA thesis. Upon successful defense, the thesis is submitted to the Graduate School in the electronic form specified by the Graduate School, in accordance with the Graduate School's deadlines. A hard copy of the signature page, complete with the thesis committee members' signatures, is submitted to, and remains in, the Graduate School.

Non-thesis plan students are not required to complete a final examination with committee members.

Time Limit

It is designed that the MA program will be completed within two years. Exceptions can be made with the Director of Graduate Studies approval for up to 4 years. 

Recommended Plan of Study

Thesis Option 

Plan of Study Grid
Year One
Fall SemesterCredit Hours
ARTH 6929 Seminar: Methods/Theories of Art History 3
Graduate art history seminar (any ARTH 5000/6000 level course) 3
Graduate art history seminar (any ARTH 5000/6000 level course) 3
 Credit Hours9
Spring Semester
Graduate art history seminar (any ARTH 5000/6000 level course) 3
Graduate art history seminar (any ARTH 5000/6000 level course) 3
Any 3000 level or higher course outside the department 3
Fufill language requirement  
First year review  
 Credit Hours9
Year Two
Fall Semester
Graduate art history seminar (any ARTH 5000/6000 level course) 3
Graduate art history seminar (any ARTH 5000/6000 level course) 3
Comprensive exam  
Pre-thesis review  
 Credit Hours6
Spring Semester
ARTH 6959 Master's Thesis (Art History) 6
Or 6 credits in ARTH at the 6000 level 1  
Thesis defense  
 Credit Hours6
 Total Credit Hours30

If a student chooses to follow the course-based MA track, rather than write a thesis, the student will instead enroll in six credits of 6000- level coursework in art history during their last semester.

No more than 8 credits of independent study credit may be applied toward the MA degree. A limit of 9 credits of transfer credits may be applied toward the MA degree.

Learning Outcomes

The MA in art history is intended to give students a broad general knowledge of art history in a two-year program. Students who have achieved a distinguished record in this MA program should be well prepared for acceptance into a doctoral program in art history as well as other careers requiring an MA in art history or an equivalent degree. 

Dual Degree 

MA/MBA in Art History

To support the university's mission of advancing knowledge across disciplines, and in recognition that business education and training has relevance to many academic fields, the Leeds School of Business and Department of Art and Art History endorse a dual degree program in which both a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Fine Arts (or Master of Arts in art history) is awarded to those students who satisfy the requirements outlined below. This three-year program offers students the opportunity to earn both degrees together in less time than if the degrees were earned sequentially.

Students must apply to and meet the application requirements for each program separately. Admitted students spend their first year in one of the two programs, the second year in the other program and the third year is a combination of the two. MFA students are required to complete 43 credits of MBA coursework and 45 credits of AAH coursework. MA (art history) students are required to complete 43 credits of MBA coursework and 30 credits of art history coursework. Both degrees must be awarded simultaneously.

Note: Residents of Western states, including Alaska and Hawaii, may be eligible for in-state tuition for this dual degree program. For more information, visit the "Western Regional Graduate Program" section on the Office of the Registrar's Exceptions to One-Year Domicile webpage.