The graduate program is designed to give students working toward the PhD degree an encompassing knowledge of the history of art and a deep understanding of the theories and approaches pertaining to art historical research. The program emphasizes collaborative working relationships among students and faculty in seminars. Each PhD student benefits from supervision by a primary advisor in their field of study, while continuing to work closely with other department faculty. Students will routinely avail themselves of faculty expertise in other departments, dependent on their area of study.
The program also fosters a close familiarity with the outstanding art in the Baltimore–Washington area relevant to the student’s area of study. In addition to the rich holdings of the Sheridan Libraries of Johns Hopkins University (which include collections of rare books at the Garrett Library, Special Collections at the Milton S. Eisenhower Library, and the George Peabody Library) graduate students have access to world-renowned collections and research facilities in Washington D.C.
Our recent PhD students have gone on to academic, administrative, and museum positions at institutions around the world including Aarhus University, American University of Paris, Arcadia University, Baylor University, Columbia University, DePaul University, Florida State University, Howard University, King’s College London, Marshall University, National Museum of Denmark, Notre Dame University of Maryland, Oberlin College, Portland State University, University of Chicago, University of Pittsburgh, University of San Francisco, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Wellesley College.
Admission and Financial Aid
Applicants to the Ph.D. program in History of Art should upload and submit all required application materials and supporting documents through the online application. For information about applying to the Ph.D. program in History of Art, please see the department's website. Applications must be completed by December 15.
To foster close student-faculty relationships and provide for the greatest flexibility in developing each graduate student's individual curriculum, the department strictly limits the number of students it admits each year.
All graduate students entering the program are guaranteed five years of support, contingent upon satisfactory progress year by year. This support covers the individual’s full tuition costs and health insurance, and includes a stipend annually. Student stipends are guaranteed at the level stated in the letter of offer (for incoming students) and in the renewal letter (for continuing students) for the duration of the applicable period.
Outstanding graduate applicants from underrepresented communities are regularly nominated for the Kelly Miller Fellowship, named for the first African-American to attend Johns Hopkins, as a graduate student in the Department of Mathematics in 1887. The fellowship provides additional funding to support student research, travel, and study during the student’s graduate career. In addition to the financial award, Kelly Miller Fellows benefit from quarterly programming designed to enhance the graduate experience and ensure professional success.
All ABD students (those who have completed all requirements but the dissertation, something that usually happens in year three) are strongly encouraged to apply for external grants and fellowships to support their dissertation research and writing. The department also has internal fellowships to support students beyond their fifth year. Funds to support summer and conference travel are also available through the department, the Dean’s office, and cross-disciplinary programs. The Dean’s Teaching Fellowship enables advanced students to propose, design, and teach an undergraduate seminar course and provides one semester of support. Further details available via our website.
In discussion with major and minor field advisors, History of Art Ph.D. students develop areas of concentration and courses of study to suit their intellectual interests and commitments. The art history faculty also encourages students to take full advantage of offerings in other departments, and students may, if they choose, develop a minor field in another discipline.
All students entering the Ph.D. program, regardless of the degree they hold, must complete four full semesters of coursework and pass the required language exams before being approved to take their qualifying exams (also known as the Ph.D. exams). In the first year, students normally take three courses at the graduate level per semester; in the second year, when students generally assume Teaching Assistant assignments, the student will normally take two courses at the graduate level per semester. As part of the coursework requirement, students must satisfactorily complete and submit all assigned papers and projects associated with the courses they have taken before being approved to take their qualifying exams.
All qualifying exams, regardless of the fields in which they are taken, are comprised of two written exams (one major field and one minor field), followed by an oral defense before the advisors and other department faculty. Exams should take place during the student’s third year; in some instances (e.g. the need for additional specialized language training beyond the modern language requirement or additional coursework) the exams may be taken later.
After the successful completion of qualifying exams, it is expected that students will be ready to begin work towards the dissertation by formulating a proposal. The dissertation proposal should be approximately 6–8 pages in length (10 pages will be the maximum), with a list of works cited and a very selective sample of figures appended. Simple parenthetical references to the works cited list are preferable to footnotes. Each proposal must contain a relatively straightforward description of the principal object of study and the defining questions the work seeks to answer, as well as a working title that captures the subject and the theme. The body of the proposal often also includes discussion of the current state of research, the intended contribution of the work to the field, and a preview of the research agenda and its challenges.
Students, having ideally secured outside research funding, then proceed to pursue dissertation research and writing. When the dissertation is complete, the student must successfully defend the dissertation before a Graduate Board Orals committee consisting of three internal (departmental) readers and two external readers. Successful defense of the dissertation and electronic submission of the work, complete in all its components, marks the fulfillment of the program’s degree requirements.
Art History Fields
The department affords students of ancient art the opportunity to work with a faculty that includes experts in Greek, Roman, Mediterranean, and Ancient Near Eastern art and architecture. Students also benefit from close and long-standing relationships with the Departments of Classics and Near Eastern Studies, which provide training in the languages, literatures, and histories of the ancient world. Facilities of special relevance to students of ancient art include the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum, located on campus inside Gilman Hall, and the extraordinary holdings of the Walters Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Since its founding in 1947, the department has given special emphasis to the study of medieval art, and that tradition continues with a new generation of faculty bringing expertise in Early Medieval, Gothic, Islamic, Italian, and Mediterranean art and architecture to the program. Students also avail themselves of local expertise through the departments of History, English, and Modern Languages and Literatures, and frequently consult with curators at the Walters Art Museum, several of whom participate as adjunct faculty. The extraordinary collections at the Walters Art Museum and at Dumbarton Oaks are especially valuable for students interested in manuscript illumination and the portable object.
Early Modern and Renaissance
Another signature strength of the Department of the History of Art is its expertise in the Early Modern period, encompassing the art, architecture, and culture of Italy, the Spanish Empire, the Islamic world, and Northern Europe from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century. Graduate students in these areas participate in the programs of the Charles Singleton Center for the Study of Pre-Modern Europe, which sponsors collaborative research abroad and brings a steady stream of world-class lecturers to Baltimore. Students also benefit from the excellent collections of Islamic art, Italian and Northern Renaissance art, and the art of the Spanish Empire at the Walters Art Museum, the National Museum of Asian Art, the National Gallery, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
At Hopkins a diverse and challenging curriculum in modern art and criticism is offered by a research faculty of international prominence, supplemented by occasional visiting scholars and museum curators. Students oriented toward the study of criticism and aesthetic theory can also broaden their perspective and develop their critical skills by taking courses offered through the Comparative Thought and Literature, Philosophy, History, English, Modern Languages and Literatures, Political Science, and Anthropology, and with faculty affiliated with the programs in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Africana Studies, Latin American Studies, and Islamic Studies. Distinctive collections at the Baltimore Museum of Art and at multiple institutions in Washington, D.C., (the Hirshhorn Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Museum of Asian Art, the Phillips Collection, and others) provide unparalleled resources for students of modern art at all levels.