This is the preliminary (or launch) version of the 2020-21 VCU Bulletin. This edition includes all programs and courses approved by the publication deadline; however we may receive notification of additional program approvals after the launch. The final edition and full PDF version will include these updates and will be available in August prior to the beginning of the fall semester.

Note: Admission to this program is temporarily suspended.

Program goal

The Ph.D. in Art History is a research-oriented degree designed to train critical and productive scholars, college and university professors, and curators and museum professionals who are well-grounded in the literature, methodology and major art historical and/or museological problems in their selected areas of study.

All doctoral students establish a program of study that includes a major field of study and a minor field of study shared by a full-time faculty member. Students in the curatorial concentration select museum studies as either the major or minor field of study.

Student learning outcomes

  1. Students apply critical and analytical concepts, frameworks and methods.
  2. Students contextualize scholarship in relationship to existing art historical/museological knowledge, discourse and/or debate.
  3. Students write effectively for audiences of scholarly and nonspecialist readers.
  4. Students speak effectively to scholarly and nonspecialist audiences.
  5. Students demonstrate ability to translate art historical scholarship written in a language or languages relevant to their research.
  6. Students conduct scholarly inquiry that makes a scholarly professional contribution.

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university. These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on academic regulations for graduate students.

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on degree candidacy requirements.

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on graduation requirements.

Note: Admission to this program is temporarily suspended.

Admission requirements

Admission requirements
Degree:Semester(s) of entry:Deadline dates:Test requirements:
Ph.D.Fall onlyJan 15GRE

Special requirements

  • Writing sample

Prospective students holding a master’s degree in art history or a related field from VCU or any other accredited institution may apply directly to the doctoral program. Prospective students who hold only a bachelor’s degree in art history or a related field also may apply directly to the Ph.D. program; if admitted, they select one of the three M.A. curriculum concentrations and complete 27 of the required 30 credit hours for the M.A. degree before beginning Ph.D. course work.

Applicants are encouraged to speak with a prospective dissertation adviser (the full-time faculty member whose research area corresponds to an applicant’s interests).

In addition to the general admission requirements of the VCU Graduate School, applicants to the Ph.D. in Art History must meet the following requirements:

  1. A statement of purpose, 750-1000 words in length, that briefly recounts applicant’s academic background, describes an avenue of inquiry that the applicant expects to explore, notes applicant’s professional goals beyond graduate study and explains why VCU’s Ph.D. in Art History program is suited to applicant’s interests
  2. A research/writing sample that has a clearly articulated thesis statement, identifies and interprets primary and/or secondary sources in support of a well-argued thesis, and offers a coherent, cohesive narrative
  3. Three letters of recommendation, at least two of which are from faculty members who can assess the applicant’s preparation and promise for graduate work (Some applicants may choose to solicit the third letter from a museum professional who has supervised the applicant’s professional work in a museum setting.)
  4. Official transcripts from schools where applicant completed course work applied toward the baccalaureate or master’s degree
  5. An official report of GRE scores

Applications are reviewed by the program’s full-time faculty members, who assess an applicant’s overall package of materials with particular attention to the statement of interest and writing sample. Applicants are encouraged to correspond with individual faculty members who share their areas of research interests.

Note: Admission to this program is temporarily suspended.

Degree requirements

In addition to general VCU Graduate School graduation requirements, the program of study for students who have an M.A. degree upon applying for the Ph.D. program is determined on a case-by-case basis, to include at least 30 credit hours in the concentration area. Students may also be required to also complete ARTH 690ARTH 694 and/or selected art history seminars if they have not completed equivalent courses in their master’s programs and/or if their degrees were awarded in fields other than art history. Students in the curatorial concentration may also be required to take one or more museum studies course (ARTH 681-ARTH 684ARTH 691) if their M.A. programs did not include equivalent courses.

Students who matriculate into the concentration in historical studies with only a baccalaureate degree initially complete the requirements in either the concentration in historical studies or the concentration in architectural history in the M.A. program; they then proceed to complete the following 30 credit hours.

Major and minor art historical field of study

Students complete a major and a minor art historical field of study of their choosing. The major area requires three seminars, while the minor requires two seminars. M.A./Ph.D. students may complete some of these courses while at the master’s stage.

Language proficiency

Doctoral students must demonstrate competency in two foreign languages relevant to their areas of research and approved by the departmental graduate committee before admission to candidacy. Foreign language competency demonstrated for an M.A. may be applied to this requirement. The Department of Art History administers language exams and offers a course in German for art history.

Admission to candidacy

Doctoral students are admitted to candidacy after demonstrating proficiency in two foreign languages, passing the major and minor field exams administered in ARTH 772 and ARTH 773 and orally defending a dissertation prospectus previously approved by the dissertation adviser. Only after candidacy is granted may a student enroll for dissertation credits.


After admission to candidacy, doctoral students proceed to complete and defend a dissertation. They work under the supervision of the dissertation director, and they are required to maintain continuous enrollment of at least three credit hours per semester (excluding summer) until they have attained six hours of dissertation credit, after which they may enroll for as few as one credit per semester. The dissertation must represent independent research that is devoted to an original question or hypothesis with the appropriate development, analysis and interpretation. Successful defense of the dissertation completes the requirements for the degree. All degree requirements must be completed within eight years of the first semester of enrollment in the doctoral program (either M.A./Ph.D. or Ph.D.).

Curriculum requirements

ARTH 693Graduate Museum Internship3
ARTH 772Major Field Exam3
ARTH 773Minor Field Exam3
ARTH 774Dissertation Proposal3
ARTH 899Dissertation Research6
Select three of the following art history or museum studies seminars:9
Special Topics in Art History
Museums and Communities
The Museum as Educational Institution
Museum Collections
Curating Museum Exhibitions
Special Topics in Museum Studies
Art History and Pedagogy
Seminar in Early Modern Art
Seminar in 19th-century Art
Seminar in 20th-century Art
ARTH 725
Seminar in African Art
ARTH 727
Seminar in Asian Art
Seminar in Art and Theory
Seminar in Trans-millennial Art and Ideas
Seminar in Art and Representation
Seminar in Diasporic Art
Special Topics in Art History
Directed Research Project
Select one of the following nonprofit management or research methods courses:3
Issues and Methods of Inquiry in Art Education
Research Methods in Education
Principles of Nonprofit Management
Fund Development for the Nonprofit Sector
Financial Management for Nonprofit Organizations
Nonprofit Law, Governance and Ethics
Total Hours30

The minimum total of graduate credit hours required for this degree is 30.

Kathleen Chapman, Ph.D.
Associate professor and graduate program director
(804) 828-2784

Program website: