At Catholic University, we explore the spirit and expression of art from today to the earliest Paleolithic cave paintings rendered over 30,000 years ago. The visual arts offer a unique record of human civilization, expressing and preserving some of humanity's most vibrant, profound, and cherished experiences, feelings, and beliefs. The study of art history is an investigation into this most essential, sophisticated, and enduring form of human communication.


Beginning with a two-semester survey of Western art and architecture from prehistory to the present, and followed with 12 more specialized courses, the student majoring in art history is introduced to a broad range of ancient, medieval, Renaissance, baroque, modern, and contemporary art works. In this process, the student is also introduced to a diversity of methodologies for understanding art objects formally and analytically in their social, political, and economic context.

Among the required 14 courses that majors must take, one is in drawing or painting; one is the Junior Seminar in critical methodologies and research skills in preparation for the advanced Senior Seminar, which culminates in the completion of a senior thesis. Philosophy of Art is also requisite in partial fulfillment of the university’s philosophy distribution requirement. At the end of an art history student’s senior year, they will be given a comprehensive exam.

  • Rachel Tanzi headshot

    Meet Our Alumni

    "The small size of the classes, the availability and generosity of the professors, and the overall spirit of curiosity, fostered a deep understanding of the arts and humanities. I was challenged to think critically and to reason thoroughly, ultimately leading to a passion for modern art and desire to share it in a museum setting."

    —Rachel Tanzi, (‘16 B.A. Art History)
    Education Assistant, Public Programs at National Gallery of Art

    Read what alumni have to say about the Department of Art

Suggested Sequence of Courses

Freshman Year
ART 211:
ART 212: 

Sophomore Year
ART 332: Contemporary Art
At least one course in each: Ancient / Medieval; Renaissance / Baroque; Modern / Contemporary

Junior Year
ART 361: Junior Seminar
Three additional electives in art history

Senior Year
ART 451A: Senior Art History Coordinating Seminar
Two art history electives
One studio course in drawing or painting

View suggested sequence with elective options


Students with an honors-level grade-point average, who wish to receive departmental honors in art history, may apply to write a senior honor's thesis. Progress in completing this senior thesis will be guided through the student's enrollment in a senior honor's tutorial. Awards are given to the thesis projects that successfully demonstrate a high degree of scholarly achievement and self-motivation.


An applicant for the program in art history must have a "B" average in Art 211 and 212, and one other art history course. Students who have not completed these courses by the end of their sophomore year may be accepted conditionally until the courses are completed.

Double majors (B.A. in art plus one other major) are encouraged and may be arranged through the Department of Art, the other department, and the dean.