Art History classroom

Art History

With easy access to Washington, D.C.'s bountiful cultural resources, the Corcoran’s art history programs encourage the pleasures of looking and direct, interpretive engagement with the visual arts. Our faculty offer a diversity of methodological, scholarly approaches to the arts. We advocate the intertwining of visual, historical analyses with philosophical hypotheses and theoretical, political debates. We are attentive to the narrative qualities and rhetorical persuasiveness of art historical writing in dialogue with art objects, spaces, and performances. In teaching the research and writing of art history, we cultivate connections to the studio arts and interdisciplinary exchanges with other fields of inquiry.

We offer art history students a curriculum covering ancient to contemporary art, with significant emphasis in developing research and writing skills. Students are encouraged to take advantage of the rich resources of the D.C. area through courses and internships.

The Master of Arts degree in Art History offers students a curriculum that covers a range of historical, theoretical, geographic, and transcultural topics. For some students, the Master of Arts degree is a terminal degree in preparation for curatorial or education careers in galleries and museums; for others, it is preparation to enter a Ph.D. program elsewhere. All students receive training that hones their critical analysis, research, and writing skills. They additionally have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the study of diverse creative practices and visual material.

Students have the option to concentrate in museum training, and can take advantage of the many opportunities to experience and study works of art first-hand at the various museums and galleries in the Washington, D.C. area. Students also have the chance to meet and interact with a number of leading art professionals in seminars taught by local curators and the department’s robust visiting artist and scholars lecture series.

We encourage students to pursue cross-disciplinary studies and to take advantage of programming and events in departments throughout The George Washington University. Coursework and Research is enhanced by access to the many resources available across campus including The George Washington University Museum; The Textile Museum, one of the nation’s leading collections of textile arts spanning five millennia and five continents; Luther W. Brady Art Gallery; the collections and archives of the Corcoran Galleries; and the numerous museums, libraries, and archives of the area such as the National Gallery of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Freer and Sackler Galleries, The Phillips Collections, the National Museum of African Art, and the Library of Congress. 


The program includes 36 credit hours of graduate coursework. During the first semester, students are required to complete the art historiography seminar (AH 6258) and must pass a reading comprehension examination in French, German, Italian or Spanish. As many as 6 credits of graduate coursework may be completed outside the department with approval of the graduate advisor.


AH 6235-10 European Dynastic Houses & Collections
Professor Von Barghahn

The course will open with lectures and discussion regarding a new approach to the reign of the much-maligned last Hapsburg monarch Charles II, a sovereign whose rule (1665-1700) ushered in the Bourbon monarchy in Spain. The impact of Dowager Queen Mariana will be considered, in addition to the role of Charles’s two queens, one of whom was the niece to Louis XIV. The Wars of Spanish Succession resulted in the elevation of the first Bourbon king in Madrid. The reign of Philip V (1700-1746), the melancholic grandson of Louis XIV of France, witnessed strong artistic patronage by his two Italian queens, Maria Luisa of Savoy and especially Queen Isabel Farnese who collected about 1500 paintings. Several royal residences will be investigated, notably the Alcázar, Buen Retiro and Pardo Palaces of Madrid, as well as Aranjuez Palace near Toledo and La Granja Palace in Segovia, a “Spanish Versailles”. All were characterized by lavish all’antica gardens, frescoed halls, and galleries replete with paintings, sculpture, and finely woven tapestries. If time permits, Philip V’s successors might be considered: Ferdinand VI, who inaugurated the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid, and Charles III, who from his Caserta Palace near Naples, sponsored excavations at Pompeii and commissioned Anton Raphael Mengs, Giambattista Tiepolo and the young Francisco de Goya to decorate the Royal Palace of Madrid and stately countryside manors. Presentation and research topics for graduate students will focus upon courtly patronage from the Baroque and Rococo to the age of the Enlightenment and address the rich artistic legacy of diverse Northern European dynastic houses (Bourbon France, Stuart and Georgian England, Archducal Belgium, Holland’s House of Orange, Northern Hapsburg, Bourbon Spain, Portugal). Palaces and rural estates will be considered not only as settings to highlight monarchical splendor, but also as significant repositories for important art collections.

AH 6258-10 Art Historiography
Professor McKnight Sethi

This graduate seminar examines a range of critical perspectives, theoretical issues, and global methodologies that constitute the practice of art history. The course topics and required readings offer insight into particular histories, inheritances, and possibilities within the discipline, and are designed with the goal of allowing students to develop their own approaches to researching and writing about art. Students in the class will be asked to identify relevant texts, write weekly reading responses, lead class discussions, compose critical questions about themes introduced in class, participate in lectures by visiting artists and scholars, and produce an historiographic study of a single work of art from a local collection.


AH 6265-10 Art and Architecture of the Timurids in Central Asia and Iran
Professor Natif

When the Mongols conquered Central Asia and Iran, their armies included a large number of Turkic tribes. From these Turkic tribes emerged the leader Timur, or Tamerlane as he is known in the West. With the intent of following Chengiz Khan’s footsteps, he created a vast nomadic empire in Central Asia and Iran. His dynasty lasted for about 130 years, from the 1370s until its demise in 1507. As Sunni Muslim nomadic rulers, the Timurids were avid patrons of art and architecture. They commissioned mosques, madrasas, shrines, mausoleums, and gardens. They collected manuscripts, painting and calligraphy, and sponsored some of the most famous artists in the Persianate world. Some of the Timurid princes also composed poetry, practiced calligraphy and were very much involved in the arts. Their intellectual circles and patronage became a model for other dynasties, such as the Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals. In this seminar, we will examine the Timurid patronage of art and architecture (generally chronological), as well as explore broader themes of critical issues, such as patronage as a means of legitimization and cultural assimilation; the importance of history and lineage; changes in socio-economic structure; vernacular and dynastic architectural traditions; the formation of a visual idiom in public and private spheres; and the patronage of Timurid women. Throughout the course we will analyze key works and specific case studies that offer a more complete grasp of the subject. All reading materials, including original sources, will be in English. No previous knowledge of Islamic art, history or religion is required.

AH 6269-10 Fast Fashion/Slow Art
Professor Obler

In July 2019, the exhibition “Fast Fashion / Slow Art,” co-curated by Bibiana Obler, associate professor of art history, and Phyllis Rosenzweig, curator emerita, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, will open at the Textile Museum / George Washington University Museum. Conceived as a crucible for new research, the exhibition aims to foster discussion on such questions as: What are the merits of the local and tailor-made versus the global mass production of “fast fashion”? Is it possible to protect workers’ rights and ensure safe working conditions while keeping up with consumer demands? What skills do the mass production of textiles require? Can design and technology offer sustainable solutions to the environmental effects of fast fashion? What role do art and popular culture have in raising consumer consciousness? In this eponymous graduate seminar, students will collaborate with Prof. Obler on research in preparation for the show. In addition to contributing to the process of curating the show itself, students will pursue their own individual research on relevant topics.

AH 6270-10 Collectors and Collections
Professor Robinson

Built on assigned readings ,class discussion, and lecture this course considers the evolution of European and American collecting from antiquity to the early twentieth century. Individual collectors-- monarchs, aristocrats, and the middle class- provide the focus for an examination of collecting motivation, aesthetic considerations, methodology of collecting and display in the context of the artistic, intellectual, social, and political climate of the time. Requirements of the course: research paper, oral presentation based on research paper, review of a current local exhibition, and a take-home examination. In addition, students take turns presenting a synopsis and leading a discussion of one of the readings assigned for that day.

AH 6286-80 Introduction to Conservation: Museum Preventive Conservation I

Historical development of preventive conservation in museums, conservation ethics, team approaches to conservation, interactions of various materials with agents of deterioration. Basics of materials testing, preparation of condition reports, choosing museum storage and exhibition materials, and risk assessment. Same as ANTH 6203 and MSTD 6203.

AH 6287-80 Preventive Conservation Techniques

Practical applications of preventive conservation of materials, monitoring environmental conditions, conducting risk assessments, evaluation of exhibit and storage areas; developing plans, policies, and procedures for collections care; grant proposal preparation for collections care initiatives. Same as ANTH 6204 and MSTD 6204.


AH 6298-10 or AH 6298-11 Independent Research in Art History


AH 6299-10 Museum Internship

Students must successfully complete one qualifying paper. A first draft is due in the fall of the second year, after completion of 18 credits; the final draft is due the following spring. Qualifying papers are typically based on seminar papers and revised as publishable work; all qualifying papers are judged by a panel of faculty members. Please view the Qualifying Paper Guidelines for more information.

MA Graduate Student Handbook

Prerequisites and requirements are the same as those for the Master of Arts in the field of art history. Students include in their course work 6 credits of AH 6299, Museum Internship, after completion of 18 credits of art history courses.


To be considered for admission to the program, students must have a bachelor's degree in the Humanities or other appropriate field, such as art history, fine arts, anthropology, archaeology, history, literature, museum studies, gender studies, or religion. Students must also submit: 

  1. GRE general test (institutional code 5246);
  2. Three (3) Letters of Recommendation;
  3. 250-500 word Statement of Purpose discussing research interests, academic objectives, and relevant professional experience;
  4. Transcripts from all colleges and universities attended;
  5. CV;
  6. Writing Sample between 15 and 25 pages in length.

MA in Art History applications are accepted for the fall entrance only.

Apply for the MA in Art History Program

Funding & Opportunities

Each year, MA and MFA students received a total of over $200,000 in support through scholarships and fellowships. Each year, the department awards assistantships and fellowships to entering and continuing MA and MFA students. Both MA and MFA candidates are eligible for Graduate Teaching Assistantships, including tuition, salary, and stipend. MFA candidates are eligible for the Morris Louis Fellowship, awarded annually, for full funding and stipend. Additional departmental assistantships and awards range from approximately $3,000 to $15,000 per year.

Incoming MA Art History students are eligible for a number of scholarships, based on merit and need. For a list of available fellowship opportunities, please visit the Office of Graduate Student Assistantships and Fellowships.

Ebling Graduate Art History Fellowship
The Ebling Graduate Art History Fellowship grants awards ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 to current graduate students during their second year of study (or after the completion of 18 credit hours of coursework). This merit-based award recognizes excellence in art historical scholarship at the graduate-level and supports students writing their Qualifying Papers.

Fellowship Amount: $5,000 to $15,000 each
Eligibility: Open to all rising second-year graduate Art History students (or after the completion of 18 credit hours) in the Master’s Art History program at GW. Students must be in good academic standing with the university. Awardees must be enrolled full-time and actively writing their Qualifying Papers during their fellowship year.

Application Deadline: Thursday, May 10, 2018
Application Requirements:

  • Written statement of research (300 words) detailing applicant’s plans for the Qualifying Papers + relevant Annotated Bibliography
  • Current CV
  • Names of two faculty to serve as academic references

Graduate Art History Summer Travel Grant
The Graduate Art History Summer Travel Grant supports students traveling during the summer between their first and second years (or in the summer semester after the completion of 18 credit hours) to archives / collections / sites related to researching and writing their Qualifying Papers.

Grant Amount: up to $500
Eligibility: Open to all rising second-year graduate Art History students (or after the completion of 18 credit hours of coursework) in the Master’s Art History program at GW who require travel to archives, museums, collections, historic sites, etc. directly related to the researching and writing of their Qualifying Papers. Students must be in good academic standing with the university. Awardees must be enrolled full-time and planning to write and complete their Qualifying Papers during the academic year following their Summer Travel Grant.

Application Deadline: Thursday, May 10, 2018
Application Requirements:

  • Written statement of research (300 words) detailing applicant’s plans for the Qualifying Papers + relevant Annotated Bibliography
  • One-page Travel Itinerary + Budget
  • Current CV
  • Names of two faculty to serve as academic references

Graduate Assistantships
Click here for the application.

MA students in the past have received or been eligible for the following:

Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships
To support students whose research requires area and language studies in Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Persian, and Turkish.

Global Leadership Fellowships
For international students from the following countries / regions: China (PRC), Cambodia, Eastern Europe, Laos, Latin America, The Caribbean, Mongolia, Sub-Saharan Africa, U.S.S.R. Successor States, and Vietnam.

Global Initiatives Fellowships
Tuition awards up to $10,000 for incoming Master’s students from Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, or Turkey.

Writing in the Discipline Graduate Assistantships
For students who are interested in the teaching of writing in a variety of disciplines including art history.

Scottish Rite Endowment Graduate Fellowships
$15,000 tuition fellowship for students with eligible Scottish Rite affiliation (grandfather, father, uncle, or self is or has been a 32 degree Scottish Rite member).

Boren Fellowship for International Study
Up to $24,000 for overseas study to support language study in Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

Grad2Grad Program
For GW undergraduates interested in the BA/MA combined degree program.

Soros Fellowship for New Americans
Supports up to two years of graduate study for students who are New Americans, immigrants or the children of immigrants.
Students are also encouraged to fill out a FAFSA and connect with the Office of Student Financial Assistance for need-based scholarships.

The wide array of Washington’s museums and galleries provide internships for both credit and non-credit. Students have held internships at The Phillips Collection, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Museum of African Art, and the National Portrait Gallery, among others.

Current Internship Opportunities

The Phillips Collection

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden 

Art Museum of the Americas

National Gallery of Art 

The National Portrait Gallery 

Arlington Arts Center 

Art History Resources


American Alliance of Museums:
Useful, free jobs posting forum for variety of careers in museums.

College Art Association (CAA):

University of Penn:
Useful for finding call for papers

Association of Critical Race Art History:
Bibliographies provided on African Diaspora/African American, Asian Diaspora/Asian American, Caribbean, Latin American/Latinx/Chicanx, Native American/First Nations/Indigenous

Art Hist:
Discussion and information forum for art historians

Humanities and Social Sciences Net Online:
Job postings for academic and museum positions

International Council of Museums (ICOM):
Graduate students interested in joining must show connection to a museum or be enrolled in museum courses. Membership fee is paid at the beginning of the calendar year, and comes with a card offering worldwide free museum access.  

Southeastern College Art Conference:


Dumbarton Oaks:
(specifically see News & Events for public symposia, lectures, and programs:

House of the Temple Library for Scottish Rite Freemasonry:
A rare, underutilized gem of a library open to the public and located at 1733 16th Street NW at the corner of S Street. Specializes in freemasonry, but has excellent material on the history of the occult, religion, the arts and sciences.

Library of Congress:

Smithsonian Institution Research System (SIRIS):


American Antiquarian Society:

American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS):

Archives of American Art:

Association of Historians of American Art:
Especially geared to younger scholars, including graduate students.


AIA-DC Society:
Local organization that sponsors lectures, programs, etc.

American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR):

Archaeological Institute of America (AIA):

ARCE-DC= American Research Center in Egypt-DC Chapter:
Local organization that sponsors lectures, programs, etc.

Biblical Archaeology Forum (BAF):
Local organization that sponsors lectures, programs, etc.

Washington Conservation Guild:
For those interested in art & archaeological conservation


American Institutes for South Asian Studies: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh
Offers fellowships and/or language study courses for undergraduate and graduate students

American Council for Southern Asian Art (ACSAA):
For the study of art of South and Southeast Asia and the Himalayan regions. Good source for fellowships, job postings, and numerous resources on related arts and culture of the region. Email listserv free to public.

Association for Asian Studies:
Focus on pan-Asian studies and topics.

George Washington University Sigur Center for Asian Studies:

Madison South Asia:
Annual conference on South Asia held in Madison, Wisconsin

Metropolitan Museum of Art Center for Far Eastern Art Studies:

South Asia Summer Language Institute:


Association of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES):
Peer-reviewed journal, fellowship opportunities, and annual convention.


Historians of Islamic Art Association (HIAA):

H-Islamart list serve:


BSANA (Byzantine Studies Association of North America):
Offers funding to any graduate student presenting a paper at the annual conference.

George Washington University Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute (MEMSI):

ICMA (International Center of Medieval Art):
Offers graduate student essay prizes, travel prizes, and a graduate student committee within the larger organization.


Renaissance Society of America (RSA):


Costume Society of America:

Textile Museum at GW:
In addition to extensive collection of global textiles, has library of related materials and peer-reviewed journal.

Textile Society of America:

Program Contacts

Smith Hall of Art
801 22nd St, NW, Room 101 
[email protected]


Full Time Faculty


Visiting Artists & Scholars Commitee

The Visiting Artists and Scholars Committee brings respected established and emerging practitioners in the arts to present public lectures, conduct one-on-one critiques, lead small seminars or reading discussions, and share informal meals with students. All VASC lectures are free and open to the public.

The lecture programs are organized by the Visiting Artists and Scholars Committee (VASC). Run by BA, MA, and MFA students, the committee brings six to eight artists and scholars to speak on campus each year.

Holly Bass, Performance Artist
Wednesday September 12, 2018 // 6:30 pm // Smith 114

Dr. Barbara Mundy, Latin American Art
Wednesday October 3, 2018 // 6:30 pm // Smith 114

Dr. Miguel de Baca, Modern & Contemporary American Art
Wednesday November 7, 2018 // 6:30 pm // Smith 114

Mark Wagner, September 14, 2017
GW/Textile Museum - 6:15 pm

Sam Cannon, October 4, 2017
Smith Hall of Art, Room 114 - 6:30 pm

Dr. Christopher Heuer, November 15, 2017
Smith Hall of Art, Room 114 - 6:30 pm

Gregg Deal, January 31, 2018
Smith Hall of Art, Room 114 - 6:00 pm

Dr. Prita Meier, February 28, 2018
Smith Hall of Art, Room 114 - 6:00 pm

Dr. Simon Rettig, April 12, 2018
Smith Hall of Art, Room 114 - 6:00 pm

Mary Garrard, September 28, 2016
The Cloister and the Square: Gender Dynamics in Renaissance Florence - Smith 114

Alexander Nagel, October 27, 2016
Early Motion in European Art around 1500 - Smith 114

Gloria Groom, November 9, 2016
The Art of Exhibitions - Smith 114

Army Artist Martin Cervantez, February 1, 2017
Textile Museum Auditorium

Dr. Robert DeCaroli, February 22, 2017
Textile Museum Auditorium

Dr. William Ferris, April 6, 2017
Smith 114

Carmenita Higginbotham, October 14, 2015
"Girl Watching" & the problem of Race in the art of Reginal March

Shahzia Sikander, November 11, 2015
Visiting Artist

Lynne Cooke, December 2, 2015
"Beyond the Bounds?"

Anna Gaskell, January 27, 2016
Visiting Artist

Angela Miller, February 10, 2016
New York Figurative Painting and Staged Photography in the 1940s and 1950s: The Aesthetics of Immobility

Hillary Chute, April 27, 2016
Hiroshima and Auschwitz: The Postwar Comics Field and Documentary Form

Asen Kirin, September 17, 2014
The Guiding Gaze of the Enlightened Empress: The Architecture of Lookout Spaces

Farar Elliott, October 15, 2014
How to Solve a Curatorial Mystery

Christina Stahr Hunter, November 5, 2014
Data Mining and the Visual Arts: Nancy Graves’ Concept of Representation

Shelley Sturman, January 21, 2015
Preserving Artists' Intent: The Challenge of conserving Contemporary Art

Robert Nelson, February 4, 2015
From Ritual Book to State Relic: A Cultural Biography of a Greek Illuminated Manuscript in Florence

Susan Siegfried, March 25, 2015
Fashion, Art and Gender in Post-Revolutionary France

Rebecca Stone, September 25, 2013
Reciprocity, Revelation, and Rule-Breaking: Indigenous Language and Ancient Andean Art

Gregory Thielker and Noah Coburn, October 23, 2013
(Un)Governed Spaces: Creating a Complex Portrait of Afghanistan Today

Michael Fried, November 7, 2013
Orientation in Painting: Caspar David Friedrich

Derrick Adams, January 31, 5:15 pm
Visiting Artist

Marden Nichols, February 5, 6:15 pm
Vitruvius on Painting: A Scholar’s Lecture on Vitruvius’ De architectura and Roman Wall Painting

Vesna Pavlovic, March 5, 6:15 pm
Visiting Artist

Other recent visiting scholars and curators include: Michael Fried, Betsy Bryan, Huey Copeland, John Davis, André Dombrowski, Michele Greet, David Lubin, Anne McCauley, Mitchell Merback, James Meyer, and Elizabeth Rodini.

Other recent visiting artists include: Janine Antoni, Mark Dion, Jill Downen, Wolfgang Laib, Anthony McCall, The Otolith Group, William Pope.L, Walid Ra’ad, Matthew Ritchie, and Semiconductor.