Art history

Art History


The Master of Arts in Art History at the Corcoran School promotes interdisciplinary investigations of the visual arts. Our faculty engages diverse methodological approaches, encouraging students to explore and contribute to varied theoretical, philosophical and political debates surrounding art. In the program, we emphasize the development of research and writing skills in the discipline, and benefit from our close proximity to Washington, D.C.’s abundant cultural institutions.

We offer a curriculum that is both traditional and innovative. Our students are encouraged in their challenging courses to take advantage of the rich resources of the D.C. area in their research and internships.

The Master of Arts degree in Art History 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 educational careers in museums and galleries; for others, it serves as a foundation for entering a doctorate program. All students receive training that hones their skills in research, critical analysis, and writing. The program additionally provides opportunities to study visual materials and creative practices of diverse civilizations and cultures. Students have the opportunity to interact with leading art professionals in seminars taught by local curators and art historians. The Art History program also has a robust visiting scholars lecture series.




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Art History Information Session

Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020
7:30 - 8:30 p.m. EST



Program of Study


Art History students

The program includes 36 credit hours of graduate coursework that covers a range of topics and geographic regions. During the first semester, students are required to complete the art historiography seminar (CAH 6258). Students have the option, though it is not required, of taking a language/reading comprehension examination in Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Latin, Persian, Portuguese, or Spanish. As many as 6 credits of graduate coursework may be completed outside the department with approval of the graduate advisor.

Qualifying Paper

A qualifying paper is the capstone of the final year of study. A first draft is submitted during the fall semester of the second year, or after completing 18 credits; the final draft is due the following spring semester. All qualifying papers are reviewed by a panel of full-time faculty members. Please view the AH Graduate Student Handbook (PDF)  for more information on guidelines.

Museum Training Concentration

Master of Arts degree candidates have the option to concentrate in Museum Studies. Prerequisites and requirements are the same as those for the Master of Arts in Art History; students include in their course work 6 credits of CAH 6299 (Museum Internship), after completion of 18 credits of art history courses.



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The Student Accounts Office provides up to date cost information on our program. The program has a number of support packages that it offers to select students, and students are automatically considered as part of the application process. Incoming MA Art History students are eligible for a number of scholarships, based on merit and need. You may also find fellowships through the Office of Graduate Student Assistantships and Fellowships. The Office of Student Financial Assistance also has more information on aid opportunities.

There are many resources available to assist in funding an education. Each year, MA Art History students receive a total of over $200,000 in support through scholarships and fellowships. Assistantships and fellowships are also awarded annually to entering and continuing students. Master of Arts candidates are eligible for Graduate Teaching Assistantships, including tuition, salary and stipend. Additional departmental assistantships and awards range from approximately $3,000 to $15,000 per year.




Isabella Victoria Ionni

While studying abroad in London in 2016, I stumbled across the Serpentine Galleries in Hyde Park. Unknowing what exhibit was on view, I was astonished to come across Swedish artist Hilma af Klint and her abstract occult paintings.... Long after I left the exhibit, af Klint’s work stayed on my mind. Eventually, when I learned that her work would be traveling to America for the first time, I decided to write my Qualifying Paper on Hilma af Klint’s Paintings for the Temple.

- Isabella Victoria Ionni. Areas of Interest: Modern & Medieval/Renaissance on Astrology, Magic & the Occult


Upcoming events


Visiting Artists and Scholars Committee

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.






NEXT 2021

Every year, Corcoran hosts NEXT, a year-end celebration of art and scholarship. In 2021, Art History M.A. students like Paige Sellars researched art on a level far below the surface. Paige worked to uncover the importance of art for everyone: “I hope that museums and professional art historians continue to stress diversity in the field—both in terms of participants and scholarship.”

Work shown: John Singleton Copley, "Watson and the Shark," Oil on canvas, 1778"

view more art history m.a. projects

John Singleton Copley's "Watson and the Shark"


Art History Booklet

2020 Student Work

To see examples of the class of 2020's culminating projects and work, see our Graduation Booklet (designed by Julie Hansen, B.F.A. Graphic Design '18). This booklet shows the diverse range of studies by our outstanding students in the Corcoran Art History program.

Graduation Booklet





Dr. Jordan Amirkhani

              Dr. Jordan Amirkhani (MA, Art History, 2010) received her PhD in the History and Philosophy of Art from the University of Kent in the United Kingdom in 2015. She is currently working on a book based on her doctoral research on the Franco-Cuban painter and Dadaist Francis Picabia.


Sascha Scott

Sascha Scott, MA in Art History

Scott wrote a book, A Strange Mixture: The Art and Politics of Painting Pueblo Indians (University of Oklahoma Press, 2015), that received a Wyeth Foundation Publication Grant and the Historical Society of New Mexico’s Ralph Emerson Twitchel Award.


Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns, MA in Art History

Burns' book, Transnational Frontiers: the American West in France (University of Oklahoma Press, 2018) analyzes appropriations of the American West in France in performance and visual and material culture.


Brandon Ruud

Brandon Ruud, MA in Art History

Ruud is the current Constance and Dudley J. Godfrey Jr. Curator of American Art and Decorative Arts, Milwaukee Art Museum.  Previously, Ruud served as Curator of American Art at the Sheldon Museum of Art, University of Nebraska and as Assistant Research Curator of American Art at the Art Institute of Chicago.

He has organized dozens of exhibitions, including Apostles of Beauty: Arts and Crafts from Britain to Chicago at the Art Institute (2009) and A Faithful and Vivid Picture: Karl Bodmer’s North American Prints at the Joslyn Art Museum (2002).

His monograph, Karl Bodmer’s North American Prints, was awarded a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times in 2005.  



Smith Hall of Art
801 22nd St, NW, Room 101 
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Program Administrator
Andy Johnson
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Program Head
Barbara von Barghahn
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Undergraduate Advisor for Dual BA in Fine Art and Art History
Katherine Lee
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Graduate Advisor for Art History
Mika Natif
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Director of Undergraduate Studies
Zan Dumbadze
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Transfer and Study Abroad
Bibiana Obler
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