Close-up of red painting

Art History

Study art history among the vibrant museums and contemporary art galleries of our nation’s capital


The Art History Program at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design is situated in the heart of the culturally rich city of Washington, D.C. providing students with unique opportunities to study the arts. Our students learn to apply visual and historical analyses to artworks, as well as incorporate relevant and current theoretical and methodological approaches to research. Our proximity to Washington’s many museums and galleries means that the permanent collections and exhibitions of some of the most important art institutions in the world often serve as the backbone of student coursework and study. Our curriculum covers a wide swath of the history of art, but has specific areas of focus in Renaissance, Islamic, South Asian, American, and Modern and Contemporary art. Our rigorous and supportive scholarly program places special emphasis on developing individual students’ research and writing skills.

Our Facilities



AH 1000:  Dean’s Seminar: Tuesdays 2:30-5:00

During the eighteenth-century, English, Scottish, Irish and continental European stonemasons’ medieval guild traditions inspired the modern cultural formation of Freemasonry and competing international networks of Masonic lodges.  Freemasonry attracted men from a wide socio-economic spectrum and found support from both radical revolutionaries and counter-revolutionary conservatives.  But ever since the Age of Enlightenment and the American and French Revolutions, Freemasonry’s secretive lodge meetings, mysterious initiation rituals and esoteric visual symbols have fostered orthodox Christian opposition and anti-Masonic conspiracy theories charging a varying host of purported vices, blasphemies and subversive misdeeds. This course critically examines these conspiracy theories, popularized in a variety of media, while also exploring Freemasonry's racial, gender and class exclusions/divisions. Freemasonry's global networking assisted American imperialism and helped shape the nation’s capital. Washington, D.C.’s urban design, historic-revival architecture, monumental sculpture and large-scale history paintings will be subjects for lectures, readings, class discussions and field trips to local museums, libraries, buildings and monuments.  The seminar will consider the manner in which George Washington himself came to personify American Freemasonry, becoming a model for later United States presidents who joined the fraternity.  Students will read both primary and secondary sources and will be required to write papers critically analyzing visual objects and architectural spaces while also evaluating the literature of Freemasonry, anti-Masonry and secret-society conspiracies.

AH 1031 Survey of Art and Architecture I (G-PAC)

This course is an introduction to the history of art that selectively surveys painting, sculpture, architecture, and material culture in Europe, Asia and the Mediterranean before 1300 CE (i.e. from Prehistory through the Middle Ages). By using a variety of theoretical, analytical and critical means, you will learn to approach works of art in relation to their larger historical, cultural, political, economic, and religious contexts. In class, we focus on the contextual conditions under which works of art were produced and the various ways they have functioned from that time on. You will learn how to perform visual analysis, understand iconography and meaning, articulate the important characteristics of individual objects and monuments, as well as recognize broader stylistic developments across time. Visits to museums will provide you with first-hand experience of original artworks.  

Classes are comprised of lectures and discussion groups.

This G-PAC course is approved to fulfill requirements in two distributions: Arts; and Global /Cross-Cultural Perspective.

AH 2191 South Asian Art (G-PAC)

This course considers visual and material culture of South Asia from early archaeological settlements to the contemporary period. Regions to be studied include the Himalayas and the Indian subcontinent (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka). Working chronologically, we will examine artists and diverse creative practices and the powerful patrons who supported them. Fundamental to our study will be to acquire a working knowledge of the geographical, political, and social forces in the region, and to explore the ways in which both religious and secular art and architecture operate in this rich cultural terrain. No previous knowledge of South Asian history or art history is required. This course fulfills the G-PAC Arts requirement for Critical Thinking and Cross-Cultural Perspective.


(AH3122:80 CRN 26902 and AH3122W:80 CRN26903)

This course concerns the International Style and its legacy in France, with particular focus upon the courtly environments of the early Valois kings during the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. Lectures encompass sacred and secular art, and also will address relevant architecture (i.e. Paris’ Louvre, Island Palais and the hunting estate of Vincennes). 

The patronage of Charles V (1364-1380) especially is analyzed as prelude to discussions about the art acquired by his two younger brothers, Louis I, Duke of Anjou, and Jean, Duke of Berry. Louis I d’Anjou (1339-1384) is best known for his purchase of the large set of “Apocalypse” tapestries housed at Angers Castle. Louis II d’Anjou (1377-1417), maintained another sumptuous estate at nearby Saumur, where his wife, Yolande of Aragon, ordered the illumination of a highly expressive manuscript called the “Rohan Hours.”

Jean de Berry (1340-1416) possessed at least ten important strongholds, all filled with rare works of art. His library at Bourges rivaled that of King Charles V in the Louvre, and several of these costly tomes were illustrated by the Limbourg Brothers, who hailed from the Netherlands. 

The lectures of this class will conclude with a discussion of Charles VI, who suffered from mercurial bouts of insanity, and the pivotal political role played by his younger brother Louis I d’Orléans (1370-1407). From his town mansion in Paris to his rural fortress of Pierrefonds, Louis sustained a love affair with his sister-in-law, Isabeau of Bavaria. The notorious queen actively promoted the career of the important authoress Christine de Pisan, who criticized the ribald imagery of the famed “Romance of the Rose.” Pisan’s illuminator Anastasia illustrated several of her texts that concerned the whims of fate and the vicissitudes of fortune.   

This course, which addresses relationships between France and England during the Hundred Years War, provides a foundation for understanding the chivalric ideals that governed the Valois court before Henry V’s 1415 victory at Agincourt. Some arresting topics not typically covered will be considered: techniques of manuscript illumination, stained glass and enamel; bestiaries, the “art” of the hunt and the quest of the mythical unicorn; the “Nine Worthies” as models for knightly codes of conduct; England’s “Black Prince” Edward as hero of the Hundred Years War; the Holy Grail Mystique at Glastonbury  Abbey and Windsor Castle; sacred pilgrimage and reliquary collections of the international centers of Paris and Prague; the châteauas citadel of art and emblem of courtly power.


This course considers the development of Neo-Classicism and Romanticism in the context of the rapidly changing political, intellectual and social climate of Europe during and after the 1789 French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, the Restoration and the French Revolutions of 1830 and 1848.

The primary focus is on painting and sculpture and the thematic, stylistic and contextual examination and interpretation of Neo-Classicism and Romanticism in France, England and Germany in the work of representative artists such as Jacques Louis David, Antonio Canova, Eugène Delacroix, Caspar David Friedrich, Francesco Goya, John Constable and JMW Turner.

Requirements of the course include: two examinations, assigned readings and a research paper.  Students enrolled in the WID section of the course have additional writing assignments.  All images shown in class are posted on Blackboard.

The Art History major requires 36 credit hours. To ensure distribution across the discipline, students must take a minimum of one course (3 credits) in six of the following seven categories (for a total of 18 credits): Ancient, Medieval/Islamic World, Renaissance/Baroque, 18th/19th Century, Modern & Contemporary, Asian, and Pre-Columbian/Latin American/African. With an eye to specialization, students choose an additional upper-division course in one of these categories (3 credits) and two electives (6 credits), which may, with the prior approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies, be taken in another department. For in-depth research experience, students must take a minimum of two Junior/Senior Seminars (6 credits); seminars may count towards the distribution requirements. For hands-on experience, one Fine Arts (FA) course at any level (3 credits) is required.

Students who declared their major before September 2015 can choose to adhere to the previous guidelines, which required 33 credit hours consisting of 6 credit hours each in Ancient-Medieval, Renaissance-Baroque, and Modern European/American art history; 6 credit hours of Art History seminars; 3 credit hours of fine arts course work; and an additional 6 credit hours of upper division courses in Art History, or, with the approval of the advisor, in related departments. The seminars are small group experiences that stress in-depth study of a particular topic under the close supervision of a faculty member.

For graduation with Special Honors in Art History, students must have attained, by the end of the junior year, a grade-point average of at least 3.5 in the major and 3.3 overall. By the end of the junior year, students should consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies regarding eligibility and selection of an area of research and the appropriate faculty member to supervise the project. The student will work out a schedule with the faculty supervisor for completion of the thesis either in fall and/or spring term. The student will register for AH 4198 Independent Study, which may count toward an elective in fulfillment of the major. The student must earn a letter grade of A in order to receive special honors.

To be eligible to write a Senior Thesis and for Honors in Art History, students must have attained, by the end of the junior year, a grade-point average of at least 3.5 in the major and 3.3 overall. By the end of the junior year, students should consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies regarding eligibility and selection of an area of research and the appropriate faculty members to supervise the project. We recommend that students strongly consider taking the full two semesters to complete the thesis. If writing the thesis in one semester, students should consider basing their project on pre-existing research from a previous course. The student will register for AH4197 Senior Thesis, which may count toward an elective in fulfillment of the major. The student will work closely with a Thesis Advisor on the thesis, gaining additional feedback from one or two Readers at the draft stage. A faculty committee will judge whether the Senior Thesis qualifies for Honors.

Requires AH 1031, 1032, and four additional upper-division Art History courses for a total of 18 hours of coursework.

Consortium Registration

Students wishing to take limited classes beyond GW have the benefit of registering for courses at the other institutions belonging to the Washington Consortium of Universities. Any graduate student interested in these programs must consult with his/her departmental advisor prior to participation.

Application Process

To apply for the Art History program you must complete GW’s online application and submit all required materials.

Apply to the Art History Program


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:

Visiting Artists & Scholars Program

The Visiting Artists and Scholars Program 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.



Program Contacts

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


Full Time Faculty

Part Time Faculty