Sep 30, 2023  
Course Catalog 2020-2021 
Course Catalog 2020-2021 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Art History Major

The major consists of a minimum of 11 full courses (or the equivalent) and language competency.

Note: Students must earn minimum grades of C- or P for all courses that apply toward the major.

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Summary of Requirements


  • Students must complete a minimum of 8 Art History (ARTH) courses
  • ARTH 299 must be taken in the sophomore or junior year
  • No more than 2 courses at the 100-level may count toward the major (unless prior approval is received from the chair)
  • Honors does not count toward the 8 ARTH courses required for the major
  • Private readings will be HC and do not count towards the 8-course requirement

Transfer of Credit

No more than 3 full courses or the equivalent may be transferred to an Art History major, unless the courses were taken in an Oberlin-affiliated program. Students should submit transcripts, syllabi, class notes, term papers, and examinations in order to obtain final approval for credit.

Advanced Placement

A grade of 5 on the AP exam in Art History may be transferred as one full course to the Oberlin transcript. However, the department offers no major credit, and no exemption from major requirements, for AP work in Art History.  The Department offers no credit and no exemption for AP work in Studio Art.


Application for Honors occurs during Spring semester of Junior year. We encourage students who are interested in pursuing Honors to discuss the details of the program and potential topics with any member of the Art History faculty. Faculty members are likewise urged to encourage qualified students to consider applying for Honors.

Students seeking admission to the Honors Program in Art History must meet the following criteria:

  1. A minimum overall GPA of 3.25. In exceptional cases, students may petition to waive this requirement.
  2. A minimum GPA of 3.5 in Art History courses taken at Oberlin (by beginning of Spring semester of Junior year).
  3. Completion of ARTH 299 - Methods of Art History .
  4. At least two 200- and one 300-level Art History courses completed at Oberlin by the end of the Junior year.
  5. Two of the three courses listed in 4) above must have been in different areas of Art History.
  6. Completion of the Art History major’s language requirement.
  7. Writing Proficiency Qualification.

Students who meet the above qualifications should identify a faculty member who is willing to advise a year-long project (the “Honors Advisor”).  Together they will devise a plan of study, and the student submits a 5-page prospectus and a preliminary bibliography to the general Honors Supervisor (a designated faculty member) two Fridays prior to Spring Break.

After the prospectus and bibliography are submitted, the Honors Supervisor distributes them to the Art History faculty.

NOTE: Students who are away from campus in the second semester will submit a prospectus and bibliography no later than the Monday (one week) before the first day of classes of the Fall semester

Art History Major Course Lists

Art History Distribution Requirement

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Courses must be taken in at least 4 of the areas offered by the art history faculty (Ancient-Medieval, Renaissance-Baroque, Modern-Contemporary, Architectural History, East Asian, African and African Diaspora, Islamic art).

Studio Art Courses

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Courses Outside of the Art Department

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Two courses outside of the Art Department (these should be chosen in consultation with your advisor to reflect your special geographic or chronological area of interest or a thematic focus in art history).

Language Competency Requirement

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A demonstrated ability to read a foreign language at the level of competence equal to two semesters of introductory language study at Oberlin. Students may meet this requirement in a number of ways, including but not limited to: (1) completing a two-semester introductory language course at Oberlin; (2) placing above the first-year level on a placement test administered by one of the language departments; or (3) transferring the equivalent of an Oberlin introductory language course taken elsewhere.

For students who are considering graduate work in Art History, the department strongly recommends advanced language courses. In general, within the first year of graduate study in any field of Western art, students are expected to demonstrate reading competency in French and German; for East Asian Art students will need a working knowledge of Japanese and/or Chinese. Depending on the area of specialization, other languages may also be necessary, e.g. Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese.