History of Art and Archaeology, Ph.D. (Ithaca)

Program Description

Students choose a major concentration and two minor ones, one (in rare cases, both) of which may be in another field. The format of examinations in the major and minor concentrations is determined in consultation with each member of the Special Committee. Individual exams are followed by an oral exam with all members of the committee.

Research and study opportunities:
The Fine Arts Library in Sibley Hall has extensive holdings in art and architectural history; Olin and Kroch Libraries have excellent resources in history, literature, and other related fields. Particularly notable are the special collections on Dante, Petrarch, witchcraft, the history of science, East Asia, and Southeast Asia.

The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art is particularly strong in modern and Asian art. It also has a study collection in other fields, including a rich print collection. A study gallery and classroom in the museum make it a regular part of instruction.

The Department of History of Art has a collection of over 300,000 slides and a study collection of photographs of works of art.

The field sponsors a colloquium including graduate students in the field. Students are also encouraged to participate in one of many interdisciplinary groups in theory, medieval studies, the Renaissance colloquium, the Southeast Asia program, and others.

Students interested in the history of architecture and urban development may want to consider the Field of Architecture.

Contact Information

Phone: 607 255-9861

GM08 Goldwin Smith Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • 19th century art
  • African, African American, and African Diaspora
  • American art
  • ancient art and archaeology
  • Asian American art
  • baroque art
  • comparative modernities
  • contemporary art
  • digital art
  • East Asian art
  • history of photography
  • Islamic art
  • Latin American art
  • medieval art
  • modern art
  • Native American and Indigenous studies
  • Renaissance art
  • South Asian art
  • Southeast Asian art
  • theory and criticism
  • visual studies


2017-2018: $29,500

Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Fall, Jan. 15; no spring admission

Requirements Summary:

  • all Graduate School Requirements, including the TOEFL Exam for Non-Native English Applicants
  • three recommendations
  • GRE general test
  • writing sample

The field recommends that applicants have an undergraduate major in the history of art. All applicants must submit GRE general test scores. Applicants must also submit a sample of written work. Applicants should already have begun to study the language or languages appropriate to their intended program; only after demonstrating reading proficiency is a Ph.D. degree candidate eligible for the Admission to Candidacy examination.

The history of art program does not ordinarily admit students seeking a terminal M.A. degree. However, doctoral degree candidates are granted an M.A. degree after successful completion of course work and the Admission to Candidacy examination.


Program objectives
The Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell University is committed to preparing students for advanced academic research in the visual arts and teaching at the college level. It promises to do so through the study of areas traditionally central to the discipline such as Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance art, and through the integration of recent and emerging fields of theory and research to the study of visual culture.

Our program encourages interdisciplinarity to critically understand visual culture through both study and practice and to promote interpretations of the historical and contemporary visual world from diverse perspectives. It is expected that interdisciplinary research will further students’ understanding of the discipline of art history, its roots, its methodologies, as well as its historical, methodological and theoretical connections with other disciplines.
Learning Outcomes
A candidate for the doctoral degree must demonstrate mastery of the chosen fields of knowledge in order to synthesize and evaluate existing scholarship in those fields and to make an original and substantial contribution to the fields of art history and visual studies in a timely fashion.

Upon completion of the program, a student must demonstrate:

  • the ability to produce a substantial and original contribution to the fields of art history and visual studies. This entails command of the relevant literature, the capacity to identify new research areas and to independently develop concepts and methodologies.
  • advanced research skills, including the ability to synthesize existing knowledge,  critically analyze other scholars’ work,  to appropriately apply and expand upon the methodologies central to one’s areas of expertise and identify and access the relevant academic, institutional, and human resources. 
  • commitment to advancing scholarship. The student must keep informed of new developments in her or his fields of specialization and show involvement in professional development through participation in scholarly organizations, lecturing, publishing and/ or curating.
  • professional skills, which include receiving and giving feedback effectively, communicating clearly orally and in writing.

To assess the progress of a student in the Ph.D. program, the following measures will be implemented:

A. In collaboration with the Chair and the members of the field, the DGS will prepare a set of guidelines to assist students entering and enrolled in the program. These guidelines will supplement, but will not supplant, the Code of Legislation of the Graduate Faculty.

B. A faculty meeting to discuss the performance and progress of each student will be scheduled at the end of each academic year. Minutes of the meeting will be taken and distributed to faculty.

C. Structured evaluation forms prepared by the DGS will be filled by each member of a student’s Special Committee after A and B exams. These forms will be returned to the Program Manager, compiled, and made available to the faculty for review during the end of the year meeting.

D. The Department will track student’s presentations, publications and placement.  A list of these activities will be made available to the faculty at the end of each year.