Apr 15, 2024  
2019-2020 Undergraduate Catalog 
2019-2020 Undergraduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Art History, B.A.

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Coordinator: Dr. Maureen Shanahan
Phone: (540) 568-6029
Email: shanahmg@jmu.edu


The Bachelor of Arts in art history is intended for students who wish to study the history of the visual arts, including the cultural and social context in which they were created. It is the mission of the art history program to educate students with a global perspective on the arts.

Western art history is emphasized, coupled with opportunities to study the art of select non-Western traditions. Students majoring in art history will develop a general knowledge of the principle monuments and artists of all major historical art periods. Students also will:

  • Become acquainted with the art history of non-Western cultures.
  • Locate unfamiliar works within major style periods and cultures.
  • Describe, analyze and interpret the form and content of individual works of art in relation to the cultures from which they originate.
  • Recognize major art media.
  • Understand at least three major historical periods of art in detail.
  • Become familiar with art history theory and methods of analysis and criticism.
  • Research and write about significant artists, artistic events, periods and artistic concepts.

The art history program encourages majors and minors to participate in internship opportunities at museums, galleries and other art related settings, and it provides up-to-date information about jobs and graduate programs in art history and related fields. Visiting scholars, campus art exhibitions, trips to major museums and the JMU Study Abroad program provide students with opportunities to study and apply their art history knowledge outside the classroom. Upon completion of the art history major, students will have been exposed to a broad background and knowledge of the opportunities for graduate school and employment. The art history program also advocates cross disciplinary education and actively supports students who double major with other disciplines.

Internship/Independent Study Credit

A maximum of three credits of art history internship, independent study or honors course work may be applied toward the major in art history. A student may petition the art history coordinator to apply six credit hours toward the art history major if the internship or independent study course work is directly relevant to the student’s interests and career goals.

Requirements for Art History as a Second Major

Students in any degree program may study art history as a second major by completing the 39 credit art history requirement. Students studying art history as a second major do not need to complete the requirements for the B.A. degree if their first major will complete the requirements for a different baccalaureate degree. However, non-B.A. degree students completing art history as a second major are strongly encouraged to complete the B.A. foreign language requirement.

Degree Requirements

Required Courses  Credit Hours
General Education1 41
Foreign Language classes (intermediate level required)2 0-14
Philosophy course (in addition to General Education  courses) 3
University electives3 23-37
Major requirements 39


1 The General Education  program contains a set of requirements each student must fulfill. The number of credit hours necessary to fulfill these requirements may vary.

2 The foreign language requirement may be satisfied by successful completion of the second semester of the intermediate level of the student’s chosen language (typically 232) or by placing out of that language through the Department of Foreign Language, Literature and Culture’s  placement test.

3 Depends on number of hours needed to fulfill the B.A. foreign language requirement. If they are completed in six hours, students should use the larger number of general electives to complete a second major or minor that complements art or art history or, for students intending to pursue graduate degrees, to gain reading knowledge of a second foreign language.

Major Requirements

The major in art history requires 39 credit hours in art history and studio courses, as the following chart shows. At least six of these credit hours must be 400-level art history courses.

Core courses at the 200 level are broad interpretive overviews of art history that combine lecture and discussion to permit students to learn the content and chronology of world art history; to learn how art historians collect, analyze and synthesize evidence; and engage in introductory exercises in the discipline. They generally include short formal writing assignments and exams with essay sections.

Distributives at the 300 level also combine lecture and discussion, more narrowly survey specific periods or cultures and address aspects of art historical methodology. These courses require longer formal writing assignments and include student research. Courses at the 400 level are seminars on specialized topics that center on advanced student research. A single course may not fulfill more than one distribution requirement.

Additional Courses

Art history electives (300-400 level)1 12 credit hours
Studio art and design electives (any level)2 6 credit hours


Total: 39 Credit Hours


1 ART 305. Seminar in Aesthetics , may count as an art history elective. A maximum of three credits from ARTH 490 , ARTH 495  or ARTH 499  may count toward the major.

2 ART 200. Art in General Culture [C2VPA]  may not count as a studio art and design elective.

Recommended Schedule For Majors

First Year

Total: 30 Credit Hours

Second Year

Total: 30 Credit Hours

Third Year

  • Non-Western art history elective 3 Credit Hours
  • Western art history electives 6 Credit Hours
  • 3.00
  • General electives 3 Credit Hours
  • Studio Art elective 3 Credit Hours
  • General Education  courses 12 Credit Hours

Total: 30 Credit Hours

Fourth Year

  • Art History electives 12 Credit Hours
  • General electives 18 Credit Hours

Total: 30 Credit Hours

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