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Art History

How do we interpret the narrative imagery of an Ancient Near Eastern sculptural relief? Why did the Spanish artist Salvador Dalí paint pictures in a dreamlike Surrealistic manner? These are examples of the types of questions art historians ask and try to answer by studying the visual arts of both the distant and more recent past. They seek to understand the cultural values expressed in a work of art, and to show how the latter fits into a larger context or tradition to which individual artists belong.  The result is that a painting, statue, building, or piece of jewelry comes to life and gives us a fresh insight into mankind’s ever-changing experience and ways of seeing the world.

Students are taught to think critically and do research, learn theoretical aspects of this field, and express themselves effectively in written and oral form.  Several of our courses contribute to interdisciplinary programs in Classical Studies, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Latin American and Latino Studies, Women’s Studies, and Italian Studies.  The major in Art History must be accompanied by a minor, which can be in any number of fields.

Points of Pride

  • Art history is one of the majors housed in PAO Hall of Visual and Performing Arts, a state-of-the-art facility built specifically for the visual and performing arts at Purdue.
  • The program provides students with a solid and comprehensive training through some 20 differentcourses that cover all major periods in the western sphere from ancient to modern, as well as non-western topics such as Asian, Islamic, Latin American, and African art.
  • The program focuses on undergraduate education so there are many opportunities for undergraduate students to work and interact with faculty members.
  • Every semester, the art history program organizes field trips to museums in the region, such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, the Indianapolis Museum of Art or the Cincinnati Museum of Art.
  • The Art History Student Organization (AHSO) plans field trips, brings guest speakers, organizes professional development workshops, and facilitates networking amongst art history majors and minors.


  • Museum education
  • Art education
  • Museum administration
  • Museum development
  • Historic preservation and restoration
  • Art Administration
  • Auction houses
  • Art Galleries
  • Art consulting
  • Museum curating
  • Teaching and Research

Plan of Study

This major MUST be accompanied by a Minor.

It is strongly recommended that students select a minor in one of the following fields: History, Literature, Political Science, Philosophy, or Anthropology.
It is also recommended that by the end of the senior year, a student majoring in Art History achieve a reading knowledge of both French and German.

A. A & D (take by the end of sophomore year) (12)

22600 History of Art to 1400
22700 History of Art since 1400
11300 Basic Drawing
32700 Art History Methodology

B. Electives: 21 hours from the following courses in Art History, with ONE course in EACH of the first three categories, and at least ONE additional course from one of those categories. (21)

1. Ancient and Medieval Periods

31100 Greek Art
31200 Roman Art
34800 History of Islamic Art
35900 Medieval European Art

2. Renaissance and Baroque Periods

38000 Baroque Art
45100 Italian Renaissance Art
45200 Northern Renaissance Art

3. Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

33900 Women Artists in the 20th Century
34400 Latin American Art in the 20th Century
38200 19th Century Art: A Global Perspective
38300 Modern Art
38400 Contemporary Art
45400 Modern Architecture
45500 Architecture Since 1945

4. Additional Courses

25100 History of Photography I
30701 History of Contemporary Photography
39100 History of Chinese Art
39600 Art Museum Practices
49200 Advanced Sem. in Art History
49300 Variable Topics in the History of Art I
49400 Variable Topics in the History of Art II

Print Plan of Study

Art History

Rueff School of Visual and Performing Arts

Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907 (765) 494-4600

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