Apr 20, 2024  
2014-2015 University Catalog 
2014-2015 University Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Art History, BA

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About the Program

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. To do this, art historians read literary texts and learn about the local customs, beliefs and history of a given society, as well as its techniques of craftsmanship. 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.

The goal of the art history program at Purdue is to give students a broad training in this discipline, through some 20 different courses offered at regular intervals, including classes in western and in non-western art, originating outside the European and North American mainstream. The courses cover all major periods in the western sphere from ancient to modern, in addition to Asian, Islamic, Latin American, and African art. History of photography is an elective in this curriculum as is design history. Students are taught to think critically and do research, learn theoretical aspects of this field, and express themselves effectively in written and oral form, the objectives of a course in art history methods. Several of our classes contribute to interdisciplinary programs in Classical Studies, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Latin American and Latino Studies, Women’s Studies, and Italian Studies. We also offer a course in art museum practices.

The major in art history is accompanied by a minor, which can be in any number of fields complementing the major. These include fine arts, political and social history, literature, philosophy, anthropology, or a foreign language. It also is important to acquire a reading knowledge of German and/or French by the senior year, because of these languages’ value in any future art-historical study at the graduate level.

Students with an undergraduate degree in art history may go to graduate school to prepare for a future career in teaching, in the museum world, in art-dealing or in art journalism. We inform our students about the many different graduate programs available at other universities (at present Purdue offers only the B.A. in art history) and help them meet the entrance requirements for this next phase of their academic careers. We also encourage them to seek internships as undergraduates. Some of this information is diffused through the very active Art History Student Organization at Purdue, which has significantly enriched the undergraduate experience in this field. The current enrollment of the art history program at Purdue University numbers around 40 majors and 25 minors.

Summary of Program Requirements

The Summary of Program Requirements for Art History  is a comprehensive list of those categories which a student must fulfill in order to earn their degree. Unlike the full Detailed Program Requirements listed below, complete lists of selectives for any given category are not shown. These summaries are intended to be printer-friendly and less expansive in detail.

Detailed Program Requirements

Please see below for detailed program requirements and possible selective fulfillments.

33 Hours
This Major MUST BE accompanied by a Minor
Art Studies-BA

Requirements for the Major

A. The following courses in A&D to be completed preferably by the end of the sophomore year (12 credits)

B. Electives (21 credits)

21 hours to be selected 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

Total (33 credits)

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.

Program Requirements

Spring 1st Year


Fall 2nd Year


Spring 2nd Year


  • Natural Sciences *
  • Gender Issues *
  • Minor
  • REQ. B (1)

Fall 3rd Year


  • U.S. Tradition *
  • Racial & Ethnic Diversity *
  • Minor
  • REQ. B (2)

Spring 3rd Year


  • Western Heritage *
  • Global Perspective *
  • REQ. B
  • REQ. B (3)

Fall 4th Year


  • Social Ethics *
  • REQ. B
  • REQ. B (1, 2, 3)

Spring 4th Year


  • Minor
  • REQ. B


*Satisfies a school core requirement.

+Some students may need to begin language courses at a lower level.

Foreign Language Courses

Foreign Language proficiency requirements vary by program.  For acceptable languages and proficiency levels, see your advisor:

American Sign Language, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, (ancient) Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish

Critical Course

The ♦ course is considered critical. A Critical Course is one that a student must be able to pass to persist and succeed in a particular major.

Expired Course

Any course without a link to its description is one that has been expired.  However, this course could fulfill the degree requirement historically.

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