Art History Program

PhD in Art History

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Art History

In the Doctoral Program students deepen their exploration of art history and demonstrate their ability to carry out original scholarship.  The department advises doctoral students in the following areas of study: late medieval art and culture, modern European art and culture from the 18th to the 20th centuries, and American art and culture.


The department accepts students who have earned an MA or its equivalent in art history or classical archaeology, either from the University of Missouri or from an institution recognized by the university. An MA thesis is a prerequisite for the Ph.D. The Doctoral program committee (see below) determines the acceptability of work completed elsewhere.

Students completing an MA degree in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at the University of Missouri-Columbia who want to continue for the Ph.D. must be accepted for advising by a faculty member who is a member of the doctoral faculty. Such students should submit a statement of purpose and a current CV to the department by the January 18 deadline. After they are accepted for advising, they need to submit a “Change of Program, Degree, Emphasis or Advisor Form” to the Office of Graduate Studies.


The doctoral program committee is constituted in October during the first year of study (D-1 form). It consists of at least four people: the student’s advisor; two additional scholars from within the department; and an outside committee member.  The doctoral program committee determines the program of study throughout the student’s time at the University of Missouri. It reviews the student’s M.A. thesis and determines its equivalency, accepts any transfer of credit from previous institutions, approves the plan of study (D-2 form), determines the major and minor areas as well as the scheduling of the comprehensive exams, approves the subject of the student’s dissertation, and examines and approves the student’s dissertation (D-3 form).

Reporting progress:

After students have passed their comprehensive exams, they are required to submit – in writing – a report to their advisors before the end of each term (fall, spring, and summer). The report should include a description of their accomplishments over the previous few months as well as a plan for the following semester.  Advisors will circulate the report to members of the doctoral program committee.  In addition, the Graduate Student Progress System (GSPS) is a web-based reporting system where students document their progress toward degree completion. All graduate students are required to submit an annual progress report by starting or updating a GSPS record.


Residency:  18 hours (three 6-hour or two 9-hour terms) must be completed in residence at the University of Missouri–Columbia.

Course requirements: A minimum of 72 hours is required for the Ph.D. At least 42 of those hours must be completed after the receipt of M.A. Up to 30 hours from a previous institution may count toward the total of 72 hours. Most students will take more than the minimum number of courses and requirements.

The 42 hours must include:

8110, if the incoming doctoral student received the M.A. from another institution

At least one course from the following three chronological periods—Ancient, Medieval to Baroque, and Modern—unless students have taken an equivalent at the M.A. level.

27 hours of courses in the major field (usually a broad geographical and chronological area of study conforming to the disciplinary conventions).
     - At least 12 of the 27 hours must be taken at the 8000 level.

15 hours of coursework in the minor field. (usually a geographical, chronological, or thematic area of study distinct from the major field; it may be considered as a scholarly supplement to the major field, or as a secondary teaching field).
     - At least 6 of the 15 hours must be taken at the 8000-level

majority of the coursework in both the major and minor fields must be completed in the department, but work in related disciplines is essential and thus always encouraged.

Language requirements:

All students must demonstrate reading knowledge of two foreign languages, usually German and a Romance language relevant to their major area. Departmental language exams are offered in the fall semester of each year, although students can request an examination in the spring semester. Language requirements may be satisfied also by achieving a grade of B or better in a course approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. The examination lasts two hours; students are asked to translate, with the assistance of a dictionary, as much of two pieces of archaeological or art-historical scholarship as they can. The student’s translations are evaluated by a member of the pertinent language department at the university, as well as members of the Department of Art History & Archaeology. The examination may be taken as many times as necessary (but only once per semester) until it is passed.

Certain programs of study may require additional language competency.

Comprehensive Exams:

The comprehensive examination comprises both the major and minor fields. Particular emphases within the major and minor fields are determined by the Doctoral Program Committee. The examination is taken after the plan of study (D-2) and language requirements are complete, and must be passed at least seven months before the final defense of the dissertation. When students have completed all requirments and have passed their comprehensive exams, they become official candidates for the doctoral degree (ABD) and may register for continuous enrollment.

Students spend one semester preparing exclusively for the examinations by registering for up to 9 hours of 9080. Since the form and content of the exam are determined by the student’s Doctoral Program Committee, students are expected to be in close contact with members throughout the preparation process in order to set goals and determine progress.

The purpose of the comprehensive examinations is to demonstrate knowledge and intellectual engagement with the chosen field of study and to lay a broad foundation for future teaching, research, and engagement in the profession. Members of the Doctoral Program Committee will evaluate the exams based on the student’s demonstrated knowledge of monuments, historiography, and theory.  Doctoral students in the art history track prepare for exams in the major field, a major subfield (the field of specialization in which the dissertation will be written), and the minor field (conceived as an undergraduate teaching field or distinct curatorial area). The student should consult regularly with members of the Doctoral Program Committee while preparing for the examination. The written examination has traditionally consisted of three days of closed-book writing, during which students choose from a selection of questions devised by the Doctoral Program Committee. However, the committee may employ other formats. All components are reviewed with the committee at the oral examination.


The dissertation is expected to be an original, scholarly contribution to art history. The topic must be approved by the advisor and committee. A dissertation proposal should be filed with members of the committee within two months of passing the comprehensive exams. A proposal for a dissertation fellowship will satisfy this requirement.

Individual chapters are generally submitted to the advisor as they are written. Other members of the committee may also comment on them in draft form. A complete, revised draft of the dissertation must be approved by the advisor at least two months before the defense. Students should distribute the final draft to each member of the Committee at least one month before the defense.

Students maintain continuous enrollment by registering for 9080 or 9090 and by submitting a progress report to their advisor each term. Dissertation advising is not normally available during the summer unless previous arrangements have been made.

Dissertation Defense:

The final examination will be in the form of an oral defense of the dissertation. It must take place on or before the penultimate Friday of classes in that semester. Any changes recommended by the committee during the defense must be made and approved before the finished thesis can be submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies. Students are responsible for ensuring they meet the deadlines and guidelines established by the Office of Graduate Studies for dissertation submission and graduation.