Ph.D. Program in History of Art

Bryn Mawr's Department of History of Art offers a Ph.D. degree in all areas of Western art history from late antiquity through the present. An M.A. degree is offered in the second year in the process of acquiring the Ph.D. History of Art is one of three independent departments that comprise the Graduate Group in Archaeology, Classics, and History of Art

Distinguished History

Bryn Mawr has a distinguished tradition in the study of the visual arts. The College has been cited as one of a few influential institutions that helped establish art history's place in the American academy. Erwin Panofsky produced his Studies in Iconology: Humanistic Themes in the Art of the Renaissance during his time at the College in 1937-38 on a Mary Flexner Lectureship. Today, the Department of History of Art offers study in diverse geographic and cultural fields of art history from antiquity through the present, including the visual and material culture of the Americas, the Middle East, China, South Asia, and Europe. 

Areas of Study

Graduate faculty members cover the history of art in Europe and the Americas from early Byzantium through contemporary film. Particular emphases are the medieval afterlife of classical art and artifacts (Alicia Walker), the Italian Renaissance and its historiography (David Cast), the global early modern and South Asian textiles (Sylvia Houghteling), and post-World-War II art, theory, photography and film (Lisa Saltzman, Homay King).

In their scholarship and teaching, the faculty represent a range of critical and interpretive positions from art history in the tradition of Erwin Panofsky through its post-structural critique, including feminist and gender theory, social art history, psychoanalytic theory, reception theory, semiotics, and post-colonial theory.


The program of study is flexible and can be tailored to the goals and interests of individual students. Faculty offer seminars on topics related to their current research, including artful things in Ancient China; gendered images, gendered objects in Byzantium; mannerism; textiles of South Asia; Warhol; photography and its Afterlife; performance/Black personhood. Courses are also offered in postmodern critical theory, especially gender theory, psychoanalytic theory, and reception.

The Center for Visual Culture hosts a weekly colloquium, inviting a diverse range of scholars interested in the way visual imagery shapes our lives. The Center also supports undergraduate and graduate research, conferences, exhibitions, and other extra-curricular events.

In addition to History of Art courses, graduate students may enroll in GSems (Group Seminars), team-taught by professors from the Graduate Group in Archaeology, Classics, and History of Art, as well as Classics and Archaeology courses to supplement their work in the history of art. Students are also able to take courses at nearby Penn through a reciprocal agreement, and may also, by special arrangement, take courses at Princeton and other institutions in the area.

Resources and Opportunities

History of Art graduate students receive study carrels in the award-winning Rhys Carpenter Library, which supports research in archaeology, classics, history of art and urban studies.

Graduate students have several opportunities to gain teaching experience at Bryn Mawr, both in the History of Art department and in affiliated departments and programs such as Growth and Structure of Cities and Film Studies.

Graduate students also have several opportunities to gain curatorial experience at Bryn Mawr, both in the College’s Department of Special Collections and at nearby institutions such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Institute of Contemporary Art-Philadelphia, PAFA, the Penn Museum, and others.

Graduates of the program in History of Art have made major contributions to the discipline and continue on to successful careers in colleges and universities, museums, galleries and foundations around the world.