Department Requirements

Major and Minor Requirements

Requirements for the Major in Art History and Criticism
The art history major consists of ten courses, excluding first-year seminars. Required are Art History 1100 [must be taken at Bowdoin - see ADVANCED PLACEMENT below for exception]; one African, Asian, or Pre-Columbian art course numbered 1103 or higher; one from Art History 2090, 2100, 2130, 2140, 2150, 2260; one from Art History 2220, 2230, 2240, or 2320; one from Art History 2410, 2420, 2440, 2450, 2520, 2540, 2620, or 2640; one additional 2000-level course; two 3000-level seminars (must be taken at Bowdoin); and two additional art history courses numbered above 1100, one of which may be an independent study. Art history majors are also encouraged to take courses in foreign languages and literature, history, philosophy, religion, and the other arts.

Interdisciplinary Majors
The department participates in interdisciplinary programs in art history and archaeology and in art history and visual arts. See the Course Catalogue. Art history majors may do a coordinate major with environmental studies.

Requirements for the Minor in Art History and Criticism
The minor consists of five courses, excluding first-year seminars. Required courses are Art History 1100 [must be taken at Bowdoin - see ADVANCED PLACEMENT below for exception]; two 2000-level courses; one 3000-level course (must be taken at Bowdoin); and one additional art history course numbered above 1100. The major and the minor in visual arts are described in the Course Catalogue.

Art History Major/Minor Checksheet

This PDF checksheet is intended to be informational only. Students must consult with an academic advisor prior to registration.

Independent Study

Art History majors and minors may pursue independent projects for regular course credit. Working with a faculty member, students have designed courses of study that allow them to read widely in an area not covered in the current curriculum or to pursue a topic from their formal coursework in greater depth. Independent work can sometimes form the basis for an Honors Thesis.

Examples of past projects

Bridging Cultures: Viewing and Creating Japanese Spaces in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century French Art
A "Peculiarly American" Enthusiasm: George Bellows, Traditional Masculinity, and the Big Dory 
Walton Ford and the Art of Capturing Nature
"Not Your Average Pub Crawl: The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century." »

Honors in Art History

Who May Apply?

Permission to try for honors in Art History is reserved for students with distinguished academic records in the department. To earn honors, a student must produce a substantial paper that reflects serious scholarship and makes an original contribution to knowledge in the field.

Students who seek honors should be working in an area previously studied in a course, and with an art history faculty advisor with whom the student has already worked. The advisor should have a background in the chosen area of study strong enough to oversee the proposed project.


Honors projects must be approved by the full art history faculty and carried out according to the following schedule:

On or before the last day of the third week of classes in the fall semester, the student must submit to all art history faculty a formal proposal including 1) a written description of the project which specifies both the topic to be addressed and the approach to be used; 2) a preliminary bibliography; 3) the name of an advisor.

Proposals will be reviewed for preliminary approval. Submission of a proposal does not automatically lead to admission to the Honors Program. Students whose proposals are approved may continue to the next stage.

On or before the last day of classes in the fall semester the student must submit to all art history faculty 1) an abstract of his/her thesis; 2) a detailed outline of the paper; 3) a draft of a substantive section (or a chapter) of the essay; 4) an annotated bibliography; 5) any other work required by the advisor. After having read and commented on this material, the art history faculty will meet with the student. They will then make a recommendation by the end of the semester as to whether the project should continue into the second semester as a projected Honors Project. Alternatively, the faculty may suggest that the project proceed as an independent study.

A student who fails to meet the fall semester deadlines will no longer be eligible for honors.

An honors student should be prepared to devote considerable time during the entire spring semester to writing and revising the honors paper. The student will be expected to meet a series of firm deadlines (to be determined by the advisor) for the submission of draft sections or chapters throughout the month of February. By the third week in March, the student is required to submit a completed, revised draft of the entire project to the advisor. In April, the student will revise the project a final time.

The deadline for submission of a completed honors thesis is three weeks before the last day of classes in the term in which the student expects to graduate. At that time, the student should make available to the faculty at least two copies of the thesis, each copy fully illustrated. Illustrations may be in the form of photographs or machine-made copies of good quality. The proper form of the thesis is described in a memo from the Office of Student Records and the Library.

Once the honors thesis has been submitted to the department, the student's advisor will schedule a final honors conference, at which the student and members of the faculty will have the opportunity to review the honors project and discuss the thesis.

The writing of an honors thesis does not automatically lead to the granting of honors. An honors designation at Commencement will be based on the department's evaluation of the quality of the honors thesis and on the student's overall performance in courses in Art History. Art History awards only one level of honors for successful projects.

Financial Assistance

Students who may need some financial assistance in completing the honors thesis should make this need known to the faculty member supervising the honors project.

Recent Honors Theses have included studies of a Renaissance book of hours in the Bowdoin College Special Collections, avant-garde Japanese calligraphy, Berthe Morisot's portraits, Yves Tanguy's late work, and Orozco's murals.

Advanced Placement

Students who receive a score of 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement Examination in art history are exempt from taking Art History 1100 upon successful completion of any art history course numbered above 2000 with a grade of B or better. Art history majors and minors and Interdisciplinary majors in Art History and Archaeology and in Art History and Visual Arts must still complete the full number of courses as described in the Course Catalogue, counting a course above Art History 1100 in place of Art History 1100. No AP credit will be given.

Please visit the Courses page for more information about current Art History course offerings. For more detailed information about Art History requirements, please check the Bowdoin College Catalogue or inquire at the Art History office.
The Department of Art comprises two programs: art history and criticism, and visual arts. Majors in the department are expected to elect one of these programs. The major in art history and criticism is devoted primarily to the historical and critical study of the visual arts as an embodiment of some of humanity's cultural values and a record of the historical interplay of sensibility, thought, and society. The major in visual arts is intended to encourage a sensitive development of perceptual, creative, and critical abilities in visual expression.