Major, minor, and honors in Art History

Major, minor, and honors in Art History

Last Updated: February 2, 2015

The Art History Major consists of eight credits in art history and one credit in studio art.

Requirements for Admission to the Major

  1. Overall Average of C or better in all courses taken during the two semesters preceding the time of application.
  2. Completion of at least two courses in art history at Swarthmore with grades of B or better. For a double major the grade minimum is also B.

Requirements for Completion of the Major

All Art History Majors, course and honors, are required to take 9 credits to fulfill major requirements. Four of these must be the following:

  • ARTH002 The Western Tradition (students are encouraged to take this early in their major program)
  • One course or seminar on art in the western tradition post-1800
  • One course or seminar on art outside the western tradition
  • ARTH095: Cracking Visual Codes (Strongly recommended in the junior year)
  • One credit in studio art 

The remaining four credits will consist of other 1-credit art history courses and/or 2-credit art history seminars, and/or a two credit thesis.  For those majors considering graduate study in art history, it is strongly advisable to choose a series of courses that will provide geographical and historical breadth.

  • The Comprehensive Requirement

    During the senior year, course majors will complete a comprehensive project.  The requirement can also be satisfied by a thesis.

  • Transfer Credits from other institutions and foreign study

    A maximum of two credits transferred from institutions outside Swarthmore (including foreign study) can count toward the major.  Those students transferring into Swarthmore from another institution can consult with the art history coordinator on their specific situation.

  • AP Credit

    Credit for an AP5 will be given upon completion of an art history course in the department.  For majors this credit will cover the requirement for ARTH 002.

Art History Minor

The course minor in art history will consist of 5 credits in art history: Four of the 5 credits must be taken at Swarthmore.  Studio art majors can complete an art history minor with the completion of 4 art history credits in addition to those required by their studio art major.

Art Department Majors and the 20-Course Rule

It is a college requirement that 20 of the 32 credits required for graduation must be OUTSIDE the major.  This means that one can take no more than 12 courses in the major, unless one graduates with more than 32 credits, in which case the surplus can also be in the major.  The major in Art History requires 9 credits of work, while the major in Art requires 11 credits of work.  A student could take 3 more credits in art history or one more credit in studio art before the 20 course rule could become a problem. 

For Art History Majors, the one required credit of studio art course work counts as within the Major, but additional credits of studio art count as outside.  Thus, an Art History Major graduating with 32 credits could take no more than 3 additional art history credits beyond the 8 art history credits that are required for the Major.  But an Art History Major could take as many more studio credits as desired.

Study Abroad

The Art Department strongly encourages those with an interest in art and its history to consider incorporating study abroad--either during a summer or a regular academic term--into their Swarthmore program.  Important examples of art and architecture are scattered throughout the world, and the encounter with works still imbedded in their original context is vital to an understanding of their historical and contemporary significance. Past experience has shown, however, that art courses in most foreign study programs fall considerably below the academic standards of comparable courses at Swarthmore. Students who are interested in bettering their chances of gaining a full Swarthmore credit for a course taken in a foreign program are advised to meet with either the Studio Art Coordinator and/or the Art History Coordinator, before leaving the campus. PLEASE NOTE:  The department does not approve transfer credits in art history unless students have already completed an art history course at Swarthmore. 

Honors in Art History

Requirements for admission to Honors do not differ from those for admission to the Course major.  Once admitted to the Honors Major, students will be expected to maintain an average of B+ or better in all courses in art history.


  1. An Honors Major in Art History requires three two-credit preparations, consisting of three two-credit seminars.  The normal prerequisite for any art history seminar is 2 credits of previous art history course work.  Each seminar will be examined in a three-hour written examination and an individual 30-minute oral.

  2. An Honors Major in Art History must fulfill the requirements for a 9-credit Course major


  1. An Honors Minor in Art History will take one two-credit seminar, and must have done at least two other courses in Art History.  Only one of those credits can be a transfer credit.