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Major, minor, and honors in Art History

Major, minor, and honors in Art History

Last Updated: May 24, 2021

The Art History Major consists of eight credits in art history (ARTH) and one credit in art (ARTT).

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

Beginning in fall 2020, the major requirements for Art History have changed. The specific requirements for the classes of 2021, 2022, and 2023 (and after) vary. Please see descriptions of course and senior comprehensive requirements below.

Art History Majors, Course and Honors, graduating in 2022 are required to take the following courses and fulfill the comprehensive requirement (see details below):

  • 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

  • Senior Capstone (to be offered in spring 2022)

  • One credit in studio art

Among the nine credits required for the major (which include credits from the required courses listed above), two must be in the form of a 2-credit seminar.

Art History Majors, Course and Honors, graduating in 2023 and after are required to take the following courses and fulfill the comprehensive requirement (see details below):

  • One introductory survey course (of student's choosing)
  • One studio art course
  • One 2-credit honors seminar (seminar must be taken before senior capstone, preferably in junior year)
  • Senior Capstone (offered each spring; the research paper from this course meets the senior comprehensive requirement)
  • Four additional credits of student's choosing

Among the nine credits required for the major, students must take courses with at least three different Art History faculty members during their time at Swarthmore (Senior Capstone does not count toward that requirement).  A maximum of two introductory survey courses will count toward the major.

  • The Comprehensive Requirement

    During the senior year, Course Majors will complete a comprehensive project as part of the Senior Capstone. The requirement can also be satisfied by a 2-credit thesis (ARTH097).

  • CR/NC

    Except in semesters when CR/NC is required (such as a student's first semester or the spring 2020 semester), students may not take courses toward major requirements as CR/NC.

  • Transfer Credits from other institutions and foreign study

    A maximum of two transfer credits will count toward the major, either from study abroad or other U.S. institutions. Students transferring into Swarthmore from another institution should consult with the art history coordinator regarding their specific situation.

  • AP Credit

    Credit for an AP5 will be given upon completion of an art history course in the department. For majors in the class of 2022, 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. 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. Courses toward the minor may not be taken CR/NC (excepting those taken in semesters when CR/NC is required, such as a student's first semester).

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.  

For Art History Majors, the 1 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.

Off-Campus Study

The Art Department strongly encourages those with an interest in art and its history to consider incorporating study abroad into their Swarthmore program either during a summer or a regular academic term. Important examples of art and architecture are found 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 study abroad 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 abroad are strongly advised to meet with the Art History Coordinator or the Studio Art Coordinator before leaving the campus. PLEASE NOTE: to receive transfer credits in art history, you must have taken at least one art history course at Swarthmore (normally before going abroad).

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 2-credit preparations, consisting of three 2-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 2-credit seminar, and must have done at least two other courses in Art History.  Only one of those credits can be a transfer credit.

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