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Academic Program

Visiting Professor Tiffany Lee and her class sample powdered green tea used in tea ceremony

Visiting Professor Tiffany Lee and her class sample powdered green tea used in tea ceremonies.

Last Updated: February 23, 2022

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 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):

  • ARTH002I: 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

  • ARTH100: 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 two-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)
. Introductory courses are indicated by an “I” at the end of the course number, e.g. ARTH 002I
  • One studio art course

  • One two-credit honors seminar (seminar must be taken before senior capstone, preferably in junior year)

  • ARTH100: 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 SENIOR COMPREHENSIVE REQUIREMENT

    During senior year, course majors will complete a comprehensive project as part of the Senior Capstone (ARTH100). Honors majors may also satisfy the senior comprehensive requirement through a two-credit thesis (ARTH097). Two-credit thesis writers are not required to take the Senior Capstone.

  • 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.

  • OVERLAPPING CREDITS

    A maximum of two credits may double count for both the ARTH major and a student’s second major. For major and minor credit overlap, the standard overlap rule applies. Because departmental policies vary, please consult with your non-ARTH advisor for questions about counting overlapping credits in your second major.

  • 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 002I. For majors in the Class of 2023 and after, this credit can count only for one of the four elective credits (and not for the required introductory survey course).

Art History Minor

The course minor in art history will consist of five credits in art history: Four of the five credits must be taken at Swarthmore. Art history minors graduating in 2024 and after must take courses with at least two different Swarthmore art history faculty members. Art majors can complete an art history minor with the completion of four 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 History 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 students can take no more than 12 courses in the major unless they graduate with more than 32 credits, in which case the surplus can also be in the major.  

For art history majors, the one required credit of studio art coursework 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 three additional art history credits beyond the eight 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 History 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 embedded 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 chair or the studio art chair before leaving the campus to review course syllabi and determine course credit value. 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.

HONORS MAJOR

An honors major in art history requires three two-credit ARTH preparations. The normal prerequisite for any art history seminar is two credits of previous art history coursework. Each honors seminar or alternative honors preparation will be evaluated by an outside examiner. (For details on honors preparations and exam formats, see the Honors Handbook.) 

An honors major in art history must also fulfill the requirements for a nine-credit course major. Honors majors may find that they must take more than nine credits to complete all requirements, so they are reminded to be attentive to the rule that students must take 20 credits outside their major to graduate.

HONORS MINOR

An honors minor in art history consists of one two-credit preparation and completion of at least two other courses in Art History. Three of the four credits must be taken at Swarthmore.


Architectural Studies Special Major in Art History

Students who hope to pursue architectural studies as a special major with a particular interest in history and theory of the built environment are encouraged to make art history their primary program. While students will craft their program of study in consultation with their advisor and other program faculty, a typical plan would include at least six credits across a range of art history courses with a focus in architectural history (while meeting the program’s requirements for an introductory course, an honors seminar, and courses with three faculty); at least two credits in relevant studio art courses, especially those emphasizing architecture and three-dimensional design; and at least two credits in an additional department that meets the student’s particular interests in the built environment (these could include sociology & anthropology, environmental studies, philosophy, Black studies, theater, and engineering, among many possibilities). In addition to the above, the student would also complete the senior comprehensive exercise in art history (ARTH 100: Senior Capstone). Architectural studies prepares students well for graduate school in architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, historic preservation, and architectural history and theory, as well as many jobs in those fields open to students with nonprofessional bachelor’s degrees.