UC Berkeley History of Art Department

The undergraduate program is broadly constructed both to prepare students for advanced graduate study in the history of art and to provide a basis for many other fields that require the ability to do independent research, evaluate evidence (visual and textual), and create a coherent argument. In a series of increasingly focused courses, the major provides a format for students to learn how to analyze and interpret visual evidence from specific cultural settings and historical circumstances. Major requirements are designed to maximize exposure to different traditions, while allowing enough flexibility for individual students to develop and pursue their own particular areas of interest.

Selecting an Emphasis

Majors in the History of Art select one of three areas of Emphasis: Western, Asian, or Independent Specialization. This tripartite organization underscores the Department’s commitment to multiple fields of scholarly inquiry and to thematic specialization, while addressing the cross-border, multi-cultural dimensions of the visual arts that cannot be adequately explored within a single culture. Study in a given field or independent specialization builds from courses in common at the Lower Division level together with HA100: Methodology in Art History. Students then select Upper Division courses relevant to their field or independent specialization with distribution across three subfields of the discipline.

For students in Western Art, the subfields are: (1) Ancient (to ca. 400 C.E.); (2) Medieval/Early Modern (ca. 400-1800 C.E.); (3) Modern/Contemporary (after ca. 1800 C.E.). For students in Asian Art, the subfields are: (1) South/Southeast Asian; (2) Chinese; (3) Japanese. For students in Asian Art or an Independent Specialization, two of these three courses must predate 1800 C.E. and one must postdate 1800.

Within the Western and Asian specializations, students should then develop an area or areas of special competence or focus (such as Ancient; Medieval; Renaissance; Baroque; Modern; Contemporary; or Indian; Southeast Asian; Chinese; Japanese; Korean; etc.) defined by a cluster of Upper Division History of Art courses and seminars within their field and a course outside the Department in a field relevant to their focus within it.

Major Requirements and Special Restrictions

The Undergraduate Major comprises the following distribution of units: Lower Division (16); Upper Division (32): Total (48). For specific requirements by Emphasis, see page 10 of the Student Handbook.

  • Letter Grade: All courses to be counted toward completion of the major must be taken for a letter grade except for the lower division studio art course and Art History 194 & 199, which may only be taken Pass/Not Pass.
  • Declaring the History of Art major: Students must complete two courses taught in the department and receive a grade of C- or higher in each course.
  • Summer School: Two summer school courses at UCB or elsewhere may be credited toward completion of the major.
  • Residency: A minimum of five upper division courses must be taken in the History of Art Department at Berkeley, of which one must be a seminar.
  • Approval of Other Courses: Except for specific courses named as co-requisites, courses taken in other departments for credit in the major must be approved in advance by an Undergraduate Faculty Advisor.