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MA in Art History

Thirty credits are required for graduation, of which 3 credits are usually earned for the completion of the MA thesis. The program encourages students to take a wide range of courses, by requiring that they take the Research Methods course; an additional course in either historiography or theory; and one course in at least three of the following areas: (1) Ancient or Medieval Art, (2) Renaissance, Baroque, or 18th Century Art, (3) Modern Art (19th, 20th, 21st Century); American Art; Latin American Art (4) Non-Western Art (Islamic, Far-Eastern, South East Asian, or African Art). With the permission of the Graduate Advisor, students may take up to 6 credits in studio art or in other disciplines related to their academic interests.

Research Methods is a required course, and students are advised to take it within their first year. It is an intensive introduction to core issues in the field of Art History including some or all of the following: study of historiography, theory, and methodological issues, practice in Research Methods (primary and secondary, provenance work, archival, etc), and intensive work in writing, argumentation, and presentation skills. The course is one of the hardest in the program and is taught by senior faculty on a rotational basis.


The community of students represents a wide range of interests, nationalities, ages and backgrounds.

Application Deadlines

*Deadlines may be extended. Contact the admission office to ensure applications are closed.

Fall: February 1st

Spring: October 1st

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*You will be directed to the website.

How to Apply

Application Requirements

Applicants must have an undergraduate baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution (BA, BFA, or BS), and must have completed at least 12 credits of undergraduate courses in art history and have maintained a minimum grade point average of 3.5 in those courses, with a minimum 3.0 index overall. Reading knowledge of German, French, Italian, or Spanish is required.

Application Deadlines

Fall Semester: February 1st
Spring Semester: October 1st

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The Application Process:

  • Two letters of recommendation from former instructors, preferably professors who teach art history.
  • A statement of purpose describing your goals and how attending Hunter will help you achieve those goals.
  • A writing sample, preferably an undergraduate research paper or thesis on a topic related to your proposed area of concentration (but please submit your best work even if it does not conform to this preference). We recommend a paper of 15 to 20 pages, saved as a .pdf, but there is no page limit. Your document may include accompanying illustrations and bibliography, but it cannot exceed 500kb overall.
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. We require 153 or better for verbal and the top 20% for writing. Math scores are not factored into the application.
  • TOEFL score (if applicable). Applicants who have taken all or part of their undergraduate education in a country where English is not the native language must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and earn a minimum score of 550 (Overall score - Speaking Componant = 60 for the TOEFL IBT). Applicants may be required to submit an essay written in English, and/or complete a course in the English Department before being permitted to matriculate in the Art History Program

Tuition & Fees

Students must pay tuition and fees in full at the time of registration. Financial arrangements for the payment of tuition and fees must be made by the student prior to registration. More information about tuition and fees can be found at:

Fees & Tuition

Program Requirements

The Limit for Completing Degree Requirements

Students have a maximum of four years to complete the degree. Under special circumstances the student may be granted a leave of absence or an extension to complete the work.

Transfer Credits and Credits Taken on Permit

Subject to the Graduate Advisor’s written approval, up to 9 credits in Art History or a related area (minimum grade B) may be transferred from another accredited school. These credits, however, must not have been previously used to obtain another degree. Students already in the MA program may complete up to 9 credits of coursework at another institution, for example the CUNY Graduate Center, as long as they receive the written approval of the Graduate Advisor prior to taking the courses.

Foreign Language Proficiency

The program also requires that each student demonstrate proficiency in one of the major languages of art historical research: German, Italian, Spanish, or French. This exam consists of approximately 500 words of an art-historical text, which students have one hour to translate. This exam may be completed with the aid of a dictionary. The exam is given in the Fall and Spring semesters. Typically, students take this exam in the first or second semester of enrollment.

Mid-Program Evaluation

Each student’s progress is reviewed at the completion of 15 credits, by which time the student must have passed the comprehensive and language exams and maintained a B average. The mid-program review is intended to encourage students to complete the requirements for their degree in a timely fashion, so that they will enter the second half of the program with the necessary academic skills, and to determine whether they are sufficiently prepared to complete the remaining courses and complete the MA thesis.

Graduate Advising

The Hunter MA is a large program with many students—as many as 125 at any given time. Additionally, many of our students study part time and are not frequently on campus, working full-time during the day. Nevertheless, the program prides itself on giving our students support and direction through advising, contact with faculty, and opportunities to learn from their fellow students.

There is a primary graduate advisor. Students should feel free to ask the advisor any questions, but queries, especially about procedure, can often be answered by your main contacts in the Art & Art History office on the 11th floor of Hunter North (212)-772-5052.

There are a number of other kinds of opportunities to learn about the program. Once admitted, students are invited to the once a semester Mixer at which faculty discuss their courses for the upcoming semester. Before that mixer, the graduate advisor does a brief orientation for new students, but of course, continuing students can also attend and ask questions.

The graduate advisor also does an orientation for new students in the evening before they register for classes the first time on registration day (date and time will be emailed to all students).

It should be remembered that an important part of advising will be done by individual faculty in the context of thesis writing. Students should not hesitate to contact faculty with whom they hope to work and ask questions about expectations and the process of thesis writing.

Finally, students will find that their classmates are very supportive and full of useful information. At their programs throughout the year, MASO, the student association, supplies sessions on exams and thesis writing, as well as offering fellowship and food.

Although we do not run a placement service for internships or jobs, we get many requests from employers about such opportunities and, as a student at Hunter, you will receive notices via your email about these.

MA Comprehensive Exam

Students in the MA program are required to take the comprehensive exam. During this exam, 25 slides are shown and students must identify each slide as fully as possible and indicate their knowledge of the historical significance. The exam includes works in various media—painting, sculpture, architecture, prints, and photography—and Non-Western art as well as Western art. This exam is given in the Fall and Spring semesters and a passing grade of at least 80% is necessary. Typically, students take this exam in the first or second semester of enrollment.

Guide to the Comprehensive Exam

The Comprehensive Examination in Art History is given near the beginning of every semester. Its purpose is to determine whether the student has sufficiently wide knowledge of art history to comprehend, contribute to and benefit from advanced courses. We therefore urge that it be taken as soon after matriculation as possible. The exam must be passed by the time of the mid-program evaluation. The examination is comprehensive in that it requires some historical knowledge of all the major artistic periods, cultures and media, including architecture and photography. Non-Western and prehistoric are often included as well.

Most students set aside time to prepare for this examination. We recommend a thorough study of standard survey textbooks. For Hunter’s own undergraduate “Introduction to the History of Art”, we require Gardner's Art Through the Ages, 12th Edition.

Format for the MA Comprehensive Exam

You will be shown 25 slides, for five minutes each. You should identify the works as follows:

  • Artist or architect (or Anonymous where appropriate)
  • Title or subject of image, or name of building
  • Geographic origin of work if it is relevant
  • Art-historical period, movement or culture (use conventional terms, i.e., Classical Greek; Aztec; Impressionist)
  • Date
  • Medium
  • Location, if the work is in situ

You should then briefly discuss the work to illuminate its historical significance. You can consider such issues as the prevalence, function, and meaningfulness of the work within its culture; the kind and degree of impact this work made upon other artists; or other important issues. Try to be as precise as possible. Remember you have only five minutes.

For more information about the exam, visit the offical site at

Thesis Overview

The thesis topic is chosen by the student in consultation with an advisor from the faculty. Topics represent original research and interpretation at a publishable level. Generally the thesis is begun during course work and completed in a final semester’s concentrated work. The student works through multiple drafts in consultation with the advisor, refining and polishing the work to publishable standards. The completed thesis is approximately 50-70 pages in length and exhibits a full scholarly textual apparatus: footnotes, bibliography, illustrations, and other relevant documentation.

The completed thesis must be delivered to the art department no later than December 15th in the fall term or May 15th in the spring term.