Our highly selective doctoral program in art history, founded in 1967 and offered in collaboration with the Cleveland Museum of Art, provides a unique training for museum or academic careers. The object-grounded approach to the study of art history, based on the encyclopedic collections of the CMA, affords the vital opportunity to fuse the varied practices of the discipline pursued within the museum and the academy. Through study rooted in careful examination of the specific properties and idiosyncrasies of art objects, students can contribute concretely to a broader cultural and theoretical academic discourse. Graduate students are trained in both traditional and newer, theoretically-based art historical approaches in classes taught by faculty renowned for their expertise in a diversity of fields, all of whom maintain an object-oriented approach to teaching and research. Many CMA curators and museum educators hold adjunct faculty positions and teach courses for the program. Classes are frequently held at the CMA, where students have access to the permanent collections and a rotating schedule of exhibitions as well as to the Ingalls Library, the third largest art research library in the United States.

The innovative CWRU-CMA doctoral program in art history trains flexible and creative professionals who have the tools to achieve excellence in museum and academic careers. The pace of the program is accelerated; full funding for five years of tuition plus a $25,000 yearly stipend enables our doctoral students to work full time on their degree, with the goal of finishing the degree in five to six years. Many aspects of the current curriculum were developed through a generous grant given jointly to CWRU and the CMA  in 2013 by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as part of a program to further collaborations between art history graduate programs and art museums.

Admissions preference is given to applicants whose scholarly interests coincide with the interests of a department faculty member, those who wish to focus on distinctive holdings in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art, and/or those planning to pursue topics in museum or collecting history or the history of the art market. With no more than three new doctoral students admitted each year, every student works closely with their academic advisor and a curator at the CMA. Many opportunities are offered for participation in the ongoing research work at the CMA including a required collections seminar in the first two years of course work and a half-time curatorial internship in the third year.

Admission to the program is made on the basis of academic record and scholarly promise, recommendations, experience, and personal interviews. A BA or MA in art history or relevant related field (such as Classics) and reading knowledge of one approved foreign language (such as French, German, Italian, Japanese, or Chinese) are required prerequisites. Applicants must also submit GRE scores and two art history research papers.

Students whose MA was awarded more than five years prior to application for admission may be required to pass a qualifying examination and/or foreign language examination administered by the department before being admitted to full standing in the PhD program.


Outline of Program

Years One and Two
The doctoral program begins with two foundation courses that reflect the program’s commitment to rigorous art historical training, encompassing both study of individual works of art and theoretically-informed analysis. The curriculum includes collection-based seminars devoted to planning and researching an exhibition at the CMA, based on its permanent collections. Through course work and internships, students will engage in various facets curatorial work, including exhibition planning and research, object interpretation, and acquisitions-related research.  Any language exams or courses needed for each student’s individual progress will be taken during the first two years.

Foundation courses: fall semester course in methodologies of art history; spring semester course in materials, methods, and physical examination of art works.  Additional lecture and seminar courses in the student’s specific field of interest, as well as electives in other art historical fields, connoisseurship, history and theory of museums, collecting practices, and histories of the art market.

Year Three
Yearlong half-time doctoral internship in a curatorial department of the Cleveland Museum of Art; study for and take qualifying examination and begin work on dissertation prospectus.

Years Four and Five
Presentation of dissertation prospectus, dissertation research,  and writing. It is expected that students will also apply for outside fellowships for years four and/or five.