Art History Program

Art History at American University

The Art History community at American University interrogates power structures that underlie image-making and interpretation. As the only art history program dedicated to feminist study and its intersections, we are devoted to revisionist historical approaches that investigate a variety of human experiences in a global society. It is our collective endeavor to explore relationships between images, power, and identity in all dimensions, including gender, race, class, and sexuality.

Art History students at museum

Why Study Art History at AU?

Innovative Courses Taught by Leading Art Historians

Students viewing object in museum

Our art history curriculum offers breadth, depth, and access to outstanding professors who are leaders in their field. With approximately 40 undergraduate and 25 graduate students active in the program each year, the Art History Program is a close-knit community, and all students receive faculty mentorship throughout their time at AU.

Master's students can specialize in Italian Art: Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque; Modern European Art (18th to 21st century); American Art (18th to 21st century); or Asian Art (modern and contemporary). Undergraduate students can major or minor in art history and can tailor the degree to a specific area of focus.

Our Prime Location in Washington, DC

American University's campus is an 84-acre arboretum centered in a safe neighborhood close to Embassy Row. The Art History Program is located in a dramatically designed post-modernist building, the Katzen Art Center, which offers cutting-edge facilities and houses the American University Museum. Other world-renowned museums are just a Metro ride away, with the Tenleytown Metro stop accessible by a short walk or free shuttle bus service from campus.

Unique Opportunities Including Museum Studies

Person viewing a museum exhibition

We offer several courses in museum studies and encourage all art history students to intern at the AU Museum or at one of the many prestigious museums in the DC area. This rigorous training provides students with valuable hands-on experience in museum practices. Our alumni have used internships as springboards to a variety of museum and art-related jobs in the DC area and beyond. They can be found in a wide range of professional careers in museums, galleries, auction houses, publishing, and many other areas.


  • Art History Spring Lecture: Dr. Tina Rivers Ryan on February 23, 6 p.m. Reception: 5:30 p.m. Katzen 201 (Welcome Center.)

  • Professor Joanne Allen's exhibition Infinite Geometries: Exploring the Arts of the Medieval Islamic World is on view in the Katzen Arts Center rotunda through March 1, 2024.

  • Andrea Pearson’s essay, “Gender, Sexuality, and the Future of Agency Studies in Northern Art, 1400-1600,” was published by the Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art. This commissioned, peer-reviewed work assesses the state of the field, offers a new model of agency studies, and identifies promising paths of investigation for the future.

  • Professor emerita Mary D. Garrard, interviewed by Jordan Hansen (MA 2023), reflects on the selection of her groundbreaking essay, “Here’s Looking at Me: Sofonisba Anguissola and the Problem of the Woman Artist,” as one of the most important and influential essays published in the prestigious journal Renaissance Quarterly in its 75-year history.  

  • Graduate students curated the exhibition Still, Moving at the American University Museum. On view in spring 2023, the exhibition featured works drawn the museum's Corcoran Legacy Collection.
  • Dr. Nika Elder's book William Harnett’s Curious Objects was published by University of California Press.
  • Art History Spring Lecture
    March 7, 1 pm | Katzen Recital Hall and Zoom
    Dr. Emma Luisa Cahill Marrón will be speaking on the topic of “Women Artists and Female Patrons in Tudor England.” There will be a reception following the lecture. 
  • Incoming MA student and American University Museum Alper fellow Claudia Watts told the Washington Post how she would spend her perfect day in DC.
  • Dr. Nika Elder co-edited essays for the summer 2022 edition of American Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum journal.
  • Dr. Joanne Allen published Transforming the Church Interior in Renaissance Florence (Cambridge University Press, 2022).
  • Michael Quituisaca (MA '20) and Alexandra Schuman (MA '20) co-curated an exhibition at the American University Museum, Home-Land: Exploring the American Myth.
  • Jenna Wendler (MA '22) won the Günther Stamm Prize for best presentation at the annual graduate student symposium at Florida State University for her paper, "Ideals of Femininity in the Dutch Baroque: Analyzing Systems of Power, Class, and Gender in Casper Netscher's The Lacemaker (1662)."
  • Hannah Nanette Karkari and Rebekah Potter were among the winners of the 32nd annual Mathias Student Research Conference.
  • Alumna Blair Bailey (BA, '11) was interviewed by American magazine on her work as a paintings conservator at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Dr. Joanne Allen spoke to the BBC about what makes Leonardo Da Vinci's Vituvian Man so iconic.

Joanne Allen, Geometric pattern from the Ummayad Mosque in Damascus, 2021 (detail)

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