PhD in Art History and Visual Culture

composite image with fine art samples from throughout history

Art History and Visual Culture at York actively explores historical, modern, and contemporary arts of all kinds by Indigenous peoples, Canadians and new Canadians, in the context of global art histories. In 2008 the doctoral program in Art History & Visual Culture launched with four fields of study: Canadian and Aboriginal Art, Curatorial and Museological Studies, Architectural Studies, and Modern and Contemporary Art. Current students are exploring photography and multi-media / digital art; race, gender and cultural politics; issues and currents in modern and contemporary art; art and cultural artifact/craft in 19th and 20th century Canada; current issues in curatorial practice / museology; and Gothic-revival architecture in Canada. Overall the program combines formal coursework with on-site collection, exhibition, and programming experience, alongside teaching opportunities and off-site placements (including those at major museums, magazines, and collections). Our graduate program offers unique resources and opportunities that encourage student-driven, faculty-facilitated, art-historical research.

In the doctoral program, each of these fields is broadly conceived and students may incorporate research on non-Western topics, minority cultural practices, and interdisciplinary issues and approaches. These four fields of study represent the significant areas of teaching and research strength within York’s Art History faculty, and provide a frame within which students can pursue diverse theoretical and practical engagements within the study of art and visual culture. The Art History and Visual Culture doctoral program is relatively small and allows graduate students to work closely with individual members of the faculty.

The PhD in Art History and Visual Culture is a four-year program of study. Program requirements include one year of full-time coursework and a dissertation. The first-year focuses on the development of research skills in all aspects of the program, including graduate seminars, one-on-one supervision and funded graduate assistantships. Students write their comprehensive exams and dissertation proposal in the second year. It is expected that the dissertation research and writing process will take an additional two years.

The objective of the program is to prepare candidates for career trajectories in art history and academia, as well as in publishing, curatorial practice, museology, and arts administration.

Admission Requirements

Applicants for admission should hold a master’s degree in art history or a relevant discipline from a recognized university with a minimum A- average. This requirement may be waived if the student has had a long period of significant professional activity.

Language Requirements

A minimum of two languages: English and one other, which is usually French. The minimum TOEFL score for the program is 600 for paper based and 250 computer based or students may demonstrate their English language proficiency by completing YELT with a score of 1. Upon admission to the program, the students are asked to complete a translation exam in French. For most students, particularly those with a focus in Canadian art, this is the most suitable second language. However, the graduate director, supervisor and student may jointly agree that the translation exam should be set in another language. If they pass the exam, students have satisfied their second language requirement. If they do not pass the exam and their chosen language is French, they are required to enroll in and complete two half year 3-credit, French language courses designed specifically for graduate students at York University [Faculty of Graduate Studies 5712 3.0: Reading French for Special Purposes (Elementary) and 5713 3.0: Reading French for Special Purpose (Intermediate)]. If they do not pass the exam and their second language is not French, the student and the graduate director will jointly decide on either a language course or self-study towards a second translation exam as York does not currently offer specifically designed reading courses for graduate students in languages other than French. In the event that a third language is deemed necessary for the proposed research project, the student and the graduate director will jointly decide on either a language course or self-study towards a translation exam.

Degree Requirements

For degree requirements, please see Current Students - Degree Requirements.