... the Enlightenment invention of the modern museum was an event as profound and far-reaching in its implications as the articulation of central-point perspective several centuries earlier...
Donald Preziosi, 2009 (1998), The Art of Art History. A Critical Anthology. Oxford: Oxford UP. p.490

Art History investigates how painting, sculpture, architecture, industrial design and photography exemplify the ways humans have found for portraying, decorating, and designing the world, across the centuries. In addition to studying old art, modern art and architecture, from Classical Antiquity until now, global art history and contemporary uses of heritage have increasingly broadened the scope of the field.

The field enables you to acquire knowledge of scholarly literature and theories, starting with an overview of the major protagonists and some of the key works (mainly) in western Art History. You learn how to distinguish the material conditions and aesthetic qualities of art works.

The second level goes into the extraordinary local phenomenon of Dutch seventeenth-century painting, paying close attention for the most important artists, genres, and the use of primary sources (including a Wikipedia Challenge).

Modern Art focuses on the enormous burst of artistic energy at the beginning of the twentieth-century: the role of the avant-garde, the development of post-modernism, the impact of post-colonialism, and the latest developments in the visual arts; presentational skills are closely linked to research essay writing skills.

Museum Studies attends to the development of public (art) museum as one of the most important contexts for conserving, researching, educating and exhibiting art. It considers the agency of curators and patrons; you learn to analyze exhibitions critically, and to write an exhibition review.

The interdisciplinary Heritage course traces the formation and evolution of the historic monument, collections, and heritage, using approaches from Art History, Anthropology, and Science, and by unravelling the dynamic connections between colonial collections and postcolonial heritage (including intangible and digital forms). Active learning, including site visits, is a fundamental feature of the track which prepares and enables students to undertake a placement with a heritage institution through the UCU Cultural Heritage Programme (CHIP).

Art is a ubiquitous facet of contemporary global society and the study of Art History enables you to understand why it is a coveted value of the educated. In the Liberal Arts and Sciences context, knowledge of Art History and Museum Studies adds value to a number of other fields.

For example, it complements History, Anthropology, Religious Studies, Philosophy, Theatre and Performance Studies. The economic value of art is reflected in the booming art market, while its political value is underscored both by the multiplication of art museums worldwide and also the vulnerability of museums and heritage sites to destruction in the event of conflicts. The contestation of ownership of art and other collections that stems from historical theft and looting makes Art History relevant to the study of Law.

The development of Technical Art History makes the field interesting in terms of scientific research into the material conditions of artworks, collections more generally, and heritage sites. Art historical research covers the entire spectrum of collections – from art to history to anthropology to biology and natural history.

An understanding of what images are, what they do and how they do it adds an essential ingredient to a Liberal Arts and Sciences education today.

The histories of art and collections, from antiquity to the present day, comprise both European and global dimensions. Students learn to analyse, conduct research on, and critically interpret works of art in the broader social, economic and political context.

The scholarly competence acquired through the analysis of artworks using art historical methods and theories provides a distinctive vantage point within the Liberal Arts and Sciences programme. In the Humanities Department it enriches and expands the scope of History, Religious Studies and Philosophy. The social and political role of art, questions of taste, value, the agency of practitioners and institutions, globalisation and de-colonisation are among the areas of common ground with the Social Sciences.

Art history enriches and has been enriched by approaches from Anthropology, Sociology, Economics, Human Geography, Political Science, Psychology and Law. Scientific research provides new insights on the materials and artworks themselves, while debates about conservation underline distinctive positions on the ethics of curating global cultural property. Links with diverse heritage institutions embed Art History and Museum Studies firmly in the Liberal Arts and Sciences programme.

Humanities Majors

Art History and Museum Studies combines well with History: both disciplines use primary and secondary written sources to analyse historical developments, which are essential for understanding art works, artists, art movements and institutions.

Training in the formal analysis of artworks is of great benefit to students in the field of Religious Studies, which in turn deepens understanding of the relationship between art and the sacred.

Earlier debates about the transformation of the artwork in the age of mechanical reproduction now extend beyond photography to film, to performance, and to the internet; while the remediation of museums, collections, exhibitions and digital heritage play a crucial role in the globalisation of art worlds, making the track relevant to Media Studies. 

Art History and Museum Studies prepares students to undertake an internship in a heritage institution, such as a museum. Such an internship often includes documentation and research tasks as part of collection management or exhibition projects. This combination is of interest and relevance to all Humanities students who choose for this track.


There are many possible ways to combine Art History and Museum Studies with your major. The most common combinations include: 

  • For Social Science Majors who are interested in art, politics and globalisation, a Minor composed of HAR11, HAR21, HAR31, and HAR22 or HAR32 would be an attractive option. Similarly, for Social Science majors with tracks in Economics and Business and an interest in the art world, a minor offers a way of combining these areas in a coherent way.
  • For students focusing on anthropology, sociology and development studies, a combination of HAR11, HAR22, ANT23, HAR31 or HAR32 would provide insight into the institutional order of the art world and heritage, and the impact of decolonisation.
  • For those with tracks in Law and Criminology and an interest in legal aspects of ownership of art and cultural property, including repatriation issues, could combine HAR11, HAR21, HAR22, HAR32.
  • Tracks in Human Geography and International Relations and an interest in public art, diplomacy, and heritage can be combined with a minor in Art History and Museum Studies composed of HAR11, HAR21, HAR22, HAR32.
  • For science majors with tracks in Chemistry and Physics who may wish to explore scientific research in the field of Art History or heritage management, a Minor comprising HAR11, HAR21, HAR31 and HAR22 or HAR32, would provide foundational knowledge of artworks, collections and institutions.



Utrecht University’s department of Art History provides a set of criteria for students applying for master programmes in the field. While these guidelines are aimed at those applying to Utrecht programmes and have varying requirements, they nonetheless provide a useful point of departure also for those applying elsewhere.

The Utrecht English-language research master Art History of the Low Countries emphasises research skills in the Humanities combined with a focus on Art History. Entry requirements are specified as:

  • Knowledge and insight into one of the Humanities at bachelor level;
  • Skills for conducting and reporting on research in one of the Humanities; 
  • A clear interest in Art History demonstrated by having at least 45 ECTS of components in the field of Art History;
  • Knowledge of the basic concepts used in Art History;
  • Knowledge, insight and skills required for carrying out research as demonstrated by references and/or marks showing that the student belonged to the top 10% of his or her bachelor programme cohort;
  • Strong motivation to carry out scientific research and become a starting scientific researcher. This must be demonstrated in the letter of application and at an interview.

This means that a University College Utrecht student who takes all five courses in Art History and Museum Studies, does an internship, and writes their research thesis on a relevant topic in the field, has 60 ECTS. Off-campus courses and courses on exchange can further augment the student’s art history profile.

In addition to the research master, there are Master's studies in Arts and Society, Art History (in Dutch – Kunstgeschiedenis) and Art History: Education and Communication (in Dutch).

University College Utrecht graduates who have entered master programmes in Art History, Museum and Heritage Studies include:

  • UU Research Master ‘Art of the Low Countries in Its European Context’ (Valerie Gersen, 2012, Joanna Mardal, 2015);
  • Cambridge University MPhil 'Archaeological Heritage and Museums' (Laura Kraak, 2011)
  • Leicester University, Research Master 'Museum Studies' (Remke van der Velden, 2011)
  • Sotheby's Institute of Art, London, MA ‘Contemporary Art’ (Amira Gad, Boris Cornelissen, 2011); MA ‘Art Business’ (Juliet den Oudendammer, 2014)
  • Goldsmiths College, London, MA ‘Art and Politics’ (Berber Meindertsma, 2013)
  • Edinburgh University, MSc ‘Modern and Contemporary Art: History, Curating and Criticism’ (Jesse Voetman, 2013)
  • UvA, Research Master ‘Kunstwetenschappen’ (Jette Hoog Antink, 2008)
  • University College London, MA Museum Studies (Rosalie Hans, 2008)
  • Stockholm University, Department of Culture and Aesthetics, ‘International Master Programme in Curating Art, inluding Management and Law’ (sander Hintzen, 2015; Rosa Paardenkoper, 2015)
  • SOAS, University of London, MA History of Art and/or Archaeology (Charlotte Wittesaele, 2015)

UCHUMHAR11: Introduction to Art History & Museum Studies
The course provides a history of painting in thewest, with the post-Classicist disegno (Rome and Florence) and colore traditions (Venice and Northern Europe) as the focal point. Special attention is given to the canons, theories and debates that established these traditions, as well as the techniques and pictorial solutions associated with the schools; and to the art and criticism rooted in the studio and workplace. In addition, students are introduced to collections and museums and how to conduct research into artworks in public institutions. A painting class provides students with a practical understanding of techniques and materials.

UCHUMHAR21: Reflections on Dutch Seventeenth–century Painting
Zooms in on the miraculous period (1600–1670) when enormous numbers of high quality paintings were produced in the Netherlands. The course focuses on art theoretical issues as well as the hierarchy of genres, and examines diagnoses for the decline of the golden age dutch painting. In addition to reviewing the biographies and works of the stars of seventeenth century dutch painting, the methods used and the controversies surrounding them are examined.

UCHUMHAR22: Museum Studies
The public museum is a key institution where art works are organised and displayed according to defined criteria. The course examines the historical transformations of the museum script, engaging various approaches and concepts, case studies and site visits, to analyse and understand modern forms curatorship and patronage.

UCSSCANT23: The Materiality of Culture (Cross-listed course, level 2)

The material and visual ‘turns’ in anthropology since the 1980s have brought a renewal of interest in objects and images and their entanglement in human social life and culture. The course examines the methodological implications and theoretical understandings of these turns by close readings of ethnographies (of photography in indonesia, and the aboriginal acrylic painting movement in australia), texts by key theoreticians, and a visual research project.

UCHUMHAR31: Modern Art: Concepts and Paradoxes
The most important movements of modern art, from the early twentieth-century avant-garde to post-modernism, are surveyed. It covers art interpretation and the contemporary art world: the artist’s presentation of the artwork and of the self, and the relationship between artist and museum. It explores the historical impact of war and censorship on artistic production, as well as the politics and myths of movements. Conceptual art, photography, and myriad forms of media are examined, as are issues of nudity and the body, and globalisation of art as a major paradox of twentieth-century art.

UCHUMHAR32: 'Heritage': Dynamics of Collections (Spring)
This course takes a broad, comparative approach to the historical development of heritage while going into depth through a range of case studies, both European and non-European. It examines how and why several shifts took place: from the rise of the historic monument and expansion of renaissance collections, the founding of major national museums during the enlightenment, to the unprecedented expansion of heritage to include industrial and intangible forms in the 20th-century. Students engage with scholarly literature and debates in art history, history of science, and anthropology, and by means of case studies. The course includes an excursion to Brugge in the mid-term break to provide students and teachers with access to historic monuments, old art collections, contemporary uses of such heritage, and opportunities to engage with contemporary experts.


UCHUMINT21: Humanities Internship (Summer, Fall or Spring)

An internship in a public museum is a crucial part of the Art History and Museum Studies track, and an essential way for students to strengthen their curriculum – of a different order than supplementary off-campus courses and courses taken on exchange. An internship strengthens the student’s profile through practical engagement with collections, collection management, curatorship, and a range of professionals – from artists and curators to conservators – and also stakeholders: whether modern patrons or indigenous peoples seeking to reconnect with their cultural heritage held in public institutions. The pre-requisites for a humanities internship connected to Art History & Museum Studies are UCHUMHAR22 Museum Studies and UCHUMHAR32 Heritage.

Level Fall Spring Summer
1 HUMHAR11: Introduction to Art History and Museum Studies HUMHAR11: Introduction to Art History and Museum Studies  
2* HUMHAR22: Museum Studiesx HUMHAR21: Reflections on Dutch 17th Century Painting  
  SSCANT23: The Materiality of Culturex  
3 HUMHAR31: Modern Art HUMHAR32: Heritage: Dynamics of Collectionsx  

x cross-listed

Students have the opportunity to participate in CHIP. The UCU Cultural Heritage Program (CHIP) entails learning about heritage from the various perspectives
of the arts, the social sciences and the sciences. It enables students, while still undergraduates, to gain experience of and contribute to the crucial practices of managing, preserving, researching, and exhibiting cultural heritage.

* it is adivised to follow Humanities Lab course.

Hestia Bavelaar, PhD, Utrecht

  • Modern and contemporary non-western art
  • Globalisation of the art world
  • ‘Outskirts of Modernism’ research project
  • Contemporary artists’ ideas and working practices
  • Art criticism: practice and theory

Mary Bouquet, PhD, Cambridge

  • Fellow Art History and Museum Studies
  • Art and anthropology
  • Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century ethnographic collections
  • Contemporary curation of historical collections
  • Contemporary artists’ uses of heritage
  • Museological theory and practice

Gert Jan Vroege, PhD, Delft

  • Physical Chemistry
  • Liquid Crystals
  • Pigments and nanoparticles
  • Aging of plastics in art
  • Theory and practice of conservation of cultural heritage

Tijana Zakula, PhD, Utrecht

  • Dutch seventeenth-century art
  • Dutch seventeenth-century painting and art theory
  • Rijksmuseum catalogue research – Dutch painters born 1600-1625
  • Gerard de Lairesse and Early Modern Art
  • Classical tradition in contemporary art
Contact person

Dr. Mary Bouquet is the Art History & Museum Studies fellow at University College Utrecht. Office: Voltaire-Dd.