Art History

Exterior of the Cleveland Art Museum
Doctor of Philosophy

About the Program

When it comes to earning a PhD in Art History, there are few better places to do so than Case Western Reserve University. Our campus is located in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood, one square mile that's home to world-renowned arts institutions and a distinction as the top arts district in the country (USA Today, 2021). In this setting, we offer our highly selective doctoral program, founded in 1967, in collaboration with the Cleveland Museum of Art, where many of your classes will take place.

Earning a terminal degree in art history from the #53 university in the country will prepare you for careers in academia, museums, galleries and more. Our alumni are shaping minds at institutions such as Rhode Island School of Design, Utah State University and University of Toronto.

What to Expect

In your five years in our program, you’ll become an expert in the field through study rooted in careful examination of the specific properties and idiosyncrasies of art objects. You’ll contribute concretely to a broader cultural and theoretical academic discourse as you’re trained by top faculty in both traditional and newer art history approaches. 

All of our faculty members maintain an object-oriented approach to teaching and research—and many of our adjunct faculty are museum educators and art curators at the world-renowned Cleveland Museum of Art. The museum’s art research library is the third largest in the U.S.—and will be readily available to you throughout your studies.

And, you’ll have opportunities to network with prominent scholars through the department’s lecture series—including the Julius Fund lecture, the Buchanan lecture and the Olszweski lecture. Our department also sponsors the annual Cleveland Symposium—one of the oldest graduate-student organized symposia in art history in the United States. 

Full funding for five years of tuition, in addition to a $25,000 yearly stipend, enables our doctoral students to work full time on their degrees. And financial assistance in the form of grants and loans is available to graduate students. The Office of University Financial Aid can help answer your questions and provide resources.

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Beyond the Classroom

From Case Western Reserve’s campus, a brief walk can take you to the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Cleveland Botanical Garden or the Cleveland Museum of Art (which is consistently ranked one of the best art museums in the U.S.). Or you’ll be just a short walk, drive, or bus or train ride from arts-driven neighborhoods such as Coventry Village, Tremont, and Ohio City where you can check out galleries and support local artists.

By the Numbers


years to complete the program


university in the country, U.S. News & World Report


years since the program’s founding

Admissions Requirements

We thrive when we have students who bring diverse perspectives and a range of educational, professional and life experiences to our program. We look forward to learning more about you!

The application process requires:

  • Online application, including a statement of purpose and two research papers from undergraduate studies, preferably from art history courses
  • Bachelor’s or master’s degree in art history from an accredited institution 
  • Unofficial transcripts
  • Current resume/CV
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Test scores for GRE
  • International applicants: Results of TOEFL

Contact Us

Elina Gertsman
Elina Gertsman
Professor of Art History and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Art History and Art
College of Arts and Sciences

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