History of art


What does an art historian do?

In essence, art historians study artworks and their contexts in order to understand and interpret the work, and also to understand the broader contexts in which art is produced and received. The study of history of art allows students to follow careers in various cultural and artistic spheres. 


Where can you work?

An art historian can work at a university, a gallery, at an artist’s studio or a similar place of production, as a curator and consultant for a large corporation’s art collection, or in various other positions and places. Art historians often travel a great deal - it has been said that seeing the world’s art is the best excuse for leaving home. With training as an art historian you are flexible, adaptable and able to work in many different contexts. Examples of careers emanating from the study of history of art include the following:

  • Art critic
  • Art journalist
  • Gallery owner
  • Curator
  • Art consultant
  • Art dealer
  • Manager of artists’ career
  • Educator
  • Tourism specialist
  • Researcher
  • Art blogger
  • Arts festival officer
  • Publisher
  • Web content generator
  • Art collector
  • Studio manager
  • Gallerist


Why study history of art at the NWU?

The History of Art subject group and programmes at the NWU are dynamic and world-class, as evidenced by an External Programme Evaluation in 2013. The honours programme received a commendation, the highest accolade that the panel of national and international experts could give. Students learn visual and academic skills. Classes are visually stimulating and intellectually challenging, and lots of debate and discussion help students to think about their own ideas as well as the ideas of others. History of art as a field of study complements other disciplines in the humanities such as languages, creative writing, anthropology, history, and philosophy.


Admission requirements

You do not need art or history of art as a school subject in order to enrol in this programme. The only prerequisites are matric exemption and an interest in culture and the visual arts. For admission to the honours programme, students need an average of 65% in their third year of study. Similarly, admission to the master's programme is predicated on a mark of 65% for the compulsory honours modules, and students who wish to pursue a PhD should have achieved 60% for their master’s dissertations.

Site of delivery

Potchefstroom Campus