Art History

Art History


Research the history of art, architecture and visual culture, from the Middle Ages to the present day, and become part of a thriving and supportive research community.

Study Information

At a Glance

Degree Qualification
MLitt or PhD

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The Art History Department is an active group of researchers, offering expert supervision to research students in a wide range of topics, including late medieval art and architecture, early modern British and European art, art theory and historiography, contemporary art and visual culture, the history of collecting and exhibitions from medieval and early modern art through art theory to contemporary visual culture.

Art historical research in Aberdeen benefits from an exceptional archive and museum at the University, whilst at the same time, members of staff foster strong links with researchers worldwide. The University Library has been built up over five centuries and is home to an excellent collection of research literature, but also to an important historic collection. Aberdeen’s special collections are particularly strong in areas such as illuminated medieval manuscripts, archaeology, and travel literature. The unique George Washington Wilson archive contains over 45,000 original glass plate negatives made by this pioneer Victorian photographer.

Visual resources are equally rich. The north-east of Scotland has a distinguished architectural heritage from the Middle Ages onwards, while Aberdeen Art Gallery has a fine collection of French and British (including Scottish) art. In addition to its important William Dyce archive, it has one of the best collections of Victorian painting outside London, with examples of work by Rossetti and Dyce.

Our research students are embedded in a thriving and close-knit research community, benefitting from regular seminars and training opportunities. Current PhD students are affiliated with the George Washington Wilson Centre for Art and Visual Culture, the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and RIISS.

September and January start dates available

Research Interests

British and Scottish Art

The many exceptional archives and collections at the University, and in north-east Scotland more broadly, are an excellent resource for original and innovative research projects. Dr Helen Pierce is a specialist in British art of the early modern period (c.1550–1750), with a particular focus on works on paper and the history of political satire. Dr Hans C. Hönes has published widely on the history of archaeology and antiquarianism in Britain, as well as on British art writing.

Art and Christianity

Art History at Aberdeen has close ties with the School’s Divinity Department, and both disciplines co-ordinate the innovative MLitt in Christianity & the Visual Arts. Dr Joanne Anderson is a specialist in the imagery of Mary Magdalene and the saint’s visualisations in a range of media: from paintings and altarpieces, through prints and glass, to contemporary video art. Dr Karl Kinsella is an expert in medieval architecture and book illumination.

Contemporary Art and Visual Culture

Dr Camilla Mørk Røstvik specialises in twentieth and twenty-first century visual culture, with a longstanding research interest in the history, cultures, and art of menstruation.

Entry Requirements

Normally, the minimum entrance requirement for admission to the PhD is a degree with Second Class Honours (Upper Division) in an appropriate field, or equivalent. It is preferable that you hold a Masters in the chosen area of study as well.

Alongside your application form, you will need to upload the following supporting documents online:

  • Copies of your undergraduate and graduate degree certificates
  • Academic transcripts for your undergraduate and graduate degrees.
  • Two academic references; either the details of your referees provided on your application form or uploaded online with your application.
  • Your research proposal
  • If English is not your first language and you have not studied previously at an institution in the UK, you will need to demonstrate your proficiency in English by taking an IELTS, TOEFL or PTE academic test.

The Historic Collections

The Historic Collections include medieval manuscripts and estate papers. The George Washington Wilson archive contains over 45,000 original glass plate negatives.


Past graduates have gone into academic careers, heritage work (National Trust of Scotland, English Heritage, Historic Scotland, Historic Monuments Commission), arts administration, museums and galleries, art trade (Auction Houses, Dealers), publishing and media.

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Contact Details

School of Divinity, History, Philosophy and Art History
University of Aberdeen
50-52 College Bounds
AB24 3DS