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Photo: Helen Hills (History of Art Department)

PhD in History of Art


About the PhD programme


The PhD requires a dissertation of not more than 90,000 words, to be submitted by full-time students after a period of three years' study, by part-time students after six years of study.

PhD by Distance Learning

As with our York-based PhD programme, our Distance Learning PhD requires a dissertation of not more than 90,000 words, to be submitted by full-time students after a period of three years' study, by part-time students after six years of study.

This programme is ideal for students with commitments which prevent them from being resident within reasonable travelling distance of York. While a minimum of two weeks of attendance per academic year is required (for registration, training, meetings with the thesis advisory panel and the annual PhD conference), this programme allows students to research overseas while still receiving support and training online and by video-conferencing.  Access to an internet connection and relevant library and/or archives is essential for this programme.

Current research students

We have more than 70 research students in the Department of History of Art studying a wide variety of topics:




We welcome students from all backgrounds, with a great range of intellectual interests: students who seek an academic career, and those who require a further professional qualification; applicants who wish to extend their art-historical interests while pursuing other kinds of employment; and those who are seeking to develop an academic interest in their retirement.


Applicants should have a good 2.1 or 1st-class undergraduate degree, or equivalent; applicants for the PhD should also have or be currently completing an MA degree, and we normally require an MA dissertation mark, where one is awarded, of at least 65 or equivalent (where 50 is a bare pass and 70 or above is a distinction).

Exceptions can be made for applicants with an unusual career profile, but who have substantial related experience.

English Language requirements

If your first language is not English you will need to show evidence that you meet our English Language requirements. Read the University's full listings of accepted tests and scores.


Research students may register full-time (three years) or part-time (six years).


Ordinarily, research students should live within reasonable travelling distance of their designated place of instruction, i.e. the university. However, when undertaking extensive fieldwork, the fieldwork location may be regarded as the designated place of instruction.

PhD applicants who wish to conduct the majority of their research overseas should apply to join our Distance Learning PhD programme.

All research students are encouraged to participate in the wide range of research activities the department offers. These include research seminars, conferences, activities organized by our departmental research schools, study days and reading groups.

Students in York also take full advantage of resources such as the Raymond Burton Humanities Research Library and Borthwick Institute for Archives.


A wide range of funding opportunities includes AHRC-funded studentships, departmental studentships, overseas scholarships, travel fellowships, and funding for students with specific research interests.


Before applying

To start the application process please consult our staff webpages and contact a potential supervisor for your research. Preliminary enquiries are welcomed and should be made as early as possible. However, a scattershot approach - emailing all staff members regardless of the relationship between their research interests and yours - is unlikely to produce positive results. Candidates are advised to make their research proposals as specific and clear as possible.

If you need guidance please email

How to apply

You can apply for this course using our online application system. If you've not already done so, please read the application guidance first so that you understand the various steps in the application process.



PhD (Distance Learning):

Application guidance

Full guidance information about the process of applying can be found on the central web pages for postgraduate admissions:

Research proposal

The most important aspect of the research degree application is the research proposal. When you apply you will be asked to upload your proposal of around 2,000 words and a summary of around 250 words. You should discuss your topic and proposal with potential supervisor(s) prior to submitting an application, to establish whether the topic appears viable and a supervisor is available. The potential supervisor may require written work or request a meeting with the applicant either prior to or after a formal application. Preliminary support from a potential supervisor is normally a prerequisite for application, although it does not guarantee admission.

Sample of writing

Online applications

Files uploaded to online applications cannot exceed 1MB. You may therefore need to remove digital images from your work so that the file size does not exceed this limit.

We will read art-historical writing samples without images as long as your text indicates which images were originally included.

All research applicants should submit one sample of academic writing, c. 1500 words in length. Where possible the subject matter should concern art history, but if your background lies in other areas, we would welcome work in another field such as literature or history.

If you have any questions or concerns about the writing sample, contact the Postgraduate Administrators for advice.

Personal Statement

We are keen to hear about your academic and other experience. Please explain your interest in the subject, which may include approaches as well as periods or artists. Explain what has attracted you to our programme and what you would like to do here. If you wish to apply for a funding scholarship please tell us your cohort position for each previous degree, based on your final award mark (for example, 2nd in a cohort of 50 undergraduates; 1st in a cohort of 30 postgraduates).


Research degree applicants will be called for an interview at York with their potential supervisor and the Director of Research Programmes, either before or after submission of the application.

Applicants should be prepared to discuss the research proposal in depth, although the specific details will not be regarded as binding: applicants should be prepared to be flexible in adapting their interests to the sources and expertise available to them.

Overseas applicants will be interviewed by phone or Zoom.

Deadline for applications

Research students normally begin their studies in September, but it is possible to commence in January.

Applicants planning to apply for AHRC or other funding should aim to submit their PhD application at least four weeks before the grant application deadline. Bear in mind that you may need to supply a more developed research proposal for grant applications than for admission to the department.

Potential Supervisors

Potential Supervisors

The following members of staff* would be particularly interested to hear from research candidates with topics which fall within the following broad areas. However, these are by no means restrictive. If you have any queries, please contact our admissions team at or email Tim Ayers (PhD Director).

*Please note that this list is not indicative of current staff availability.

Staff Research areas 
Prof Tim Ayers British art and architecture of the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries.
Dr Ana Bilbao Yarto Curating contemporary art; histories of exhibition-making and art institutions; contemporary art from the Global South
Dr James Boaden Post-war and contemporary art history.
Prof Sarah Brown The relationship between stained glass art and craft and the interactions between art history and conservation.
Prof Jason Edwards British, American and European sculpture in its global contexts, c.1760-1914; queer theory; animal studies; the polar world. 
Prof Anthony Geraghty British architectural history, 1550-1900, particularly architectural drawing, the English baroque, and architecture and intellectual history. 
Prof Jane Hawkes Early medieval / Anglo-Saxon art, the history of its study, and the area of medieval revival art. 
Dr Richard Johns British art, especially of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Dr Teresa Kittler Artistic practices from 1945 to the present day, specifically Italian postwar art and primarily on issues related to art and the environment and questions related to gender.
Dr Richard McClary Islamic art and architecture; the architecture and ceramic arts of the wider Iranian world from the tenth to the fourteenth centuries.
Dr Jeremy Melius Modern art and art writing, especially in Britain, c. 1840-1960; critical theory and aesthetics;
historiography; afterlives of medieval and early modern art; histories of sexuality.
Prof Jeanne Nuechterlein Any aspect of fifteenth of sixteenth-century German or Netherlandish art.
Dr Jessica Richardson Italian art c.1300–1550; Materiality and the agency of matter; Temporality; Magic, the supernatural and the miraculous image (image/relic); Image, ritual space and the performance of script; The reception, reworking and display of ‘medieval’ art.
Dr Erhan Tamur  Ancient Western Asian art; museum studies; art historical and archaeological theory; politics of archaeology; theory and practice of decolonization.
Dr Hanna Vorholt Medieval art, especially illuminated manuscripts and the early history of the book; Jerusalem in Western medieval art and architecture; Romanesque art and its cultural and intellectual contexts; medieval encyclopedias, maps and diagrams. 
Prof Michael White Twentieth-century art, architecture and design, particularly modernism, the avant-gardes and abstract art.
Prof Cordula van Wyhe Early modern cultural history with particular reference to the seventeenth-century Low Countries. Major interests include the history of dress (including fashion), Rubens, religious and political imagery, royal patronage, and early modern court culture.


Admissions enquiries


For information on applying, please see individual programmes pages and the university's central admissions pages.

For questions specific to the History of Art courses, please contact:


As a part-time mature student who doesn’t live on campus, it’s great how involved the department makes me feel and the opportunities I get.

Current PhD student, Louise Hampson

Further information: