The History of Painting, Sculpture, architecture and the Decorative arts in Europe and North America from the Middle Ages to the present day.

The Art History Department offers expert supervision to research students in a wide range of topics based on the interests of individual members of staff and drawing upon the rich resources of the area. The University Library has been built up over five centuries. In addition to its excellent modern collection of art history books covering all periods, it is particularly strong in 18th and 19th century material, including art theory and criticism, archaeology and travel literature.

The Historic Collections include important medieval manuscripts and estate papers. 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. . The Macdonald Collection (94 artists' portraits) and the Peacock Print Archive are of special interest. The National Galleries of Scotland, the Burrell Collection, Glasgow Art Gallery and the Hunterian Museum are within easy reach by train, bus or car.

September and January start dates available

Our Research

Benefiting from an exceptional archive and museum at the University of Aberdeen, the Art History staff have a distinct research profile in Scottish History of Art.

  • Scottish/British Art

Dr Helen Pierce and Dr Mary Pryor are currently supervising PGR projects on Early Modern and 20th-century Modern Scottish art.

  • Print Culture in Early Modern Europe

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. Her monograph Unseemly Pictures: Graphic Satire and Politics in Early Modern England provided the first full study of the satirical print in seventeenth-century England from the rule of James I to the regicide, and she is currently writing a history of British political caricature over the past four hundred years. She is also working on a study of the circle of late-seventeenth-century English artists, antiquarians and scientists known as the York Virtuosi.

  • Medieval and Early Modern Art

Dr Joanne Anderson is a specialist in the imagery of Mary Magdalen, working with paintings, altarpieces, prints and glass. Her recent book, Moving with the Magdalen: Late Medieval Art and Devotion in the Alps, focuses on the artworks that manifest the saint’s cult in the central European Alps in the late middle ages. In general, artistic exchange, the circulation of visual types and environmental conditions inform her work about visual culture and the geographies of art history; particularly the concept of Kunstlandschaft, which originates from pre- and inter war German discourse on the relation of art to its native territory by means of a unified style but has since developed to encompass other shared criteria.

  • Neo-Classical and Romantic Art

Dr Hans Hönes is a specialist 18th and 19t -century art and historiography, with a particular interest in themes such as the history of classical receptions, the search for the ‘origins’ of art, and art and climatology. He has published extensively on the history of antiquarianism, late 19th-century German art historiography and Aby Warburg. His recent co-edited book, Migrating Histories of Art. Self-Translations of a Discipline focuses on art history and migration.

Art History research is also embedded across and within centres including:

The Centre for Early Modern Studies (CEMS) brings together medieval and early modern scholars, both established and emergent, and fosters collaboration.

The Research Institute for Irish and Scottish Studies (RIISS) nurtures interdisciplinary research collaborations.

George Washington Wilson Centre for Visual Culture (GWW), brings together researchers form across our university.

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.

Fees and Funding

View the tuition fee rates

Our Funding Database

View all funding options in our Funding Database.

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.

Get in Touch

Contact Details

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