Paris: Art History

Professor Ward points to paintings on the museum wall while lecturing to the group of students.

Program Term:


Language Requirement:


Application Deadline:


Please note: Offered in alternating years. Following the Spring 2024 program, the next program will run in Spring 2026.

The College’s new Spring Art History program in Paris provides undergraduate students with an opportunity to devote themselves intensively to the study of art history at the University of Chicago’s Center in Paris.

    This is a broadly conceived program, designed not for students from specific majors, but for all students, regardless of major, with an interest in art history and a desire to pursue this interest in the capital of France, a city rich in cultural resources and artistic traditions. This program includes three art history courses. Program participants will also take a French language course, which runs at a normal pace through the quarter and is designed to help students connect with French (and Parisian) culture.

    Apart from classroom work, the spring Art History program offers a series of excursions to sites of artistic and historic interest within and in the vicinity of Paris. Indeed Paris itself, with its wealth of museums, libraries and theaters, its lively art and literary scene, its rich traditions of creation and critique, plays a central role in the program and students will be expected to make full use of its cultural resources.

    The following courses will be offered in the Spring 2024 program:

    • ARTH 200-level course. Painting Landscape in 19th century France (Martha Ward)
      Over the course of the 19th century in France, landscape emerged as a preeminent genre for exploring the complexities of the modern world. The massive growth of cities, industry, tourism, and other environmental changes dramatically affected inherited notions of ecological balance. How did landscape painters respond to these challenges by developing new aesthetic attitudes and representational strategies? We’ll study how landscapes evolved from the Romantics and the Barbizon school, through the Realists at mid-century, to the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. Artists to be considered in depth include Théodore Rousseau, Gustave Courbet, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Paul Cézanne, Georges Seurat, and Vincent van Gogh. As many classes as possible will be held at the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay. We’ll also make field trips to some of the sites represented by these painters.
    • ARTH 100-level course. Encountering Islamic Art in France, 11th–21st Centuries (Persis Berlekamp)
      Islamic artworks have been among the prized possessions of French collections from the medieval period to the present, but, as the reasons they have entered these collections have changed, so have the institutional spaces that frame how they might be encountered. In the first week, we study Islamic rock crystals and oliphants that were once in medieval French treasuries, and visit the Basilica of Saint Denis. In the second, we study Islamic ceramics, textiles, and works on paper that inspired French designers and painters, and visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. Finally, we study select works that have recently been exhibited for the explicit purpose of cultural ambassadorship, and visit l’Institut du Monde Arabe. How do the formal qualities of specific works themselves relate to the ways that institutional spaces can inflect their resonance?
    • ARTH 17209. Art in Paris 1598–1662 (Richard Neer)
      France emerged from the 16th century devastated by wars of religion. Sixty years later it was the most powerful state in Europe. This course will provide an overview of French art in this period. Three themes will predominate: political centralization and the policing of everyday life; changes in philosophy and science; and the relationship between painting and techniques of spirituality and self-transformation. Readings will be drawn largely from primary sources, all in translation, notably Montaigne, Pascal and Descartes. The course will be divided evenly between lectures/discussions at the Paris Center; walking tours in Paris, to discuss architecture and to see pictures in their original settings; and visits to the Louvre. Walks will be about two hours in duration; visits to the Louvre will be about three hours (with a break midway); a final visit to the château of Vaux-le-Vicomte will take most of a day.

    All participants also take a French language course.

    Headquarters for the College’s study abroad programs in Paris is the University of Chicago Center in Paris, the University’s research and teaching arm in Europe. Situated in the thirteenth arrondissement, the Center in Paris is part of an ambitious intellectual project along the river Seine, including the Bibliothèque Nationale and a new home for Université Paris Cité. The Center in Paris features classrooms, offices for faculty and graduate students, computer facilities, a small library, and an apartment for the faculty director. For participants in Chicago’s programs, the Center in Paris provides a focus for academic activities, a central meeting place, and a continuing Chicago presence within one of the major capitals of Europe.

    Students in the Paris Art History program are housed in a residence hall within the Cité Internationale Universitaire (Cité). The Cité, a park-like residential complex in the fourteenth arrondissement, is the international student campus in Paris, though French students also live there. Students reside in single rooms with a private bath and have access to Cité facilities, including a library, theater, laundry, and athletic facilities. Students will have access to common kitchens in the residence halls and can purchase inexpensive meals at the Cité’s restaurant universitaire.

    It is important to recognize the cultural context of student housing in France and understand that the amenities of dormitory facilities may vary. Although some of these differences may take some getting used to, remember that cultural differences extend to all aspects of your experience abroad. Having realistic expectations for your term in Paris will help you approach the study abroad experience with a positive attitude.

    Participants in the Paris Art History program remain registered as full-time students in the College. They receive one credit for each of the four courses offered through this program. At least one of the three art history courses will be accepted as a credit toward the general education requirement in the arts. The language course will normally count as an elective. Course titles, units of credit, and grades are placed on the College transcript.

    Study abroad students pay regular College tuition, a program fee, and a nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee. The tuition and program fee are paid in conformity with the home campus payment schedule, and the nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee is submitted when accepting a place in a program. Precise figures for the Paris Art History program during the 2024–2025 year are listed below:

    Spring tuition: as set by the Bursar’s Office

    Study abroad administrative fee: $675

    Paris Art History program fee: $5,960

    Program fee includes:

    Out-of-pocket expenses include:

    • round-trip airfare to and from the program site
    • passport/visa fees
    • transportation on site
    • meals
    • course materials
    • personal entertainment and travel
    • communications (including cell phone usage)
    • health insurance and upfront payments for care
    • other miscellaneous expenses 

    Previous program participants report spending in the range of $200 to $250 per week on meals and incidentals while on the program, though frugal students may spend less, and others could spend much more. Bear in mind that the cost of living in Paris is relatively high and that, while it is possible to live frugally, it is also possible to run short of money if you are unwary. It is therefore essential that you budget your funds prudently, apportioning your resources so that they last for the duration of the program. If you are planning to travel before or after the program or on weekends, you should budget accordingly.

    Study abroad students retain their financial aid eligibility. For more information about financial aid resources, please see our Tuition, Fees, and Funding section.

    The Art History program in Paris is open to University of Chicago undergraduate students only. Applications from outside the University are not accepted.

    The program is designed for undergraduates in good academic and disciplinary standing, including first-year students. While the program stipulates no minimum grade-point average, an applicant’s transcript should demonstrate that they are a serious student who will make the most of this opportunity. Because the art history courses are taught in English, there is no language prerequisite, although students are encouraged to take French on campus before the program begins.

    Each application is examined on the basis of the student’s scholastic record and personal statement. If you are interested in applying for this program please fill out the online application.

    To discuss the Paris: Art History program and the possibility of participating, please contact Damaris Crocker De Ruiter.