Program Details

Chronology of Studies

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The Study Outline

Upon acceptance and in consultation with an advisor, MFA students present a two-year study outline accentuating their focus including a studio plan, criticism research, thesis development, and proposed locations for independent study.

Faculty Advisors

Each MFA student is assigned one studio faculty member and one liberal arts faculty member to oversee and guide the student through the two-year study proposal. Advisor meetings are scheduled three times each semester to present studio work, critical studies portfolio, liberal arts portfolio and journals for review. 

Midterm and final grades from professors of content courses will also be reviewed. Continuation in the program is contingent on a positive review from both faculty advisors at the end of each semester. 

Drawing, Painting & Sculpture (20 credits)

One of the most important aspects of the program is the accentuation of the three disciplines of drawing, painting and sculpture and their inter-relationship. Although students declare a single concentration, it is imperative that they experiment with all three. Drawing I and II are prerequisites for all MFA thesis work. The MFA curriculum is based upon the principle that drawing is at the basis of all good painting and sculpture. In the first year, all students are required to enroll in Drawing I and II and receive credit before beginning Thesis Practice and Project.

The painting and sculpture contact courses take place at the Atelier Marchutz, a light-filled space conceived by French architect Fernand Pouillon. Students work together in this common space with painting instructors and are also expected to work independently during the week. 14 credits of intensive painting or sculpture (6 credits during the first year and 8 credits during the second year) are required depending on the candidate’s concentration.

Critical Studies (9 credits)

The Critical Studies courses are seminars in which students and faculty read and discuss criticism essays, artists' writing on art, and philosophical texts. They include field study to museums, artist studios, and galleries. Critical Studies I and II accentuate an overview of critical thought from past generations which will be used as a springboard for Critical Studies III in which a contemporary analysis in conjuncture with each student’s thesis project will culminate in a final 15-page paper to accompany the studio work.

Thesis Practice and Thesis Project (10 credits)

In year two students will, in concert with their faculty advisors, propose and execute a body of work in a purposeful manner which will culminate in a final, public exhibition to be determined and approved by the final exhibition committee.

The Journal

A journal documenting all aspects of the Critical Studies component, Thesis Practice and Thesis Project is a requirement for all students. Part of the final exhibition presentation will consist of a collation and presentation of the journal work covering the entire two-year process. The final journal presented at the final exhibition can and should take a form that is consistent with the underlying theme of the thesis project presentation.

Art History (6 credits)

A range of art history thesis inquiry courses are offered to the MFA student at IAU College. Students choose two inquiry courses that coincide with their study outline and future thesis practice and project. 6 credits (two courses) of Art History Inquiry are required, with each course including a research paper assigned at the graduate level. Inquiries include the following:

ARC 509: Inquiry: Ancient European Art and Archaeology - Development of European Mediterranean societies and civilizations from the arrival of the first humans up to the Roman conquest of the continent. Includes excursions to sites in Provence.

ART 320: Inquiry: Picasso, Matisse, and the Mediterranean - Understanding early 20th century art through an investigation of its sources in Mediterranean myth and reality.

ART 540: Inquiry: Medieval Art and Architecture - A search for the medieval mind as it is expressed in Christian art and architecture from its earliest beginnings in the Catacombs of Rome, through the rich mosaics and domes of byzantine culture to the raising of the great Gothic Cathedrals in northern Europe.  Includes excursions to regional sites.

ART 541: Inquiry: Islamic Art and Architecture - This course surveys the arts and architecture of the Islamic World from the rise of the Umayyads in the 7th century CE until modern times. It will examine the social, historical and cultural contexts within which Islamic art and architecture developed. The aim of this course is to provide a basic understanding and a broad awareness of the major themes of Islamic art and architecture, of their main achievements and of their regional diversity.

ART 581: Inquiry: The XIXth Century and French Impressionism - Historical and critical analysis of painting in the 19th century with emphasis on the history of Impressionism. Typically includes an excursion to sites in Paris.

ART 582: Inquiry: Cezanne and Van Gogh - An in-depth study of the lives and works of Paul Cézanne and Vincent van Gogh. 

Electives (6 credits)

Although most studio work will be in conjunction with the student’s concentration, students must choose two studio art electives at the graduate level from the list below that are not in their major field of study.

ART 580: Arts Management TBD

ART 595: Architecture Design Studio Students will collaborate and learn through hands on designing and creating at the Marchutz School of Fine Arts. Includes active investigations of the architectural traditions of Aix en Provence and the Marchutz campus, conceptual design and on-site, full scale modelling of design solutions. 

ART 551: Contemporary Art and Studio Practice Using a variety of media - drawing, painting, digital imagery, 3D and installation students will explore the notions of the sacred and the taboo in art. The studio course will include an historical and theoretical study of these notions throughout the history of art with a prime focus on the 20th and 21st century.

ART 560: Creative Writing The course focuses on an intensive writing practice and will deconstruct and explicate various elements of the essay, beginning with Montaigne through more modern iterations of the essay (particularly those oriented toward exploring a “new” culture and “self” within an intercultural context).  Furthermore, it will look at how our beliefs and perspectives inform our thinking and writing, and how living within another culture challenges those viewpoints and processes as writers.

ART 550: Painting and Drawing (for students with concentration in sculpture) Disciplined study in landscape,  portraiture and live model. 90 contact hours per semester.

ART 560: Photography A specific analysis of the photographic image in reference to the world history of photography to develop students aesthetic judgments concerning their own production. Digital production around various themes required.

ART 585: Sculpture (for students with concentration in painting) In collaboration with Professor Greg Wyatt, Sculptor- in-Residence, The Cathedral Church of St. John the Devine, New York, NY. A studio course conceived to familiarize students with the full range of materials and procedures needed in the process of bronze lost–wax casting as it relates to site-specific monumental scale bronze sculptures. Students will work with plaster, plastilina, clay and wax resulting in a final small model bronze casting at the Fonderie de Coubertin, renowned for its casts of among others, Auguste Rodin’s “Gates of Hell.” 

Language and Culture (6 credits)

All candidates are required to take at least 6 credits of language and culture courses from the French and Language Department at IAU College – French, Spanish, or Arabic. When feasible, students are encouraged however to participate in 12 credits of language and culture. 

Critiques and Visiting Artist Seminars 

In addition to two critiques per semester by faculty members, students participate in Visiting Artist Seminars including local and international visiting artists who are invited to campus to participate in sessions including lectures and critiques of MFA student work. All students participate in at least one seminar.  

January Term Field Study Seminar (3 credits)

All MFA candidates are required to attend one January field study with a study proposal indicating why and how the field study relates to their thesis proposalFour different J-terms include traveling seminars to Morocco, Spain, Italy, Greece, England and France. 

Europe and the Islamic World France • Morocco • Gibraltar • Spain • Turkey 

Great Cities Rome • Marseille • Paris • Prague • London 

Mediterranean Basin France • Italy • Greece • Turkey 

Shakespeare and the Theatre London • Stratford • Oxford 

Low-Residency Off-Campus Course Work

Although students may complete the entire program at the Aix campus, students may choose to take up to 27 credit hours off campus. They may reside at IAU partner sites (Giverny, Barcelona, Paris, New York, Marrakesh) or return to their home sites in the U.S. The appointed faculty advisors from the Aix campus will coordinate oversight of their independent studies with selected artist-teachers from the specific area.  

Arts Education and Teaching Assistantships

The Marchutz School of Fine Arts unique MFA degree program has embedded within it an apprenticeship component. Through direct observation and assistantship in undergraduate studio courses, candidates may choose to embellish the direction of their independent work. As all studio art faculty know, the process of passing on knowledge is one of the most enriching experiences for their own work. Students who may eventually be interested in teaching can, upon approval, take advantage of this component within their two-year study proposal. 

Students interested in teaching assistantships may replace 3 credit hours of art history and a 3-credit elective with a 6-credit teaching assistantship. 

Internship Opportunities

Internships at various museums and galleries are available for students interested in professional opportunities.

Final Exhibition Committee

Each student will present the Final Thesis Project and Critical Studies paper to a committee comprised of the two faculty advisors and two faculty members from the major concentration. Final Exhibition contingent on committee approval. 


Students have 24 hour access to the Atelier Marchutz situated on the renowned route de Tholonet in Aix en Provence.  In year two all students will have independent studio space as well in  studios provided by IAU College.  Library facilities, lecture halls, classrooms, a student lounge, audio-visual equipment, and computer access are available in one of the three main buildings of IAU College situated in the 17th and 18th century center of Aix en Provence.

Sample Curriculum

MFA students have some flexibility in how they structure their schedule across the two years of study. The required credits are as follows:

  • Painting/Sculpture - 14 credits (four studio courses according to chosen area of study)
  • Drawing - 6 credits (two studio courses)
  • Critical Studies - 9 credits (three seminar courses)
  • Thesis Practice and Thesis Project - 10 credits (two thesis courses)
  • Art History - 6 credits (two inquiry courses)
  • Electives - 6 credits (two studio courses outside of chosen area of study)
  • Language and Culture - 6 credits (two language courses)
  • January Term Traveling Seminar - 3 credits (one traveling seminar course)

    Total = 60 credits

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Please direct MFA program-related inquiries to Alan Roberts, Dean, Marchutz School of Fine Arts.

For admissions questions, please contact IAU's Office of Admissions at or call 1-800-221-2051.