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Select modules to suit your own interests

You can choose your own route throughout your degree, supported by core modules that establish the essential framework of the course. Your first year includes introductory core modules, which provide an overview of art and the ways in which it is studied today. You can also choose optional modules on topics such as contemporary art, portraiture, sacred art, sculpture, print media, or architecture and photography.

You will normally spend the first term of your second year in Venice, before returning to Warwick to focus on specialised subjects including an optional practical art module. In your third year you will study research-based special subject modules, a core module on the issues in art history and complete a dissertation on a topic of your choice.

Explore our Art History modules

Here is a list of modules that have been offered in recent years. Our optional modules are subject to change, but give you an indication of the breadth of topics you can study.

First year

Core modules

Credits: 30

Taught: Term 1

This module is formed of a series of lectures and related seminars that address the intertwined themes of Classicism and Christianity. It will provide a historical survey of western art and concentrates on late antique, medieval and Renaissance art, periods with which our first year students are often unfamiliar.

The lectures follow a broadly chronological sweep, while the related seminars will concentrate on issues of technique, terminology and iconography.

The key aim of this module is to empower you with the ability to describe what you see – in terms of how an image or object is made, as well as its form and iconography. You will acquire a basic grasp of the essential areas which you will need to use as reference points for other modules in the degree.

Credits: 30

Taught: Term 2

Comprising a series of lectures and related seminars this module looks at the two themes of The Natural World and The Arts of Modernity. It will provide you with a historical survey of western art which - instead of adopting a conventional chronological approach - employs a thematic one which encourages stimulating cross-comparisons across time and space.

The module will introduce you to the broad spectrum of images, ideas and approaches which the history of art comprises. You will acquire a basic grasp of the essential areas which you will need to use as reference points for other modules in the degree.

Credits: 15

Taught: Term 2

History of Art and Interpretation is designed to foster awareness of the relationship between art and its historical and physical contexts, and of methods (or approaches) to the work of art as tools for interpretation. You will consider works of art in context at Waddesdon Manor and at other collections, learning how to look and how to interpret what you see. In effect, this core module will introduce history of art as a practice of interpretation and it will initiate you into the kinds of interpretation you will be required to undertake during the course of your degree.

Taught: Terms 1 and 2

Our study skills module will enable you to make the transition from school to university, and to begin to acquire the research skills you need for your undergraduate career. It will provide a wide-ranging introduction to university-level study of art history in terms of resources, the process of research, and ways of improving and developing your academic performance. It will also help you develop transferable skills that will be essential in your future careers

Short modules

All modules are 15 credits and taught in either term 1, term 2 or both terms.

All first-year Short modules are especially geared towards first-hand, close study of works of art and architecture in museums, galleries or on-site. They foster skills in visual analysis, and promote your ability to analyse artworks independently, thus providing you with skills necessary for more advanced work.

Focussing on three key periods - the medieval, the 19th century and the 20th century, this module will introduce you to architecture through the medium of ecclesiastical buildings. By examining form, function and the significance of architectural style together with the relationship between building and setting, and by using key buildings and significant local examples the module will explore the contrasting approaches taken by architects and patrons and also consider the important role and function of works of art within the buildings.

This module will introduce students to the history, traditions, and forms of craft and popular arts in Britain from the industrial revolution to the current day. It will familiarise students to debates about hierarchies between different Arts, and encourage students to deploy art historical methods of visual analysis on more everyday objects and cultural practices.

The first half of the course will look at various influences on the way everyday objects have been made and conceptualised, from the Arts and Crafts Movement to the way folk art has been used to help construct a sociology of the past. The second half will look at a number of material practices, and show how they often allowed otherwise marginalised groups to express themselves.

This module introduces students to key movements and themes in contemporary art since c. 1960. We will explore transformations in the media, institutions, and themes of art, from performance and video to conceptual and participatory practices.

The module examines the role of avant gardes and art institutions (the art school, the gallery and the museum) in determining how we look at and understand contemporary art. It traces the effects of ruptures and innovations as they are responded to, rejected and re-thought across time. Themes will include the artist’s body, process art, conceptual practices, installation art, participation and performance, as well as photography, film, video and the internet. The module focuses on understanding the processes behind making works of art as well as close study of artworks and critical texts. It aims to build skills in visual analysis and critical thinking, and to foster your ability to analyse artworks independently and critically and provide you with skills necessary for more advanced work.

This module aims to introduce students to the variety of issues involved in interpreting landscape. It examines the rise of landscape as a genre, analyses landscape in its social and political context and addresses issues of landscape aesthetics from both an historical and a theoretical perspective. Students will examine the techniques artists employed in painting landscapes through coming face-to-face with examples of landscape paintings in local collections.

This module will introduce students to a range of printmaking techniques and practices which developed from the early Renaissance onwards.

Focusing on a selection of key artists and movements, we will consider how and why printmaking became such an important aspect of artistic production, used by artists not only to disseminate their work to wider audiences, but also as a means of aesthetic experimentation and modern expression.

As well as providing an understanding of the physical construction of the print, the module will familiarise you with the vast generic range of printed images, spanning 'high' and 'low' culture, and will introduce the social, political and aesthetic meanings of such objects.

This module aims to de-mystify Christian art, and to introduce students to the characteristics and functions of religious imagery in the medieval and early modern periods. You will become familiar with issues like iconoclasm, miracle-working images, and the importance of art in death and commemoration. While the focus is very much on Christian art, some comparisons will be drawn with Judaic and Islamic doctrines on images and representation.

The module will encourage an awareness of the religious dimension to much western art, but also ask students to think critically about the frequent conflicts between art and belief

A broad knowledge of artistic media and practices through the ages is necessary if we are to recognise and understand how artists have produced their works, how some of these were considered innovative, and how choices of materials and techniques contribute to the meaning of works of art.

This module aims to introduce you to some of the media and techniques used by artists over the centuries, and to some of the debates among artists and scholars around issues of artistic practice. It will help you learn to identify the reasons why artists choose certain technical approaches and materials, and the effects they achieve with them.

This module has been designed to introduce students to the critical evaluation of visual and documentary evidence through a discussion of works of art that have been revealed or are polemically considered to be fakes.

Taking a thematic approach, the module will consider cases from the medieval to the contemporary across different media. The following questions will be addressed: What is authenticity? When did the notion of forgery emerge? What is the difference between copy, replica, and forgery? Is restoration a sort of forgery? Is there a science to reveal forgeries? What is the relationship between fake and mass culture?

Two important 20th-century films will provide further points for study. The module will be team-taught and will also introduce students to the range and presentation methods of the members of the department.

Second year

Core and long view modules

All modules are 30 credits and are taught in a single term.

This core module will introduce students to the history of the discipline of art history, examining a range of theoretical approaches from the discipline’s beginning in the early-nineteenth century to contemporary debates. In exploring questions of theory and method, the module will develop research skills, such as critical reading and evaluating evidence.

Throughout the course, students will reflect on their own theoretical commitments, and consider how these will shape their dissertations.

An introduction to the arts of African and the African diaspora from the late-1800s to the present. There is an emphasis on practices, objects, events, and materials rather than a chronological or geographic approach. Problematising continental coherence, this module is concerned with what V. Y. Mudimbe has called the ‘invention of Africa’ (1988), what we could call here the invention of African art. The course will examine a broad range of art and curatorial practices, including sculpture, performance, textiles, video and film, digital archiving, activism, architecture, city biennales, ethnography, and conservation.

This module intends to provide students with an overview of the evolutions of the visual arts in the seventeenth century across Europe and beyond. The emphasis lies on the inter-geographical and comparative structure of the module, in which the Italian “paradigm” is compared and contrasted with the emerging national paradigms of France, Spain, Flanders, the Dutch Republic, and potentially the New World.

This module focuses on the movement of art and artists between Italy (especially but not exclusively Florence) and the Low Countries and Germany from c. 1430 – 1580. Students will consider a variety of products such as oil paintings, tapestries, marble sculptures, caskets of parquetry inlaid with bone from Venice and the factors behind exchanges, trade and gifts.

The major Northern and Southern courts under discussion are those of the Burgundian Netherlands, the German Empire, and the Medici, and artists studied may include the van Eyck brothers, Hugo van der Goes, Matthias Grunewald, Rogier van der Weyden, Albrecht Dürer, Michelangelo and Raphael.

Watch: Dr Giorgio Tagliaferro explains more about the module

This module intends to provide students with a basic knowledge of the ways in which architecture (as design, planning, and ideology) became one of the delegated fields in which a social, political, or cultural idea of the future could be articulated and implemented from the age of Industrial Revolution to the present day.

The module will show how the ideas of theorists and visionaries ended up influencing the form of the everyday built environment around the world. The course will start by exploring the way that rapid urbanisation and industrialisation led many to seek alternative ways of living, whether by looking towards an idealised often-rural past.

We will cover many of the most influential and radical urban theorists of the last 200 years, and will show how their ideas informed the creation of new communities around the globe. It will end by asking how useful Utopian ideas are for solving the many challenges that face urban populations today.

This module examines how modernity has been interpreted and developed in artistic practices across the world, from the early 20th century to the present. We will explore some of the ways in which art has attempted to disrupt its environment, both formally and ideologically.

Adopting a comparative approach to the diversity of artistic cultures, we will study examples of modernism and contemporary art both within and beyond the dominant 'centres' of the art world in Western Europe and North America.

We will ask questions such as: how have artists imagined and engaged with cultures beyond their own? How have artists resisted cultural and political imperialism? What does it mean for art to be 'contemporary'? Why did provocation become central to art in the last century?

Watch: Dr Naomi Vogt explains more about the module

You will investigate how artists and thinkers have approached the idea of race, and individual racial categories, in their attempts to uphold or subvert dominant political and cultural ideologies. Racial categories and ideas of racial mixing (or mestizaje) have taken various forms across the historical epochs and vast geographical spread of Latin America.

Artistic production in Latin American nations has at times highlighted, buried, and/or obfuscated racial narratives in the service of political platforms. The module will cover artists and movements from the late colonial to the contemporary period. Over the course of the term, we will look at early representations of indigenous peoples, casta paintings that codified racial hierarchies after the Spanish conquest, nineteenth-century depictions of slave labor in Brazil and the Caribbean, Modern art by Latin Americans suffering racial stigmatization in Europe, visualizations of La raza cosmica and broader indigenismo movements, and contemporary Latinx art that deals with the neglect and erasure of Latinx culture.

Mannerism defines a key historical period in European arts, bridging the Renaissance and Baroque periods, which is characterised by a shift towards an increasingly more artful, idiosyncratic approach to artistic invention and practice. The term itself, however, is controversial, as it was forged by modern critics on the basis of the Italian sixteenth-century expression maniera (‘manner’, ‘style’).

The broad aim of this module is to bring to the fore a number of critical issues raised by the many-sided notion of Mannerism, provide an in-depth examination of a large body of artists and artworks (drawings, paintings, sculptures and architecture) associated with it.

The module is based on student-centred seminars, and structured in such a way that students will be invited to reflect on how their understanding of the concept of Mannerism changes throughout. It focuses on how theorists and artists developed new ways of conceiving of artistic practice, by placing unprecedented emphasis on the individual’s inventiveness and talent, and taking the ideal of beauty well beyond the rules of classical art that had prevailed in the High Renaissance.

The analysis of theoretical principles elaborated by Italian treatise writers such as Vasari and Lomazzo is combined with an extensive survey of artistic practices and stylistic features that spread from Italy across Europe in the sixteenth century.

Short modules

The 1960s saw an unprecedented explosion of new art forms: happenings, performance, pop, conceptualism, body art, earthworks, installation, video. Many of these emerged as a reaction to long-established traditions of painting and sculpture, but they were equally a response to specific social and political upheavals.

This module examines how and why these changes came about, and how they have impacted upon contemporary art. The emphasis will be on European and North American art from the 1960s to the present day.

By the end of the module you will have an overview of the most significant developments in contemporary art since the 1960s, and tools with which to research and decipher a wide range of visual imagery and documentation. You will also be equipped with a critical framework by which to discuss contemporary art.

Discover how concepts of nature were instrumentalised in painting and woodblock prints across a variety of social and cultural contexts in early modern China. From Ink monochrome landscape painting to illustrated drama editions, nature defined how early modern men and women engaged with each other but also with political, cultural and religious bodies such as the court, the theatre and the temple.

Throughout the course we analyse representations of landscape, gardens, cities, and sites and their use to legitimise imperial power, construct elitist art historical discourses, alter gender relations and raise the status of an emerging mercantile class living in sophisticated urban centres.

In-depth analysis of art objects, critical reading of primary and secondary sources, lectures and presentations will enable critical dialogue and engage students in a cross-cultural debate with the objective of understanding the early modern condition from the perspective of Chinese art and its discourses.

You will explore the extraordinary breadth of and diversity within Islamic art and architecture from its beginnings in the 7th century AD to the present. We will encounter myriad objects and buildings from across the Middle East, but also from Africa, Central Asia, India, and South-East Asia, including fragments of the earliest Qur’an manuscripts, to revolutionary innovations in ceramic glaze technology in 9th century Iraq, right up to the Modernist architecture of Beirut and Tehran.

Through key case-studies, you’ll gain the skills to describe and analyse various building typologies and object in a range of media. The context in which these objects and buildings were made and used will always be at the forefront and you’ll think about how and by whom they were used. Nor will they be approached in isolation, but we’ll think about Islam, initially, as a product of the Late Antique world and, later, as part of an increasingly globalised world order.

Throughout the term, we will engage with the historiography of the field, developing a critical framework within which existing scholarship can be problematised. Prompted by the objects, we will ask big questions and challenge preconceived ideas, such as interrogating the usefulness of the term ‘Islamic Art’, and the view of Islam as an inherently aniconic religion.

This module will introduce students to the rich visual culture of the Italian towns in their most successful period of economic growth and social change, c.1215-c.1400. It analyses and compares the sophisticated civic identities that were crafted by four Italian communes: Siena, Florence, Padua and Venice.

The modules also addresses the importance of religious renewal, above all the impact of the mendicant orders, for the religious art and devotional ritual of the Italian communes. It will encourage students to place the visual arts of this period in relation to contemporary literature (above all Dante’s Divine Comedy), political thought, and social history.

This module aims to familiarise students with the new subjects, styles and genres of painting which emerged in the newly-independent Dutch Republic during the seventeenth century. Focusing on imagery of everyday life – including domestic genre scenes, townscapes and still life paintings – the module will look at how artists pictured the interior, exterior and colonial spaces in which a newly-empowered Protestant, middle-class public emerged between c.1600 and 1680.

We will look at how these paintings dealt with issues relating to representation and realism, national, civic and artistic identity, gender and sexuality, and commerce and colonialism. As well as examining the role of painting in contributing to the formation of identities and ideologies which forged a Dutch middle-class society, students will also be asked to consider the impact which this process had on the production, forms and status of painting itself.

This module aims to familiarize students with the conceptual, visual and material aspects of the Aesthetic Movement in Britain from the 1860s to the end of the nineteenth century. Examining a wide range of paintings, prints, decorative arts, and interiors, the module will explore different notions of “art for art’s sake”, and the ways in which these underpin new artistic styles, approaches to the exhibition of art, debates about interior spaces and their decoration, and new models of artistic identity.

Students will be asked to consider how coherent a notion Aestheticism is, and to address tensions between high art and commodity culture, and between politically conservative and politically radical uses of the aesthetic in the period

The years 1945-1960 marked an extraordinary period for British art, architecture and design. From the austerity years and the optimism and idealism of planners and politicians, to Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's claim that most people had 'never had it so good', this module probes the diversity and vitality of British culture in the Cold War era.

The module considers a breadth of art from Neo-Romanticism and Kitchen-Sink realism, to Geometry of Fear sculptors and responses to the growth of consumer culture. It also explores the role of architects and planners in rebuilding post-war Britain.

Events and artists considered may include the Festival of Britain, Competition for a Memorial to the Unknown Political Prisoner and the 'This is Tomorrow' exhibition, John Piper, Graham Sutherland, Henry Moore, Reg Butler, Eduardo Paolozzi, Richard Hamilton, Le Corbusier and Alison and Peter Smithson.

Final year

Core modules

Exhibiting the Contemporary considers the importance of exhibitions for the interpretation of contemporary art and architecture. Based in Venice, you will study current exhibitions both within and outside the frame of the Biennale, in conjunction with the texts on contemporary exhibition-making, curating, and museum and exhibition history.

Modern Architecture and the Historic City explores the relationship between modern architecture and the historic city, examining how architects and planners have engaged with the legacy of Venice since the 19th century.

Topics studied have included: Ruskin’s Venice and the Emergence of Conservation in the 19th century; International Modernism’s Response to Venice in the 20th century; Post-modernism and New Technologies of Contemporary Architectural Practice; Saving Venice to Date; Sustainability and the Historic City.

This module will foster awareness of the relationship between art and its cultural and physical contexts through first-hand study of Venetian Medieval and Renaissance art and architecture in its original location.

The social and political frameworks of Venice will also be examined. You will study the key examples of architecture, painting and sculpture in terms of their commissioning, manufacture, consumption and subsequent critical fortune.

A dissertation is an extended essay written on a topic of your choice, made in consultation with your tutor. Importantly, a dissertation should try to provide answers to a set of questions. You will work closely with a supervisor as you research and write the dissertation.

It is written according to formal academic conventions. It should demonstrate your research skills, and your ability to formulate an independent perspective on a given subject. It should also be well written and grammatically correct, to demonstrate your literacy skills.

Special subjects

This module examines the production and development of the visual arts in India during its (British) colonial and postcolonial periods (c.1757 to the present day). We look at the ways in which colonial encounter, conquest and knowledge were experienced and articulated through architecture, painting, sculpture and photography, as well as through spectacles such as the Delhi Durbars and Great Exhibition of 1851.

The module examines the works of British and Indian artists, considering how issues of colonialism and nationalism impacted upon artistic genres and media, as well as the patronage and training of artists. We then consider recent works by Indian artists in relation to issues of local/global politics, diaspora and migration, and to broader structures of the contemporary, global art market. Topics may include: colonial and courtly cities; landscape, power and exploration; native and colonial photography; Indian nationalism and the visual arts; training artists in colonial India; gender and identity in Indian art; artists of the Indian diaspora; the Kochi-Muziris biennale and the globalisation of Indian art.

Watch: Dr Rosie Dias shares more about the module

Very few historic buildings have escaped alteration over the period in which they have been in use. Changes to liturgy and to society, have required that the buildings are adapted to accommodate these changes. By studying the fabric of the buildings, reading the evidence in the structure and combining this with documentary research it is possible to build up a picture of the whole history of individual monuments.

This research-based module introduces you to the subject of buildings archaeology and gives you the chance to get involved in a current research project on a local building, so that you also gain practical experience. Aspects such as building materials, documentary research, antiquarian and topographical studies, stylistic analysis and comparative studies will be evaluated as sources of information and scientific methods of analysis such as dendrochronology examined.

At the heart of this module is the debate over the role of art and the artist in modern society that occurred in inter-war Britain. Rather than considering artistic developments during the period in terms of conservative artistic ideas confronted by an imported model of avant-garde practice, the module tests alternative interpretations.

The Victorian tradition that linked art with civic responsibility will be connected with the modern artist’s social engagement, and is contrasted with the aestheticism of critics like Roger Fry. The growing involvement of artists and designers not just in the area of fine arts and architecture but also in advertising, industrial design and film-making will be examined in the context of the precarious economic and political conditions of the period.

Watch: Dr Otto Saumarez Smith explains more about the module

The module aims to investigate the relationship between art and science in the early modern period. Using Leonardo’s exemplary activity and output both as an artist and as a natural philosopher, the module will explain in which ways practical aspects of art making (for instance lighting, chiaroscuro, and perspective) are strictly interlinked with aesthetic notions (in particular beauty) and the investigation of nature in its multiple phenomena as carried out by Leonardo on empirical grounds.

A thorough examination of Leonardo’s artistic production (paintings, drawings, sculptural and architectural designs) and of Leonardo’s observations on and description of nature (articulated in the fields of optics, anatomy, and engineering) will underpin the structure of the seminars.

This module will explore the meanings and effects produced by colour in art. It will examine the claims made, and influence exerted, by scientific, philosophical, psychological, and psychoanalytical theories of colour from Aristotle to Wittgenstein, Merleau-Ponty and neuroscience.

It will investigate how language affects the perception and use of colour. And it will address the question of what makes colours harmonious or expressive.

It will consider works of art from a wide range of cultures and periods, which could include Mexican art, C16th Venetian painting, Impressionism, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Kandinsky, Matisse, and paintings produced in the last few years by Gerhard Richter.

This module focuses on the place of moving images in both art and daily life. The theme of reality, explored through different artistic and social approaches to realism, will be at the heart of the works, literature, and phenomena studied in class.

While the module focuses on contemporary culture, we will also look at the early years of the cinema and its hopes for films' future role in writing history. The other turning points we will examine led to the ubiquity of moving images in our lives. In the 1960s, televisions entered people's homes and video permanently entered the art word, transforming art’s vocation to mediate reality.

More recently, the digital turn and the arrival of Web 2.0 have made everyone into a potential video-maker and every event into a potential film. Through close formal analysis and a historical approach, students will develop a nuanced understanding of the roles played by sound, narrative, movement and editing when it comes to both capturing and constructing reality.

This module will explore the relationship between art and poetry from the early-twentieth century to the present, examining collaborations between artists and poets, the work of artist-poets, and poets’ responses to the visual arts.

In particular, the module will attend to visual and concrete poetry, work that attempts to break down the boundary between the two kinds of art. Possible topics include: early modernism (e.g. Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams); Frank O’Hara and the New York School; concrete poetry; the significance of technologies such as typewriters, mimeographs, and xerox; performance art and performance poetry; conceptual art and conceptual poetry.

Each seminar will require students to read selected poems, to examine related works of art, and to read critical or theoretical material on both. The module will also include a performance workshop, in which all students will be required both to discuss and participate in performance poetry.

On this module you will investigate how artists and thinkers have approached the idea of race, and individual racial categories, in their attempts to uphold or subvert dominant political and cultural ideologies. Racial categories and ideas of racial mixing (or mestizaje) have taken various forms across the historical epochs and vast geographical spread of Latin America.

Artistic production in Latin American nations has at times highlighted, buried, and/or obfuscated racial narratives in the service of political platforms. The module will cover artists and movements from the late colonial to the contemporary period.

Over the course of the term, we will look at early representations of indigenous peoples, casta paintings that codified racial hierarchies after the Spanish conquest, nineteenth-century depictions of slave labor in Brazil and the Caribbean, Modern art by Latin Americans suffering racial stigmatization in Europe, visualizations of La raza cosmica and broader indigenismo movements, and contemporary Latinx art that deals with the neglect and erasure of Latinx culture.

Watch: Dr Danielle Stewart explains more about the module

Please note: We update our modules every year based on availability and demand, and we update our course content too. The content on this page gives you a really strong indication of what your course will offer, but given the interval between the publication of courses and enrolment, some of the information may change. Read our terms and conditions to find out more.