First Year Core Modules
HA1A2: Introduction to Art History: Classicism and the Arts of Christianity - taught in the Autumn term
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.
HA1A1: Introduction to Art History: The Natural World and the Arts of Modernity - taught in the Spring term
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.
Second Year Long View Modules
HA2F1: The Renaissance: North and South - taught in the Autumn Term
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.
HA2D8: The Art of the Baroque - taught in Autumn Term
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. Looking at artists such as Caravaggio, Bernini, Rembrandt and Rubens, students will be introduced to the main currents in baroque art contrasted with what happens in this period in lesser studied areas thus allowing for a critical evaluation of recent debates about the Baroque as a global phenomenon.
Second Year Short Modules
HA2A5: Art and Culture since the 1960's - taught in the Autumn Term
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.
HA2A9: The Italian City States in the age of Dante and Petrarch - taught in the Autumn Term
There was a rich visual culture in Italian towns during their most successful period of economic growth and social change, c.1215-c.1400. This module analyses and compares the sophisticated civic identities that were crafted by four Italian communes: Siena, Florence, Padua and Venice. It 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. Students will be encouraged to place the visual arts of this period in relation to contemporary literature (above all Dante’s Divine Commedy), political thought, and social history.
HA2B1: The Spaces of Seventeenth Century Dutch Painting - taught in the Autumn Term
New subjects, styles and genres of painting 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 – this 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. Students will study 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.
HA2B9: The Aesthetic Movement - taught in the Autumn Term
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.
HA2C5: A Fine Tomorrow: British and and Culture in the 1950's - taught in the Autumn Term
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.
Third Year Core Module and Special Subjects - subject to experience
HA3A8: The Thirties: Art and Society in inter-war Britain - taught in the Autumn Term
At the heart of this module is the debate over the role of art and the artist in modern society which occurred in inter-war Britain. Rather than considering artistic developments during that period in terms of conservative artistic ideas confronted by an imported model of avant-garde practice, the module tests alternative interpretations. The Victorian tradition which 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.
HA3B2: Deconstructing Medieval and Early Modern Buildings - taught in the Autumn Term
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 students to the subject of buildings archaeology and gives them the chance to get involved in a current research project on a local building, so that they 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.
HA3C9: Visual Art and Poetry - taught in the Autumn Term
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. Students will also attend to work that attempts to break down the boundary between the two kinds of art. Each seminar will require students to read a number of selected poems, to examine related works of art, and to read critical or theoretical material about both.
HA3XX: Latin American Modernism: 20th Century Objects, 21st Century Exhibitions - taught in the Autumn Term
Brazilian art critic Mario Pedrosa famously remarked that his country was "condemned to be Modern." This module will attempt to discover what Pedrosa meant by his statement via an exploration of Modern art across Latin America, its critical reception, and international display. The module is thus both a history and a historiography of Latin American Modernism. Beginning with the establishment of European-style academies across Latin America in the early nineteenth century and progress through the founding of Modern art museums, institutes, and biennials in the 1950s students will consider how Latin American Modern art developed in dialogue with European styles as well as local and indigenous influences and decolonial impulses. Readings will cover the complementary practices of theoretical writing, art production, and exhibition curation that have shaped the discourse surrounding the Modernist period. While students are welcome to conduct research on any Portuguese, French, or Spanish-speaking country for their independent research project, the module will focus primarily on the production of artists from Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Peru, Cuba, and Brazil
HA3C2: Colour and its Meaning - taught in the Spring Term
This module will explore the meanings and effects produced by colour in art. Students 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. There is a focus on investigating how language affects the perception and use of colour and it also addresses the question of what makes colours harmonious or expressive. Students 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.
HA2C4: East meets West: The Visual Arts in Colonial and Postcolonial India - taught in the Spring Term
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 and contrasts the works of British and Indian artists, considering how issues of colonialism and nationalism impacted upon various artistic genres and media, as well as upon the patronage and training of artists. Finally, we 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.
HA3D5: Leonardo: Art and Science - taught in the Spring Term
Students will 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 underground the structure of the seminars.
HA3XX: Reality after Film - taught in the Spring Term
This module will focus on the place of moving image in contemporary art. The theme of reality, explored through different artistic and social approaches to realism, will be at the heart of the works and literature studied in class. The topic will be introduced to students with the early years of the cinema and its theories concerning film’s future role for writing history. The module will then be dedicated to practices since the 1960s, when video permanently entered the art word and transformed art’s vocation to mediate reality. Through close formal analysis and a historical approach, students will develop a nuanced understanding of the role of sound, movement and editing in relation to contemporary ways of both capturing and constructing reality.