Module descriptions for History of Art

  • As courses are reviewed regularly the module list you choose from may vary from that shown here.

  • Museums and Society (compulsory)
    This module will introduce you to one of the central preoccupations of contemporary art historical studies: how, and why, works of art are presented to the public. It considers the role that museums, art galleries and exhibitions play, and have played, in shaping the production, dissemination and reception of the arts throughout the modern period (mid-eighteenth century to the present day). Such institutions are key points of contact between the work of art and its public. Hence, through lectures, discussion and visits, you will develop an awareness of them as historically-constructed as opposed to neutral spaces.

    Making and Meaning in Western Art (compulsory)
    This module offers an introduction to art history through a contextual and stylistic examination of selected paintings and sculptures dating from the Renaissance to the present. These artworks will be used as the foci for considerations of specific themes and issues which are of general importance in art history. The module will, in consequence, furnish you with the basic tools and terms needed for the historical analysis of art.

    Reading Art History (compulsory for single honours, recommended for combined honours)
    This module is designed to develop your ability to be a reflective and critical reader of the kinds of writing you will encounter in your art historical studies. We will examine a range of concepts and approaches which have been employed in writing about art from the sixteenth century to the present day so as to enhance your capacity to understand and evaluate texts which are shaped by these concepts and approaches and to recognise differences of method in art historical writing.

    Making and Meaning in Western Architecture (recommended)
    This module offers an introduction to architectural history through a contextual and stylistic examination of selected buildings and groups of buildings dating from antiquity to the present. These buildings will be used as the foci for considerations of specific themes and issues which are of general importance in architectural history. The module will, in consequence, furnish you with the basic tools and terms needed for the historical analysis of buildings.

    Modern British Art: from Impressionism to Brit Art (recommended) 
    This module offers an introduction to a century of art practice in Britain from the work of the Camden Town Group through to exponents of Brit Art such as Damien Hirst and Rachel Whiteread. Exploring painting, sculpture and film, the concern is to explore through case studies the ways in which artists in Britain sought to create specifically modern forms of expression, as well as the media (exhibitions, manifestos, books, little magazines) through which they promote the resulting work. The course is taught through a mixture of lectures, seminars and on-site visits, and you will explore a range of contemporary and secondary literature and, wherever possible, works of art at first hand.

    Art in Oxford (compulsory for single honours, recommended for combined honours)
    This module uses selected collections in Oxford to introduce skills which are central to the practice of art history. Themes to be considered include the training and status of artists; the conditions under which they worked; the functions and uses of art; the market for art; the materials and techniques used; and the aesthetic theories affecting the reception of works of art in different periods and locations. The analysis of original art works will be emphasised, and basic training in research using information retrieval resources and in essay presentation will be given.

    Themes in European Art 1450-1700
    This module will focus on an aspect of European art from the period 1450-1700. Irrespective of the focus chosen (examples might be 'Italian art 1450-1550', 'Italy and Northern Europe in the Sixteenth Century' or 'Netherlandish art of the Seventeenth Century') you will gain an understanding of all or most of the following themes: the types of patronage prevalent in the period; the relationship between artists, patrons and centres; the range of subject-matter represented and the ways in which subjects were approached/developed; the organisation of workshop practice; prints and their role in disseminating artistic ideas; and the relationship between art and religion. 

    Themes in Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century European Art
    This module will focus on an aspect of European art from the period 1700-1900. Irrespective of the focus chosen (examples might be 'Art in Eighteenth-Century France', 'British Art from Hogarth to Turner', 'Nineteenth-Century European Art' or 'The Gothic Revival') particular reference will be made to the social, political and economic contexts of art, and you will gain an understanding of all or most of the following themes: questions of nationalism and internationalism; the importance of the art market and public exhibitions; the development of academies; relationships between different media; artistic revivals; and the rise of new audiences for art.

    Themes in Modern Art
    This module will focus on European and American art from c.1850 up to the present. The historical content to be studied may range from early modern architecture and design to realist and modernist artistic practices in central and western Europe and the United States, the areas of emphasis being determined by the module leader that year. You will gain an understanding of all or most of the following themes: the 'modernist paradigm' and its critique; the notion of the avant-garde; alternatives to main-stream modernism; art and everyday life, popular culture and technology; art and politics; issues of gender and cultural diversity; art markets and institutions; and new artistic media.

    Anthropology of Art
    A study of anthropological approaches to art, especially art produced by non-western, small-scale societies. This module also investigates the possibility of cross-cultural aesthetics, the anthropology of museums (especially the Pitt-Rivers Museum, Oxford), and anthropological dimensions of contemporary art worlds, globally.

    Field Work in Art History
    This module provides an introduction to advanced fieldwork in art history. Undertaken during the Easter break, it is an intensive one-week study visit to Paris. During the visit you will participate in a range of staff-guided and self-managed visit options, including architectural/urban studies, visits to permanent galleries/museums and temporary exhibitions.

    Oxford Buildings
    A study of buildings in their social, environmental and architectural context, selected from the wide possibilities available in Oxford. The module stresses the direct study of buildings and incorporates site visits as well as classroom sessions.

    Curatorial Practice
    This module aims to give students knowledge and direct experience of the theoretical and practical issues involved in curating displays and exhibitions of historic and contemporary art. Themes will typically include: theories of curating; curating contemporary art; curating historic exhibitions; practical issues such as proposals, loans, funding, displays, lighting, layout, catalogues, interpretation.

    Independent Study in History of Art
    A module involving study under the supervision of one or more members of the History of Art staff, but designed by an individual or small group of students. The subject might be in response to a current exhibition, or an issue in the field of art history or criticism, be related to staff research, or might involve vocational work. It might be a specialised topic arising out of an advanced module.

    Advanced Seminars in the History of Art, 1 and 2
    A concentrated study of a specialised topic which enables you to deepen your understanding of art-historical knowledge and methods. In each year there will be a choice of topics which, while building on capabilities acquired in the Themes modules, will not repeat material studied in those modules. The topics will be closely related to staff research interests, and will foster a familiarity with current research and a critical awareness of recent scholarship in the area under study. Research skills, including an evaluative appreciation of source materials and their uses, will be developed.

    History of Art Synoptic
    This module offers you the opportunity to look back upon your art historical studies at Brookes, encouraging you to make connections, observe parallels and notice contradictions between material and ideas encountered in different modules, and thus develop an informed and critical overview of the history of art. Some unfamiliar material will give you the chance to apply skills and knowledge acquired during the course. The module also requires you to reflect on your own progress during the course, with the aim of enabling you to identify the skills, knowledge and awareness that will be of use to you in the future.

    History of Art Interdisciplinary Dissertation
    The History of Art component of an interdisciplinary dissertation. A critical examination, through research and extended written work, of a topic which links your two fields, selected by you in consultation with staff teaching on both fields.

    History of Art Double Dissertation
    A critical examination, through research and extended written work, of an art-historical subject, theme or issue. The topic is selected by you in consultation with History of Art staff.