Second Year Modules

Research Techniques in History of Art

The aim of this module is to enable students to define and pursue the sustained programmes of research required for Level 2 essays, presentations and undergraduate dissertations.

Continuing the study skills introduced in classes in the first year, this module puts particular emphasis on critical thinking and evaluation, and will examine topics such as: defining and crafting a research topic; writing a literature review; identifying, analysing and evaluating relevant textual and visual source materials; use of the internet as a research source. The module will also examine how to cite written and visual material accurately, as well as crafting an argument.

Art History in the Field: Study Trip Abroad

An essential component of art historical enquiry is the study of works of art and architecture in situ. This provides experience of images, artefacts and buildings that reproductions cannot convey, such as scale, size, texture, context, interrelationship of parts, lighting and environment. Accordingly, this module consists of a study trip to a designated location of major art historical importance. Destinations are usually in mainland Europe, and have in recent years included: Rome, Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Bruges, and Vienna.

Prior to the trip, students identify a work of art or architecture in the chosen city that will be their focus of study. Whilst there, they have the opportunity to examine the object in situ and to visit comparable works of art and relevant collections. Students are then assessed by a 20-minute presentation on their chosen object during the exam period. The module also includes visits to major architectural projects art collections in the specified location. These will be viewed according to a programme devised and organised by staff. Works of art and architecture are studied at first-hand in staff-led tours as well as prescribed independent visits.

Renaissance Art in Italy and the Netherlands 1400-1460

This module examines Renaissance art in Italy and the Netherlands over the period c. 1400-60. It will look at developments especially in Florence by Italian ‘founders’ of the Renaissance, Donatello, Ghiberti and Masaccio, as well as considering comparable innovations that occurred at the same time in the Netherlands in the works of their Northern contemporaries Van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden, and it will compare their achievements.

In addition to analysing many individual works in detail, the module will also be exploring the specific connections between Northern and Italian art, as well as the varying conceptions of nature and realism, and of Renaissance and revival; it will also consider the ranges of styles on offer and the most characteristic forms of art works, such as altarpieces and portraits, as well as their differing religious and secular functions and the differing systems of patronage which led to their creation.

Art, Architecture and Design in Fin de Siècle Vienna

This module will examine art, architecture and design produced in fin-de-Siècle Vienna. It will focus on Secessionist artists such as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Koloman Moser, and will explore their work in relation to a series of social, cultural, psychological and literary issues using the work of writers such as Arthur Schnitzler and Stefan Zweig, and the sexologists Richard Krafft-Ebing and Otto Weininger. It will provide a deeper understanding of ‘modern’ Vienna with regards to the changing conditions of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at beginning of the twentieth century.

The impact of design projects by Adolf Loos, Otto Wagner and the Wiener Werkstätte will also be investigated in the context of modernist architecture and design, and with particular reference to the notion of Gesamtkunstwerk. It will critically engage with the concept of ‘fin-de-siècle’ and ask how this ‘phenomenon’ may, or may not have, influenced an intense period of artistic production in Vienna and the rest of Europe. Although the course will primarily focus on art, architecture and design, it will also incorporate extracts and discussions on film, music and theatre where relevant.

Power, Society, Politics: Religious art in Northern Europe

This module explores the different social and political functions of religious art produced in Northern Europe (France, Germany, England, Low Countries) from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It focuses in particular on how artists and patrons responded to the changing religious climate at this time, and how religious works of art like altarpieces, reliquaries, and manuscripts were used as means of enforcing of power, promoting politics and creating social identity in times of instability.

Case studies will analyse themes such as: the power and performative nature of images; religious allegory and secular rulers; religion and social identity; and Northern responses to the Council of Trent and the Counter Reformation. Students will be encouraged to draw on the University’s collections through seminars that look at paintings and manuscripts in the Barber Institute and Research and Cultural Collections. By spanning the shift between the late medieval and early modern periods, students will also be encouraged to examine and problematise broader questions pertaining to the study of periods and categories such as ‘medieval’ and ‘Renaissance’, ‘North’ and ‘South’, and ‘public’ and ‘private’.

Inside the Gallery: Histories, Theories and Practices of Museums and Galleries

This module is designed to introduce you to art galleries in the West in a historical, conceptual and practical sense. The first part concentrates on museums’ history; you will be introduced to stories and places of exhibiting art works historically from the foundation of museums up to the present day. It will also discuss conceptual issues and explore the limits of this module, i.e. exhibiting Western art in the West. A second part provides an insight into museum departments and their work other than curatorial; those of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts will be taken as an example to explore display, publicity, marketing and education. Workshops in between the latter sessions will help you to apply gained knowledge to the various aspects involved in organising an exhibition.

The module is largely based on group work, which is also dealt with as a topic in the course itself.

Impressionism and after: Art and society in late Nineteenth-Century France

This module will consider images, techniques and practices by leading innovative artists of the period such as Cassatt, Morisot, Manet, Degas, Seurat, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Cézanne. It will analyse key critical categories (including Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism and Symbolism) and key genres (including landscape painting, the painting of modern life, the nude) whilst linking art and the making of art to a broader visual and institutional culture. Finally, by analysing representation in relation to the key themes of gender, class and ethnicity the module will locate artistic practice within the socio-political terrain of the period.

Art and the Industrial Revolution

This module provides students with a general introduction to the production and reception of images (prints, paintings, ceramics, coins, medals and tokens) in Britain during the period of the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century that became known as the Industrial Revolution. It explores how artists represented, or chose to avoid representing, industrialisation, and how patronage, artistic institutions, and reception were affected by widespread social and economic change. The relationships between science, industry and art will also be explored.

Module outside the main discipline (MOMD)

An MOMD is a module in a subject which is not normally a part of the student's main degree programme but which may be taken for additional credit to enhance their study. Schools and Departments across the University open up modules to students from other areas in a wide range of subjects and disciplines.


Modules and courses are constantly updated and under review. As with most academic programmes, please remember that it is possible that a module may not be offered in any particular year, for instance because a member of staff is on study leave or too few students opt for it. The University of Birmingham reserves the right to vary or withdraw any course or module.