Third year - History of Art

Special subject: Michelangelo

The Michelangelo Special Subject module will deal with the wide-ranging works of this artist, examining his artistic outlook, his special achievements, his influence and his reputation. Particular emphasis will be placed on historical evidence and modern critical responses. 

In the first term we will focus principally on a chronological investigation of Michelangelo’s career and his main works of sculpture, painting and architecture. These works will be carefully chronicled and interpreted with the aid of drawings and early written sources, and will then be set into their broader historical, artistic and cultural contexts. 

The second term will look more closely at questions of theory and artistic procedure, and particularly at Michelangelo’s own aesthetic and philosophical views, as represented in his writings and in other texts of the period. It will also consider Michelangelo’s particular contribution to art in the wider sixteenth century, and it will investigate the various relationships between him and his contemporaries and followers, as a means of defining his artistic objectives more closely. 

Special Subject: Inside Out: Interior and Interiority

Inside Out: Interior and Interiority in French Art, Design and Visual Culture, 1840-1940

This module analyses the changing uses and meanings of the interior and notions of interiority in French art, design and visual culture. During the modern period the interior constituted more than a mere backdrop to visual representation. It was the active subject of artistic and other forms of visual culture and increasingly the object of design practice and its attendant representations. Moreover, the interior was considered a metaphor for self, so the issues of subjective and corporeal interiority will be considered at length, as will issues deriving from feminist methodologies. We will consider a range of media, including painting, photography, magazines and film, debate the practices of key figures including Degas, Cassatt, Vuillard, Matisse, Atget, Le Corbusier and Perriand and analyse the interiors produced by Impressionism, Art Nouveau, Cubism, Art Deco and Surrealism. The module considers visual forms in relation to artistic and architectural theory, popular psychology and literary fiction to show the range of interiors constructed by and for the modern imagination.

Special Subject: Contemporary Visual Art and Postcolonialism

The migration of Asians and Africans to Britain in the 1960s generated changes in society and culture and triggered discourses which fall under the general heading of Postcolonialism.  While Postcolonialism is widely studied both in terms of methodology and in relation to literary productions, the visual arts have received scant attention in this context. 

This module will explore the causes for this lack of attention and will examine a wide variety of media from the 1960s to the present day (eg works by Mona Hatoum, Chris Ofili, Anwar Shemza).  It will also consider various discourses in Postcolonialism (Homi K Bhabha, Edward Said and Gayatri Spivak) and explore its major themes (diaspora, race, nationhood and belonging, imperialism, hybridity) as well as examining canonical postcolonial literature (Salman Rushdie, V S Naipaul), in order to create a dialogue with the works of art in question.  The module will also examine the visual productions of both historical and present cultures of colonialism and neo-colonial conflicts such as Nazi Germany, Germany after reunification, and the Iraq war.  This module emphasises primary source materials, both textual and visual.

Special subject: After Modernism. Art and Culture since the 1970s 

In July 1972 the prize-winning Pruitt-Igoe housing estate in St. Louis was demolished. Commonly thought of as embodying the utopian social ideals of modern art and architecture, many observers regarded its destruction as marking a key turning point.

In place of the idealistic and progressive hopes for social and cultural rebirth associated with  modernism and the avant-garde, the demolition of Pruitt-Igoe seemed to inaugurate a period, a sceptical and fractured art world, in which art seemed to have lost its historical, political and cultural direction.

This course examines the development of art from this moment in the early 1970s to the present in light of the context of art after modernism. It examines art world development not only through time - the 40 or so years since 1972 - but also through space. In particular, beginning with a focus on practices in Britain, Europe and North America, the module will also consider the globalisation of contemporary art and the 'provincialising' of the Western art world. It examines a wide variety of themes including: feminist art; Neo-Expressionism and the figurative painting of the 1980s; conceptual art and the role of photography; installation and site-specific art; the globalised art world; finance, commerce and the contemporary art market; Prince Charles as an architectural critic; theories of post-modernism; art exhibitions in the age of the global biennale.

Special Subject: Women and Artistic Culture in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Period.

This module draws on the recent growth of scholarship on women as subjects, consumers and producers of art and visual cultures the late medieval and early modern period. It will first focus on the construction of the female sex in discourses of the time and explore modern methodologies for studying women and the production of art, and the possibilities for bringing them into the canon. It will then focus on the different social, political and religious roles played by women in this period, including motherhood, ruler, or confirmed religious, and how this shaped their patronage and artistic practice, or how these roles influenced the works they were offered by men. Secular as well as devotional works will be considered along with popular models for or representations of women. Media such as portraiture, illuminated manuscripts, frescos and tomb sculpture commissioned by noble women such as Margaret of Austria and Isabella d’Este, will be explored, as well as more ‘popular’ objects from material culture that were destined specifically for female audiences.

Special Subject: Fashioning Flesh and Technology: Modernism and the Body in Germany 1918-1933

This module considers the concept of German Modernism in relation to discourses on real and imagined bodies during the Weimar Republic.
Examining a range of works of art, design and film, as well as textual sources, it explores the ways in which some of the defining practices and theories of Modernism revolving around the metropolis, technology, mass culture, and sexuality can be used to understand attitudes towards the body. The module analyses several art-historical moments associated with German Modernism (including Neue Sachlichkeit, Bauhaus design and late German Expressionism). As well as developing an understanding of the body as a site of complex social and psychological negotiations, students will engage critically with both historical (Freud, Hirschfeld, Nordau, Schlemmer) and more contemporary theoretical considerations of the body (Foucault, Laqueur, Mosse, Cowan) in order to frame their interpretations. Through an emphasis on the body, this module questions the lasting myth of Weimar Germany as a period of ‘Golden Twenties’ (Gay, Laqueur, Willett) cut short by the National Socialists.

Special Subjects: Art and Revolution in France 1789-1848

The period covered by this course includes the revolutions of 1789, 1830 and 1848, as well as the rise and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy, and the reign of the Orléanist monarchy. We will examine the continuities and changes in the production, dissemination, display and reception of paintings, sculptures and prints during this time of conflict in France. The training of artists, the development of museums, and periods of iconoclasm will also be studied. Among the artists whose works we will consider will be: David, Boilly, Isobey, Gérard, Zoffany, Rowlandson, Gillray, Géricault, Delacroix, Ingres, David d'Angers, Daumier and Courbet. We will be engaging critically with the notion of 'revolution' and making regular reference to primary source material. This module emphasises primary source material, both textual and visual.

The Body and its Representation in Visual Culture

This module analyses the representation of the body in western art and visual culture from the Renaissance to the present day. Rather than attempting a survey of periods we will analyse the body in visual representation according to a set of thematic concepts relevant to current debates. These themes are: The Ideal Body, The Body Politic, The Body as Specimen, The Body and Obscenity, Body Matter, The Artist’s Body and Identity.

Visual Cultures of Revolution in France 1789-1848

The period covered by this module includes the revolutions of 1789, 1830 and 1848, as well as the rise and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy, and the reign of the Orléanist monarchy. The module will examine the continuities and changes in the production, dissemination, display and reception of paintings, sculptures and prints during this period of conflict in France. The training of artists, the development of museums, periods of iconoclasm, and British print-makers’ responses to events in France will also be studied. Among the artists whose works we will consider will be: David, Boilly, Isobey, Gérard, Zoffany, Rowlandson, Gillray, Géricault, Delacroix, Ingres, Daumier, and Courbet. The module will engage critically with the notion of ‘revolution’ and making regular reference to primary source material.

Architecture and Public Art in Sixteenth-Century Venice

The module will examine the architecture and the decoration of public buildings (e.g. the Doge’s Palace; churches and scuole) in Venice and certain Venetian mainland territories during the course of the sixteenth century. It will examine, in particular, how the styles and subject matter changed during the period; chronicle the emergence of new kinds of building (e.g. the villa and new kinds of palace and church); and chart the effects of changing artistic practices. The architects covered will include Sanmicheli (in Verona) and Palladio (in Vicenza) as well as Sansovino (Venice’s official architect); among the artists studied will be Carpaccio, Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto. The module will place special emphasis on artistic traditions and themes that had a particular significance for Venice, and it will make regular reference to primary source material.

Modernism in Europe: Image, Text, Sound

The module will provide a deep understanding of Modernism as a European cultural movement and will cover aspects of theory, literature, art and music. It examines the nature and role of Modernism in early 20th C European Culture. Early sessions are devoted to theories of Modernism which will both place the movement in its historical and cultural context and lead to an understanding of the movement as part of a wider paradigm shift in Western science and culture at the beginning of the 20th C. During the rest of the module Modernism will be studied in relation to various areas of the arts (e.g. literature, theatre, music, art) and a range of themes (e.g gender, social class, geography, the avant-garde).

The Political Thriller on Film: Genre, Ideology, Emotion

Is it possible to articulate a political critique from within the mainstream film industry? Is genre film a suitable vehicle for progressive ideology? Can popular film be a means for political change? In this course such questions will form the basis of an analysis of the political thriller, a genre that emerged in Europe in the 1960s before expanding to become a global genre in the decades that followed. With its focus on conspiracies and imperilled investigators, the political thriller used specific generic and narrative tropes to explore the political challenges of the modern world. The course will explore the evolution of the political thriller in a range of national and political contexts and apply three key theoretical concepts (genre, ideology, emotion) to explore how the political thriller simultaneously engages audience on both a political and visceral level.

Artists’ Film and Video from the 1920s to the Present

This module will offer an in-depth introduction of the field of twentieth century artists’ film. Starting with films by exponents of Dada and Surrealism such as Fernand Léger, Man Ray and Germaine Dulac, it will take in work by American avant-garde artists such as Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, and Jonas Mekas, and more contemporary artist filmmakers such as Peter Greenaway, Valie Export, David Lynch, Derek Jarman, and Steve McQueen. Appropriate theoretical material on the artistic movements represented and on the field of artists’ film and video will be supplied alongside the films themselves throughout the module.

Contemporary American and European Cinema: Dialogues and Discourses

Twenty-first century cinema is as subject to global transformations as it is to regional tensions and is characterised by the relationship between the two. Few films, if any, are made in isolation for specific and exclusive audiences, but enter into discourses and dialogues with films and audiences from a great many elsewhere thanks to global distribution strategies, the Internet, and a voracious exchange of influences and legacies at many levels of production, distribution and reception. Beginning with Dogme ’95, the last great film movement of the twentieth century, which also marked the 100th birthday of cinema, this module explores the range and impact of filmmaking in America and Europe in the last twenty years. Ranging from mainstream movies (e.g. the original Bourne trilogy, Inception, The Lives of Others, The Red Squirrel, Gravity) to art-house cinema (e.g. 4 Months 3 years 2 days, Hidden, Before Sunset, Frances Ha), from experimental films (e.g. The Idiots, En la ciudad de Sylvia, Quiet City, 5x2, Waking Life) to the white noise of the Internet (Lonely Girl, Manic Pixie Dream Girl and many short films and ‘anonymous’ examples), while erasing the boundaries between each, this module seeks to contextualise, structure and examine the dialogues and discourses that make up contemporary cinema. It concludes with an appraisal of contemporary American and European cinema from many angles and incorporates investigation into numerous new ways of understanding, producing and watching films.

Art and Society in the Medieval Mediterranean 324-1204

This module examines the role of visual imagery and public building in the formation of medieval Mediterranean culture from the foundation of Constantinople as a new ‘Christian’ capital of the Roman Empire in 324, through the shifting fortunes and allegiances of the great cities of the Mediterranean world (among them Rome, Jerusalem, Constantinople and Venice), to the fall of Constantinople to Venetian soldiers of the Fourth Crusade in 1204. As in many pre-industrial societies where access to the written word was restricted and often tightly controlled, images and the arrangements of public space affected individuals’ lives in ways more profound than ‘art’ does now, and in ways the written word could not. The course will enable you to compare the use of public space and imagery by the three major cultural forces of the medieval Mediterranean – the Arabs, the Byzantines, and the various components of the Latin West – and to examine how buildings and images were used to shape the dialogue between them. We will also examine objects of daily life, used by ‘ordinary’ people, to evaluate the role of the visual in the day-to-day life of the Late Antique and medieval Mediterranean world.