Second Year Modules

Compulsory 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: European Study Trip

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.

The university pays for travel to and from the destination city, and bed and breakfast accommodation, and some pre-booked group entries. Students will be expected to cover the cost of their lunch, dinner, travelling around the city, and individual entry to museums/galleries where we have not been able to pay in advance as a group.

Optional modules

Power, Society, Politics: Religious Art in Northern Europe, c.1400-1600

This module explores the different social and political functions of religious art produced in Northern Europe (France, Germany, Low Countries) from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It will focus 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 constructing of power, politics and 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. 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’.

Victorian Art and the British Empire

Over the past 10 years, art historians have increasingly emphasised the centrality of the concept of empire in the production and reception of British art, challenging and expanding the notion of ‘British’ art. This module explores the relationship between imperialism and art made in Britain and its empire c.1837-1901, examining media such as painting, sculpture, photography, and stained glass, and their new colonial contexts of display; art museums, international exhibitions, and newly built colonial churches. We’ll draw on a wide range of primary source material in tandem with approaches from history, post-colonial studies, cultural studies, museology and gender studies to explore how the imperial contexts of art production contribute towards racial and national identities, gender norms, understandings of nature, and religious beliefs. Topics will include art and war, colonial museums, monuments, the depiction of colonised peoples, and travel painting.

Art, Architecture and Design in fin-de-Siécle 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.

Inside the Gallery

This module focuses on art museums and galleries in Europe and North America. The first part takes a historical and theoretical view of galleries and museums, introducing students to a variety of permanent collections, exhibition spaces and concepts of display. Local collections as well as those associated with the canon of Art History will take prominence, providing not only a contextualisation of the specific collection on which the students concentrate in their assignment, but also introducing an approach to the art work as a displayed object. 

The second part provides an insight into museum departments; those of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts will be taken as an example to explore curating, publicity and marketing, interpretation/education and finance. Workshops will help students 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 module.

Renaissance Art in Italy and the Netherlands c.1400-60

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 consider too 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.

Images of History: Representing the Past in Nineteenth-Century Europe

This module will look at the different approaches taken by nineteenth-century painters when representing one of the century’s crucial themes: the historical past. Besides the most obvious example – narrative history painting – it will also discuss topics such as historical landscapes or the revival of historical styles in nineteenth-century visual culture. Instead of concentrating on the usual centres (France and Germany) it will take many of its examples from regions peripheral to the traditional narratives of art history (e. g. Central Europe or the Iberian Peninsula) in order to offer a transnational perspective. At the same time, it will place a particular emphasis on the role of these artworks in the construction of modern national identities.

Under the Red Star: Art and Society in the Soviet Union, 1917 - 1991

The aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union is still acutely felt in Eastern and Central Europe due to the profound symbolic importance its history and its art yields for many inhabitants of the post-soviet space. This module will offer an overview of Soviet art in its greater social and political context, starting from the October Revolution of 1917 and finishing with Gorbachev's reforms and the eventual dissolution of the USSR in 1991. Of particular importance are the periods of the early Soviet avant-garde movement, the industrialisation campaign and its art propaganda, Stalinist and war-time art, post-war reconstruction and the Thaw under Khrushchev in 1950s, the cult of personality and the dissident art and movement. In each case parallels will be drawn between art and the historical events in the Soviet Union and those in the countries of the Eastern Bloc.

American Art in the 1960s 

This module consists of an analysis of art practices in America in the 1960s. It examines a range of practices, ranging from the post-painterly abstraction to pop art, minimalism and post-minimalism, conceptual art, performance art and land art. Covering a crucial decade in art, where traditional modernist definitions of art were overturned, the module considers not only art practices and their socio-political contexts, but also the critical aesthetic and philosophical debates that accompanied them.