Introduction to the History of Art (AHV1002)

StaffProfessor Fabrizio Nevola - Lecturer
Dr Camille Mathieu - Lecturer
Dr Camille Mathieu - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module aims to assist thinking about works of visual art (their identity, their production, their significance), about artists (their status, their ‘inscription’ in the work, their gender) and about art writing (its intentions, its methods, its audience) and how the position of all three has changed over time, conditioned by wider social and intellectual considerations. It makes reference to philosophical commentary on the nature of the art work - what it is and whether by its very nature it resists verbal description - and what we may legitimately say about it. Through project work, centred on the University Library and its resources, the module also acquaints you with the varied visual, archival and literary resources used in the study of art and provides practical instruction in their use. As many students studying Art History at University level will be tackling the subject in depth for the first time, the module aims to provide a basis for successful progress, a good understanding of methods and principles and an awareness of the interplay between the art historian’s motivation and the kind of art history that is pursued.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Correctly employ the specialist terms used to describe the physcial properties and techniques of a variety of works of art
  • 2. Apply a variety of methodologies and theoretical approaches to the interpretation of works of art in an informed way
  • 3. Describe and evaluate some of the dominant concepts, methods and debates informing the study of art, both historically and in the present
  • 4. Undertake independent research on an artist or work of art, using appropriate sources and methods

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Research, present and evaluate relevant descriptive and analytic material with increased independence?
  • 6. Use specialist art historical terminology effectively and make proficient use of the technical literature

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Through writing and project assessments, demonstrate good research and bibliographic skills, an informed capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose.
  • 8. Through research for projects and essays, demonstrate good proficiency in information retrieval and analysis.
  • 9. Through project work, demonstrate the ability to work collaboratively orally and/or in written form, and in teams towards the development, research, organization, and expression of ideas under pressure of time.

Syllabus plan

An indicative week by week syllabus may be as follows:


WEEKS 1-3: Art and artists in western culture

WEEKS 4-6: The arts in social context

WEEKS 7-9: Problems of interpretation

WEEKS 10 & 11: Assessed project presentations

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching11Weekly Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching22Weekly Seminars - these will be led by the tutor. You will need to prepare for each seminar and to present on a given topic on at least one occasion
Scheduled learning and teaching10Workshops - 2 hours every other week
Scheduled learning and teaching12Tutorial guidance for reading, research and essay preparation
Guided independent study245Independent study including reading, research, preparation for seminars and assessments.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Critical Analysis500 words1-8Verbal
Oral presentation5-10 minutes1-9Verbal

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay652000 words1-8Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Individual portfolio- a) 750-word analysis of visual object; b) 750-word reflective learning journal351500 words 1-9Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-8Refer/Defer period
Individual portfolioIndividual portfolio1-9Refer/Defer period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  Laurie Schneider Adams The Methodologies of Art – An Introduction, 1996

Anne d’Alleva Methods and Theories of Art History, 2005

Moshe Barasch Theories of Art from Plato to Winckelmann, 1985

Moshe Barasch Theories of Art from Winckelmann to Baudelaire, 2000

David Carrier Principles of Art History Writing, 1993

T J Clark Image of the People, 1973 – (Chapter 1)

Steve Edwards (ed.) Art and its Histories – a reader, 1999

Eric Fernie Art History and its methods, 1995

Jonathan Harris The New Art History: A Critical Introduction, 2001

Charles Harrison An Introduction to Art, 2010

Salim Kernal & Ivan Gaskell (eds) The Language of Art History, 1991

Catherine King (ed.) Views of Difference: Different Views of Art, 1999

   Udo Kultermann The History of Art History, 1993

   Elizabeth Mansfield (ed.) Art History and its Institutions. Foundations of a  discipline, 2002

Robert Nelson & Richard Shiff (eds.) Critical Terms for Art History, 1996

Michal Podro The Critical Historians of Art, 1982

Donald Preziosi (ed) The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology, 1999

AL Rees and Frances Borzello The New Art History, 1986

Susan Woodford Looking at Pictures, 1983

Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?


Origin date

January 2013

Last revision date

January 2013

Key words search

Visual Culture; Media; Art History