Undergraduate study

Why study Art History and Visual Culture at the University of Exeter?

  • Wide variety of techniques and approaches to learning, including opportunities for study ‘in the field’ at galleries and museums
  • Varied programme allowing the study of a range of fine arts and contemporary visual forms
  • Internationally-recognised fine art, heritage and film collections on site
  • Opportunity to study abroad
  • Flexibility to customise your degree around your own interests
  • Designed to develop a broad range of highly desirable transferable skills, but with specialist knowledge and professional experience

Art History and Visual Culture at the University of Exeter is an exciting area of study which explores both the history of art as well as more recent visual practices – extending the analysis of visual forms from the traditional right through to areas of modern cultural activity.

The degree offers a thorough grounding in art history and its related disciplines. It develops expertise in the description and analysis of painting, sculpture and other visual media and provides the basis to recognize the processes, institutions and technologies associated with art and visual culture. It enhances the historical and critical skills necessary to place visual artefacts in appropriate cultural contexts and to comprehend their connection to wider systems of thought and belief.

Our Art History and Visual Culture programme builds on the University of Exeter’s strong research expertise in these areas and makes good use of our internationally-recognised buildings, artworks and collections. These include fine art and heritage collections, a sculpture walk and one of Britain’s largest public collections of books, prints, artefacts and ephemera relating to the history and prehistory of cinema. Students will also have access to important public collections and art spaces in Exeter, especially the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Spacex gallery. The degree will be of particular interest if you have a background or interest in the history of art, creative practice, cinema or cultural history.

As an Art History and Visual Culture student, you will learn how to use the technical, historical and theoretical approaches necessary to study visual artefacts and to assess their significance in societies past and present. You will also understand the debates surrounding the interpretation of works of art and how museums and galleries participate in those debates. For example, you might explore the painting of modern life in Impressionist Paris, the influence of so-called ‘primitive art’ on 20th-century painting and sculpture, the use of mass-media techniques in post-war art, the rise of the ‘block-buster’ exhibition or the role of visuality in digital platforms today.

First year modules provide a thorough grounding in the methods and approaches used to study art and visual culture, as well as introducing some of the most important themes that characterise these disciplines. You will learn how to ‘read’ images and how to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of what has been said about them.

During your second and third years you will be able to follow your interests through a wide range of optional modules, allowing you to study in depth particular themes (for example, the representation of the body, artists’ use of text, the visualisation of the self), periods or episodes (for example, French art of the 18th century, Surrealism between the wars, the Armory show) in the history of art and visual culture.

Our lecturers are at the cutting edge of art historical and visual culture research. Key staff specialise in the analysis of historic and contemporary arts practices, art and technology, photography, performance, popular culture, museology and curatorship, visual representations of ethnicity, gender and sexuality, and visual cultures from the classical era to the present.

View Art History and Visual Culture degree programmes

Art History and Visual Culture brochure

Download the Art History and Visual Culture brochure (pdf) for Undergraduate study.