Introduction to the History of Art (AHV1002)

StaffProfessor Fabrizio Nevola - 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)
  • Artists (their status, their ‘inscription’ in the work, their gender)
  • Art writing (its intentions, its methods, its audience)
  • How the position of all three has changed over time, conditioned by wider social and intellectual considerations

The module 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 physical 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, organiation, and expression of ideas under pressure of time

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • art and artists in western culture
  • the arts in social context
  • problems of interpretation
  • 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 words1-8Oral feedback
Oral presentation5-10 minutes1-9Oral feedback

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 portfolio35750 word analysis of visual object, 750 word reflective learning journal 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
EssayEssay1-8Referral/Deferral period
Individual portfolioIndividual portfolio1-9Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

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?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Available as distance learning?


Origin date

January 2013

Last revision date

January 2013

Key words search

Visual Culture; Media; Art History