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History of Art (3 Years) [BA]

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Course description

BA (Hons) History of Art is a wide-ranging and in-depth degree which explores Art History and Visual Culture from Antiquity to the present. While the main emphasis is on western art and architecture, there are plenty of opportunities to study the art of other regions, including the Middle East and South Asia.

As you progress to Years 2 and 3, you select pathways of study that suit your individual interests. There is emphasis on flexibility and choice within the degree

For further information about the subject area, teaching staff and research projects, please see the subject website .


The aims of the course are:

  • to provide a broad-based knowledge and understanding of art and its histories;
  • to develop the student's understanding of the production, circulation, and interpretation of visual culture in specific historical contexts;
  • to promote awareness of the role of the visual arts within different cultures and societies, both Western and non-Western;
  • to foster awareness of the role of museums and galleries in the production and reproduction of cultural values;
  • to enable students to choose pathways of learning that reflect their own interests;
  • to develop specific expertise in analysing, interpreting and writing about visual images, together with more general intellectual and academic skills;
  • to produce graduates who are ready to embark on a range of career paths in the art world or beyond, or continue on to postgraduate study.

Special features

This degree offers an unusually broad choice of subject areas, paired with in-depth study and research. We have particular strengths in Classical, Early Christian, Medieval, Renaissance, Post-Renaissance, Modern and Contemporary Art; also certain areas of non-western art, including Islamic and Asian.

We pride ourselves on the quality of the student experience. You will have close contact with staff at all stages of study and be taught where possible in small groups, via a variety of methods. The University has its own gallery, museum and special library collections, all part of the rich cultural heritage of Manchester and the North-West.

  • We are partnering with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, to send two Level 2 students to spend the summer as interns at this world-famous collection of modern art located on the Grand Canal.
  • Students may apply to study abroad for a semester during second year.
  • The University's own Manchester Museum and Whitworth Art Gallery offer unique access to the environment of a working museum and art gallery as well as to important artworks.
  • The University has one of the largest academic libraries in Britain; with a Special Collections Department on Deansgate, it contains a superb and diverse collection of manuscripts, illustrated books and other material relevant to Art History and Visual Studies.
  • Art History shares our own library with Archaeology, providing a valuable service and convenient, well-ordered work environment. It houses a very large video/computer-based image collection - an essential learning and teaching resource.
  • Our student societies (Manchester Art Group and Manchester and Liverpool Art Group) enrich the learning process through regular social/academic events designed to encourage knowledge and understanding of the creative communities in the region.

Teaching and learning

A variety of teaching methods are used, including teaching by lectures, seminars, individual supervision of dissertations and fieldwork. The precise methods depend on the programme you are taking; fieldwork for art history students means regular classes in Manchester (at places like the Cornerhouse, the City Art Gallery and the University's own Whitworth Art Gallery). Allied to the Level One courses 'Introduction to Art History' and 'Cities' are field trips run to places such as Oxford, Liverpool and London. Most courses at Level Two and Three include a fieldwork element, with the opportunity of travel abroad to places such as Berlin, Paris and Rome.

Coursework and assessment

You will have close contact with staff at all stages of your university career and will be taught wherever possible in small groups and through a variety of methods. Assessment is broadly divided equally between coursework and examinations.

Coursework can take a variety of forms including traditional essay writing, oral presentations, group projects and the final year dissertation.

Course content for year 1

This is a foundation year that introduces key art historical concepts and methods of analysis and interpretation as well as skills in academic writing. It includes a substantial amount of gallery-based teaching. In your first year you will follow five main course units.

The lecture/seminar courses 'Art Works in History' (1 and 2) and 'Art Spaces' are designed to familiarise you with a range of materials from the ancient world to the present; they will also introduce you to the institutional and other spaces that mediate the reception of art, from the Renaissance to the present, from art academies, to the rise of the museum, through to art fairs and biennials.

Lectures are complemented by weekly `Art History Tutorial' seminar courses, which run in both semesters. These courses offer interactive, personalised learning in small groups on a range of topics designed to refine critical and writing skills, and to introduce current issues in Art History and Visual Studies.

Finally, you must take one outside course unit from a wide-ranging selection of courses in other disciplines.

Course units for year 1

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
Artworks in History: From the Middle Ages to the Present DayAHVS1004120Mandatory
Art SpacesAHVS1005120Mandatory
Works in Focus I: DescriptionAHVS1033120Mandatory
Works in Focus II: InterpretationAHVS1035220Mandatory

Course content for year 2

In second year, you take a mix of core and optional course units. The objective is to provide you with a deeper understanding of theories and approaches in the study of art history, and a broad-based knowledge of both pre-modern and modern art, architecture and visual culture. different historical periods in the optional courses.

Course units for year 2

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
The Afterlife of ObjectsAHVS2011220Mandatory
Art in TheoryAHVS2043120Mandatory
European Art History FieldtripAHVS2070120Mandatory
Renaissance and Discovery: Florence, Rome, Venice and BeyondAHVS2020220Optional
Art in Britain from Turner to WhistlerAHVS2022120Optional
Greek Art and The City StateAHVS2025120Optional
Visual Culture of the Islamic WorldAHVS2069220Optional
Before the Black Death: The Golden Age of SienaAHVS2110120Optional
Art in the Time of ProustAHVS2241220Optional
The Roman Empire 31BC - AD235: Rome's Golden AgeCLAH2005120Optional
Greek HumourCLAH2007120Optional
Displaying 10 of 11 course units for year 2

Course content for year 3

In the third year you take two seminar courses each semester, allowing you in-depth contact with a wide range of subjects (many of which are the specialist areas of the members of teaching staff). These `Option' courses are focused on an area of study defined by genre, artistic identity, medium or approach. They are taught in small groups and encourage participation and active learning.

Finally you will also write a dissertation of 10,000-12,000 words on a topic of your own choosing. The dissertation, supervised by a member of staff, gives you the chance to research a subject in depth and helps you to refine your research and study skills. It also gives you the skills necessary to organise a coherent argument over a long piece of writing.

Your four option course units will be chosen from a wide array of choices.

Course units for year 3

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
History of Art DissertationAHVS3000040Mandatory
The Social Eye: Documentary and Anti-documentary in PhotographyAHVS3019220Optional
Broken Flesh: Pain, Wounds and Belief, 1300-1650AHVS3101220Optional
Contemporary Art and Theory since 1985AHVS3102120Optional
The Northern Renaissance: Methods, Critical Theory, and the Global PerspectiveAHVS3104120Optional
William Blake and Modern CultureAHVS3105220Optional
Encounters with the art and architecture of Islamic IberiaAHVS3106120Optional
Indian Visual Culture after IndependenceAHVS3111220Optional
Fairy Tales and Other Utopias in Modern ArtAHVS3240120Optional
Representing ChinaAHVS3310220Optional
Prometheus Unbound: Art, Science and Technology in the RenaissanceAHVS3312120Optional
The Animal in Contemporary ArtAHVS3314120Optional
Making ExhibitionsAHVS3317220Optional
Ruin Lust: Visual cultures of decay from the Baroque to the present dayAHVS3318120Optional
Industry Projects: Sustainability and Environmental ImpactUCOL1330110Optional
Leadership of LearningUCOL2000110Optional
Leadership in Action 20 Credit UnitUCOL2002020Optional
Leadership in Action UnitUCOL2002110Optional
Leadership in Action UnitUCOL2002210Optional
Leadership in Action Online UnitUCOL2003110Optional
The Crisis of Nature: Issues in Environmental HistoryUCOL2009210Optional
Science, the Media and the PublicUCOL2018110Optional
An Introduction to Current Topics in BiologyUCOL2088210Optional
Leadership of LearningUCOL2100210Optional
Diverse Britain in a Globalising WorldUCOL2110210Optional
Bioethics: Contemporary Issues in Science and BiomedicineUCOL2120210Optional
Communicating with ConfidenceUCOL2130110Optional
Communicating with ConfidenceUCOL2130210Optional
Innovation for a Sustainable SocietyUCOL2140110Optional
Future CitiesUCOL2150110Optional
Free ThinkingUCOL2160110Optional
Security and SurveillanceUCOL2170120Optional
Body, Health and Well-BeingUCOL2180210Optional
Global Health Challenges in an Unequal WorldUCOL2190210Optional
Essential EnterpriseUCOL2200110Optional
Intercultural CommunicationUCOL2210210Optional
Engaging CommunitiesUCOL2220210Optional
Collecting and Exhibiting CultureUCOL2230210Optional
Becoming GlobalUCOL2250110Optional
Ethical and Sustainable Business EnterpriseUCOL2260210Optional
The Golden Empire: Investigating Egypt's 18th DynastyUCOL2280110Optional
Building Ancient Egypt: The Technology of the Dynastic AgeUCOL2290210Optional
Science & Humanities: Bridging the 'Two Cultures'UCOL2300110Optional
Figuring out Society: Data in the NewsUCOL2300210Optional
Disability and Society: Interdisciplinary PerspectivesUCOL2320210Optional
The Art of EnterpriseUCOL2400210Optional
The Digital SocietyUCOL2500210Optional
"You can't say that!"UCOL2800210Optional
Physics & The Grand Challenges of TodayUCOL2900210Optional
Introduction to Computer Systems (ITMB)UCOL2951210Optional
Displaying 10 of 51 course units for year 3

What our students say

'The best thing about studying History of Art is the standard of the resources available, the close student relationships and the high quality of support maintained by both administrative and teaching staff'. (Benjamin Davies)

'The best thing about studying the history of art is the wide range of subjects and time scale from Greek to present day'. (Nicola Garner)

'In the summer after my second year I applied for an internship at Sotheby's. I spent the summer working in their auction house in London. Primarily, I worked in the Old Masters department, but I spent my final month in the Impressionist department. My job included researching many of the works that came to Sotheby's for forthcoming auctions. The experience enabled me not only to experience some of the world's finest art firsthand, but also opened up areas of research previously unknown to me. The experience of working in an auction house opened my eyes to the commercial art world and helped me with my studies.'  (Katie Zeitlin)

'I found that the lectures in the first year gave me a great start to my degree, the subjects were varied enough to provide a good grounding in art history yet also detailed enough to prepare for the second year. I was surprised how much I enjoyed areas of the course that before having had the lectures and doing the reading hadn't been of interest to me. The seminar courses were also invaluable in providing a more detailed look at aspects of art history.'  (Paul Statham)


The University has its own art gallery, museum and special library collections and the rich cultural heritage and attractions of Manchester and the North-West are within easy reach.

  • The Manchester Museum and the Whitworth Art Gallery offer you unique access to the environment of the working museum and art gallery as well as to important works of art.
  • The John Rylands University Library is one of the largest academic libraries in Britain and houses a Special Collections Department on Deansgate which contains a superb and diverse collection of manuscripts, illustrated books and other material relevant to Art History and Visual Studies.
  • Finally, we have our own library for Art History, shared with Archaeology, which provides a valuable service and a convenient, well-ordered work environment; it houses a very large and well-organised slide, video, and computer-based image collection which is an essential learning and teaching resource.

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants from the Disability Support Office. Email: