Coronavirus information for applicants and offer-holders

We understand that prospective students and offer-holders may have concerns about the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The University is following the advice from Universities UK, Public Health England and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Read our latest coronavirus information

BA History of Art / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Art in Eighteenth Century Britain

Unit code AHCP22912
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Art History and Cultural Practices
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course focuses on the history of British art in the eighteenth century. This was a period of important social and intellectual change in Britain – developments that were reflected in and responded to by the art and its audiences of the period.
The course will examine the development of public institutions of art from the mid-eighteenth century, and the emergence of a distinctive national tradition of painting. The social significance of portraiture, European travel, the art market and the rise of landscape will all be studied as themes. A particular focus throughout the course will be the contexts in which artworks were displayed or otherwise presented to audiences.
Teaching will include visits to important collections of eighteenth century British art at Manchester Art Gallery, the Whitworth and the John Rylands Library. 


- To provide an understanding of key developments in British art in the eighteenth century
- To consider artworks within the cultural and social contexts in which they were produced
- To evaluate scholarly readings of eighteenth century British art

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:
- Understand and think critically about key movements and genres in British eighteenth century art
- Critically engage with important theories in eighteenth century British art discourse
- Demonstrate skills of research, analysis and logical argument in relation to the subject of the course 


1. Sociability and Portraiture in the early Georgian period
2. William Hogarth and the Modern Moral Subject
3. The Royal Academy I: foundation and first President, Sir Joshua Reynolds
4. The Royal Academy II: the women on the wall (Zoffany’s Academicians)
5. Britons in Europe: the Grand Tour and Neoclassicism
6. British Landscape Painting and the European Tradition
7. Displaying the Word: biblical painting in the age of exhibitions
8. Picturing Poetry I: commercial book illustration
9. Picturing Poetry II: the Literary Galleries
10. Satirical Subjects: the age of the political cartoon
11. Student Presentations

Teaching and learning methods

This course involves a combination of class lectures and seminars, and visits to relevant collections in Manchester, which will include short lectures and group activities. Students will participate in class discussion based on set reading. Readings will be available via BlackBoard. 

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of the course students will be able to: 
- Discuss key developments in eighteenth century British art and art discourse 
- Discuss the work of artists studied in the course
- Discuss the distinctiveness of British art in this period 
- Comment knowledgeably on recent scholarship on this period
- Understand and present material on specific artworks in class
- Use a range of materials when researching, including primary and secondary texts, paintings, prints and book illustrations

Intellectual skills

By the end of the course students will be able to:
- Analyse paintings and prints in various genres studied in the course – portraits, landscapes, history painting
- Analyse examples of art discourse from the period
- Consider the influence of social and cultural change on the art of the period
- Read and critically analyse written sources related to eighteenth century British art
- Produce a well-reasoned argument on specific issues or debates surrounding the art of the period

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:
- Produce detailed visual analyses
- Carry out supervised research
- Produce a professionally presented and coherently argued essay
- Give a presentation about an artwork in class

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:
- Critically evaluate written and visual sources
- Present coherent arguments in written work
- Manage time effectively in order to complete assignments
- Present material to the class and respond to questions arising from the presentation
- Use relevant word processing software in order to present work professionally
- Respond to feedback in order to improve their study skills and understanding of material discussed in class

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Working, with guidance, on research including finding suitable material for assessments and being able to assess this material.
Project management
Reflection on discussions and assignments enabling future improvement.
Oral communication
Participating in discussion. Presenting an argument to an audience and being able to field questions.
Written communication
Presenting written material in a professional format.
Time management and being able to work to deadlines.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 40%
Report 40%
Oral assessment/presentation 20%

Feedback methods

- Oral feedback on individual presentation 
- Written feedback on formative essay plan
- Written feedback on summative essay and artwork analysis
- Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)

Recommended reading

Arnold, D. and Corbett, D. P. A Companion to British Art: 1600 to the Present (Oxford, 2016)

Ayres, P. Classical Culture and the Idea of Rome in Eighteenth-Century England (Cambridge University Press, 1997)

Barnard, T. (ed.) British Women and the Intellectual World in the Long Eighteenth Century (London, 2015)

Bermingham, A. and Brewer, J. (eds.) The Consumption of Culture, 1600-1800: Image, Object, Text (Oxford, 1995)

Bindman, D. The History of British Art 1600-1870 (London, 2008)

Brewer, J. The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1997)

Colley, L. Britons: Forging a Nation 1707-1837 (London, 2003)

Dias, R. Exhibiting Englishness: John Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery and the Formation of a National Aesthetic (New Haven and London, 2013)

Retford, K. The Conversation Piece: Making Modern Art in 18th-Century Britain (New Haven, 2017)

Solkin, D. Painting for Money: The Visual Arts and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century England (New Haven and London 1993)

Solkin, D. (ed.) Art on the Line: The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House, 1780-1836 (New Haven and London, 2001)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Naomi Billingsley Unit coordinator

Return to course details