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BA Film Studies and History of Art / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Van Eyck, Bosch, Bruegel: The Arts of Northern Renaissance Europe

Unit code AHCP20991
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 introduces students to the diversity of artistic creativity during the ‘Northern Renaissance’, covering a time period reaching from the rise of oil painting and the art of Jan van Eyck to Pieter Bruegel and the emergence of landscape and genre painting. We consider the development of the arts of northern Europe across a range of media including painting, printmaking, metalwork, tapestry, stone and wooden sculpture, and architecture. We examine centers of patronage and production including Bruges and Antwerp and also consider courtly culture in the Low Countries, France, and German-speaking regions.  Important themes include the rise of oil painting, the advent of print publishing, artistic mobility and exchange, the emergence of the art market, interactions with Italy, and trade with non-European cultures including the New World. Key artists include the Van Eyck brothers, Rogier van der Weyden, Albrecht Dürer, Hieronymus Bosch, and Pieter Bruegel the Elder. During the period covered in this module, artists and their publics were responding to an era of rapid economic, religious, social and political change, and were redefining the status of art.



This course unit aims to:

• provide students with historical and theoretical frameworks for understanding the diversity of artistic creation across media in the Northern Renaissance.

• deepen understanding of the role of politics, culture, and religion in shaping early modern artistic creation north of the Alps in the era of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.

• contextualise the rise of the art market in northern Europe.

• question the structures and challenges of collaboration, distribution, and consumption which developed in Bruges and Antwerp.

• examine the role of printmaking in reshaping artistic culture within and beyond northern Europe

• explore northern Europe’s connections to other European regions and to non-European cultures.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to

• Explain the rise of artistic production across a range of media in the early modern Low Countries.

• Think critically about changing patters of patronage, production, and consumption of art north of the Alps.

• Evaluate the roles of political, cultural, economic, and religious change in shaping early modern art in northern Europe.

• Explain northern Europe’s interconnectedness with other cultural and cultural centres in Europe and beyond Europe’s borders.

• Discuss the rise of print culture in northern Europe.

• Discuss the rise of the artist.

Intellectual skills

By the end of the course students will be able to

• Reflect critically on cultures of artistic creation, production and consumption in the early modern period.

• Interpret works of art across media through the lenses of patronage and the market.

• Analyse the early modern art market from a variety of perspectives.

• Read and critically analyse primary and secondary sources related to early modern cultures of artistic creation and knowledge production.

• Write about works of art in a variety of media using a range of interpretive models. 

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Identify different artistic media and techniques and relate them to networks of production, distribution, and consumption.
  • Read early modern texts and images critically.
  • Analyse different modes of writing about art. 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

•  Critically evaluate written and visual sources.

• Work with historical objects and collections.

•  Present coherent arguments in written work.

•  Manage time effectively in order to complete assignments.

•  Engage in reading and writing on a regular basis.

•  Respond to feedback in order to improve study skills and understanding of material discussed in class.

Employability skills

¿ Critical thinking about the role of collaboration and the art market. ¿ Exposure to practices for studying historic objects and working in historic collections. ¿ Time management and being able to work to deadlines ¿ Organising a successful presentation. ¿ Presenting written material in a professional format. ¿ Undertaking supervised research. ¿ Using historic collections and working with collection management. ¿ Responding to constructive feedback on written work.

Assessment methods

Essay 1 40%
Plan for essay 2 0%
Essay 2 60%


Feedback methods

  • Written and oral feedback on essays 1 and 2
  • Written feedback on essay plan
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)

Recommended reading

Maryan Ainsworth, From van Eyck to Bruegel

Jeffrey Chipps-Smith, The Northern Renaissance

Max Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, 15 vols.

Craig Harbison, The Art of the Northern Renaissance

Susie Nash, Northern Renaissance Art

Stephanie Porras, Art of the Northern Renaissance

Larry Silver, Peasant Scenes and Landscapes

James Snyder, Northern Renaissance Art

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Edward Wouk Unit coordinator

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