BA Art History and History

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:

Course unit fact file
Unit code AHCP33131
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Picasso is the most densely inscribed artist of the twentieth century, a key figure in histories of modernism and the avant-garde. This course tracks his production across narratives of art, culture and ideology, placing it in historical and theoretical contexts, while attending to the themes and fictions of the reception. Notwithstanding Picasso’s continuing recuperation as an institution or brand-name, his practice submitted the European world-picture to an unprecedented interrogation. This course brings this radical questioning of identity and meaning to the fore.



  • To enable students to gain a detailed knowledge of the work of a major twentieth-century artist.
  • To enable students to situate Picasso’s production in relation to modernism and the avant-garde, in particular Symbolism, Cubism, Surrealism
  • To enable students to describe and analyse complex modernist and anti-modernist artworks
  • To develop the capacity to apply knowledge of social and cultural history to the analysis of the work of major 20th century artists by the study of one example.
  • To enable students to interpret Picasso by means of theoretical concepts
  • To introduce students to challenging art-historical and art-critical texts, and promote good practices of reading and writing
  • To encourage presentational and public speaking skills, in the context of complex discussions


  1. Introduction
  2. Picasso’s Reputation
  3. Picasso, Gender, Sexuality
  4. Picasso and the ‘Primitive’
  5. Picasso in the History of Perception
  6. Early Picasso
  7. Cubism
  8. Neoclassicism
  9. Surrealism
  10. Guernica and Communism
  11. Late Picasso
  12. Revision 

Teaching and learning methods

This course is seminar based. Student will participate in class discussion based on set reading. Readings will be available via BlackBoard.  

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate a first-hand knowledge of a wide range of Picasso’s production.
  • Be proficient in the description and analysis of works by Picasso.
  • Analyse Picasso’s statements and interviews in relation to his work and career.

Intellectual skills

  • Analyse contemporaneous critical responses to Picasso’s work in their cultural and social context.
  • Demonstrate a critical approach to theoretical, social-historical and biographical interpretations of Picasso.
  • Demonstrate a critical approach to the placing of Picasso in general histories of twentieth-century art and culture.

Practical skills

  • Develop  writing skills
  • Recall, analyse and articulate complex historical and conceptual data

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Demonstrate independent learning through assessed work
  • Demonstrate research skills through assessed work

Employability skills

Carry out supervised research using available resources Critically evaluate written and visual sources Present coherent arguments in written work Manage time effectively in order to complete assignments Use Word in order to present work professionally Respond to feedback in order to improve their study skills and understanding of material discussed in class

Assessment methods

Assessment taskFormative or SummativeLengthWeighting within unit (if relevant)
Essay PlanFormative500 words0%
EssaySummative1500 words40%
EssaySummative2500 words60%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback on essay


Exam feedback (on request)


Feedback on formative essay


Additional one-to-one feedback in consultation hours (or by appointment)



Recommended reading

  • Dore Ashton, ed., Picasso on Art: A Selection of Views (New York: Da Capo, 1988)
  • Alfred H. Barr, Picasso: Fifty Years of his Art (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1946)
  • John Berger, The Success and Failure of Picasso (Harmandsworth: Penguin, 1965).
  • Brassaï, Conversations with Picasso, trans. Jane Marie Todd (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2002)
  • Elizabeth Cowling, Picasso: Style and Meaning (London: Phaidon, 2002)
  • Michael C. Fitzgerald, Making Modernism: Picasso and the Creation of the Market for Twentieth-Century Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995)
  • Françoise Gilot with Carlton Lake, Life with Picasso (New York: New American Library, 1965)
  • Marilyn McCully, ed., A Picasso Anthology: Documents, Criticism, Reminiscences (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997)
  • Roland Penrose, Picasso: His Life and Work (London: Gollancz, 1958)
  • Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective, Ex. Cat, MoMA, 1980 [has a useful chronology]
  • Peter Read, Picasso and Apollinaire: The Persistence of Memory (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008)
  • John Richardson, A Life of Picasso, Vols. I, II and III (London: Jonathan Cape, 1991-2007)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Charles Miller Unit coordinator

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