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Introduction to the History of Art

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What is the History of Art? What can be learnt about people, places or politics in paintings and sculptures?

This module provides an overview of the history of Western art and visual culture.

We will focus on key artists and developments in the visual arts by examining paintings, sculpture, and frescoes (for example Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, David, and the Pre-Raphaelites).

We will also explore the role and importance of mass-produced images, such as cartoons and posters, within the history of art.

We will take a glimpse of artwork spanning from Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, Medieval and Renaissance to Baroque, Neo-Classicism, Victorian and ending in the first half of the twentieth century.

Learning and teaching

The module will be delivered through 9 classes, incorporating lectures followed by class discussion on specific topics relating to the module.

Classes will mostly be two hours in length but two sessions will be run as 3 hour classes in order to enable guided visits to the National Museum of Wales collections which is only a few minutes away from campus.

The discussion will enable you to think critically and contribute to the debates and topics presented during the lectures.

The discussion-led sessions and the lectures will be supplemented by resources available to the students via Learning Central.

Indicative Syllabus

  • Module overview and Gods of Egypt
  • Classical Art: Greece and Rome
  • Quiz – Medieval art
  • Italian Renaissance art
  • Northern Renaissance art
  • Baroque and the work of Rembrandt
  • Neoclassical and Hogarth
  • Victorian art: Pre-Raphaelites
  • Posters, pamphlets and politics: art of propaganda

Coursework and assessment

You will have a choice of options for assessed work:

  • An essay of 1500 words
  • Three 500 word pieces, critically evaluating three different artworks

Advice and support will be provided for both assignments and you will receive detailed feedback relating to strengths and areas for improvement on both pieces of work.

Reading suggestions

  • Victoria Charles and Marlena Metcalf, Renaissance Art (2012)
  • Anthony Janson, History of Art (2001)
  • Marcia Pointon, History of Art: a student’s handbook (2014)
  • Mark Bills, Art in the age of Queen Victoria : a wealth of depictions (2001

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.