History of Art

Extend your interests in art history and visual culture across a broad spectrum of subjects and approaches, in a vibrant artistic city and department.

Research leaders

Our academics' latest research informs our units, with particular specialisms in Transnational Modernisms and Mediterranean Visual Cultures.

Multidisciplinary

Explore visual culture through painting, sculpture and drawing as well as photography, film, multimedia and architecture.

Industry links

We work with local and national partners including Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, Tate Galleries and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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History of Art at Bristol

At Bristol we offer a stimulating degree course that allows you to develop and extend your interests in art history and visual culture across a broad spectrum of subjects and approaches.

Our syllabus draws directly on the research interests of our staff, providing a varied programme where you will develop your own independent research throughout the degree. You can also study a joint honours course with a modern language, which includes a year abroad.

You will be taught by academics whose research helps shape the discipline. Fresh, exciting and challenging ideas inform all our units. You will have the opportunity to follow broad chronological, geographical and thematic elements and build your own research interests and projects.

I've enjoyed being able to engage with such a wide variety of history. The city of Bristol is packed full of culture, and you can see that everywhere you turn – from the art to the street names.

VALUOLA, BA HISTORY

Career prospects

Bristol art history graduates find employment in museums and art galleries, museums, art and antique businesses, art publishing and administration, teaching and related fields, as well as other areas such as the media and financial sectors, advertising, PR and consultancy, and in managerial and administrative roles. Many go on to further study at postgraduate level.

Recent Bristol graduates have found employment with:

  • the Whitney Museum, New York
  • the National Portrait Gallery, London
  • the Tate
  • the Prime Minister’s Office
  • Sotheby’s
  • Christie’s
  • the Guggenheim, Venice
  • Phaidon Press
  • the Holburne, Bath
  • the V&A.
What our students do after graduating

Course structure

Our courses focus on, but are not exclusive to, western art and architecture. We offer an interdisciplinary approach, exploring relationships between art and music, art and writing, visual culture and sport, and more. Over the course of your degree you can choose to contextualise your studies by taking options beyond the department.

The first year provides a solid foundation in visual and textual analysis and interpretation through the study of medieval, early modern, modern and contemporary art history, as well as a research-oriented, small-group seminar class.

In the following years you will choose from a variety of broader thematic lecture- and seminar-based units, as well as further research-oriented units. There are also opportunities to gain hands-on curatorial experience and skills. The culmination of your studies is a substantial piece of original research in the form of a dissertation.

As well as written exams and the dissertation, assessments include essays, visual analysis, digital presentations, individual and group projects – which may include virtual and physical exhibitions.

Sample units may include:

  • Sculpture and the Body
  • Modern Art in the USA 1900–1939
  • Art and Music
  • Race and Place
  • Art and Environmental Awareness
  • Art of the Northern Renaissance.

City of art

Bristol is home to iconic works by Banksy and is one of Europe’s top cultural and creative cities. It has also been named the UK’s most artistic city – based on the quantity of galleries, museums, gigs, theatres and street art (Premier Inn 2019).

The historic RWA and Bristol Museum and Art Gallery are minutes from campus. Visit cutting-edge exhibitions at Spike Island, Arnolfini and the Martin Parr Foundation for contemporary work, or explore our graffiti culture at annual street art festival, UpFest.

History of Art

Art history can be thought of as the history of ideas manifested through material objects. Art history looks at how to interpret these artefacts in their cultural context, developing expertise in critical analysis through the promotion of visual literacy. This will provide you with an enviable set of professional skills, as well as abiding personal enjoyment and understanding.

Why study History of Art at Bristol?

At Bristol we offer a stimulating degree course that provides the opportunity to develop and extend your interests in art history and visual culture across a broad spectrum of subjects and approaches.

Our syllabus draws directly on the research interests of our staff, providing a varied programme where you will develop your own independent research throughout the degree. You can also study a joint honours course with a modern language, which includes a year abroad.

You will be taught by academics whose research helps shape the discipline. Fresh, exciting and challenging ideas inform all our units. You will have the opportunity to follow broad chronological, geographical and thematic elements and build your own research interests and projects.

Academic staff work on a wide range of topics, which currently include:

  • medieval visual culture;
  • sculpture;
  • early modern Italian art;
  • art of the Weimar Republic;
  • art and race
  • modern women artists 
  • post-Soviet visual culture;
  • British 20th-century painting;
  • contemporary diasporic visual culture;
  • early modern Ottoman art;
  • synaesthesia;
  • interdisciplinary research, especially between art and music, art and sport, and art and writing.

What kind of student would this course suit?

This degree will suit anyone who enjoys researching and developing their own ideas and interests and wants to study the significance of art and visual culture more generally across a wide range of periods and places.

This visual literacy connects art history to all branches of the humanities, providing an exciting route into historical understanding and an appreciation of the central place of the arts in all civilisations. Whether you are investigating big ideas like attitudes to identity, gender and race, or the material culture of medieval manuscripts, cathedrals, graffiti, abstraction or contemporary multimedia art, Bristol will give you the opportunity to study widely and develop specialist skills.

How is this course taught and assessed?

We use a variety of teaching methods, including lectures, seminars, exhibitions, individual tutorials and group projects. You will be expected to spend longer periods of time in independent study as the course progresses. In your final year you will produce a substantial piece of original research in the form of a dissertation.

Methods of assessment include essays, visual analysis, dissertations, blogs and journals, presentations and projects, as well as written exams, which include both take-away and more conventional examinations.

 

What are my career prospects?

Bristol art history graduates find employment in museums and art galleries, museums, art and antique businesses, art publishing and administration, teaching and related fields, as well as other areas such as the media and financial sectors, advertising, PR and consultancy, and in managerial and administrative roles. Many go on to further study at postgraduate level.

Recent graduates of our unique and varied programme have found employment with the Whitney Museum New York; the National Portrait Gallery, London; the Tate; Prime Minister’s Office.

Find out more about what our students do after graduating.

Disclaimer

Important disclaimer information about our courses.

Every day my inbox is flooded with opportunities – internships, research projects, extra-curricular activities – all of which are the University getting students involved. The University is constantly updating its facilities, which reinforces its friendly and inclusive environment.

Alexandra (LLB Law)

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