History of Art BA


Fact file - 2019 entry

BA Hons History of Art
UCAS code
3 years full-time (available part-time)
A level offer
ABB (or BCC via a foundation year)
Required subjects
including no more than two A levels from art and design, design and technology, drama and theatre studies, film studies, fine art, textiles, and photography 
IB score
Course location
University Park Campus 
Course places


The course covers wide-ranging aspects of the visual arts including painting, sculpture, architecture, the graphic arts, photography and other visual media, as well as museum history and the relationship between high art and visual culture.
Read full overview

Introductory modules in year one will give you a solid grounding in the basic skills required for the study of history of art. In year two, you will take the International Study module, which involves a trip abroad to an arts centre in Europe, accompanied by tutors. In recent years, students have visited Berlin, Paris and Rome. The flexible structure of the degree and wide choice of topics will enable you either to specialise or maintain a breadth of interests as you progress through the course.

Year one

Year one introduces you to key issues and methods relating to the study of history of art through core introductory modules. As you progress through your degree you will elaborate on the issues raised in these modules as well as taking four specialist modules in history of art and up to four optional modules outside of the department

Year two

Year two includes a compulsory study trip abroad, accompanied by tutors, to a centre of art production in Europe, such as Berlin, Paris or Rome. This trip is linked to the writing of an independent study project. The department will usually cover the cost of travel to the destination and accommodation in the city, but you are likely to be expected to pay for meals, museum entry and local travel costs. In this year you will also choose three or four modules in history of art from a wide range of options, including our professional placement module, and up to one module outside of the department.

Year three

In year three you can choose to write a dissertation, giving you the opportunity to explore a topic of particular personal interest in depth. Again, there is a choice from a range of optional modules within the department and up to one module outside of history of art.


Entry requirements

A levels: ABB, including no more than two A levels from art and design, design and technology, drama and theatre studies, film studies, fine art, textiles and photography

This course may also be accessed via a foundation year for which the entry requirements are BCC at A level, find out more here.

English language requirements 

IELTS 7.0 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

If you require additional support to take your language skills to the required level, you may be able to attend a presessional course at the Centre for English Language Education, which is accredited by the British Council for the teaching of English in the UK.

Students who successfully complete the presessional course to the required level can progress onto their chosen degree course without retaking IELTS or equivalent.

Alternative qualifications

For details please see alternative qualifications page.

Flexible admissions policy

In recognition of our applicants’ varied experience and educational pathways, the University of Nottingham employs a flexible admissions policy. We may make some applicants an offer lower than advertised, depending on their personal and educational circumstances. Please see the University’s admissions policies and procedures for more information.  


The following is a sample of the typical modules that we offer as at the date of publication but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Due to the passage of time between commencement of the course and subsequent years of the course, modules may change due to developments in the curriculum and the module information in this prospectus is provided for indicative purposes only.

Typical year one modules

Introduction to Art History I

History of art is a broad discipline that encompasses many different approaches. This module takes as its basic premise that there is no one true history, but rather that there are various ways of approaching the past. With this in mind, you will examine key terms that have shaped the discipline of art history, in order to consider some key issues and debates that shape writing about art. The module is designed to get you thinking about how and why histories are written. Over the course of the module, you will consider broad questions, such as:

  • What counts as art and what should be included in history of art?
  • Should a history of art be a history of artists?
  • What about patrons, viewers, critics, historians, and museums?
  • How important is artist intention in defining the meaning of art? How useful are “-isms” in writing history of art?
  • How should we understand art in relation to social, political, and economic contexts?
  • How and why does art change?
  • How have chronological, geographical, and gender biases affected histories of art?
  • What makes “good” art and should we care?

The module also includes weekly workshops, designed to help you develop the academic skills required to study History of Art at undergraduate level.

Introduction to Art History II

This module builds on the foundation laid in Introduction to Art History I. It examines the study and interpretation of objects by considering different forms of writing on art. Each lecture will focus on a single work of art, examining a variety of ways in which it has been analysed. The artworks studied will cover the historical breadth of teaching in the Department of History of Art, from the Renaissance to the present day. The aim is to highlight diverse methodological approaches to art history, and different perspectives in dialogue across periods, geographies, and backgrounds. Integrated weekly workshops will allow you to develop and refine the academic skills acquired in Introduction to Art History I.



Art and Power: Paris 1937

This module focuses on the International Exhibition held in Paris in 1937, which provides a survey of art in the service of politics in the years immediately preceding World War II. Participating countries – including the USSR, Germany, Italy, and Spain – were represented by national pavilions, combining art and architecture to articulate national values and ambitions. The cultural battles between contrasting styles of state-sponsored art – Soviet Socialist Realism, German Neoclassicism, Spanish Modernism – will be examined in light of political and military conflicts at a time when Europe was divided by the ongoing civil war in Spain. The module will consider important individual works, such as Picasso’s Guernica, as well as the pavilions as integrated artworks, combining visual arts and architecture.

Art, Politics and Protest in America

This module examines the ways in which artists responded to and engaged with domestic and foreign politics in America from the 1950s to the 1980s. It considers the ways in which artists used a range of artistic practices as a means of protest in an era of capitalist consumerism, the Cold War and the America Vietnam War, the rise of identity and sexual politics, the civil rights movement, and censorship and the US “culture wars”. In particular, this module will examine the work of historically marginalised constituencies, including African American artists, Mexican-American and Chicano artists, and women artists. 

Art in America 1945-80

This module introduces and examines some of the major themes and movements to emerge in American art after 1945, including Abstract Expressionism, Neo-Dada, Pop Art, and Conceptual Art. You will consider the historical and cultural contexts of art in a range of media, including painting, sculpture, installation and performance. You will look at some of the key critical responses to American modern art, and investigate the extent to which post-1945 practices were radically new or whether they were informed by awareness of pre-war and/or European avant-garde practices. 


Italian Renaissance Courts and Their Art, 1450-1520

This module examines painting, architecture and sculpture at the courts of Ferrara, Mantua, Naples, Urbino and Milan in the period 1420-1520 and suggests that the small princely courts of Italy played an important role in shaping ‘the Renaissance’. Princes at courts competed for the services of the 'best' artists, and Leonardo da Vinci, Pisanello, Piero della Francesca and Andrea Mantegna are just some of the masters who worked for these Courts. This module draws both on established literature, but also seeks to incorporate more recent research questions regarding gender, material culture etc. As such, this module introduces you to questions that will be developed further in modules in years two and three.  

Inventing French Art: From the Renaissance to Louis XIV

This module will provide a broad survey of French art from the later 16th century to the end of the   17th century, focusing on the era of Louis XIV. You will consider the role of architecture and different types of patronage; the creation and structure of the palace of Versailles; the origins of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, and its use of theory and art education. We will focus on the careers of Charles Lebrun, and two of the Best-known French painters based in Rome (Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain). You will also explore the remarkable provincial artists Georges de la Tour and the three Le Nain brothers. The module examines the functions of art and architecture within society and politics, and the invention of a national artistic tradition.

Italian Art in the Age of Caravaggio

This module looks at Italian art in early 17th century Rome through a focus on one of the best known painters active during that period, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Caravaggio was a colourful character with a biography as delicious as his paintings, but the very notoriety of the artist during his lifetime can make looking at his merits as an artist quite difficult. Here, you look at Caravaggio and his contemporaries to get a better understanding of the artistic context of Rome in the late 1500s, a period often labelled as the Counter Reformation. The module will focus on the following themes:

  • the importance of imagery as a vehicle of propaganda
  • the importance of display and collecting to elite Roman patrons
  • the relationship between political centres; self-fashioning
  • the importance of women as patrons and as subjects of art, but also as artists themselves
Plural Art Histories

In this module, you will examine selected pieces of art, architecture, and drama from classical Greece, China, Europe, colonial and postcolonial Americas, with some reference to contemporary examples, in order to explore some fundamental questions about art, such as: what is the relationship between creators and the world in which they live? How are the arts made, used, and regarded? In each case, the production and reception of the arts is studied through a contextual approach, paying attention to political, economic, religious, and cultural factors.

Typical year two modules

International Study

This year-long module is based on a staff-guided visit to a major European cultural centre (recent destinations have included Berlin, Paris and Rome) during the spring semester. The major piece of coursework for this module is an independent study project based on one of the sites visited during the trip abroad. You prepare for the visit through classes exploring the history and culture of the destination city. During the autumn semester, you will also undertake site visits in Nottingham to prepare you for the first-hand research and on-site teaching to be undertaken during the trip abroad. In giving you the freedom to pursue your own academic interests, this module aims to build your confidence as an independent researcher in preparation for your final year.



Professional Placement

This module focuses on your employability, skills development, and practical experience by means of a series of workshops (autumn semester) and a professional placement undertaken one day per week over eight weeks (spring semester). You will be guided through skills assessment and development; placement application preparation; conduct in the workplace; networking and professional relationship-building; and self-presentation. You will apply for placements in relevant local organisations from an established list, but may also use personal contacts to arrange their own placement. Assessment will comprise an online portfolio of materials, including reflective writing and application materials, and a research report situating the work and function of the placement organisation in the context of the wider sector of which it is a part. Throughout, you will be encouraged to reflect individually and in groups on their own employability, and plan for their ongoing professional development.

Art and Reform in Renaissance Germany

The module will investigate the role of art as a vehicle for the transmission of religious and political propaganda in the period c.1470-1530 in Germany. Various forms of art will be examined with reference to the widespread calls for religious reform. In turn, these reforms led to changes in patterns of art production and consumption, and led to the destruction of imagery (iconoclasm). Other concerns include: the impact of the Reformation on the working practices of artists such as Durer, Holbein, Cranach and Riemenschneider; witchcraft and images; art as political propaganda; the development of new genres of art; and gender and reformation.

Art at the Tudor Courts, 1485-1603

This course will provide an introduction to visual art at the Tudor courts, from the accession of Henry VII in 1485 to the death of Elizabeth I in 1603. In doing so, it takes account of a wide range of art forms, from portraiture to pageantry, from jewellery to the book. Key issues dealt with in lectures and seminars include contemporary theories of visuality and monarchy, the particular context of court culture, and the use of visual material in the service of self-fashioning. It considers the impact of major historical developments including the Reformation and the advent of print. As such, the relationship of the arts to politics is a key theme. Through exploring the highly sophisticated uses of visual art at the Tudor courts, the course seeks to re-evaluate the common idea that English art at the time was isolationist and inferior to that of continental Europe. 


From the Bastille to the Eiffel Tower: A Cultural and Architectural History of Paris 1789–1889

This module provides an overview of the development of Paris from the French Revolution to the Third Republic.

Themes covered include:

  • the evolving structure of the city
  • the evolution of building types
  • representations of the city the symbolic geography of Paris
  • the Parisian art world (artists’ studios, the art market, exhibitions)
  • major monuments and sites (e.g. the Panthéon and the Opéra Garnier

European Avant-Garde  Film

This module examines avant-garde cinema in early 20th century Europe. It will begin by exploring what is meant by the term ‘avant-garde’ and considering the development of experimental filmmaking in the context of artistic movements such as Futurism, Cubism, Dada, Surrealism and Constructivism. You will focus on developments in Germany, France and the Soviet Union during the 1920s and 1930s, and consider key trends from abstract animation to cinema pur. The module will highlight some key concerns of non-mainstream cinema such as narrative, abstraction, reflexivity, spectatorship, movement, time and space. You will also examine the engagement of experimental film with modernity, considering both aesthetic and political strategies of the European avant-gardes. 


This module explores the Italian Futurist movement as a pioneering project in multimedia experimentation, which included painting, sculpture, architecture, design, photography, film, performance, typography, literature, and music. It will investigate the movement’s apparent rejection of Italy’s cultural heritage and celebration of modern technology, from the speed of the motorcar to the violence of twentieth century warfare. The political objectives of the Futurists will be considered, including the movement’s complex relationship with Fascism. The publicity strategies of the group, such as the extensive use of manifestoes and provocative public interventions, will also be examined. The module will cover the period from Futurism’s headline-grabbing conception in 1909 through to the end of its second manifestation in the 1940s.

Los Angeles Art and Architecture: 1945-85

In this module, you will be introduced to a number of artistic and architectural practices that emerged in Southern California after 1945. You will also explore the cultural and historical context of a number of artistic practices, as well as the role of Los Angeles in the development of post-1945 American art and architecture, including mid-century modernism, Pop Art, Conceptual Art and Light & Space Art. A central question in this module will be whether all art made in Los Angeles can be classified as ‘Los Angeles Art’. 

Realism and Impressionism, 1840-1890

This module examines two of the most influential movements in Western art, Realism and Impressionism. You will consider the major figures and critical debates in the history of modern art. Among the artists to be studied are Courbet, Bonheur, Millet, Manet, Morisot, Degas, Cassatt, and Renoir. This module includes the study of different critical approaches to the study of art works and visual culture. 


The Politics of Display

This module examines the history of museums, galleries, collecting and the history and politics of the display of art objects. The emphasis is on the last two hundred years. Discussion will focus on such issues as: the establishment of national institutions such as the Louvre and the National Gallery, London; the role of cultural imperialism; exhibitions and their history; and the modern art museum.

Visualising the Body

This module examines the visual representation of the human body from antiquity the 21st century. It will entail close study and analysis of visual images, combined with critical readings in the histories and theory of art, society, film and visual culture.

 Key themes usually include:

  • health and the politics of ‘normality’
  • the sexual body; the modified body
  • ideal and grotesque bodies
  • the ‘foreign’ body

 The particular concerns of the module are: visualising social differences of gender, class and race; the cultural formations of ‘difference’; and the ways these are negotiated and secured in images of the body. 

Women in the Italian Renaissance 1500-1600: Art and History

The first part of this module will provide an introduction to women's history in the later medieval and early modern Italian context, looking at the domestic and political roles of women in the light of gender and sexuality. The second part of the module looks at the role of Renaissance women in the art of the period. Examining diverse visual evidence (such as painted furniture and funerary epigraphs), classes will focus on themes including the role of Biblical and patristic writings in shaping attitudes towards women, the role of the family and marriage in fashioning gender relations, and women as patrons and producers of art. 




Typical year three modules

Dissertation in History of Art

This module involves the in-depth study of an art historical topic over one or two semesters. You will chose the topic in consultation with a tutor, subject to the approval of the department, and will be allocated a dissertation supervisor appropriate to the chosen topic. Teaching for this module takes the form of individual tutorials with your dissertation supervisor, as well as group workshops focusing on research, writing, and presentation skills. It provides you with the opportunity to undertake a substantial piece of writing on a topic of particular personal interest. 

Renaissance Luxuries: Art and Good Living in Italy 1400 - 1600

This module seeks to engage with the Renaissance as a period of conspicuous consumption of a range of luxury goods, and examines the social, cultural and economic factors which characterised the period 1400-1600.  Amongst the issues raised in lectures and seminars will be the importance of objects as signifiers of status, magnificence, the diversification of objects and the attendant rise in specialised living arrangements, and women as consumers of art. 

American Visual Cultures

The module examines the visual culture of America from the late 19th century to the present day. The module explores how visual culture – art, advertising, architecture, cinema, television, cartography, video, the internet and images of science – has transformed and shaped the image of the United States. The module looks closely at a series of themes: urban and rural landscapes, icons and iconography, art and photography, race and gender in the US, high and low culture, sex and sexuality. The module also introduces various visual and critical theories which help us better understand the visual cultures of the United States. 

Fascism, Spectacle and Display

This module will examine cultural production during Italy’s fascist regime. There will be an emphasis on the experience of visual culture in public settings such as the exhibition space, the cinema, and the built environment. A wide range of cultural artefacts will be examined, paying attention to material as well as visual aspects. Visual material will be situated in the social, cultural and political circumstances of the period.

Topics will include:

  • Fascism’s use of spectacle
  • fascist conceptions of utopia
  • the regime’s use of the past
  • the relationship between Fascism and modernism
  • Fascism as a political religion
  • the cult of Mussolini
  • urban-rural relations
  • empire building

The module will also consider the afterlife of fascist visual culture and the question of ‘difficult’ heritage.


 Mobility and the Making of Modern Art, 1850-1920

New technologies of mobility have long been a defining condition of modernity. It is from this perspective that we will examine modern art while highlighting the interrelated components of movement and speed – mechanized motion, temporality and their political connotations (e.g., social, ideological, artistic trends). This module includes a range of works, mainly paintings, from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. We will also consider photography and other pre-cinematic forms of moving images such as optical devices, peepshows, and panoramas that added different motion and time to representation. A key question is the role of artists in naturalizing the equation between mobility, modernity, and the West. To this end, our consideration will involve non-Western representations to explore the ideological and economic implications of mobility. 

Performance Art

This module traces the development of performance art from the 1950s to the 1980s. It considers the work of a number of artists in America and Europe in terms of their focus on the body of the artist, the dematerialization of the art object, and the changing role of the audience or viewer. You will engage with a range of theories of identity, gender and selfhood; phenomenology and participation; duration, temporality and impermanence pain, endurance and abjection. Exploring performance art’s relationship with other visual art forms, including dance, experimental music, film and television, this module considers and evaluates the art historical genealogies of performance art and body art and examines the ways in which performance art has shifted the terms of art history. In addition, it will consider the issues at stake in constructing a history of performance art, and in documenting, exhibiting, and writing about ephemeral, invisible, or indeterminate practices.  

Photographing America

This module examines the development of photography in America from 1945 onwards. The module breaks the period down into themes and considers: the transformation of ‘documentary’ photography; the emergence and importance of colour photography; experimental, conceptual and post-conceptual photography; issues of serialism and seriality; landscape photography; the photobook; and analogue/digital photography. The module will draw on the work of a diverse range of photographers, including Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, Ed Ruscha, Lewis Baltz, Robert Adams, Robert Heinecken, Stephen Shore, Todd Hido, William Eggleston. and Doug Rickard.   

Photography in the 19th Century

The module will review the origins of photography; early commentaries and debates on the new medium’s status; the identity of those who became photographers; the dominant genres employed in photographic imagery; the developing culture of reproduction, exhibition, and photography criticism. The module will explore the connections and conflicts between 19th-century photography and art. It will also consider the relationship between 19th-century photography and travel, science, and problems of social ideology. 

Work and Play in Modern European Art 1750-1900

This module considers representations of leisure and labour from the mid-18th century to the early 20th. With particular attention paid to the activities available to women during this period, you will consider the ideological and material conditions of industrialization, migration, urban life, and entertainment and their impact on the fundamental activities of work and play. 



As a graduate, you will have an in-depth understanding of the subject, how various periods of art history have influenced or been influenced by other aspects of culture and society, and how the art of one nation impacts on that of another. You will be aware of issues surrounding the history of the production, reception and display of art, the development of key historical art movements, as well as knowledge of the writing of art history and art criticism.

Our history of art course trains students in visual and critical analysis, historical and theoretical study, object-based research, academic research and advanced writing. Our teaching and assessment methods require students to work collaboratively and independently, and to develop the writing, presentation, and communication skills that are highly valued in competitive work environments.

In addition to these skills, you will also have the opportunity to develop your employability profile further by taking our Professional Placement module or through involvement in the University's  Nottingham Advantage Award.

Average starting salary and career progression

In 2016, 93.2% of undergraduates in the School of Humanities who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £20,205 with the highest being £38,000*

In 2016, 93.2% of undergraduates in the School of English who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £19,061 with the highest being £28,000*

Known destinations of full-time home undergraduates 2015/16. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

Careers support and advice

Studying for a degree at the University of Nottingham will provide you with the type of skills and experiences that will prove invaluable in any career, whichever direction you decide to take. Throughout your time with us, our Careers and Employability Service can work with you to improve your employability skills even further; assisting with job or course applications, searching for appropriate work experience placements and hosting events to bring you closer to a wide range of prospective employers.

Have a look at our Careers page for an overview of all the employability support and opportunities that we provide to current students.  


Fees and funding

Scholarships and bursaries

The University of Nottingham offers a wide range of bursaries and scholarships. These funds can provide you with an additional source of non-repayable financial help. For up to date information regarding tuition fees, visit our fees and finance pages.

Home students*

Over one third of our UK students receive our means-tested core bursary, worth up to £2,000 a year. Full details can be found on our financial support pages.

* A 'home' student is one who meets certain UK residence criteria. These are the same criteria as apply to eligibility for home funding from Student Finance.

International/EU students

Our International Baccalaureate Diploma Excellence Scholarship is available for select students paying overseas fees who achieve 38 points or above in the International Baccalaureate Diploma. We also offer a range of High Achiever Prizes for students from selected countries, schools and colleges to help with the cost of tuition fees. Find out more about scholarships, fees and finance for international students.


Key Information Sets (KIS)

KIS is an initiative that the government has introduced to allow you to compare different courses and universities.


This course includes one or more pieces of formative assessment.

How to use the data

This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.


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Department of History of Art 
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