BA (Hons) Art History

The Conservation and Education Centre at the former Bristol Zoo Gardens site remains open to students.

You will have private access to the zoo grounds during lectures, to carry out your observations and data collection, but as more animals are moved, this will gradually be carried out at the Bristol Zoo Project. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.


Course Information

The BA in Art History starts by exploring the foundations of contemporary Western culture in classical Greece and Rome, and then brings you right up to date via a survey of key art-historical periods, including the Italian and Northern Renaissances and the birth of the concept of the artist. As well as this grounding in the traditional Western art-historic canon, you will also explore non-Western art histories and current challenges to the linear and historically prevailing accounts of art history with a view to redressing historic imbalances and injustices. From Banksy to Basquiat, Kusama to Kngwarreye, you are encouraged to find your own place and voice within these fantastically complex visual worlds. This course actively seeks individuals who want to challenge and shape the future of the discipline of art history, individuals who feel disconnected from the representations that they see in galleries and museums and who want to effect change.

Bristol School of Art

At the heart of Bristol School of Art lies a dynamic team striving to support and develop your creative thinking. This unique environment has been a centre for art education for 160 years. Located in the

beautiful Royal West of England Academy building, it is located within minutes from art galleries and museums in Bristol’s city centre, such as RWA, Bristol City Museum and Gallery, the Arnolfini and Spike Island. A particular feature valued by our alumni is the small group sizes, which help forge an atmosphere where everyone is valued for who they are. The school has an ethos for interdisciplinary approaches to idea development that fosters both individual and collaborative outcomes. Our HE programmes are awarded by the University of Gloucestershire.

Degree Show Video 2023

Bristol School of Art 2023 Degree Show

Main Image Credit: Gurgin betrays Bizhan, ca. 1580-1590 AD, Persian Manuscript MS 26 Collection of McGill University Islamic Studies Library.

"I can’t think of a better campus to study on"

There has been a fantastic range of teaching in the academic content, but also a mix of practical sessions which gives students the advantage over other Art History courses that aren’t so closely connected with an art school. This varied delivery gives me the advantage of a better understanding of art processes and their materials and methods than if I’d chosen to study the same degree elsewhere.The relationship we have with the staff is fantastic, I felt very welcomed.

BA (Hons) Art History
Study Modules
Surveys and Frameworks (1) - Introductions

Emphasis will be placed on providing you with an introduction to early periods of artistic production through key themes and visual texts. Topics will be delivered thematically - e.g. Art and Power, Art and Religion, Art and Identity - to allow for the exploration of a broad variety of objects and cultural approaches. Discussions will focus on exploring Western art historical periods and styles (e.g. Minoan, Archaic, Classical) alongside chronologically adjacent periods in non-Western traditions, e.g. Jomon, Shang Dynasty and Indias Classical period. You will also learn about the dominant structures (both chronological and ideological) within which Art History has been traditionally framed as a western-focused subject.

Coursework: individual, standard written 30% (750 words)

Coursework: individual, standard written 70% (1,500 words)

Surveys and Frameworks (2) Foundations

<p>You will be introduced to concepts, themes and contexts relevant to the timeframe 1000 C.E. &nbsp;1600 C.E. (including medieval and Renaissance) with an emphasis on the cultural intersections between western and non-western traditions during these periods. Some consideration will also be given to analysing how the art of these periods has been traditionally framed within art historical discourses. Subjects that will be covered include the status of artist-makers in the Middle Ages, art in the service of spirituality and the changing status of the artist in the Renaissance. These will be contextualised in a wider history of the discipline of Art History, from Pliny to Winckelmann to Hegel, and beyond. Special emphasis will be placed in the module on the intersections between western and non-western cultures.</p>

Coursework: individual, standard written 30% (1500 words)

Coursework: individual, standard written 70% (3000 words)

Objects and Contexts

You will have the opportunity to develop your visual and contextual analysis skills by accessing and working with created objects in a variety of settings, including studio demonstrations and specialist talks on some of the key methods and materials used to create artworks, including printmaking, painting, drawing/ mark-making, sculpture and ceramics. You will have the opportunity to learn from practising specialists in these areas alongside lectures and seminars discussing the evolution and usage of materials in historical and contemporary contexts (e.g. Joshua Reynolds's use of oil paint, Eva Hesse's use of latex). When appropriate, this knowledge will be extended through hands-on participation in studio demonstrations.You will work with material from local collections, including the Royal West of England Academy and the Ken Straddling Collection, both to extend your understanding of the materiality of objects and also to begin to investigate how viewing contexts are constructed by different artists and other professionals working in fields associated with Art History.

Coursework: individual, standard written 30% (1,500 words)

Coursework: individual, standard written 70% (3,000 words)

Research Methodologies (1)

This module aims to introduce you to a broad range of theories in Art History and also to provide a sound knowledge relating to the practicalities of primary and secondary research in the discipline, including methodologies of visual analysis. You will develop an awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of the principles and concepts underlying the theoretical frameworks and methodologies covered, including iconography and iconology, semiotics, Marxism, feminisms, sexualities (such as gender performativity and queer theory), postcolonial theory and postmodernism. The module will be based on the principle of learning through application, requiring you to interpret a range of artworks by applying the theories and methodologies you have learnt about/ been introduced to. The module also aims to provide students with skills relating to the practicalities of primary and secondary research in Art History, including methodologies of visual analysis (such as formal, contextual and subjective analysis), how to decide which resources to access (books, periodicals, websites, reference works, etc) and the importance of peer-reviewed literature.

Coursework: group, presentation 30% (7 minutes / 750 words or equivalent)

Coursework: individual, standard written 70% (1,500 words)

The Body

This seminar-based module will focus on the analysis of a number of issues, themes and contexts within which to begin to explore the often contentious subject of the body in Art History. As well as looking at representations of the body as traditionally central to the Western traditions of painting and sculpture, you will address the many ideas about the body raised by such issues as gender, sexuality, race, class and power in historical, Modern, Postmodern and contemporary contexts. Themes such as narrative (religious and otherwise), identity (including self), psychologies, materiality, sensuality, gender, sexuality and the body as material will allow for wide-ranging temporal and global discussions. Notions of the gaze, as understood in contexts including Gender, Race, Class and Power will also be explored. Methods of representation, such as life drawing and modelling in clay will be discussed and students will have the opportunity to take part in practical sessions to allow for the practical application of theoretical constructs.

70% Coursework: individual, presentation 10 minutes (1,000 words or equivalent)

30% Coursework: individual, standard written 3,500 words

Research Methodologies (2)

This skills-based module will build on knowledge acquired in AH4004 and deepen your engagement, and ability to communicate with theory. A range of theories in Art History will be considered, with which you will be required to engage critically, and the structures of art historical writings and written frameworks will also be examined. As in AH4004, the module will be based on the principle of learning through application, requiring you to interpret a range of artworks by applying the theories and methodologies you have encountered.A range of theories will be covered, e.g. reception theory, psychoanalysis, hermeneutics, structuralism and deconstruction, and the field of material culture will also be explored. Students will progress their ability to engage critically with theoretical frameworks. To aid with this, the structures and forms of art-historical writings and written frameworks will also be examined and critiqued, e.g. academic journal articles, exhibition reviews, educational literature, gallery and museum captions and so on.

Coursework: group, presentation 30% 1,000 words (or equivalent)

Coursework: individual, standard written 70% 2,000 words

The Land

Through lectures and seminars you will investigate how the Land has been addressed in both western and non-western contexts. Topics for exploration will include (but not be limited to): the role of landscape in early western traditions; the rise of landscape painting from the Reformation onwards; concepts of landscape and empty space in Japanese painting; the land as narrative space; topographies; the Picturesque; the Sublime; Twentieth-century Land Art in Britain and America and its legacy; art and ecology; urban landscapes; the body as land; photographic landscapes; Psychogeography. Students will have the opportunity to take part in practical sessions including drawing outside and making site-specific works. These sessions will allow for the practical application of theoretical and technical constructs.

Coursework: individual, presentation 70% (15 minutes plus 5 minutes Q&A - 1500 words or equivalent)

Coursework: individual, standard written 30% (4,500 words)

Live Project

This module will provide you with the opportunity to identify and take part in a collaborative or individual live project of your choosing which will allow you to demonstrate the application of your developing art historical skills. The project and context will depend on your emerging identity as an art historian and may be located in a physical or digital context. You may, for example, choose to design and produce a project on a subject suitable for an educational context or curate a small display of artworks. This curation could take place within a physical gallery space or in a digital, virtual, or other viewing environment. You will negotiate your project through consultation with your tutors.

Coursework: individual, standard written 30% (1,000 words)

Coursework: individual, standard written 70% (2,000 words)

Surveys and Frameworks (4) Contemporary Enquiries

This module aims to introduce you to the major issues surrounding contemporary art production and recent attempts to produce a critical framework in which to view it. Notions such as altermodernism, hypermodernism, supermodernism and globalism will be discussed, evaluated and debated. The work of contemporary practitioners such as Ai Wei Wei, Yayoi Kusama, Marina Abramovic, Christian Boltanski, Bill Viola, Wolfgang Tillmans and Anish Kapoor will be examined in relation to their use of contemporary and traditional technologies and the dissemination of their work to large global audiences. Their self-styling (and self-perception) as creative personalities will also be examined. Underpinning this material, students will have an ongoing introduction to the emergence of conceptual art and digital technologies in the 1960s and 70s. Recent attempts by critics and scholars such as Nicholas Bourriad and James Elkins to rationalise the very broad currents and styles in the art produced since 2000 will also be covered. The syllabus for this module will necessarily flex to allow for the inclusion of emergent artists, art forms and ways of thinking.

Coursework: individual, standard written 30% (2,000 words)

Coursework: individual, standard written 70 % (4,000 words)

Surveys and Frameworks (3) The Modern World

This module will explore concepts of Modernism and Postmodernism, addressing key issues, artists, movements and debates surrounding the art of the late nineteenth to the late twentieth century. An ongoing emphasis will be placed on the exploration of the rise of internationalism and the shift in cultural centres of the art world, with reference to emerging global intersections. Exploration of these concepts and histories will be through the consideration of major art movements, key artists and artworks. Assessment of coursework will be through the submission of individual blog content (or other negotiated format) on three key themes which have been peer reviewed by other students to encourage the development of collaborative and analytical skills (e.g. communication, giving feedback, applying feedback, evaluation). Each student will also submit a 4000-word essay on a topic relevant to this module which has been negotiated by the student. Students will be given the choice of several broad essay questions, however, the focus for analysis will be of the students own choosing. 1.1 tutorials and a mid-semester review will allow for checking of progress.

Coursework: individual, standard written 30 % (2,000 words)

Coursework: individual, standard written 70 % (4,000 words)


This module will give you the opportunity to explore the continuities and changes which have taken place in viewing contexts for art. A variety of traditional and non-traditional viewing contexts will be explored alongside the changing identity and role of the viewer. We will examine the form and function of spaces including (but not limited to) the traditional public gallery, private viewing areas, interventions in the public realm, the rise of the white cube gallery and virtual environments. Consideration will be given to the historical role of establishments (such as the Royal Academy, London and the Paris Salon) in the construction of controlled viewing environments and also the alternative spaces which challenged this orthodoxy (e.g. the Salon des Refuss). A variety of issues will be discussed across this module including the role of the viewer and the emergence of the viewer as collaborator in recent times.

Coursework: individual, standard written 30 % (2,500 words)

Coursework: individual, standard written 70 % (4,500 words)

The Future of Art History?

The form and function of Art History as a discipline has been under scrutiny since the 1970s and the emergence of the New Art History and Visual Culture as a related subject. In today's increasingly global and visual world, Art History's relevance and traditional western-focus on a set of determined styles and approaches has been called into question. Contemporary art historians such as James Elkins, Anna Bryzska and others are interrogating the discipline and suggesting alternative futures based on integration with an international community of scholars, curators, students, thinkers and practitioners. This module will directly engage with these approaches and also explore ideas about how traditional tools for visual analysis (for example) can be applied to new media. The role of art prizes, the international art market, the growth in digital gallery and display environments and the trans-nationalism of key museums and galleries (e.g. the Louvre and the Guggenheim) will be analysed. This module will be supported by visiting lecturers who will offer views on their evolving practices.

Coursework: individual, standard written 30 % (2,500 words)

Coursework: individual, standard written 70% (4,500 words)

Dissertation/ Major Research Project

This module will give you the opportunity to formally engage with an area of Art History appropriate to your studies, interests and evolving professional ambitions. You will, through negotiation with your dissertation supervisor, identify an art historical topic of interest to you and undertake research either through: 1. Developing a formal written Dissertation of 6000 words. OR 2.Undertaking an identified project (e.g. within a gallery, education, literary context etc.) which would lead to an outcome (e.g. a small display, an educational blog, a critical review) supported by a critical and evaluative text of 3000 words.

Coursework: individual, dissertation/major project 75 % [Written study (6,000 words) OR written study (3,000 words) plus an outcome]

Coursework: individual, presentation 25 % (20 minutes, to include 5 minutes Q&A)


This module will trace the history of the changing status and role(s) of the artist, from medieval craftsman to the artist as a creative and self-determined persona, to contemporary practitioners who speak to a global audience. Case studies (e.g. Hans Holbein, Albrecht Drer, Michelangelo, Hokusai, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Van Gogh, Tracy Emin, Ai Wei Wei) will be examined in order to explore how artists have been perceived and their identities constructed by external discourse, but also how they have perceived themselves and their roles. Other themes that will be explored are the construction of the canonical artist, the history of the concept of the artist-genius and the strengths and weaknesses of biographical interpretation as a method of understanding artworks. The module will also include consideration of the role and myriad functions of the self-portrait in the development of the status of the artist, e.g. as signature, advertisement, experiment and a means of self-expression. This modules content will link closely with the themes explored in AH6001 and AH6002.

Coursework: individual, presentation 70% (20 minutes - 2,000 words or equivalent)

Coursework: individual, standard written 30% (5,000 words)

Course Video
Dr Louise Franklin
Programme Lead - BA (Hons) Art History
*This programme is subject to validation and delivery approval by the University of Gloucestershire.
Queens Road Campus
Bachelors Degree
Full-time Duration:
3 Years
Full-time Fee (Per Year):
Part-time Duration:
6 Years
Part-time Fee (Per Year):
UCAS Application Code:
UCAS Entry Tariff:
Entry Requirements

The minimum UCAS tariff entry points from a level 3 qualification, GCSE Maths and English at grade C/4. Once your application has been reviewed, you may be invited for an interview. Mature students over 24 without the relevant qualifications will be required to demonstrate previous experience and evidence of academic ability.

Course info last updated:
July 1, 2024
Delivery Format

The delivery format for your degree-level programs is primarily face-to-face and in-person sessions. However, there may be some hybrid sessions offered occasionally, mainly for flexibility purposes, such as tutorials or for larger events like visiting lecturers. Additionally, it's mentioned that all degree programs are well-supported by Virtual Learning Environments, which include Teams or Google Classroom.

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