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Art: History and Theory

All human societies have used images, and art historians set themselves the task of understanding that process. Traditionally, the discipline of art history has concentrated on the ‘fine’ arts of painting, sculpture and architecture.  In recent years, however, scholars have broadened their focus, and art historians now research a much wider range of objects and artefacts: tapestries and porcelain, for example, the moving and the digital image, even advertising and propaganda.  The subject shares many interests and methods with other disciplines such as archaeology, anthropology, literary studies, philosophy, and political, social and cultural history.

The Oxford History of Art degree therefore encourages students to take an interdisciplinary approach to visual culture in all periods, from the ancient world to the present, and across almost all parts of the world.  Students at Oxford have access to a compact group of world-class museums, galleries and collections, including the Ashmolean Museum, Christ Church Picture Gallery, Modern Art Oxford, the Museum of the History of Science, and the Pitt Rivers Museum, as well as to the rich collections of the Bodleian Library.  The University is also home to the Ruskin School of Art, one of the UK’s leading art schools.

Visiting Students at St Edmund Hall may select introductory or more specialized options, depending on their interests and their academic experience, either as Major (primary) or as Minor (secondary) options.  The range of courses on offer does vary according to the term of study and the availability of tutors, but we will do our best to meet your preferred options.  In recent years, students have taken introductory courses on ancient, medieval, Renaissance, and modern art, and more specialist courses on Greek art and archaeology, c.500-300 BC; Flanders and Italy in the Quattrocento, 1420-80; politics, art and culture in the Italian Renaissance: Venice and Florence, c. 1475-1525; painting and culture in Ming China; court culture and art in early modern England 1580-1700; English architecture, 1660-1720; art and its public in France, 1815-67; intellect and culture in Victorian Britain; art in china since 1911; Britain at the movies: film and national identity since 1914; German Expressionism; Modernism and after. and European cinema.  Courses on the Theory of Art and Visual Culture, and on Understanding Museums and Collections are also available, and tutorial courses tailored to individual interests can be arranged if suitable tutors are available.