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Aspects of Modern Art in London

Course outline

This is a historical course that accesses the resources of London Galleries and Museums.


The course aims to give students with little knowledge of modern art, its practices and debates, the confidence to discuss art objects critically, quite often in front of the object in the museum context; it aims also to furnish students with an introduction to the significant historical changes and important moments in the art of the late 19th to mid 20th centuries, and the concept of the ‘modern’ in art. The course is also suitable for students who have some grounding in art history.


At the end of the course, you will have both a broad knowledge of some of the major developments in painting between 1860 and 1970, a good knowledge of how this period is represented in London’s galleries and museums, and will have had concrete practice in the critical analysis of paintings.

You will also be able to integrate a critical analytic approach to art with text-based historical study of context, society and aesthetics. You will be able to use primary and secondary sources to construct an argument.

Teaching and learning methods

Classes take the form of informal, research-based seminar discussions that focus on some key tendencies in modern art c.1860-1970, as they are represented in London. Major collections in London are visited by the class. Where appropriate the course takes in temporary or touring exhibitions.

Coursework and assessment

Coursework and assessment is staggered and consists of the following:

Assessed componentBasic requirementsWeightingDeadline
Short paper One short paper (approx. 1000-1500 words), on a course-related subject of the students choice (to be decided in consultation with the course tutor). Paper preferably illustrated, with full bibliography if appropriate. 20% Week 7
Essay One 2500-word essay that is independently researched by the student from a list of specified topics. Essays are to be typed with double line spacing, illustrated, and have a full bibliography. 40% Week 12
Two-hour examination The exam paper consists of a compulsory slide question and two essay questions. 40% Week 14

Students are offered individual tutorials in advance of deadlines for both papers, and receive detailed feedback with their mark.

Exam preparation and a general course revision are factored in as a final seminar.

Core readings

  • Herschel B. Chipp Theories of Modern Art (University of California 1968)
  • Charles Harrison, Paul Wood, and Jason Gaiger Art in Theory 1815-1900 (Blackwells 1998)
  • Charles Harrison and Paul Wood Art in Theory 1900-2000 (Blackwells 2003)