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Art and Society in Nineteenth-Century Britain

The nineteenth century was marked by huge social, political and technological changes. This module will consider how artists engaged with key issues of the time such as urbanisation and industrialisation, nation and empire, gender and class, and modernity and tradition. It will encompass the study of a wide range of materials including paintings, photographs, printed material, and the applied arts.

Assessment is via a 2500-word essay (100%).

This module aims to:

  • Develop your knowledge and understanding of British nineteenth-century visual culture and its relationship to contemporary society.
  • Provide you with first-hand experience of art objects.
  • Develop your critical analysis and judgement in relation to the different themes and styles seen in nineteenth-century British art and design.
  • Provide you with experience of close textual analysis of different kinds of art historical writing.
  • Demonstrate the importance of context and the relationship of art history to other disciplines such as literature, social history, film and visual media and the history of ideas.
  • Develop academic study and writing skills.

This Short Course can be taken as a stand-alone course or it may be available as part of a Certificate of Higher Education.

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you should be able to:

  • Begin to engage with the concepts, values and debates that inform the study and practice of the history of art, including an awareness of the limitations and partiality of all historical knowledge.
  • Analyse, describe and interpret objects, images, buildings and artefacts closely and systematically.
  • Show understanding of the objects, contexts and issues relevant to 2 or more specific areas of the history of art.
  • Select relevant evidence from the wide range of possible types of evidence used in the history of art and apply it to the examination of art historical issues and problems.
  • Complete all coursework and assessment requirements.

Recommended reading

The following will be referred to frequently in class:

  • Mackenzie, J. (ed.), The Victorian Vision: Inventing New Britain, V&A Publications, 2001.
  • Treuherz, J., Victorian Painting, Thames and Hudson, 1993.
  • Vaughan, W., British Painting: The Golden Age, Thames and Hudson, 1999.

The following are recommended as useful ancillary reading:

  • Barringer, T., Reading the Pre-Raphaelites (1998).
  • Brooks, C., The Gothic Revival (1999).
  • Gillett, P., Worlds of Art: Painters in Victorian Society (1990).
  • Smith, A. and others (ed.), Artist and Empire: Facing Britain’s Imperial Past (2015).
  • Snodin, M. and Styles, J. (eds), Design and the Decorative Arts: Victorian Britain, 1837-1901 (2004).
  • Taylor, B., Art for the Nation: Exhibitions and the London Public 1747-2001 (1999).

The following are useful reference texts:

  • Curl, J., Victorian Architecture (1990).
  • Gere, C. and Whiteway, M., Nineteenth-Century Design: From Pugin to Mackintosh (1993).
  • Lambourne, L., Victorian Painting (1999).
  • Read, B., Victorian Sculpture (1992).
  • Wood, C., Victorian Painting (1999).

    15 credits at level 4

    • Entry requirements

      Entry requirements

      Most of our short courses have no formal entry requirements and are open to all students. You may have to fulfil specific prerequisites for some intermediate-level or advanced-level courses, but these will be specified where relevant.

      Visa requirements

      If you are not from the European Economic Area (EEA) and/or Switzerland and you are coming to study in the UK, you may need to apply for a visa.

      The visa you apply for varies according to the length of your course:

      • Courses of more than six months' duration.
      • Courses of less than six months' duration.
      • Pre-sessional English language courses.

      International students who require a Tier 4 visa should apply for our full-time courses (with the exception of modular enrolment certificates of higher education and graduate certificates), as these qualify for Tier 4 sponsorship. If you are living in the UK on a Tier 4 visa, you will not be eligible to enrol as a student on Birkbeck's part-time courses (with the exception of some modules).

      For full information, read our visa information for international students page.

    • How to apply

      How to apply

      You enrol directly onto the classes you would like to take, using the Enrol Now link below. Classes are filled on a first-come, first-served basis – so apply early. If you wish to take more than one short course, you can select each one separately and then enrol onto them together via our online application portal. There is usually no formal selection process, although some modules may have prerequisites and/or other requirements, which will be specified where relevant.

    First class: Tue 21-Jan-20 6pm-8pm

    Class location Central London
    Class code ARVC082H4AAA