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Undergraduate Study

Art History & Visual Culture

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Top 10 for History of Art, Architecture and Design

The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024

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Internationally recognised fine art, heritage and film collections on site, including the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum

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Wide variety of techniques and approaches to learning, including opportunities for study in the field at galleries and museums

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Spend an intensive one week study trip in one of Europe’s renowned cultural centres

Art History & Visual Culture at Exeter is an exciting area of study which explores both the history of art and more recent ideas of the visual – extending the analysis of visual forms from the historical right through to areas of modern and contemporary practice.

While there is no absolute distinction between the two disciplines informing this programme, both in terms of what is studied and what kinds of analysis are used, there are some differences in methodologies and priorities. Broadly speaking, Art History is traditionally associated with the study of the fine arts (painting, sculpture, printmaking, architecture etc.); Visual Culture is concerned with artefacts and practices not routinely included in art historical research, including photographic and digital works, popular and ephemeral items, the role of the visual in scientific contexts; and other aspects of the visually-dominated world in which we live. Today, however, the boundaries between art history and visual culture are becoming increasingly blurred so we offer our students the opportunity to engage with both subjects as a field of study where the disciplines are in dialogue with one another.

You will gain a thorough understanding of the principles underpinning the history of art and visual culture, with an awareness of the ways in which painting, sculpture and architecture, photography and other modern visual media can be considered in relation to their cultural and historical contexts. You will also develop the critical and analytical skills and techniques required to analyse visual works, using artefacts and first-hand source material to inform your studies.

Special collections and teaching resources

Your understanding of Art History & Visual Culture will be enhanced by our well-established links with galleries and museums, both locally and nationally, including one of Britain’s largest public collections of books, prints, artefacts and ephemera relating to the history of cinema and visual media in the on-campus Bill Douglas Cinema Museum. All our students are encouraged and supported to pursue their interests, including the history of art, visual culture, contemporary arts practices, cinema, literature, cultural history, philosophy, sociology or modern languages.

Our lecturers are at the cutting edge of art, historical and visual culture research. Key members of staff specialise in the history of art and architecture, from the Renaissance to the present, the history, theory and practice of museums and collections, aspects of performance, installation, photography and video arts and visual culture from antiquity to the present day.

You can find out more about our collections, events and the involvement of our students and staff in art and culture on our Arts and Culture website.

Having studied Art History at A-Level, I came to my degree expecting a very traditional course, focusing on old masters, and European works.

However, the breadth of specialism amongst the lecturers is phenomenal. The variety of module choices, despite being challenging, is something to be welcomed and contrasts with the more conventional course I had originally expected. The size of the course has actually been one of the most enjoyable elements of the degree as it enables you to get to know everybody and fosters a great environment that makes you feel at ease very soon after starting at university.

Read more from Alicia


BA Art History & Visual Culture