Art History & Visual Culture

  • Varied programme allowing the study of a range of fine arts and contemporary visual forms
  • Internationally-recognised fine art, heritage and film collections on site
  • Opportunity to study abroad
  • Flexibility to customise your degree around your own interests
  • Designed to develop a broad range of highly desirable transferable skills, but with specialist knowledge and professional experience
  • Wide variety of techniques and approaches to learning, including opportunities for study ‘in the field’ at galleries and museums

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.