History of Art

Bristol's Department of History of Art is a leading national and international centre for art historical research. 

We offer a stimulating degree course that provides the opportunity to develop and extend your interests in art history and visual culture, across a broad spectrum of subjects and approaches.

Our syllabus draws directly on the research interests of our staff, providing a unique and varied programme that enables you to develop your own independent research in all three years.

You can also study joint honours: History of Art with a modern language, which includes a year abroad.

Why study History of Art at Bristol?

Art history can be thought of as the history of ideas manifested through material objects. Art history looks at how to interpret such artefacts in their cultural context, developing expertise in critical analysis through the promotion of 'visual literacy'. This will provide you with an enviable set of professional skills, as well as abiding personal enjoyment and understanding.

At Bristol you will be taught by academics whose research helps shape the discipline. Fresh, exciting and challenging ideas inform all our units. You will have the opportunity to follow both broader chronological, geographical and thematic elements and build your own research interest and projects.

Our academic staff work on a wide range of topics including:

  • medieval visual culture
  • sculpture
  • early modern Italian art
  • art of the Weimar Republic
  • post-Soviet visual culture
  • British 20th-century painting
  • contemporary diasporic visual culture
  • modernism
  • synaesthesia
  • interdisciplinary research, especially between art and music, art and sport and art and writing.

What kind of student would this course suit?

This degree will suit anyone who enjoys researching and developing their own ideas and interests, and want to study the significance of art and visual culture more generally, across a wide range of periods and places.

This 'visual literacy' connects art history to all branches of the humanities, providing an exciting route into historical understanding and an appreciation of the central place of the arts for all civilisations. Whether you are investigating medieval manuscripts, cathedrals, graffiti, abstraction or contemporary multimedia art, Bristol will give the opportunity to study widely and develop specialist skills. 

Every day my inbox is flooded with opportunities – internships, research projects, extra-curricular activities – all of which are the University getting students involved. The University is constantly updating its facilities, which reinforces its friendly and inclusive environment.

Alexandra, Second year, LLB Law

How is this course taught and assessed?

We use a variety of teaching methods including lectures, seminars, individual tutorials and group projects. You will be expected to spend longer periods of time on independent study as the course progresses. In your final year you will produce a substantial piece of original research in the form of a dissertation.

Methods of assessment include essays, visual analysis, dissertations, presentations and projects, as well as written exams at the end of each teaching block. These include both 24-hour take-home exams and more conventional two-hour examinations.

What are my career prospects?

Bristol art history graduates have an excellent track record of employment and are much sought after, finding employment in museums and art galleries, art and antique businesses, art publishing and administration, teaching and related fields, as well as other areas such as the managerial, administrative, media and financial sectors, advertising, PR and consultancy. Many go on to further study at postgraduate level.

Read more about what students of History of Art go on to do after graduation

Did you know?

  • Students from more than 180 countries study with us, and we share more than 150 exchange links with institutions worldwide.
  • Our Students' Union has over 200 student-run societies, and the Richmond Building, home to the Students' Union, is undergoing a £30-million renovation.
  • 11 Bristol graduates and members of staff have been awarded Nobel prizes.

Subject leaflet

Download the History of Art leaflet 2017 (PDF, 275kB)

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Important disclaimer information about our courses.

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