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Unit information: Introduction to Modern Art in 2020/21

Unit name Introduction to Modern Art
Unit code HART10217
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Mike O'Mahony
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History of Art (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit provides an introduction to the art and architecture of the Modern and Postmodern periods. It will introduce students to the diversity of cultural theories, practices and debates that emerged throughout Europe and the United States during the twentieth century and up to the present day. The fundamental aim of the unit is to explore the work of artists and groups within a broad social and political context emphasising contrasts and affinities in cultural production from diverse places and moments within the geographical and chronological confines of the course. Additionally, consideration will be given to the ways in which art historians of differing viewpoints and emphases have recounted, analysed and interpreted Modern and Postmodern art.


The unit aims to provide a broad chronological survey of art during the Modern and Postmodern periods. Within this broad survey the unit has three principal objectives: to acquaint students with major works of art and personalities of the period; to introduce students to key issues and concepts connected with the study of this material, such as style, patronage, function and interpretation; and to reflect upon the ways in which Modern and Postmodern art has been treated in the secondary literature in the past, and is now being treated as a result of new approaches and recent research. The unit uses critical, historical and anthropological approaches to question traditional notions and approaches to Modern and Postmodern art.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit, the students should:

1. have gained a broad chronological understanding of the development of art production and consumption during this period;

2. be acquainted with a group of major works of art produced during this period

3. be able to reflect upon these objects in their historical context

4. be able to assess some of the ways in which art was used and consumed by patrons, both individual and institutional

5. be aware of different approaches to Modern and Postmodern art, and be able to reflect critically upon these different approaches Students will have been given the opportunity to tackle some of the key issues and concepts connected with the study of the art of this period, and given the opportunity to develop their visual recognition, iconographical skills and visual analysis.

Teaching details

Classes will involve a combination of long- and short-form lectures, class discussion, investigative activities, and practical activities. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis. This will be further supported with drop-in sessions and self-directed exercises with tutor and peer feedback.

Assessment Details

One 2000-word essay (formative) One timed assessment (100%)

Reading and References

  • Deepwell, Katie (ed.), Women Artists and Modernism (Manchester, 1998)
  • Foster, Hal, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alan Bois, Benjamin Buchloh, David Joselit (eds), Art Since 1900:
  • Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism (London, 2005)
  • Frascina, Francis, and Jonathan Harris (eds), Art in Modern Culture (London, 1992)
  • Gaiger, Jason, and Paul Wood (eds), Art of the Twentieth Century: A Reader (London, 2003)
  • Harrison, Charles, and Paul Wood (eds) Art in Theory 1900-1990 (Oxford, 1992)
  • Hamilton, George Heard, Painting and Sculpture in Europe 1880-1940 (London, 1993)
  • Meecham, Pamela, and Julie Sheldon, Modern Art: A Critical Introduction (London & New York, 2000).