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Unit information: Art in Britain (Level I Lecture Response Unit) in 2020/21

Unit name Art in Britain (Level I Lecture Response Unit)
Unit code HART20024
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Brockington
Open unit status Not open




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


In recent decades there has been a renaissance in British art studies, turning an art-historical backwater into a hot-spot of academic debate. The unit draws on this recent wave of scholarship to examine the development of art in Britain, and its struggle to assert itself in the wider international art world. There is a vast amount of material that we could potentially explore. We will take as our starting point the careers of four artists who are central to the canon of British art, and whose work still sparks debate: Hogarth, Turner, Sickert and Riley. With each, we will go on to examine their reception across the history of British art. Which other artists did they influence? e.g. Hogarth/ Perry, Turner/ Eliasson, Sickert/ Freud, Riley/ Emin. How have later generations adapted or subverted the example of their work, and reinterpreted the themes and genres that they explored e.g. Hogarth and satirical theatre, Turner and landscape, Sickert and figurative realism, Riley and the body? Building through these four case-studies will be a larger discussion about the idea of a tradition of British art. Does it exist, and if so, what are its themes and preoccupations, and where might it be tending?

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have developed: (1) a wider knowledge of the development of British Art; (2) the ability to analyse and generalise about the significance of developments in British art studies; (3) the ability to select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general issues and arguments; (4) the ability to identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically, and form an individual viewpoint.

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 (50%) (ILOs 1-4)

One timed assessment (50%) (ILOs 1,2-4)

Reading and References

  • Grace Brockington, 'A "Lavender Talent" or "The Most Important Woman Painter in Europe"? Reassessing Vanessa Bell', Art History, 36: 1 (February 2013) 129-53
  • Mark Cheetham, 'The "Englishness" of English Art Theory, A Companion to British Art: 1600 to the Present (Chichester: Blackwell, 2013) 13-37
  • Richard Johns, ed., ‘There's no such thing as British art’, British Art Studies, 1 (Autumn, 2015)
  • Margaret Garlake, 'Nation and Tradition' in New Art New World: British art in postwar society (Yale University Press, 1998) 62-83
  • Lisa Tickner, Modern life & modern subjects: British art in the early twentieth century, Yale University Press, 2000
  • Janet Wolff, 'English Art and Principled Aesthetics', A Companion to British Art: 1600 to the Present (Chichester: Blackwell, 2013) 60-75