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Unit information: Art of the Northern Renaissance (Level M Lecture Response Unit) in 2020/21

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Unit name Art of the Northern Renaissance (Level M Lecture Response Unit)
Unit code HARTM0032
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Williamson
Open unit status Not open




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


This unit covers art produced in France, the Low Countries (the Netherlands, Belgium and Flanders) and Germany, during the late fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries. The glories of the Italian Renaissance have sometimes been allowed to overshadow the equally fascinating and extraordinary art that was produced in the north of Europe during the same period. Equally, assumptions about what the Renaissance was, and what the term means, have largely proceeded from considerations of Italian art. We will consider the ways in which the term might have differing meanings and differing implications when used in a northern European context. Media to be examined will be mainly painting and sculpture, but may also include metalwork and the graphic arts. Key artists to be studied may include: the Limbourg brothers, Claus Sluter, Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memling, Albrecht Durer, Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Breugel. Key issues to be considered may include: the ways in which the term ‘Renaissance’ is used, both now and in the past, and what it means (and has meant) in historical and art-historical scholarship focussing on France, the Low Countries (the Netherlands, Belgium and Flanders) and Germany; the ways in which the ‘Northern Renaissance’ may be seen as distinct from the ‘Italian Renaissance’; patronage, function, and reception of – and trade in – the art of northern Europe.

Intended learning outcomes

1) To give students a thorough grounding in the art of the Northern Renaissance and to consider how and why it differs from that of the Italian Renaissance.

2) To place students in direct contact with the current research interests of the academic tutor and to enable them to explore the issues surrounding the state of research in the field.

3) To develop students’ ability to work with primary sources relating to this field and produce a research-led essay based on such sources.

4) To develop students’ abilities to integrate primary source material into a wider art historical and historiographical analysis.

5) To develop students’ ability to learn independently within a group context.

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 summative coursework essay of 5000 words (100%). This will assess ILOs 2-5.

Reading and References

Susie Nash, Northern Renaissance Art (2008) J. Snyder, Northern Renaissance Art (1985) Jeffrey Chipps Smith, Art of the Northern Renaissance (2004) K. W. Woods (ed.), Making Renaissance Art (2007) C. M. Richardson (ed.), Locating Renaissance Art (2007) K.W. Woods, C.M. Richardson and A. Lymberopoulou, Viewing Renaissance Art (2007) J. Dunkerton, et al, Giotto to Dürer: Early Renaissance Painting in the National Gallery, London (1991) T. Müller, Sculpture in the Netherlands, Germany, France and Spain, 1400-1500 (1966) M. Belozerskaya, Rethinking the Renaissance: Burgundian Arts across Europe (2002)