History of Art
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Bachelor of Arts
History of Art with Material Studies (HAMS)
UCAS Code: V3F2
UCL is one of the most exciting places to study history of art in the country. The Department considers the field broadly to include all aspects of visual culture, and our world-leading research provides the basis for our exceptional and dynamic approach to teaching. The BA programme aims to develop your knowledge and understanding of the visual arts, covering a wide range of visual imagery and making use of London's extensive public collections, libraries, museums and architecture. The kind of student who would benefit particularly from the history of art degree programme at UCL should be of real academic promise, they should also be intensely curious about the way things look and relate to other aspects of human culture and societies, as well as being analytical and adept at critical thinking. Entry is highly competitive, but the Department does not privilege applicants who have previously studied history of art. However, A-Levels or equivalents in history, English or a foreign language can be an advantage, given the essay-based nature of the degree and the programme's engagement with art's global histories. Candidates are normally required to have a GCSE grade B pass (or the equivalent) in one foreign language (although we are flexible on this if the candidate makes an otherwise excellent application). However, all students must complete a module in a foreign language in the first year of the programme. The Department at UCL is unique in offering the a single honours degree programme which combines history of art and material studies. The distinctive characteristic of this course is that it combines a full programme in the history of art with a unique focus on works of art as physical objects. This gives the students comprehensive skills in art history, together with a thorough understanding of artists’ techniques and questions of materiality, both at the time a work of art was made, and subsequently as it ages and deteriorates. These specialist object based courses are of a more technical/scientific nature that will be of particular relevance to those interested in conservation and other museum-based vocations.
In their first year
students are introduced to a range of narratives and procedures and to the
techniques of close scrutiny of objects and other evidence, as well as to ways
of combining the two. They learn something of the way the discipline has been
constructed, to give them training in a range of intellectual and procedural
tools and to enable them to begin to think critically about different
approaches to the subject. For HAMS students this includes an introduction
to the major classes of materials found within museum collections, addressing
their application as artists' materials as well as a basic science course
for non-scientists, to give students an understanding of the physical and
chemical behaviour of artists’ materials. The tasks students have to
perform in this stage train them to work within guidelines and to deadlines,
and develop their ability to undertake investigations in libraries and
galleries, to use other resources as appropriate, and to write relevant
expositions of evidence and coherent arguments from evidence. It will also
develop their ability to benefit from a variety of teaching and learning modes,
including how to work with teachers and colleagues in a seminar. They also
acquire or reinforce necessary ancillary skills in foreign languages and in
presentation, including word-processing. As appropriate, they develop an
understanding of another area of study, from which skills and bodies of
knowledge will in the second and third stages become available to
cross-fertilise those they acquire on the History of Art course.
In the second year, through exposure to more complex and specialised debates, students develop their ability to identify and deploy art-historical discourses. They do this in relation to specific problems and topics, and are expected to acquire a concentration of knowledge within at least one period of history. As appropriate, they extend their skills in the close examination of objects, including the study of the history of techniques in art. As appropriate, they also deepen their understanding of the way the discipline has been constructed in the past, and of the debates concerning methodology which currently dominate the discipline. For HAMS students this includes exploring a variety of different methodologies and approaches concerning aspects of making and specific materials. They will also engage with issues surrounding art production, curating, or conservation: theories connected to the producers, spaces of making and doing, tools, materiality, things, economics, installation, or the workings of art institutions, They will expand on, and extend, their knowledge of the materials and methodologies covered during the first year’s course, whilst also exploring the history and theory of conservation. Students continue to develop their ability to write relevant and cogent arguments within guidelines and to deadlines on the basis of extensive study in libraries, and their ability to work effectively in a variety of teaching and learning modes. In particular they gain competence in the skills necessary to participate productively in a seminar. They develop appropriate skills and bodies of knowledge in another discipline, and bring these, as appropriate, to bear on their period of specialisation and their awareness of the nature of Art-historical enquiry.
In the third year students continue to develop their ability to identify and deploy art-historical discourses, bringing this developing competence to bear on more highly defined problems. They acquire, as appropriate, the ability to locate, assess and use primary sources, and the ability to argue on the basis of familiarity with specialist literature. In most case they also develop the ability to produce an extended piece of writing based on a topic whose definition and organisation is primarily their own responsibility, which requires them to bring the knowledge and skills acquired in the second phase, and being acquired through other experience in the third phase, to bear on an specific but extended body of material, debate or problem. They learn to make better use of, and more useful contributions to, the seminar as a collaborative process, and to accept and discharge their part of the shared responsibility for its success. As appropriate, they have the opportunity to extend their understanding of the techniques of close scrutiny of objects, or of the history and methodology of Art History, through essay-projects of their own definition. For HAMS students this might involve gaining work experiences outside of the department (current partners are the UCL Art Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Wellcome Collection (prints and drawings), and the Whitechapel Gallery). They continue to acquire appropriate skills and bodies of knowledge in another discipline, and bring these, as relevant, to bear on their period of specialisation or their awareness of the nature of Art-historical enquiry.
The department uses a variety of teaching formats: there are some lecture courses with follow-up discussions, but the great majority of courses are taught in seminar groups. These meet weekly, normally for two hours. Whenever it is appropriate to the objectives of the course, teaching takes place in museums and galleries or on visits to monuments. In several courses, the majority of classes take place 'in front of the object', and students can expect to participate in such classes in all three years of the course. Students are encouraged to use the very rich public collections and other resources which London can offer for their own study of art history; with some assignments based around the intensive study of objects or groups of objects from London collections. For HAMS students seminar discusses often run alongside practical experiments, designed to give the students first-hand experience of artists’ materials. Students often also get an opportunity to go ‘behind the scenes’ to visit conservation studios and on-site conservation projects, gallery stores, and artists’ studios.
The department is involved in teaching a whole range of degrees, some of which are administered from other departments. Thus, in addition to the Single Honours degree in History of Art, there are Single Honours degrees in History of Art with Material Studies (HAMS), and the History of Western and Non-Western Art - the second of these is run from the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS). There are also Combined Honours degrees with Dutch, French, German, Italian, Philosophy, Scandinavian Studies and Spanish, in which History of Art comprises around half of the course.
Tailoring Your Degree Course
The College measures courses in terms of what are called Course Units. Some courses are half unit courses (0.5 cu), some are whole unit courses (1.0 cu). Generally speaking, half unit courses comprise about 20 hours teaching and last for one term, and whole unit courses comprise about 40 hours teaching and spread over two terms. The amount of assessment for the courses also differs proportionately. A full degree course in History of Art, or History of Art with Material Studies, or the History of Western and Non-Western Art degree at SOAS (which includes modules taught in our Department), comprises 12 Course Units taken over three years, as does the Combined Honours degree with Philosophy. The Modern Language Plus BA comprises of 16 units as this is a four year degree. Single Honours degree students must take 2 Course Units of their degree in either Anthropology, or Archaeology, or History, or Philosophy. As long as they meet the department's basic minimum requirements for their degree programme, students can take courses in other departments of the College subject to availability.
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