History of Art


Art/Architecture in London Modules

These elective courses are open to both UCL degree students and affiliate students who are registered outside the History of Art department.

These elective modules are open to both UCL degree students and affiliate students who are registered outside the History of Art department.

They are aimed as challenging introductory modules for non-History of Art students (both UCL degree and visiting affiliates) and focus on works of art in London’s museum and gallery collections and the city’s architecture. 

The contents and syllabus of these modules change each year. Previous modules have focused on medieval art and architecture; Italian art of the 15th and 16th centuries in the National Gallery and Victoria & Albert Museum; 17thc architecture of Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren and modern and contemporary art and artists from Europe, Africa and the United States represented at Tate Modern. Please find below the list and times of courses offered in 2021/22. Important: the start and end times are when the classes begin and end off campus at galleries etc, so please make sure your timetable allows for this. More detailed course descriptions will be available later in the summer.

Autumn Term

HART0008: Art in London before 1600

Mondays 14:00-16:00

This course will investigate works made in western Europe in the period 1350-1600. We will address art works by famous artists such as Titian, Michelangelo and Leonardo – often understood as embodying so-called Renaissance ideals – as well as less-known, but equally revealing, objects. By focusing on a variety of media and materials we will explore how materials, artefacts, ideas and people moved across Europe (and beyond). While admiring such works in famous London museums, displayed on neutral walls or kept away from our touch, we will nevertheless attempt to understand how such artefacts were intended to be seen, experienced and used in their original contexts. The module also aims to offer an insight as to how some of the works that are deemed to be amongst the most representative of the so-called Italian Renaissance ended up in museum collections in London.

HART0018: Modern and contemporary Art in London III

Wednesdays, 14:00-16:00

This course will unfold a history of nineteenth and twentieth century art with the help of a single protagonist: painting. Since Baudelaire, painting has played a central role in mediating the relationship between art and modernity. Even in the postmodern period of the 1970s and 1980s, when painting was declared to be ‘dead’, it retained its grip (albeit negatively) on art and artists. This course will offer a long view on the continuing debates on painting’s relevance, examining major artists and movements from the nineteenth and twentieth century who both embraced and rejected painting’s possibilities. Although painting is the subject, the artists studied will not exclusively be painters, the influence of painting will also be explored in relationship to other mediums such as sculpture, performance and photography. Seminars will focus on up to five works and will take place inside galleries and museums, including the National Gallery, the Courtauld Gallery, Tate Modern and Tate Britain.

HART0024: Architecture in London II 

Fridays, 14:00-16:00

The Heart of Empire: (Re)Constructing Protean Visions of Britain’s Empires through London’s Public Architecture

Architecture is the one artform whose presence, symbolic message and socio-political legacy cannot be avoided. The construction of great buildings is an undertaking imbued with significant symbolic and political currency which continues to have an unavoidable resonance with those who continue to interact with these spaces today.

Through an overview of key historical moments and an examination of several major architectural projects, this course will present London as a city in which architecture was consciously and deliberately utilised and propagandized as a potent device through which the changing essential values of and core political vision for the British Empire were communicated to its citizens, the wider British population and to the foreign eye. It will also consider current, very live, debates surrounding how contemporary post-imperial societies can and ought to deal with the highly contested legacies of these unavoidable urban spaces.

Engaging with diverse issues and concepts and taught almost exclusively through onsite visits, the course gives students an opportunity to gain a solid understanding of the social and artistic history of London and its critical role as stage for the theatre of Empire, and includes (subject to COVID-19 restrictions) visits to major public buildings and royal palaces where they will have opportunity to meet and debate the challenges of presenting these buildings to contemporary audiences with curators and experts. Students will also have the opportunity to visit buildings and spaces otherwise inaccessible to the general public including behind the scenes at Kensington Palace, the Royal Apartments of the Palace of Westminster, and the spectacular interiors of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Spring Term

HART0010: Art in London before 1600 III  

Mondays 14:00-16:00

This museum-based course will use some of the most renowned objects in London’s museums to explore some of the fundamental questions within art history, asking what it means to be an art historian and what may be gained from the study of visual culture. Referencing primarily medieval works made within the British Isles (with some study of comparative works from elsewhere), weekly teaching will consider questions of artistic creation, context, reception, material and the tension between medieval and modern understandings of ‘art’. These sessions will also engage with the contemporary discourse in medieval studies about how the categories of race and gender intersected with the creation of these works, and continue to inform our interpretations of them. This course will (COVID-19 restrictions permitting) be based primarily within museums and buildings in London, including the National Gallery, the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Museum of London, the British Library and Westminster Abbey. 

HART0021: Modern and contemporary Art in London VII

Wednesdays, 14:00-16:00

This course will examine the significance of art in the so-called ‘Anthropocene’—our geological epoch which is defined by modern humans’ profound disturbance of the Earth’s planetary conditions. We will critically explore how artists since the late eighteenth century have both contributed to the worsening of the climate crisis by fortifying modern ideology and subverted dominant politics to promote social and environmental justice. Underpinning these analyses will be a discussion of how approaches to the arts—including art practice, curation, and history—might be transformed to more meaningfully contribute to the climate movement, whether that be through policymaking or activism. The seminars will take place at iconic London institutions including Kew Gardens, the Courtauld Gallery, and Tate Modern; and each session will focus on an important artist such as Marianne North, William Morris, and Rasheed Araeen.

HART0027: Architecture in London V

Wednesdays, 14:00-16:00

In this 10 week module we will examine new and emerging 21st century architectural and related interior, urban and landscape designs in London. We will investigate architecture in London as a nexus in international flows of capital, technology, media, images, forms and materials in a perpetual state of evolution. Through visits to eight of the most innovative and significant case-study buildings, we will explore contemporary architectural design as stylistic, multi-sensory, formal and other aesthetic qualities as well as through detailed narratives of their enabling and embodied technologies, engineering and construction processes. Analyses will focus on how architectural elements and parts produce political, historical, economic and socio-cultural values, meanings, effects and impacts. Group analyses will use evidence drawn from a range of multimedia (including drawings, models, photography, video/film, social media, events and art) to explore how contemporary architectures are commissioned, developed, programmed, interpreted, consumed, used and reused. Through these interactive examples and researches, we will debate and speculate on how together they are situated in larger national and international projects for the future of London, architecture and cities.

Each module runs for one term (10 weeks of teaching) in either the Autumn or Spring term, with a value of 15 credits (4 US credits). The assessments for each module are completed by the end of the respective term. Assessment is by two pieces of coursework, each given equal weighting. All modules must be taken for credit, auditing is not permitted.

How to register for one of these modules:

All students must first email the History of Art Affiliate Tutor/Course Director to secure a place on one of these modules as each module has a maximum of 18 places and are allocated on a first come, first served basis. Once your place has been approved by the Affiliate Tutor/Course Director, then you may add this module to your Portico registrations.

Programme Contact

The History of Art Affiliate Tutor and Course Director for Art/Architecture in London courses is Diana Dethloff