MA in the History of Art

(OPTION WITHDRAWN) Modernism in Britain 1890-1970

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Course Description

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Regrettably this MA Option will no longer be available for the 2014/5 academic year.

If you have already submitted your application and have selected this option as one of your three preferences, you will be contacted shortly with instructions on how to select a replacement option. If you are currently in the process of completing your application, you will need to ensure that you do not select this option as one your preferences. New applicants will be unable to select the option.

If you have any questions regarding the withdrawal, please contact us at

Apologies for any inconvenience this may cause.




This course examines aspects of British art between the end of the nineteenth century (a moment of international prominence as the arts and crafts movement merged into art nouveau) and the end of the 1960s (when new forms of conceptual or process-oriented art signalled a break with the modernist tradition).

These were also the years of imperial decline and decolonisation, of two world wars, of economic depression and boom, of the emergence of new forms of state and corporate patronage and of developments in the art market and in art education.

The course will be organised chiefly through case-studies with a strong focus on particular works of art, understood in their broader artistic and social context.

Sickert (and the Camden Town Group), Lewis (and Vorticism), Vanessa Bell and Grant (and Bloomsbury), Nicholson and Hepworth (and St Ives), Hamilton and Paolozzi (and the Independent Group), Moore, Bacon, Caro, Riley and Hockney are among the significant names of the period. But cutting across the biographical litany – of John Rothenstein’s three volumes on Modern English Painters, for example – are broader and more interesting questions.

  • What are the effects of casting a history one way or another (in terms of period, or geography, or thematic focus)?
  • How are artworks related to traumatic events (such as war), or on-going technological change (such as jet air travel or colour reproduction), or social divisions (including those of gender and ethnicity)?
  • What happens to the body in this period, or landscape, or other traditional genres under the impact of surrealism, or abstraction, or the influence of Paris or New York?

Writing about British art has been especially lively in recent years and there is much to draw on now and much to contribute.

Language and other requirements

Standard entry requirements.