Undergraduate Study

BA History of Art

Study at the Courtauld


All programmes of study offered by The Courtauld Institute of Art aim to give students access to the best available research-led teaching, and world-class learning resources. The Institute offers one undergraduate degree programme: BA (Hons) History of Art. Our BA programme is designed to:

  • equip students with a detailed knowledge and systematic, historical understanding of art from antiquity to the present 
  • produce graduates with the skills and critical curiosity necessary for participation in a range of employment opportunities
  • provide a preparation for further academic study

Download the Undergraduate 2014 prospectus [pdf]

A graduate of The Courtauld’s BA in the History of Art will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of major developments and issues in the history of art. S/he will be aware of and be able to position their own analysis in relation to a range of established interpretative methods employed in the discipline.

This will involve:

  • familiarity with major monuments and key texts 
  • appreciation of the historical processes of change in art and architecture from antiquity to the present 
  • a sophisticated and in-depth grasp of specific periods or fields of art history, and the intellectual issues raised by their study 
  • an awareness of the role of different physical settings in determining how works of art are viewed and understood 
  • first-hand experience of a range of objects, which facilitates understanding of the processes by which works of art have been made and altered.

Key Facts

  • Full time
  • circa 55 students
  • 3 Years
Language skills:
  • English
  • Home/EU fee: £ 9,000
  • Overseas fee: £ 16,000
Study at the Courtauld

The BA History of Art is a full-time, three-year course which is designed to prepare you for a career in the arts or for further academic study.

You will be assigned a personal tutor who will help you put together a structured and progressive set of course choices in each successive year of the degree. Personal tutors can also discuss assessment procedures with you and provide the first point of contact for academic and personal problems.

The undergraduate degree at The Courtauld Institute of Art is a course unit degree, that is to say, a degree which aims to be responsive to the particular choices of individual students without losing its identity as a qualification in the study of the history of art.

Detailed information about the aims and objectives of the course can be found in the programme specification below:

BA Programme Specification

BA First Year - Topic Course

Taken in the Autumn term, the Topic course provides detailed examination of one particular form or period of art, for which there are excellent resources in London. The options offered change annually but recently have included:

Ancient Sculpture in London Collections

There are special problems involved in the study of ancient art. The fragmentary nature of ancient sculpture, which can make it romantically enigmatic, also means that understanding its production, role, and meaning in ancient society – even its original form – can be a real challenge. Not only are the remains themselves fragmentary, but information regarding makers and original contexts can also prove elusive or entirely lacking.

This course introduces students to some of these problems by using case studies in London collections, and asking them to consider questions such as: who was the artist? How were the objects made? Who were they made for? How were they displayed and how did they function in society? Such questions are of course relevant beyond the study of ancient art, and so through a concentration on the problems of ancient art, the course encourages students to develop a comparative perspective on the materials and methods employed in different areas of art history.

Most classes will be held in the British Museum (BM), but we will also look at a cast of Trajan’s Column in the Cast Court at the V&A Museum and discuss Sir John Soane’s collection of antiquities at the Soane Museum.

From Late Antiquity to Byzantium through London Collections

This course will focus for the most part on the art and culture of the Eastern Mediterranean, from the fourth to the fifteenth centuries AD, by employing a number of artworks primarily from the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Classes will follow a broadly chronological order so as to demonstrate the extent and nature of change over the centuries. We will first examine the art of Late Antiquity, a key period of religious, social and political transition in Europe from the time of the unified Roman Empire to the beginning of the Byzantine and Medieval eras. Here our purpose will be to question the view of Late Antiquity and its artistic production as one of decline from the idealised realism of the classical period to more stylised, non-naturalistic images. Progressing to the art of Byzantium, we shall then draw comparisons with that of Late Antiquity and examine the ways in which the visual culture of the empire evolved stylistically, and how different types of art came into and fell out of favour over time. We shall cover all spheres of production from religious to secular, imperial to popular, public to private in a variety of media such as ivories, metalwork, icons and mosaics and will consider the various techniques and materials used.

Hogarth in London Collections

William Hogarth (1697-1764) was born in London and died in his home in Chiswick. For over forty years, he lived and worked in the capital city. Some of the most important examples of his art are here and, in some instances, the art is still displayed in the locations for which it was planned. This course intends to make maximum use of this unique opportunity. We will study a range of works at first hand and in a variety of locations - some of which may seem unusual. The aim is to give students a comprehensive introduction to the art of this celebrated British artist and an understanding of the social, artistic and commercial contexts in which it was produced. Museums and collections visited will include Hogarth’s House, The Soane Museum, St Bartholomew’s Hospital, The Foundling Museum, the British Museum, the National Gallery of Art, Tate Britain and possibly Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

Neoclassical Architecture and Design in London

This course serves as an introduction to the neoclassical movement in London in the second half of the eighteenth century, focusing on projects by Sir William Chambers, Robert Adam and James “Athenian” Stuart in particular. In investigating their careers, we will address what neoclassicism meant to their patrons, and why patrons chose to give commissions to these architects. We will also explore how these architects, with assistance from other leading artists and designers, went beyond designing buildings and created spaces which reflected neoclassical ideas through several media, including sculpture, painting, plasterwork, and furnishings. Sessions will focus on examining different neoclassical “projects,” including buildings (studied during site visits and through drawing collections), monuments, furnishings, publications and collections. Students will develop their ability to conduct visual analysis of spaces and buildings, and in addition will gain an understanding of the questions being raised by recent research about this period.

Sculpture in the City: Modern Sculpture in London 1850-1939

This course will focus on the history of sculpture and public spaces in London from the mid-nineteenth century until the Second World War. There will be an emphasis on viewing sculpture in situ, with visits to galleries and walks around the city. The course will cover both aesthetic and historical developments in British cultural history, such as the emergence of Aestheticism and the New Sculpture, and artistic reactions to world events, such as the First World War. London’s status an artistic centre will be investigated. The role of institutions such as the Royal Academy, the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in shaping the evolution of British sculpture will also be considered. The course will provide a broad overview of British Sculpture between 1850 and 1939, but will also focus on sculptors such as Alfred Gilbert, Charles Jagger, Jacob Epstein, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.

Taking Shape: Italian Altarpieces of the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance

This course serves as an introduction to the study of Italian painted altarpieces of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries through an examination of panel paintings available in London collections, particularly those in The National Gallery and The Courtauld Gallery.

The majority of the works that will be considered were produced in central Italy, although the course will also look beyond Tuscany in a series of focused case studies. The aim of this course is to help students to consider painted altarpieces as physical and functional objects, providing an introduction to important fourteenth- and fifteenth-century works of art available in London Collections.

The course is arranged thematically, rather than chronologically. Each session is intended to enhance the students’ understanding of a different aspect of Italian altarpieces through first hand examination of the works themselves paintings and through the study of primary and secondary texts. The course will also consider how the display of altarpieces in galleries frames them in particular intellectual and institutional contexts.

The Graphic Image: Exploring Early Modern Northern Works in London Collections

The graphic mark was a crucial form of visual communication in the early modern period, comparable in importance to the digital image in our own experience. This course is concerned with drawings and prints, principally from the Netherlands, in the later 16th and 17th centuries.

Close examination of selected works in the Print Rooms of the Courtauld Gallery and the British Museum will familiarise you with different techniques and media, and we shall investigate the graphic mark’s identification with both artistry and invention and with ‘truth to nature’, with both uniqueness and with reproduction and dissemination.

Engraving and etching, the principal ways of making prints during this period, will be considered in this context. We shall be looking at many works by renowned artists such as Cornelis Cort, Hendrick Goltzius, Rubens, Van Dijck, Hollar and Rembrandt, but we shall also study works where authorship is not the main issue, such as copies and educational drawings and prints.

BA First Year - The Foundations Lecture Course

The Foundations Lecture Series run throughout the year in conjunction with focused study. Courses are desinged to offer you a broad coverage of periods, regions, materials and approaches to art and architecture from antiquity to the present.


This is a series of fifty-four lectures given by the staff of The Courtauld. It deals with major themes and issues in the history of Western art. The lectures are organised into nine blocks of six lectures each. Seven of the blocks introduce you to the art and issues involved in the study of particular periods; the other two introduce you to the physical history of works of art, and to questions raised by looking beyond the normal frontiers of Western art.

The lectures are supported by discussion classes which provide an opportunity to analyse the arguments proposed in the lectures, develop critical skills and discuss any questions raised.

The trajectory of the lectures changes annually but a recent programme is as follows:

Classical and Byzantine Art; The Middle Ages; Renaissance Art c. 1350 – 1550; Seventeenth-century Art; Physical History of Works of Art; Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals; European Art & Society c. 1700 – 1830; Nineteenth- & Twentieth-century Art; The Global Contemporary

BA Second Year - Frameworks

This course offers an introduction to some of the key methodologies (biography, taxonomy, formalism, iconology, psychoanalysis, and others) that inform art historical interpretation. You will be expected to develop and articulate a critical understanding of the methodologies discussed as they bear on the discourse of art history. The lectures will explore a selection of methodologies and debates within the discipline of art history and provide a detailed critique in relation to key texts and objects of study. Discussion classes will be an opportunity for students to explore the issues raised by the lectures with reference to assigned readings.

Architecture in Fifteenth-Century Italy

This course will examine architecture in fifteenth-century Italy. This was a very important period in the development of western European architecture. We will consider buildings and architects at work in different parts of Italy, from Venice to Naples, in order to highlight key issues such as questions of style and regional traditions in the development of architectural language. We will look at the formulation and expression of architectural ideas in treatises and buildings from Alberti to Filarete and Francesco di Giorgio. One theme will be the creation of various kinds of buildings – secular and sacred – to fit the particular needs of various kinds of patrons and communities. Another thread will be the roles of patrons and architects in these enterprises.

Cold War Cultures: Art in a Divided World 1945-1991

This course surveys the cultural production of the Cold War period in relation to ideology and politics. The first part of the course deals with the period 1944-1967, and focuses on change from above. The second part concerns cultural moves for change from below, in the period 1968-1989. We compare contrasting forms of cultural orthodoxy on either side of the iron curtain, and the subsequent dissolution of the Cold War mentality that the emergence of counter cultures accelerated. Whilst the Cold War arguably began and ended in Europe, this course seeks to reflect that fact that it also impacted the rest of the world, in particular US involvement in Asia-Pacific led to a series of crises (Korea, Vietnam) with wide repercussions, reflected in the cultural field.

Narrative Histories of Nineteenth-Century Art: Art in France c.1840-1900

This course introduces students to the French art world of the mid to later nineteenth century. It deals with the development of art in the period from a historiographical perspective, by juxtaposing the conventional narrative of modern art, presented in terms of successive, progressive art movements, with the alternative views of the history of the period which have recently challenged this linear history. A broad range of topics will be considered, including the evolution of the realist mode, the role of state art policy, the Salon and alternative exhibition spaces, the ‘Haussmannisation’ of Paris, and the artistic relevance of photography. Each will provide opportunities to weigh up their relative significance as well as to question the values and assumptions underlying different versions of their history. Throughout, questions of style are explored in the context of institutional frameworks, the language of art criticism and theory, and the wider political implications of the debates.

Object Lessons: Investigating the Making of Art in Late Medieval Europe

The object stands at the centre of art historical study. This course explores what can be learned about the making of paintings through close study and documentary evidence, taking as its focus works on panel produced in late medieval and early renaissance Europe We will use the resources of the Courtauld Institute and of the National Gallery to select a series of case studies that introduce the students to key investigative techniques and other sources of evidence for understanding the processes of making a work of art. Consideration will also be given to the issues of contemporary and subsequent use and display and the implications of conservation and restoration. The course looks at a selection of important works from northern Europe and Italy at a time of major developments and refinements in the practice of painting, but with a bias towards those from the Southern Netherlands and Florence, arguably the most important areas for the production of panel paintings at that period.

A series of technical investigations published by the National Gallery provides a core literature that demonstrates the potential for collaboration between Art Historians, Conservators and Scientists. At the Courtauld Institute the combined presence of Art Historians, the collection of paintings and the Department of Conservation and Technology enables the student to experience directly and to learn from such collaborations. Many of the sessions will be taught first hand in front of objects; a practical session on handling oil and egg tempera paint will be included, and we will look at methods of investigation in action in the conservation department

Painting in Britain c.1714-1832

This course is meant to provide an in-depth introductory survey of the major developments in British painting, during the period between the accession of George I and the passage of the Great Reform Bill; significant components of the course will also deal with selected aspects of the histories of the graphic arts (notably watercolour and engraving) during the same period. Students will be asked to consider issues involving the consumption as well as the production of works of art, and to relate salient shifts within visual culture to a larger pattern of historical change.

Seventeenth-Century Art in the Courts of Prague, Rome, Paris and Madrid

How did a courtly context shape the production of artworks during the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? Were the careers of artists at court substantially different from those who worked for other kinds of patrons? Focusing on graphic arts and decorative arts as well as painting and sculpture, we will study the relation between images and their social, cultural and intellectual contexts in four major courts. We will read about the political and religious issues at play in this period which saw the formation of absolutist governments, and we will study the primary literature on the courtier and courtly behaviour. The methods of social historians and anthropologists will be introduced in relation to recent studies of court culture. The role of the visual arts in multi-media court pageantry will be a thread followed through the course. Artists to be studied will include Caravaggio, Bernini, Goltzius, Callot, Le Brun, Velázquez.

The Virgin's Places, 1220-1350

This course investigates the nature of Marian devotion in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Europe and how it was articulated and performed in the visual realm.

It begins with an examination of the characteristics of Marian devotion across Europe, and then continues with three detailed case studies of places strongly associated with the Virgin, widening our focus in each instance from church, to city, to realm. We start with Salisbury cathedral, begun in 1220 on the green meadows of the River Avon. We analyse Salisbury’s architectural shell and how it shaped the spaces of the liturgy. In particular, we focus on the performances and objects of Marian devotion in the cathedral, plotting them within its sacred topography. We then ‘zoom out’ and consider how veneration of the Virgin can be mapped onto the city of Siena in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries – not just in the cathedral, but in the town hall, squares and streets. We will analyse the impact of Byzantium icons on Marian cults and images, debates about the Virgin’s relics, and political aspects of Marian devotion, especially in the context of competitive republics in medieval Tuscany.

Finally our focus moves to the kingdom of Castile, and we consider how an attempt was made in the thirteenth century to frame Castile as a realm blessed by the Virgin, ruled by the king in her honour. In particular, we will focus on the Cantigas de Santa Maria, the illuminated Marian miracle stories collected by king Alfonso X in the late thirteenth century. How did these stories promote Marian pilgrimage cults throughout the kingdom, how did they create a sense of national identity that included the kingdom’s Muslim and Jewish communities, and how does the rhetoric of the images differ from that of texts?

BA Second Year - Period Course

The Period Course presents the art from one particular historical period. It aims to investigate the various historical contexts within which art can be studied as well as the different approaches scholars have taken to the study of this material. The options offered change annually but recently have included:

Art in France 1900-39: Nationhood and Tradition

This course explores the history, theory, and promotion of French modernist art in what was perhaps its most innovative period, from the turn of the twentieth century to the beginning of the Second World War. Beginning by questioning the origins and instability of retrospective terms such as ‘modernism’ and ‘avant-garde’, we will examine the manifestations of these phenomena in the major groupings and movements of the period, including Fauvism, Cubism, Dada, Purism and Surrealism.

The artists involved worked across a variety of conventional artistic and experimental media, and the visual parameters of the course will incorporate painting, sculpture, architecture, collage, film and literature. The framework of ‘nationhood and tradition’ will be explored and problematised through the juxtaposition of such issues as Primitivism and immigration on the one hand against continual reminders of the inherent ‘Frenchness’ of the social and cultural contexts of the art produced on the other. The conscious disruption of tradition and attempts to form new traditions are central to the period.

Looking for the Ancient Artist

What can be reconstructed of the lives, roles and importance of ancient artists? To what extent does their contribution matter? Why have views of this changed over time? This course aims to explore such questions, assessing the idea of the ‘artist’ in Classical antiquity from the art histories of antiquity itself to the 21st century.

Ancient art histories such as the writings of Pliny the Elder, which focused on the successive contributions of various master artists, helped to inform the very discipline of art history. This traditional focus on the artist and ‘his’ oeuvre has been challenged in the 20th century, and Classical Art History has in turn taken its cue from the methods and theories advanced in other fields of art history – and indeed other disciplines. In today’s Classical Art History a range of approaches are adopted, focussing on, for instance, issues of production and economy, identity and ideology, social meaning and the nature of interpretation. In embracing such approaches, with all their advantages, however, the ancient artist has tended to be sidelined. With attention to representative art historical texts, students on this course will learn about the relative reification of the artist – the nature of the evidence; ‘Meisterforschung’, connoisseurship and their critics; the death of the author and authenticity; structuralist and post-structuralist approaches; and sociocultural history approaches. The course will end with a consideration of whether there are any advantages in bringing the artist back into focus.

Monuments and Memory

On 17 May 2006 the then-Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, announced plans for a ceremony to mark the first anniversary of the London bombings of 7 July the previous year, and for erecting a permanent memorial’ in Tavistock Square, one of the bomb sites. ‘We will remember’, she said: ‘The [two-minute] silence, the permanent memorial and the commemoration will give us all a way to remember the dead and give a voice to what is still unutterable grief.’ A large ‘mosaic’ made of thousands of flowers to be inserted by the bereaved and by members of the general public was to constitute another, ephemeral monument, lasting until the flowers died.

This course analyses the ways in which we have invested inanimate objects – statues, cattle wagons, bronzed baby shoes – with the power to hold memories. Some of the assumptions governing the preparations for the 7 July memorial day seem to be distinctive to the late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century West: the fragility of unaided human memory, and the authority and truth-value granted by popular, as opposed to official, participation in memorializing. Others are more universal: the irreducible power of the physical artefact as opposed to the word, or text; the significance of the distinction between permanent and ephemeral monuments. If we are, as some say, a culture obsessed with the dangers of forgetting, at least that has resulted in some excellent modern analyses. We will read them alongside ancient and early modern (sixteenth- to nineteenth-century) texts about art’s role as a custodian of memory, and apply them to the study of monuments and memorial sites all over the world, some of my choice, and some of yours.

Queer Perspectives on Nineteenth-Century Art

In the 1900s, the emergence of queer writing, activism and politics historically advanced and altered the powerful legacy of feminism in politics and culture. This course examines this ‘queer’ turn as it effected the interpretation and writing about art with regard to one art historical period, the nineteenth century. The course will introduce students to queer perspectives on British and French art of the long nineteenth century. First, it will introduce students to the influential queer writing and thinking of theoreticians Judith Butler, Eve Sedgwick, and others. Second, it will examine queer historiographical approaches in writing about nineteenth-century artists Frederic Leighton, Anne-Louis Girodet, Alfred Gilbert, Jean-Dominique Ingres, Simeon Solomon and others. Through case studies, we will examine the ways in which a queer approach to the notions of identity, of canon formation and of censorship has provided a new methodology for understanding nineteenth century art.

Re-presenting the Past: Uses of History in Dress, Fashion and Art

This course will examine the ways that history is studied, thought about and written about, and how these ideas can be applied to our work as art and dress historians. We will consider what history means, how the contemporary context impacts on the ways history is used, and how it can be related to such diverse discourses as narrative, power, identity and memory. We will interrogate history as a set of approaches used not just by historians and philosophers, but also by designers and artists, such as Martin Margiela, Alexander McQueen, Yinka Shonibare and Christian Boltanski. Work by philosophers, historians and social scientists, including Benjamin, Baudrillard, and Le Goff will inform our discussion and analysis of specific examples of surviving dress, fashion photography and art. Although the course will focus on the modern and contemporary, earlier examples will be used to seek understanding of wider issues concerning the ways in which the past has been revisited.

BA Second Year - The Foundations Lecture Course

The Foundations Lecture Series run throughout the year in conjunction with focused study. Courses are desinged to offer you a broad coverage of periods, regions, materials and approaches to art and architecture from antiquity to the present.

Classicisms in Modernity

This course offers historical and theoretical perspectives on the persistence of classicism and antiquity in art from the Renaissance to the present day. Each lecturer will present a set of five lectures on aspects of the subject. These are arranged in an alternating pattern to emphasise common themes and issues of the course. The discussions that directly follow the lectures will help draw out common concerns. These include: the role of classicism in figurative traditions; the cultural significance of the nude; changing notions of the classical or the ‘antique’; differences in the influence exerted by ancient literature from that of sculpture or architectural remains; tropes of archaeology and fragment in historical thought; the notion of the classical as a lost world; the relationship between the classical and the avant-garde; the persistence of the classical in twentieth-century and contemporary art.

The core of the course is provided by ten weekly two-hour lecture-based sessions and a weekly one-hour discussion class conducted by one of two Teaching Assistants, Christine Gardner and John Renner. The discussion classes include sessions devoted to readings and are conceived as an integral and essential component of the course. Students are expected to take an active part through weekly reading, contributing to discussions, and pursuing independent study and reflection. One or more required reading is designated for each lecture, supplemented by a number of further readings that are selected to provide further detail, context, breadth of perspective, and inspiration for students to pursue topics of individual interest in greater depth. These bibliographies offer a key resource for the essays and for exam preparation but will also help students gain a better grasp of the weekly lectures. It is expected that each student read at least one of the further selections for each weekly lecture.

Frameworks for Interpretation

This course offers an introduction to some of the key methodologies (taxonomy, biography, reception, formalism, iconology, semiotics, psychoanalysis, etc.) that inform art historical interpretation. Students are expected to develop and articulate a critical understanding of the methodologies discussed as they bear on the discourse of art history.

The course schedule will be two lectures per week. Each lecture will last 45-50 minutes of a one-hour block, with the time remaining to allow for questions. Each week's lectures will be related to one 1 hour discussion class; the cohort will be divided into four groups for these classes.

The lectures will explore a selection of methodologies and debates within the discipline of art history and provide a detailed critique in relation to key texts and objects of study. Each topic will be covered in two lectures (I week), and the 9 topic blocks will be preceded by an Introductory lecture ('Why Frameworks?') laying out the rationale for the course and outlining its structure, requirements, etc. There will also be a final session in which the course team will gather as a panel to review the course and to answer any questions.

The discussion classes will be an opportunity for students to explore the issues raised by the lectures with reference to assigned readings. Students are required to read these texts in advance of both the lectures and the discussion classes.

BA Third Year - Special Option

In the final year of the degree, you will take two courses, one in the Autumn term and one in the Spring term (for which you will be asked to submit preferences) from a list of approximately ten Special Options. These Special Option courses are designed to enable you to engage with materials and methods at an advanced level and to equip you for further study or research. You will be able to become familiar with current methods and research techniques in art history. The options offered change annually but recently have included:

American Japanism: A Case Study in Cross-Cultural Aesthetics

Neither modernist models of “influence” nor post-modernist critiques of “primitivism” are adequate to understanding what happens when aesthetics associated with one culture turn up in another. Taking as a case study, the uses of Japanese aesthetics in the art of the U.S.A., this course will examine the complexity of such cross-cultural interaction. Concepts like “influence” and “primitivism” (including “Orientalism”) will be augmented and challenged with paradigms such as “appropriation,” “citation,” “cosmopolitanism,” and “reverse-Orientalism,” among others. These theoretical issues will undergird detailed study of the history of Japanism in the U.S.A. since the “opening” of Japan by American gun boats in the 1850s.

Topics will include the role of exposition and exhibition cultures in formulating national, ethnic, and regional identities; the usefulness of ethnically identified aesthetics in breaching barriers dividing art from other forms of visual culture; the way art was used to negotiate claims for empire up to the second World War (or Pacific War, to adopt an Asian perspective) and to re-integrate Japan into the anti-Communist West after that traumatic conflict; the differences between Asian and Asian-American aesthetics; the relationship between ethnic identity and “Regionalism” in the American context; and the ways ethnic identifications play out in relation to forms of gendered and sexual identity in the history of American art.

Body and Gender in the Art of the French Revolution

“The Revolution”, Baudelaire wrote in the nineteenth century, “was made by voluptuaries”. The abstract political ideas of Freedom, Equality, Community, Virtue, Labour, and Terror were, in the French Revolution (1789-1814) aestheticized and performed, enacted and remembered through the feeling and active body.

The bodies the French Revolution invented were not only ideal ones (Davidian, male, sovereign), but also deviant, corrupted and abject (monstrous, guillotined or terrorized). Psychoanalytic, historical materialist, feminist, queer and postcolonial re-evaluations of embodiment have lately transformed the study of the art produced and consumed in this crucial period of the ‘birth of political modernity’. The course will entail a series of case studies of these radically rethought sculpted, painted and drawn bodies, examining areas such as: Dress and Revolution, the Male Nude, Revolutionary Violence, Gendered Identity (femininity and masculinity), Imperialism and Race, and political caricature. The artists to be studied will include Girodet, David, Gros, Canova, Prud’hon, Gericault, and Ingres.

Medieval Reliquaries and the Construction of Sanctity

From the bones of the saints to rocks on which Christ had trodden, sacred objects were often visually and materially indistinguishable from everyday items. Wrapped and encased in such a way as to communicate their identity, however, they lie at the core of some of the richest and most inventive medieval works of art. This course explores the relationship between relic and reliquary (widely defined) in the context of artistic and devotional developments in the Latin West c. 900-1250. While particular emphasis will be placed on the body and body parts, we will also consider responses to figures who had left few corporeal remains, such as Christ, Mary and the angels. In this way the course will encompass the treatment of instruments of martyrdom, miraculous images formed by impression, architectural fragments, and scripture. We will ask how reliquaries indicated the nature of their contents through form, material, image, and text, and how relics were incorporated into statues, mural decoration and buildings. We will also examine ways in which shrines and reliquaries reflect the function of relics in contexts including pilgrimage, dispute resolution, and the protection of individuals, communities and places. Our discussions will be informed by visits to collections of medieval art and shrine sites in London and beyond.

Power, Piety and Prestige: Art at the Courts of France, c. 1340-1420

In the fourteenth century, France suffered cataclysmic events such as the Black Death, the Hundred Years War, and a king gone mad. Yet this was also a century that witnessed some of the most lavish and extensive artistic enterprises.

This course will consider the splendour of the papal court at Avignon, focusing on the rich painted decoration commissioned by Clement VI for his papal palace. We will then concentrate on the outstanding patronage of four flamboyant royal brothers: King Charles V, a learned intellectual and cunning propagandist who brought his country from the brink of disaster in the Hundred Years War to a position of strength and power, using art to bolster his claims to kingship and to establish his image as a heavenly ordained and blessed leader; Jean de Berry, obsessive collector of dogs, wild animals, objets d'art, curios, illuminated manuscripts (including the Très Riches Heures) and women; Louis of Anjou, avidly ambitious and unscrupulous, patron of the vast Apocalypse tapestries and collector of precious metalwork; and the Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Bold, the youngest of the brothers, who tried to establish his own royal dynasty at Dijon with the Chartreuse de Champmol and the works of Claus Sluter. Politically the most astute, Philip set up a dynasty which was to rule the richest areas of Europe in the fifteenth century, and which set the European standard for taste, patronage and splendour.

In investigating the patronage of these courts, this course will look at works in a wide range of media - painting, sculpture, wall paintings, illuminated manuscripts, tapestries, goldsmiths' work and architecture - and will consider issues of audience, meaning and function. Since this period was also one of great technical invention and innovation, aspects of how these works were made, and why new techniques were developed, will also be discussed. Artists studied will include Simone Martini, Matteo Giovannetti, Claus Sluter, André Beauneveu, the de Limbourgs, Melchior Broederlam and Jean Malouel.

Versailles: From Hunting Lodge to National Museum

Versailles is a cliché, a commonplace for the study of art and power. For roughly a century the château dominated the political and cultural landscape of France.

The history of the place is briefly told. Louis XIV transformed a modest and remote hunting lodge he inherited from his father into a vast baroque palace and made it the centre of his rule. It remained both the seat of royal government and the primary scene of the arts until the French Revolution. Stripped then of its function and empty, the palace survived as little more than a negative symbol of the ancien régime until, under Louis Philippe, it became the first national museum of French history.

The aim of this course is first to put some art historical flesh onto this skeleton chronology. The arts in the broadest sense will the object of our attention: those of which the palace was constituted (architecture, sculpture, painting, gardening, furniture) and those by which it was reproduced and disseminated abroad (tapestry and print). However, the course will be structured more ambitiously for the analysis the different modes of power exercised by and in the palace: the spatial and the temporal, the formal and the informal, the dynamic and the monumental. Furthermore, it will consider how the exigencies of symbolic splendour drove innovation, notably in the fields of trade (the importation of foreign ‘wonders’) and technology (mechanics and hydraulics). Throughout, twinned themes of memory and modernity dominate.

Study at the Courtauld


Each year you will complete a number of essays and formal exams, which are designed to measure your level of achievement and understanding of the subject matter:

First Year
You will submit two essays in each of the autumn and spring terms, and take three formal examinations at the end of the academic year.

Second Year
You will take four formal examinations relating to each of your four courses at the end of the academic year and submit one 4,000-word essay which should address interests arising directly from your courses.

Third Year
Assessment is based on four formal examinations at the end of the academic year relating to the Special Option Courses and one 5,000-word essay on a topic of particular interest.

In addition to formal assessments, you will be assessed informally on an ongoing basis, which may include:

  • Contribution to class discussion
  • Class presentations 
  • Written work

At the end of each course, you will have a tutorial session with your personal tutor to discuss your progress and performance.

Study at the Courtauld

Entry requirements

Please select your Country of Study

If you hold a qualification from outside of the UK, please feel free to contact the Academic Registry; however, please be aware that our staff are unable to confirm whether you will be invited to interview, as candidates are judged on the strength of their applications as a whole.

Non traditional backgrounds

The Institute is committed to admitting a diverse student body and welcomes applications from those with a non-traditional educational background. All applications are considered on their merits and due recognition is given to the attributes of each case.

We also welcome mature students (25 years of age or older at the time of application). Applicants who do not have A-Levels, or whose A-Levels were taken some time ago, should provide evidence of recent study. There is a range of courses that could satisfy our entrance requirements, for example an access course with a strong humanities component, or the History of Art and Architecture Diploma from Birkbeck (University of London), or the Open University Introduction to the Humanities course.

Whatever your route to The Courtauld, a good level of achievement is expected for entry. It is often very helpful if mature candidates forward their CV to the Academic Registry in addition to completing the UCAS application form.

Widening Participation

We are committed to widening participation at the Institute and to higher education in general. We therefore reserve the right to make differential offers to applicants from socio-economic groups that are under-represented in Higher Education.

Other Requirements

All applicants are expected to have an effective knowledge of English, both spoken and written. For applicants whose first language is not English, we require proof of English proficiency.

We accept the following English language proficiency tests if taken within 2 years of the start of the programme:

  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS) with an overall bandwidth of 7.0 or above, with no less than 6.5 in Reading and Writing.
  • Trinity College London – ISEIII

We will accept the following tests if taken on or before 5th April 2015, and if taken within 2 years of the start of the programme, up until 5th November 2015.

  • Cambridge Advanced English (CAE) with a minimum grade of B
  • Pearson Test for English (PTE) Academic with a score of 75 or above
  • CPE (Cambridge English: Proficiency) with minimum grade of C

Please note that we will not accept institutional test results.

You may be exempt from providing proof of proficiency if either of the following applies to you:

  • You are a national of a majority English speaking country*
  • You have an academic qualification (not a professional or vocational qualification), which is equivalent to a UK Bachelor’s degree and the qualification is from an education provider in a majority English speaking country, including the UK and Republic of Ireland but not Canada.

*Majority English-speaking countries are defined by the Home Office as:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • United States of America

If you are unable to book a test at a centre in advance of the application deadline, you may submit your application without an English proficiency result and it will be passed on for consideration. You should send your test result when it becomes available to you.

Study at the Courtauld

Fees 2015/16

  • Home/EU fee: £9,000
  • Overseas fee: £16,000

Fees are subject to change each academic year. You can find out what qualifies as home, EU and overseas fees here.


Financial Support for your Study

Study at the Courtauld
Applications open between 15/10/2014 and 15/01/2015


All applications must be made via the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Due to the large volume of applications we receive for the BA, you should apply by the January UCAS deadline. Applications submitted after this date will not be considered.

UCAS Course Details:

Institution code name: CRT
Institution code: C80
Course code: V350
Campus code: Leave Blank
Short form of the course title: BA/HoA
Further details: None required
Defer Entry: Enter ‘N’ if you wish to apply for the 2015/16 intake or ‘Y’ if you wish to defer your entry to 2016/17. (Applications for deferred entry will be decided the year the application is made.)

As part of your UCAS application you will be asked to write a personal statement. Advice on writing your personal statement can be found here.

Places available 2014/5: 59
Applications received for 2014/15: 308

If your first language is not English, you should send your English proficiency certificate (IELTS or Cambridge Advanced English) to the Academic Registry. Likewise, if your school results are not automatically reported to UCAS (i.e., if you have studied outside the United Kingdom), you should send copies of your school certificates.

Unfortunately, we are unable to consider applicants for transfer into the second or third year of the course.