Every year we invite distinguished art historians, critics and curators from
around the world to give minicourses to our students. These minicourses combine
lectures and research seminars dedicated to specific topics in art history and
theory, and are open to all students within our School.
There will be an Art History minicourse in the Summer term 2017 - further information
Dr Caspar Pearson, University of Essex
Renaissance Overscale, 18 May and 20 May 2016
This minicourse is about smisura, or the ‘Renaissance overscale’. The lectures will focus on the dome of Florence cathedral, completed in 1436. Above all they will consider how writers and artists responded to this overwhelmingly large structure, making it the occasion for discussions about building and poetic narrative, fiction and truth. Examining these issues in the Italian Renaissance, the lectures will also consider their afterlife in the work of Richard Rogers and in New Labour’s ‘Urban Renaissance.’ In this connection the lectures will explore the persistence of the themes of exile and return, as well as the topos of the politician/architect, into our own age.
The focus of the seminar turns from architecture to a work of fifteenth-century painting: the frescoes of the Sassetti Chapel in the church of Santa Trinita in Florence. Exploring the veristic representation of two Florentine piazzas, it will consider how art might be employed to refashion not just buildings but the experience of the city itself. The topic will be approached through short readings from Leon Battista Alberti, Aby Warburg, and Henri Lefebvre.
Dr Adrian Locke, Royal Academy of Arts
Ai Weiwei: The Artist behind the Dissident, 12 June 2015
Ahead of a major exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts this September, co-curator Adrian Locke explores the
extraordinary rise of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei over the past decade. It is only ten years since Ai Weiwei had his
first solo museum exhibition in Europe and since then he has established an enviable international reputation.
Despite the fact that his art is in huge demand across the world, he remains better known as an outspoken critic
of the Chinese authorities especially following his illegal detention in 2011. This seminar and lecture will look
at how Ai Weiwei continues to use his art, not just his words or cyberspace, to comment on contemporary Chinese society.
Professor Whitney Davis, University of California, Berkeley
A Thin Red Line: The Presence of Prehistoric Pictoriality, 7 May 2015
Professor Davis's lecture addresses one of the most influential ideas about prehistoric (and specifically Paleolithic) pictorial representations,
namely, the notion that their original makers and beholders did not take them to be and use them as pictures "in our sense" but instead
considered them to be "the things themselves," that is, the objects depicted, such as bison and other animals. But how do we reconcile
this idea with the visible activity of mark-making and of "painterliness"--of making visible the process of making the picture? What is
the nature of this pictorial "illusion"?
In light of current theoretical thinking about the "presence" and "animacy" of depicted objects,
the lecture evaluates past and recent discussions of this matter using the example of the earliest widely accepted examples of prehistoric
depiction, drawn from the Aurignacian tradition in south-western Europe and specifically from the cave of Chauvet (c. 32,000 BCE).
The seminar provides an opportunity for a smaller number of students to engage more closely with the topic
of the lecture with Professor Davis.
Our MA courses offer in-depth study across a range of specialisms in art history from the renaissance to the present, including curating and Latin
American art, and are an excellent preparation for PhD study and careers in the art world.
Our Centre for Curatorial Studies is a research and teaching unit based in our School that focuses on contemporary curatorial theory and practice and contemporary museology.
By undertaking PhD study at Essex, you will become a member of an exciting and active research community, and benefit from the expert supervision of
our internationally recognised staff.
Apply for a PhD studentship for your doctoral study funded by the
Consortium for Humanities and the Arts South-East England (CHASE) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).