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Graduate Diploma Art History and Theory

Why we're great

  • We're 6th in the UK for our art history research, which covers everything from the Renaissance to body art
  • Gain experience working with the Royal Academy of Arts, the V&A Museum, and Firstsite Gallery
  • Our campus is home to the most important collection of contemporary Latin American art in Europe

Course options2017-18

Duration: 9 months
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Philosophy and Art History (School of)
Fee (Home/EU): £4,900
Fee (International): £10,045
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
PGT fees information

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 872719
Email pgadmit@essex.ac.uk

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About the course

If you do not have the appropriate undergraduate preparation to embark on one of our MA courses, you may apply for our nine-month Graduate Diploma in Art History and Theory, which can constitute a qualifying year for the relevant MA course.

Our Graduate Diploma consists of eight modules at 3rd-year undergraduate level (up to two of these can be at 2nd-year level). You must complete the appropriate coursework and examinations, and can also write a project on a topic of your choice if this is agreed with your course director.

At Essex, you have the freedom to study what most interests you. Some of the topics you may choose to explore include the history of photography; modern and contemporary art; curatorial practice and exhibition design; as well as more vernacular forms of visual culture, such as body art and activist placards.

Regardless of the topics you pursue, we are committed to research-based teaching, with a particular emphasis on bringing the approaches of art history into contact with other disciplines and discourses. In so doing, we seek to facilitate a critical engagement with artworks and forms of visual culture, both within and beyond the traditional canons of art history.

On campus, the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA), Europe’s largest collection of contemporary art from Latin American, will provide an invaluable resource for studying art and curatorial practice first-hand.

One of the major reasons for choosing Essex is the quality of the education you will receive. We are 6th in the UK for research excellence, with 89% of our work rated “world-leading” or “internationally excellent” (REF 2014). We also achieved an exceptional 95% student satisfaction in the 2016 National Student Survey.

Our expert staff

Essex Art History features a dynamic group of art historians who investigate the production and reception of images and built environments, across cultures and media from the early modern period to the present. Our staff are experts on topics as diverse as activist art, 19th-century medical photography, the art of Latin America, urbanism, exhibition design and body art.

We also have significant experience in curation and public engagement. Recent projects include:

  • Dr Gavin Grindon curated a section of Banksy’s Dismaland show and co-curated the Disobedient Objects exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, which was one of the most well attended shows in the museum’s history.
  • Dr Matt Lodder has acted as contributor for various television shows on body art and body modification, including the Today programme, the Jeremy Vine Show, Sky News, BBC Breakfast News, ‘Coast’, and National Geographic’s ‘Taboo’.
  • Dr Natasha Ruiz Gómez co-organised a major conference on Collect, Exchange, Display: Artistic Practice and the Medical Museum at the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, London.

Specialist facilities

At Essex, you have the best of both worlds: on the one hand, you are part of a tight-knit, campus community with close ties to several small but excellent museums in the nearby town of Colchester; on the other hand, you can travel from campus to London in an hour, which puts the world’s best museums and galleries at your fingertips.

Our facilities enable you to gain curatorial experience and engage in object-based learning, a cornerstone of our approach when teaching the history of art and its modes of display:

  • Our Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) is the most comprehensive Latin American art research resource in the UK and has a state-of-the-art teaching and research space. Many of our students gain work and research experience through our collection
  • Our onsite gallery Art Exchange runs an on-going programme of contemporary art exhibitions, talks and workshops by curators and artists, as well as exhibitions organised by our postgraduate curatorial students
  • Enjoy regular visits to London galleries, including Tate Modern, Tate Britain, the National Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts, as well as many independent and alternative spaces
  • Colchester’s iconic Firstsite gallery features an exciting programme of contemporary art exhibitions, film screenings and talks, and exhibitions organised by our students

Your future

The visual arts and culture industries have become an increasingly significant part of the national and international economy, and art history graduates leave Essex with the skills to take advantage of this growing opportunity.

Graduates from our programmes are ideally prepared for roles in the media, in advertising, in museums and galleries, in education (in schools, universities, and cultural institutions), as conservators, as auctioneers, dealers and antiques specialists, in charities, in publishing, as specialist arts lawyers, as PR agents, in fashion, or to run their own galleries.

Our recent graduates have gone on to work in a wide range of roles including:

  • A member of the valuation team at Sotheby’s (New York)
  • Head of Learning at firstsite (a contemporary arts centre in Colchester)
  • Visual Merchandising Manager at John Lewis (Oxford Street, London)

We also offer research supervision for students who wish to continue their studies with a PhD or an MPhil. We cover the major areas of European art, architecture and visual culture from 1300 to the present, as well as the art and architecture of Latin America.

We work with our university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

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Example structure

Postgraduate study is the chance to take your education to the next level. The combination of compulsory and optional modules means our courses help you develop extensive knowledge in your chosen discipline, whilst providing plenty of freedom to pursue your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are, in many instances, just a selection of those available. Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current postgraduate students, including details of all optional modules.

Year 1

New, exciting, and unconventional practices call for new, exciting and unconventional theories. This module deepens your existing thematic and historiographical knowledge, concentrating on contemporary art and philosophical responses to it. You’ll find out why contemporary art forced a new beginning in the way we theorise art, examine the connection between the new and the museum, and learn more about viewer participation and the role of the spectator.

When artworks or artefacts have been looted, should finders really be keepers? What causes an artwork to fetch £100 million at auction? And when is it (il)legal to reproduce another artist’s work and claim it as one’s own? Study how issues of property rights, valuation, market transparency and digitisation have shaped -- and continue to reshape -- the field of art across different media.

Thai curry for gallery-goers, and the aftermath of a monster attack – just two examples of how contemporary artists are pushing techniques, processes and media to the limit. Explore how the attitudes and approaches to art have evolved over the last 30 years, and the crucial precursors who influenced them, whilst always considering how the context in which art is made and received – be it geographical, sociological, political, or philosophical – affects its production, reception, and interpretation.

All second year students following BA schemes in Art History (with the exception of the joint degree with Literature in which case students may take AR310), have the opportunity to apply to work on an independent project in their third year in place of two of the taught modules. The independent project is designed by the student, supervised by a member of the teaching staff and examined by a 8000 word project.

Optional module available to 3rd/final year Art History students (single and joint honours), including such students returning from a period abroad. The independent project is designed by the student, supervised by a member of the teaching staff and examined by a 5000-6000 word project.

The period from 1945 to 1980 marked one of the most explosive and dynamic moments in the history of art. Discover how the specter of the Holocaust and the ideological divisions of the Cold War shaped the production and reception of art in the two decades following World War II. Also learn how major political developments of the 1960s and 1970s, such as Stonewall, student protests and the feminist movement, transformed the practice, theory and history of art, ultimately providing a hyper-politicised foundation for the emergence of postmodernism.

From mementos on the walls of our homes to perfume ads in glossy magazines, from selfies to forensic imaging – photographs are everywhere. In this module, explore how the birth of the camera changed the way people saw themselves, their nation, and their world, and how it continues to do so. Learn about the history of photography, interpreting and analysing both photographs and texts, and see how the photograph’s status shifted over time from document to artwork.

How has more recent history shaped our understanding of the distant past? This module, organised by theme, rather than chronologically, investigates the complex relationships between past, present and future by considering the fraught concept of the “Renaissance”-- how it was “invented” in the nineteenth century, how it was “reinvented” in the twentieth century, and how it is being redefined further today. Among other issues, we will consider the role of museums in shaping our definition of the Renaissance, the importance of art history textbooks in crafting a narrative of Classical revival, and the current art historical focus on the “global Renaissance”.

Rome is a multi-layered, palimpsestical city with an extraordinarily rich artistic, architectural, and archaeological heritage. The trip will explore the varied life and afterlife of classical Antiquity in Rome from the time of the city’s foundation to the twentieth century. Taking in sites within the city, it will also include tips to places that are further afield.

Rome is a multi-layered, palimpsestical city with an extraordinarily rich artistic, architectural, and archaeological heritage. The trip will explore the varied life and afterlife of classical Antiquity in Rome from the time of the city’s foundation to the twentieth century. Taking in sites within the city, it will also include tips to places that are further afield.

Explore the vibrant artistic culture of the Renaissance court, an environment where magnificence and splendor served to justify rule, neutralize dissent, and enforce hierarchies of power. In the courts of Milan, Ferrara, and Florence, among others, we will encounter famed artists like Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Titian. Paying particular attention to gender, this module examines the role of visual culture in shaping conceptions of ruling authority, chivalry, courtly love, virility, fecundity, and beauty.

This module follows on from AR321, and presents the artwork of the post-mechanical age. Uncover how new media, such as film and video, cybernetics, robotics, video games and the internet have been used to create art from the 1960s to the present day. Investigate the issues of production, reception, display, the acceptance of new media into the art world, whilst attempting to link the issues raised by new media artists to your own experiences of life in an increasingly digital world.

Some of the most realistic and vivid representations of the human body were produced in northern Italy after the Protestant Reformation. From Titian’s painterly evocation of flesh to Caravaggio’s theatrical bodies, these moving images made the body come to life before the eyes of the beholder. This course focuses on these incredibly lifelike artworks, asking students to reconsider familiar ‘masterpieces’ of Renaissance and Baroque painting as well as introducing them to intriguing genres such as miraculous imprints and wax sculptures.

Do our urban surroundings influence our behaviour, or is it our behaviour which affects our surroundings? This module explores the art, architecture and urbanism of Constantinople/Istanbul, Rome, and Tenochtitlán/Mexico City between 1400-1800, a period of massive change in each of these metropolises. By examining these cities we can begin to understand how urban identity is affected by art and architecture, and vice versa.

In this module, we will explore the diverse responses by individual artists working at the end of the nineteenth century to the legacy of Impressionism as the quintessential art of modern life. We will attempt to discover what it really meant to be 'modern' in turn-of-the century Europe and how artists responded to the dramatic political, social and technological changes that we call modernisation.

This module seeks to answer the thorny question ‘What makes art modern?’ by considering different strands of European modern art from the 1900s through 1945, including Futurism, Constructivism, and Surrealism. Some key issues addressed include the birth of abstraction; the relationship between art and politics; and intersections between art, mass media, and consumer culture.

Come face-to-face with over 750 original artworks from 19 countries in the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America. This major, unique, and internationally recognised collection, with works dating from the 1960s to today, is yours to make the most of. Investigate the themes of religion, identity, human rights, and money, which permeate many of the works and reflect the historical and contemporary challenges faced by the region, and debate the role Latin American art has in the wider art world.

Some of the most captivating artworks in European art history have come to be known as ‘Baroque’, but what does this term mean? When did it emerge and what is at stake in calling an artwork Baroque? Originally introduced as a derogatory term, recently the stylistic and theoretical notion of the Baroque has been of much interest in art history. This course introduces these debates to students through writings that discuss key seventeenth-century artworks such as the dramatic paintings of Caravaggio, the voluptuous sculptures of Bernini, and the dynamic architecture of Borromini. 'More Art, More Ideas: Baroque and Neo-Baroque' solidifies and deepens students' understanding of the reception, theorisation and critique of art, as well as the developments and shifts of art history as a discipline over time.

Beginning with the cabinets of curiosities and ending with the challenges of collecting and curating new media art, this module will offer students a journey through the history of display. Alongside the exploration of different case studies, the module will critically engage with texts that offer various approaches to display methods. The case studies will enable students to identify paradigm shifts in the history of collecting and curating and to gain a clear understanding of the interconnectedness of these practices. We will also look at the development of the different kinds of museums, such as public museums, museums of modern art, or museums of contemporary art, to mention a few.  Furthermore, we will analyse the emergence of the so-called contemporary curator: from initially being the figure that traditionally took care of collections, the curator has become central to the production, dissemination, and presentation of art since the 1990s

Roam the streets, salons and cafés of the city Walter Benjamin described as the capital of the nineteenth century, and encounter the people who lived there. Discover why Paris was considered so modern and revolutionary; immerse yourself in the rich mythologies of the city; and learn how it became the cultural hub of the west between the French Revolution and the Second World War.

Teaching

  • Gain practical experience in curating, such as handling and installing artworks
  • Prepare a portfolio of exhibition proposals
  • Frequent visits to museums and galleries
  • Two hour seminars with discussion based on a programme of reading
  • We run a number of mini-courses, research seminars and conferences that our postgraduates are encouraged to attend

Assessment

  • Assessment for our courses is normally on the basis of coursework and your supervised dissertation

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Qualifications

UK entry requirements

A degree with an overall 2.2.

International and EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email pgadmit@essex.ac.uk for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the undergraduate qualification you have already completed or are currently taking.

IELTS entry requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum component score of 5.5 except for 6.0 in writing

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

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Visit us

Open days

We hold postgraduate events in February/March and November, and open days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing tours@essex.ac.uk and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.

Exhibitions

Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.

Applying

You can apply for our postgraduate courses online. You’ll need to provide us with your academic qualifications, as well as supporting documents such as transcripts, English language qualifications and certificates. You can find a list of necessary documents online, but please note we won’t be able to process your application until we have everything we need.

There is no application deadline but we recommend that you apply before 1 July for our taught courses starting in October. We aim to respond to applications within two weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

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Although great care is taken in compiling our course details, they are intended for the general guidance of prospective students only. The University reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University.

The full procedures, rules and regulations of the University are set out in the Charter, Statues and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.