About the course
Our course allows you study the history and theory of art combined with French (post-A Level), German, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese (post-A Level or ab initio), and includes the chance to spend a year abroad studying at one of our partner institutions, such as the Ecole du Louvre in Paris.
You receive a distinctive curriculum which covers the whole history of art, enabling you to choose from a variety of specialist options, while simultaneously becoming proficient in one or more languages. Engage with art works that range from Old Master paintings, through the Pre-Raphaelites and Surrealists, to the most up-to-date contemporary art and visual culture.
Modules explore a wide variety of media, including architecture, urbanism, photography and video, as well as painting, drawing, printmaking, performance art and sculpture. We have also embedded clear pathways to careers in curating and museumship throughout the course should you wish to take them, with modules in every year dedicated to the histories, theories and practices of museums, exhibitions and galleries. At the same time you can either begin the study of a language as complimentary to your course, or improve your current language skills.
One of the major reasons for choosing Essex is the quality of the education you will receive. We are ranked 6th among art history departments in the UK for research excellence (REF 2014), and you will be taught by our expert staff in your very first year, a rarity in UK art history courses.
Our Department of Language and Linguistics is one of the largest and most prestigious language and linguistics departments in the world, a place where talented students become part of an academic community in which the majority of research is rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’, placing us firmly within the Top 10 departments in the UK and among the Top 150 departments on the planet (QS World University Rankings).
Study abroad opportunities
Your education extends beyond our University campus. On this course you spend the third of your four years abroad, experiencing, engaging with, and integrating into another culture.
You have the opportunity to study at one of the prestigious universities with which we have exchange links. These include universities in:
- France (Lyon 3, Montpellier and Nice)
- Germany (Berlin FUB, Trier and Konstanz)
- Italy (Bologna, Trento and Urbino)
- Portugal (Coimbra)
- Brazil (Florianopolis and Salvador)
- Spain (Murcia, Madrid, Cadiz and Granada)
- Chile (Santiago)
- Colombia (Bogota)
- Mexico (Mérida and Monterrey)
You continue to study modules relevant to your course, learning your chosen languages within a country that speaks them, and you pay no tuition fees for your time overseas.
You may also undertake a period of study at a university abroad for one term in your third year, after which you work with an organisation in the same country. This unique experience helps you stand out when applying for jobs. Find out more.
Whichever option you choose, studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised.
Our expert staff
We are a dynamic group of art historians who investigate the production and reception of images and built environment, across cultures and media, from the early modern period to the present day.
Our art history staff’s research interests include activist art, modernist art and totalitarianism, the relationship of art and science, the artistic status of body modification, expressions of societal anxiety in art, as well as architecture and urbanism.
Our language and linguistics staff are internationally renowned. Their books dominate the reading lists at other universities. All our language teachers are native or bilingual speakers, we maintain excellent student-staff ratios, and we integrate language learning with linguistics wherever there is synergy.
In addition to helping you acquire practical foreign language skills, our staff share their expertise with you in the areas of professional translation, interpreting and subtitling, film and art, business, and culture.
- 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 ongoing programme of contemporary art exhibitions, talks by curators and artists, and exhibitions organised by our 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
- Access to two multimedia language teaching labs which are equipped with state-of-the-art Melissi Digital Classroom software, and fitted with computers integrating audio-visual projectors and large screens
- Meet other linguists and practice your language skills at our Language Cafés
As the graduate job market becomes increasingly global the ability to speak a modern language will place you in a competitive position. Language skills are in scare supply and can be used in almost any job.
Graduates from our BA Art History and Modern Languages are prepared for roles as curators, teachers, translators and journalists. Having strong language skills have enabled our graduates to work in diverse fields including banking, entertainment, media, education and tourism for UK and international companies.
Our recent graduates have gone onto work for a wide range of organisations including:
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office
- National Portrait Gallery
- Victoria and Albert Museum
We also work with the university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.
Studying at Essex is about discovering yourself, so your course combines compulsory and optional modules to make sure you gain key knowledge in the discipline, while having as much freedom as possible to explore 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 just a selection of those available. The opportunity to take optional modules will depend on the number of core modules within any year of the course. In many instances, the flexibility to take optional modules increases as you progress through the course.
Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current first-year students, including details of all optional modules.
The language module that you will study will depend upon your level when you arrive in the department. We are happy to accept students with no previous knowledge of the language (except for French where an A level is required if you wish to major in this language). Please refer to the progression pathway table to find out which modules are suitable for your linguistic profile.
In your first, second and fourth year you can choose optional modules from other subject areas if you wish.
Our courses allow you to study up to two, three or four modern languages. The below example structure shows a student studying French and Spanish.
Explore the varied ways in which art historians, philosophers and artists have thought and written about art, from the Antiquity to the 21th century. This module examines the role of emotions in experiencing art, social and feminist art histories, the changing conceptions of what defines ‘art’, and the impact that ideas have on artistic creation itself. It will provide you with a sound foundation in the fundamental theoretical issues relating to the history of art and artistic practices.
Build on your knowledge gained from AR113, and tackle some of the biggest questions surrounding the history of art. Explore the key issues of storytelling and style, and the complex notion of “looking”, by engaging critically with seminal texts, original works of art, and architecture. Through debates and essays, you will develop your analytical and interpretive skills, and leave with a solid foundation for the study of the history of art.
Want to build your confidence when both speaking and writing in French? Develop your university-level French language skills, improving your aural comprehension while boosting your grammar knowledge and vocabulary. Learn to appreciate, summarise and evaluate a piece of text. Expand your understanding of French culture and society.
Slander. Vendetta. Madness. Infanticide. These and other social problems threatened the integrity of daily life in late medieval and early modern (ca. 1300-1600) Italy--pitting husband against wife, brother against brother, friend against friend. This interdisciplinary module examines a wide range of visual culture (everything from altarpieces to prints, fresco cycles to manuscripts) to discover how images shaped public perceptions of social problems (and how similar processes occur today).
In a mixture of lectures and site visits around Essex and the wider region, learn about the relationship between spaces and those who inhabit them, and how space produces and shapes culture in various ways. From prisons to power-stations, from cathedrals to piers, discover how and why the visual works, how it is affected by, and affects the context in which it sits, and the impact it has on our lives, whilst picking up some vital transferrable skills. This module is intended to serve as an introduction to concepts of visual culture, urbanism, and the critical theories of space.
Need to build your professional skills? Want to know how to use various software packages? Cover topics related to your studies and to the world of work. Gain transferable skills by making oral presentations in French, retrieving and processing information from internet sources, and producing documents relating to working life.
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.
Are you ready to study abroad? How will it improve your French? Prepare for your period abroad by examining how your language skills will develop, alongside topics related to French gastronomy, music, and suburban life. Study literature, with a focus on creative writing and participate in assessed filmed role-plays.
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.
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”.
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.
Want Final Honours level competence in French? Wish to deal quickly and precisely with any written or spoken document? Refine your knowledge of French grammar and vocabulary to near-native level comprehension. Undertake collaborative research into topical issues, and consolidate your understanding of French culture.
Want to develop your language skills through French cinema? Study six French films in depth to further improve your language abilities. Gain an insight into key aspects of French cinema and culture, deepening your existing knowledge and understanding.
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.
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.
On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
- Close examination of texts written by artists, critics, art historians and philosophers
- Subsidised gallery visits to work ‘in situ’ for each course
- Gain practical experience in curating, such as handling and installing artworks
- Activities designed to develop your practical language skills, such as role-play and class presentations
- Cultural and social themes are explored through film, music, the internet, theatre and literature
- Teaching takes the form of lectures and seminar sessions or discussion classes
- Assessment methods include coursework, for example essays, analysis of source material, exhibition reviews and virtual portfolios, coursework reports, oral presentations
- Languages assessed through role-plays and translations
- Written examinations are also taken for the majority of modules at the end of each academic year
If you already have your results and want to apply for 2016 entry through Clearing, complete our Clearing application form
and we’ll get back in touch with you or give us a ring
to discuss your grades.
IELTS entry requirements
English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. (Different requirements apply for second year entry.)
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.
If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.
Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels required. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications.