Module Details

AR100-4-FY-CO: Vision And Reality: Case Studies In The History Of Art

Note: This module is inactive. Visit the Module Directory to view modules and variants offered during the current academic year.

Year: 2017/18
Department: Art History and Theory
Essex credit: 30
ECTS credit: 15
Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students: Yes
Full Year Module Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students for a Single Term: No
Outside Option: No

Supervisor: Dr Natasha Ruiz-Gomez
Teaching Staff: Natasha Ruiz-Gomez and Various
Contact details: Barbara Brickman, First Year Administrator Email:

Module is taught during the following terms
Autumn Spring Summer

Module Description

Module Outline (updated September 2013)

This module has two main objectives:

(a) to give students, by way of introductory lectures and seminars, a basic knowledge of a number of key artworks and of concepts related to them;
(b) to give students the skills to describe, analyse and interpret works of visual art and architecture.

The module introduces students to some key issues relating to the history of art and to a variety of art historical methods and approaches to the subject. It does so through a series of case studies, taking some of the most celebrated works of art in the Western tradition as its examples. Moving chronologically, the module focuses on a series of works by some of the most important artists in the history of art. In examining these case studies, students will be led to consider how works of art and architecture may relate to their environments, to their historical contexts and to ideas that were current when they were created. We shall interrogate the ways in which different artists have approached issues such as representation, narrative, expression, beauty, `meaning` and truth in creating their works. We shall also consider why different artists might have made the choices that they did in representing a particular subject or idea and explore the extent to which the purpose for which each work was created might have determined its appearance. We shall consider the ways in which buildings have been shaped by religious, ideological and political beliefs as well as by the social practices of the societies that built them. In doing this, students will develop the skills to describe works of art and architecture effectively, to analyse their visual properties and to relate them to primary and secondary textual sources and to other works of art. The module will consider the question of merit in the visual arts, asking why, and according to what criteria, we might value one work of art or architecture above another.


This introductory module aims
To equip first-year students with an introduction to different art genres, sources, problems and perspectives on the history of art from antiquity to the present, based on case studies introduced by different specialist teachers
To introduce students to a wide range of methods, research materials, scholarly approaches and relevant terminology
To introduce students to the way in which artists and critics have interpreted and reinterpreted art and architecture through the centuries
To stimulate students to develop skills in oral and written communication through essays, debate in seminars, written exercises and via the AR100 website
To encourage students to develop web-based skills via the AR100 website and Moodle
To introduce students to original works of art and architecture in galleries and museums, in addition to their classroom studies.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module, students should have
A good understanding of the art-historical material covered
Confidence in using specialised terms and terminology
Familiarity with the materials, techniques and the subject-matter of art and how these relate to the different functions of art and architecture
The ability effectively to describe, analyse and interpret works of art
A basic understanding of the ways in which artists, architects and their critics have responded to the art of the past and developed new strategies appropriate to their time
Some experience of textual analysis relevant both to works of art and to theoretical debates
The ability to discuss art and architecture of this period and to demonstrate these competences through coursework, seminar discussion and contributions to web material
The ability and confidence to use web-based tools and materials for self-directed learning and for presenting the results of this learning
Worked individually and as part of a team, developing communication and time-management skills and the ability to meet deadlines.

Learning and Teaching Methods

Teaching each week during autumn and spring terms and in Week 30. Gallery visits take place on Fridays. These visits are compulsory, and are as essential to the module as lectures and seminars.


100 per cent Coursework Mark


3 essays x 600 words each (1 for formative feedback only; 2 x 5% of the mark = 10%); 1 essay x 1500 words (15%); 1 essay x 3000 words (25%); Exhibition Project (4-5,000 words (30%)); In-class slide test x 3 (3 x 5% = 15%); Class participation (5%).


  • Bibliography
  • Bruce Cole: Art of the Western World: from Classical Greece to Postmodernism (Simon & Schuster)
  • E.H. Gombrich: The Story of Art (Phaidon) especially Chapters 3-6; 8-20; 25-28
  • Martin Kemp (ed.): The Oxford History of Western Art (OUP)
  • John Summerson: The Classical Language of Architecture (Penguin)
  • Hugh Honour and John Fleming, A World History of Art, 7th rev. ed. London, Laurence King, 2005

Further information