Postgraduate Course

Graduate Diploma Art History and Theory

Graduate Diploma Art History and Theory

Overview

The details
Art History and Theory
October 2020
Full-time
9 months
Colchester Campus

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, ESCALA, one of Europe’s most significant collections of contemporary art from Latin America, will provide an invaluable resource for studying art and curatorial practice first-hand.

We are 6th among art history departments in the UK for research excellence (REF 2014, mainstream universities, THE 2014).

Why we're great.
  • We're 6th among art history departments in the UK for research excellence (REF 2014, mainstream universities, THE 2014). We cover 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
THE Awards 2018 - Winner University of the Year

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. He recently co-curated a Museum of the Occupation at Banksy's Walled Off Hotel in Palestine.
  • Dr Matt Lodder has recently curated two exhibitions on the history of tattooing: Tattoo London at the Museum of London (August 2015-January 2016) and British Tattoo Art Revealed at the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall (March 2017-January 2018).
  • 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 the university’s Careers Services to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

A degree with an overall 2.2.

International & EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

Sorry, the entry requirements for the country that you have selected are not available here. Please select your country page where you'll find this information.

English language 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.

Structure

Example structure

Most of our courses combine compulsory and optional modules, giving you freedom to pursue your own interests. All of the modules listed below provide an example of what is on offer from the current academic year. Our Programme Specification provides further details of the course structure for the current academic year.

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.

Art and Ideas III

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.

View Art and Ideas III on our Module Directory

Management and the Cultural Industries

An increasingly important sector, the cultural industries are distinctive both in terms of their political economy and their organizational forms, management systems and labour processes. You consider what is distinctive about culture as an economic product, and what this distinctiveness means for the structure of the industries.

View Management and the Cultural Industries on our Module Directory

Art, the Law and the Market

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.

View Art, the Law and the Market on our Module Directory

Contemporary Art: 1980 to the Present

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.

View Contemporary Art: 1980 to the Present on our Module Directory

Community Engagement: Group Projects

This module offers final year students a unique opportunity to work together in an interdisciplinary team on a real-world project for a local partner organisation. It enables you to use the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired during your degree to address a real-world challenge, while sharing and developing your creative, organisational and practical abilities. By doing so, this module will prepare you for entering the graduate labour market or going on to post-graduate study.

View Community Engagement: Group Projects on our Module Directory

Visual Cultures: the Social Meanings of Photography and Art
Inventing the Future: Early Contemporary 1945-1980

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.

View Inventing the Future: Early Contemporary 1945-1980 on our Module Directory

Photography in History

From mementos on the walls of our homes to perfume ads in glossy magazines to selfies on your mobile – photographs are everywhere. In this module, explore how the birth of the camera changed the way people saw themselves 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.

View Photography in History on our Module Directory

Study Trip Abroad (Final Year)

Vienna, the former capital of the Holy Roman Empire from the 15th century and of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until its annexation during WW2, has been a key hub of European culture for centuries. The city has oscillated politically over the centuries between cautious conservatism and bold radicalism, and has thus been a locus of fertile cultural development. As part of this module you have the opportunity to go on a 7-10 day study trip to visit museums, key building and cultural sites in the city to see art from the Renaissance to the Present. The department provide a subsidy for Art History students for this trip, but you will be responsible for covering any additional costs outside of this. Any students who do not study Art History will be required to cover their own costs. Costs will differ each year depending on the destination and details for the trip.

View Study Trip Abroad (Final Year) on our Module Directory

Study Trip Abroad (Year 2)

Vienna, the former capital of the Holy Roman Empire from the 15th century and of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until its annexation during WW2, has been a key hub of European culture for centuries. The city has oscillated politically over the centuries between cautious conservatism and bold radicalism, and has thus been a locus of fertile cultural development. As part of this module you have the opportunity to go on a 7-10 day study trip to visit museums, key building and cultural sites in the city to see art from the Renaissance to the Present. The department provide a subsidy for Art History students for this trip, but you will be responsible for covering any additional costs outside of this. Any students who do not study Art History will be required to cover their own costs. Costs will differ each year depending on the destination and details for the trip.

View Study Trip Abroad (Year 2) on our Module Directory

Art and Power

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.

View Art and Power on our Module Directory

The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction: Film, New Media, Software and the Internet

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.

View The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction: Film, New Media, Software and the Internet on our Module Directory

Visualising Bodies

The human body was a central preoccupation of Renaissance artists. This module investigates the varied ways in which painters, sculptors and architects approached the body in their works, taking in case studies that range from the early 1300s to the early 1600s. The primary focus is on Italy, although the module also examines a number of northern European works. Artists considered include Giotto, Dürer, Caravaggio, and others. In looking at the works of these artists, the module investigates how the body could become the vehicle for ideas about politics, gender, sexuality, philosophical discussion, and more.

View Visualising Bodies on our Module Directory

After Impressionism: European Art From Van Gogh to Klimt

How did artists working at the end of the nineteenth century respond 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.

View After Impressionism: European Art From Van Gogh to Klimt on our Module Directory

Becoming Modern: European Art From Futurism to Surrealism

This module seeks to answer the thorny question ‘What makes art modern?’ by considering different strands of European modern art from 1900 to the Second World War, 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.

View Becoming Modern: European Art From Futurism to Surrealism on our Module Directory

Art in Latin America

Come face-to-face with over 750 original artworks from 19 countries in the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA). 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 landscape, revolution, human rights, and the environment, 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.

View Art in Latin America on our Module Directory

Art and Ideas II: More Art, More Ideas - Critique and Historiography in the History of Art

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.

View Art and Ideas II: More Art, More Ideas - Critique and Historiography in the History of Art on our Module Directory

Collect, Curate, Display

This module offers an introduction to the history of the museum as an institution. We will consider the basic human instinct to collect, the spaces in which collections were displayed, and ask questions about privilege, power and publics in the run up to the invention of the civic museum. How does the museum order the world? The seminars will be made up of regular practical assignments in the university’s museum learning space and its archives. This will involve hands-on curatorial challenges, from designing displays for teargas cannisters to working critically with the university’s art collection. We will also explore political and social contexts - how are museums implicated in colonialism, gentrification, community or social justice? Finally, we will explore various possible futures for these institutions in a dematerialised, digital and precarious age.

View Collect, Curate, Display on our Module Directory

Picturing the City II

The Renaissance was a great moment in the development of both art and the city. This module examines the ways in which artists depicted cities, considering their activities in the context of the works of contemporary thinkers and writers. Focusing above all on Florence, the module also takes in examples from northern Europe. It investigates both real and ideal cities, exploring how their depiction contributed to the formation of a vivid and complex urban imaginary.

View Picturing the City II on our Module Directory

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

Fees and funding

Home/EU fee

£5,504

International fee

£11,814

Fees will increase for each academic year of study.

What's next

Open Days

We hold 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.

2019 Open Days (Colchester Campus)

  • Saturday, October 26, 2019

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.

Colchester Campus

Visit Colchester Campus

Home to over 13,000 students from more than 130 countries, our Colchester Campus is the largest of our three sites, making us one of the most internationally diverse campuses on the planet - we like to think of ourselves as the world in one place.

The Campus is set within 200 acres of beautiful parkland, located two miles from the historic town centre of Colchester – England's oldest recorded town. Our Colchester Campus is also easily reached from London and Stansted Airport in under one hour.

 

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.

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