Undergraduate Diploma in History of Art

Key facts

Level: Undergraduate

Mode: Part-time

Duration: 2 years

First Application Deadline: Monday, 26 June 2017


Undergraduate Diploma in History of Art

This is a two-year, part-time modular course equivalent to one year full-time undergraduate degree study at second-year level. Upon successful completion of two different modules (within a five-year period) students will be granted the award of the Oxford University Undergraduate Diploma in the History of Art.

There are four modules offered with two being available each year on a rotating basis. The modules will focus on four periods with each syllabus immersing you in a specialist period of the History of Art:

  • Module 1: Late Middle Ages to Early Renaissance;
  • Module 2: High Renaissance and Baroque;Undergraduate Diploma in History of Art Oxford University
  • Module 3: Revolution to Modernity;
  • Module 4: Modern and Contemporary Art.

A panel of tutors will do the bulk of the weekly teaching with specialist guest speakers for the Saturday workshops. The weekly seminars will be illustrated, and the Saturday workshops will provide a special opportunity to analyse original works of art and buildings in Oxford and further afield. You will be expected to undertake the necessary background reading from the lists supplied, using the resources of the Oxford University reference libraries and online academic journals and to complete essays, an oral presentation and a research project to the required standard. There will be a written examination at the end of the year comprised of photograph papers and essay questions.

The course reflects Oxford’s exceptional richness in works of art. You will be offered a rare chance to gain first-hand experience of the visual arts on a regular basis, an option not often possible elsewhere. The programme has been arranged to allow for this kind of opportunity in the five Saturday workshops. Experts will be invited to conduct these classes on site wherever possible. The topics have been selected so that the art and architecture of Oxford, Oxfordshire and London can be used to augment and illuminate the syllabus in a way which is both stimulating and relevant.

Open Evening for 2017

All those who have an interest in studying the history of art are invited to come to our Open Evening at Rewley House, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 from 6:00pm-7:00pm. The Open Evening offers a chance to see the Department, meet Course Tutor, Dr Antony Buxton, and discuss the course. The Open Evening consists of a presentation followed by a Questions & Answers session. Please RSVP to Kristine MacMichael at kristine.macmichael@conted.ox.ac.uk

Structure of the course

Undergraduate Diploma in History of Art Oxford University

In 2017-2018

Module 2: High Renaissance to Baroque will be taught at Ewert House on Tuesday afternoons from 2-4pm.

Module 4: Modern and Contemporary Art will be taught at Ewert House on Thursday afternoons from 2-4pm.

In 2018-2019

Module 1: Late Middle Ages to Early Renaissance will be taught in Ewert House on Tuesday afternoons from 2-4pm.

Module 3: Revolution to Modernity will be taught in Ewert House on Thursday afternoons from 2-4pm.

The weekly class sessions are conducted as seminars (combining lecture presentation with opportunities for group discussion). There will also be four additonal group tutorials from 4-5pm in the fourth and eighth week of each term devoted to primary sources, research methods and essay writing classes to develop art historical skills.

Saturday workshops

Each module has four Saturday workshops looking at artworks, design and architecture in situ. The fifth Saturday in May of each year is a forum where students present their research projects.

The Saturday workshops focus on developing skills in close visual analysis through direct individual observation and group discussion led by the tutor. We will explore orginal artworks and the built environment of Oxford in depth as well as London’s temporary exhibitions and permanent collections.


There will be a three-hour examination comprised of photographs, primary sources and essay questions held in June of each year.

Who may apply and what are we looking for?

Formal qualifications are not essential, though previous experience in the study of the History of Art at ‘A' level or first-year undergraduate level is naturally likely to be an advantage. What is required is evidence of enthusiasm and a high level of commitment to the subject, critical analysis and writing.. The willingness and interest to discuss visual experience analytically and historical aspects of the subject will be looked for, and evidence of recent written work may be required. Above all, we are looking for the capacity for intellectual growth and development. Admission will be based on information provided in the application form and at interview. The final decision on admission to the course rests with OUDCE.

Student support

Academic advice and support will be provided by the Director of Studies, Dr Catherine Oakes, the Course Director, Dr Janina Ramirez, and the other tutors on the courses. In addition, the Department runs a programme of Study Skills workshops designed to enable you to develop and improve the skills needed for effective study. For full details of the Study Skills programme, please contact 01865 280892.

For advice on educational opportunities, credit transfer, special needs facilities and sources of funding, please contact the Registry on 01865 280355.

Programme details

Undergraduate Diploma in History of Art Oxford University2017-2018

Module 2: High Renaissance and Baroque

Tuesday afternoons from 2-4pm at Ewert House, Oxford

The aim of Module 2 is to provide a deeper understanding of the High Renaissance and Baroque periods, with emphasis on the work of individual artists and movements. The southern and northern renaissances will be compared and contrasted, and led visits to London and Oxford will enable the themes and ideas covered in seminars to be developed outside of the classroom.

Welcome/Induction meeting: 26 September 2017

Michaelmas term 2017

3 October 2017 to 5 December 2017

Unit 1: Introduction to Themes and Approaches

This unit will examine central themes underlying the course by focusing on a variety of mediums and a range of disciplinary perspectives. This part of the course is designed to give a chronological overview to the module, and set major ideas, such as the emergence of print, and the development from Renaissance to Baroque, alongside specific examples, such as the prints of Dürer and landscape paintings. Taught by many of tutors you will meet throughout the module, this unit should also familiarise you with the skills and terminology required for the study of this period, and highlight the various teaching and learning approaches you will experience throughout the course.

Unit 2: The High Renaissance in Rome

Vasari makes very clear in his ‘Lives of the Artists’ that Rome during the lifetime of Michelangelo was at its zenith. Michelangelo’s achievements as painter, sculptor and architect will be explored, alongside those of his contemporaries, particularly Raphael. Bramante’s architecture reignited a passion for classical dimensions, reaching to ever-greater heights. A firm understanding of the High Renaissance requires a clear knowledge of the great masters of the age, and this unit focuses on Rome, with all its ancient echoes of the classical past.

Hilary term 2018

9 January 2018 to 13 March 2018

Unit 3: The High Renaissance in Venice

As the exploits of Michelangelo, Raphael and Bramante spread from the capital to other parts of Italy, it was Venice where some of the finest expressions of High Renaissance artistry emerged. The art of Titian, Giorgione and Bellini indicated a move towards the drama and exuberance of Baroque. Close analysis of the architecture of Venice shows how grand both public and private buildings were becoming in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Palladio’s carefully constructed villas utilised the ancient traditions of proportion and beauty to make confortable, yet expansive private spaces.

Unit 4: The Renaissance Moves North

The Italian High Renaissance focused on classical themes and portrayals of the human body. As the ideas of Vitruvius, Vasari and Bramante moved northwards, they engaged with a medieval Gothic sensibility, which embraced the concepts in new and interesting ways. Holbein’s portraits and courtly images of rulers like Elizabeth I were highly realistic, yet still revelled in the symbolism of the medieval world. As the Reformation signalled a break from the traditional images of saints and sinners, miniature painting, still life and landscape began to emerge.

Trinity term 2018

10 April 2018 to 12 June 2018

Unit 5: Towards the Baroque

Baroque art and architecture is commonly described as emphasising drama, motion and emotion. The paintings of El Greco, Caravaggio and Velasquez combined the traditional themes of the Renaissance with contemporary subjects, creating deeply evocative artworks. With the landscape paintings of Claude a new obsession would grip the art world, taking painters to the natural world as a source of inspiration.

Unit 6: Baroque Architecture and Sculpture

Moving through the sixteenth and into the seventeenth centuries, Baroque art and architecture gained even greater confidence and exuberance. Baroque sculpture encouraged multiple viewing points, with figures reaching out into the surrounding space like never before. Enormous palatial complexes, like the royal palace of Versailles, took Baroque design from the buildings out into the surrounding gardens, while in England, Germany and Italy variations emerged which would come to identity national styles of architecture.   

Preliminary Reading List, Module 2:

  • Baxandall, M, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-century Italy  (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988)
  • Burckhardt, J, The architecture of the Italian Renaissance (London: Secker & Warburg, 1985)
  • Girouard, M, Elizabethan Architecture: Its Rise and Fall, 1540-1640 (Yale University Press, 2009)
  • Haskell, F, Patrons and painters: a study in the relations between Italian art and society in the age of the Baroque (London: Yale university Press, 1980)
  • Hearn, K, ed., Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530-1630 (Tate Publishing, 1995)
  • Johnson, G, Renaissance art: a very short introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)
  • Murray, L, The High Renaissance and Mannerism: Italy, the North and Spain (London: Thames and Hudson, 1977)
  • Nash, S, Northern Renaissance Art  (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2008)
  • Pope-Hennessy, J, Italian High Renaissance and Baroque sculpture (Oxford: Phaidon Press, 1986)
  • Richardson, C, K Woods and M Franklin, eds., Renaissance art reconsidered: an anthology of primary sources (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007)
  • Richardson, C, ed., Locating Renaissance art (London: Yale University Press, 2007)
  • Schama, S, The Embarrassment of Riches: an interpretation of Dutch culture in the Golden Age  (London: Fontana, 1988)
  • Summerson, J, Architecture in Britain 1530–1830 (London: Yale University Press, 1993)
  • Wilde, J, Venetian Art from Bellini to Titian (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981)
  • Woods, K, ed., Making Renaissance art (London: Yale University Press, 2007)
  • Woods, K, C Richardson. and A Lymberopoulou, eds., Viewing Renaissance art (London: Yale University Press, 2007)


Module 4: Modern and Contemporary Art

Thursday afternoons from 2-4pm at Ewert House, Oxford

The twentieth century was a moment of dramatic innovation in art and social mores. Painting and sculpture redefined themselves and new media such as photography, cinema and installation entered the gallery. The ruptures of the two world wars triggered the utopian and exuberant aspirations of Modernist and Art Deco architecture and design. Abstraction and realism in painting reflected the rivalries between Europe and New York in the 1950s. The impact of consumer culture sparked the playfulness of Pop Art and the ensuing dissent of the 1968 uprisings. By exploring both famed artists such as Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock or Anthony Gormley as well as forgotten and new voices from 1914 to the contemporary art world around us we will grapple with the thrills and perils of modernity and its representation.

Welcome/Induction session: 28 September 2017

Michaelmas Term 2017

5 October 2017 to 7 December 2017

Unit 1:        Introduction to themes and approaches

This unit will examine central themes underlying the course by focusing on a variety of mediums and a range of disciplinary perspectives. This part of the course is designed to give a chronological overview to the module, and set major ideas, such as the emergence of digital media, and the development of postmodernism, alongside specific examples, such as the sculptures of Barbara Hepworth and paintings of Francis Bacon. Taught by many of tutors you will meet throughout the module, this unit should also familiarise you with the skills and terminology required for the study of this period, and highlight the various teaching and learning approaches you will experience throughout the course.

Unit 2:        Art After the First World War

From the end of World War I to the beginning of World War II art developed in intriguing ways, influenced in part by the drama and trauma experienced by many service men and women. The ideas of Dada and Duchamp challenged established views on artistry and skill, while the influence of Jazz and black Americans opened up new avenues of creativity in the visual arts. The Bauhaus movement sought to combine art and crafts to create ‘total works’, while the Surrealists plundered the sub-conscious and writings of Freud as a source of artistic inspiration.

Hilary Term 2018

11 January 2018 to 15 March 2018

Unit 3:        1940s and 50s

Reeling from a second World War, and beginning a drawn out period of Cold War where friction and mistrust were rife, the 40s and 50s saw artists seeking great architectural and design programmes to bring unity and comfort to the populace. Ideal homes were developed to make the austerity of the post-war period more wholesome, while Le Corbusier attempted to remove the non-essential from modern living with minimalist designs. As technology developed with great speed, artists responded with views of Utopias and Dystopias, which consoled and unsettled in constant tension.

Unit 4:        1960s and 70s

The 1960s was a decade of intellectual experimentation, and throughout universities and art colleges the ideas of feminism, post-colonialism and Marxism were gaining ground. The floodgates were opened to the ideas and artistic expressions of many disenfranchised groups, and the result was an explosion of unsettling and challenging art. The works of Francis Bacon, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth opposed established views on painting and sculpture, while Pop Art engaged with the role of materialism and mass-consumerism through ready-mades.

Trinity Term 2018

12 April 2018 to 14 June 2018

Unit 5:        Towards the New

As the fine arts became diffused with all manner of media and messages, so new types of art emerged. Land Art saw complete landscapes transformed into expressions of an individual artist’s ideas, while the influence of post-modernism saw blank canvases and can of excrement sold as artworks. In Russia, structuralism manifested through literature, philosophy and art, while images focused on the themes of death and memory proliferated, and explored a changing world where complexity, rather than homogeneity, were becoming the norm.

Unit 6:        Art Now

With radical developments in computing and technology, the art world has moved into new areas. The expansion of photography, continually a radicalising force within art, means that now everyone has the ability to capture the visual, and manipulate it through digital software. The moving image, perpetuated through film, has become an area of great artistic creativity, while exhibitions like that of Alexander McQueen at the V and A, indicate that fashion can similarly be considered as art.

On the last Saturday in May, each student will give a brief oral presentation about their research project.

Preliminary Reading List, Module 4:

  • Colquhoun, A, Modern Architecture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)
  • Crow, T, The Rise of the Sixties: American and European art in the era of dissent  (London: Laurence King, 1996)
  • Curtis, P, Sculpture 1900-1945: after Rodin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)
  • Foster, H, Art since 1900: modernism, antimodernism, postmodernism (London: Thames & Hudson, 2004)
  • Gaiger, J, Frameworks for Modern Art (London: Yale University Press, 2004)
  • Green, C, Art in France, 1900-1940 (London: Yale University Press, 2000)
  • Harrison, C and P Wood, eds., Art in Theory 1900-2000 an anthology of
  • changing ideas (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003)
  • Hatt, M, Art History: A Critical Introduction (London and New York: Routledge, 2001)
  • Jones, A, A Companion to Contemporary Art since 1945 (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006)
  • Lindey, C., Art in the Cold War: from Vladivostok to Kalamazoo 1945-1962
  • (London: Herbert, 1990)
  • Meecham, P and J Sheldon, Modern art: a critical introduction (London:
  • Routledge, 2005)
  • Nelson, R and R Shiff, Critical terms for Art History (Chicago, University of Chicago, 2003)
  • Wilk, C, Modernism: Designing a New World (London: V& A publications, 2006)


Module 1: Late Medieval to Early Renaissance

Tuesdays, 2-4pm at Ewert House

This course will centre on these themes:

  •  Objects of Devotion
  •  Church and Cathedral Architecture
  •  The Gothic and Universal Church
  •  Painted Page and Panel
  •  Merchants and Medicants
  •  Quattrocentro Italy

Module 3: Revolution to Modernity

Thursdays 2-4pm Ewert House

This course will centre on these themes:

  •  Revolutionary Realists
  •  Impressionist Paris
  •  Out of the Enlightenment
  •  Romanticism
  •  Arts and Crafts
  •  The Birth of Modernism

Aims and learning outcomes

Undergraduate Diploma in History of ArtThe aim of the Diploma is to offer special subjects through which to examine key moments in the history of western art, architecture and design. Emphasis will be laid on setting works of art in an historical context and on looking at the art and architecture of Oxford in a relevant and imaginative way. This should enable you to achieve the following outcomes:

  • To learn to look at painting, sculpture, architecture and design in a visually critical and analytical way.
  • To acquire a critical understanding of how to relate art objects to the historical contexts in which they were created.
  • To use the collections of works of art in Oxford, London and the region in order to appreciate the importance of contact with the actual objects themselves, rather than reproductions.
  • To gain knowledge of different artistic material techniques and art historical terms.
  • To be able to participate intelligently and critically in the discussion of the history of art.
  • To study and to respond critically to both primary texts and secondary literature.
  • To develop skills in writing about the history of art, structuring visual and textual evidence into your own effective argument.

Credit transfer scheme

Students who successfully complete the two-year course will gain 120 CATS points at FHEQ Level 5 in the Department’s Qualifications and Credit Framework. These credit points are widely recognised in terms of credit for transfer to other Higher Education institutions, including the Open University and modular universities such as Oxford Brookes University. Opportunities vary for the transfer of credit, so students who are considering taking this course in order to transfer credit are advised to discuss the possibilities with the Department’s Registry on 01865 280355.

Summary of course requirements

Attendance: For each one-year module students must normally attend a minimum of 75% of 30 two-hour sessions plus compulsory Day Schools.

Time Limit for Course Completion: An Undergraduate Diploma will be awarded to each student who successfully completes two modules of the two-year course within five years.

Progress Review: A review of each candidate’s performance will be carried out at the end of the first year; candidates may not be permitted to continue if their performance is not deemed satisfactory.

Undergraduate Diploma in History of Art Oxford UniversityAssessment: Students must complete three compulsory pieces of written work and an exam for each module. All assessed work must be submitted by the deadline indicated in the course handbook provided at the start of the course; failure to deliver an assignment on time without formal application for an extension may result in disqualification from completing the course. Students must complete three written assignments per module: two essays of 3,000 words and a research project of 8,000 words.

Students must pass the three-hour examination and gain an average of at least 40% across the continuous assessment element in order to pass a module overall. Students who achieve an overall pass rate of 70%+ will be awarded a distinction for individual modules.

Authorship: Course work assignments must be entirely students'own work and must not be plagiarised. Plagiarism consists of substantial or verbatim quotation from an unacknowledged source. Plagiarised work will be discounted.

Teaching staff in 2017-2018

Director of Studies in the History of Art
Dr Cathy Oakes - University Lecturer in the History of Art, OUDCE, Fellow of Kellogg College

Course Director
Dr Janina Ramirez - Tutor in History of Art, OUDCE

Mrs Mary Acton
Dr Meg Boulton
Dr Anthony Buxton
Mr Patrick Doorly
Ms Kristine MacMichael
Dr Manya Pagiavla
Mr Hubert Pragnell
Dr Gill White

Undergraduate Diploma in History of Art Oxford University

Contact information

If you would like an informal discussion on academic matters before making your application you may contact the following: janina.ramirez@conted.ox.ac.uk

Award Programme Office 01865 280154 / 270369
For queries on applications and admissions ppaward@conted.ox.ac.uk

Access Officer 01865 280355
For general guidance and advice; queries on educational opportunities, credit transfer, special needs provision, residential category and sources of funding: registry@conted.ox.ac.uk

Study Skills 01865 280892
For information about Study Skills courses: studyskills@conted.ox.ac.uk

Day & Weekend School Office 01865 270368 / 270380
For information on day schools and weekend courses: dayweek@conted.ox.ac.uk

OUDCE Reception 01865 270360
For general enquiries about OUDCE or to leave messages if other staff are not available.

How to apply

Together with the application form (download using the 'apply' button on this page), you must submit a reference and additional materials: (i) details of any previous experience in the subject and membership of relevant societies or groups, and (ii) a statement (preferably typewritten) of 300 words explaining why you wish to enrol on the course.

If possible, your referee should be a person who can comment on your academic ability and background, but where this is not appropriate, you should name a referee who can vouch for your motivation, commitment and potential. A reference from a family member is not acceptable. Please read carefully the instructions on the reference form. When you have received your reference, return the sealed envelope with your application form, and written statement by the final application deadline of Monday 26 June 2017:

Award Programme Administrator
1 Wellington Square
Oxford OX1 2JA

Applicants will normally be interviewed and we will let you know whether your application has been successful shortly thereafter. The final decision on entry to the course rests with OUDCE.

Late applications may be accepted subject to the availability of places. If you would like to make a late application, please email the Award Programme Administrator at kristine.macmichael@conted.ox.ac.uk

Fees and additional expenses

The fee for one year's module in 2017-2018 is £2,305 (EU students) or £4,335 (non-EU students). A non-refundable deposit of £200 is required on acceptance of a place and the remaining sum can be paid in instalments. Bed and breakfast accommodation may be available at Rewley House during the weekend school at an additional charge. Please contact the Residential Centre for availability on 01865 270362. There may be extra charges incurred on visits to museums.

Non-EU students

This course is not suitable for non-EU students who do not already live in the UK before the course begins. For information, refer to www.ukvisas.gov.uk.

Funding and financial assistance

For information on student funding, please visit our fees and funding pages

For more detailed information on all of the above, contact the Registry on 01865 280355 or registry@conted.ox.ac.uk.

Terms and conditions

Terms and conditions for applicants and students on this course

Sources of funding

Information on financial support