art history short courses

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MA in Art History

The MA in Art History draws upon the exciting research and outstanding teaching expertise of the department. Studying art history at postgraduate level will deepen your understanding of art, architecture and visual culture, build your analytical and critical skills, and develop the skills needed for independent study and research. You’ll start by exploring the core concepts and recent developments that have shaped art history from Renaissance Italy to the contemporary Caribbean, before building on these foundations to expand your understanding of visual and material objects – incorporating architecture, art and design. You’ll complete this degree by researching and writing a dissertation on an agreed topic of your own devising. 

Key features of the course

  • Engages critically with key theories and approaches developed to interpret and explain works of art and architecture
  • Examines critical debates in the academic discipline of art history and the ‘real world’ contexts of heritage, curating and museums
  • Prepares and inspires you to confidently develop and articulate your own standpoint within the discipline
  • Concludes with a substantial piece of independent research and a dissertation on a topic of your choice.
External view of Casa de la panaderia

Course details

Modules

To gain the 180 credits you require for this qualification, you must study the modules in the order shown below and pass part 1 before progressing to part 2:

Compulsory modulesCreditsNext start
MA Art History part 1 (A843)6001 Oct 2022
MA Art History part 2 (A844)12001 Oct 2022

Or 180 credits from the discontinued modules A840, A841 and A847 if you started before 2014.

You should note that the University’s unique study rule applies to this qualification. This means that you must include at least 60 credits from OU modules that have not been counted in any other OU qualification that has previously been awarded to you.


Learning outcomes, teaching and assessment

The learning outcomes of this qualification are described in four areas:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Cognitive skills
  • Practical and professional skills
  • Key skills

Career relevance

An MA in Art History will provide you with a wide range of skills, including visual and textual analysis and critical thinking and writing, which can be successfully transferred to a variety of careers in the professional and educational sectors. The MA in Art History will teach you to think critically about historical and contemporary cultural debates around works of art and will provide you with an awareness of art history’s professional contexts. The MA is an excellent starting point for a career in the heritage and cultural sectors, from educator to curator to art critic. If you’re interested in an academic career, the MA is an essential step towards embarking on a PhD.

Credit transfer

If you’ve successfully completed some relevant postgraduate study elsewhere, you might be able to count it towards this qualification, reducing the number of modules you need to study. You should apply for credit transfer as soon as possible, before you register for your first module.


On completion

On successful completion of the required modules you can be awarded the Master of Arts in Art History entitling you to use the letters MA (Art Hist) (Open) after your name. You will have the opportunity of being presented at a degree ceremony.

If you leave the programme before you qualify for a degree you can be awarded a Postgraduate Certificate in Humanities after successfully completing MA Art History part 1 (A843).

BA (Honours) Arts and Humanities (Art History)

This is one of several specialist routes available in our BA (Honours) Arts and Humanities (R14). The degree starts by developing your understanding of the world we live in through a variety of perspectives, periods and subjects – including art history. You’ll then take two specialist art history modules, discovering more about art and visual culture across many periods and places. Through exploring the lavishly illustrated module books, and extensive audio, video and interactive material, you will gain a good understanding of the art-historical debates that shape this exciting subject and develop a range of skills in visual analysis.

Alongside your study of art history, you can choose to study a second specialism from classical studies, creative writing, English language, English literature, history, modern languages, music, philosophy and religious studies. This will entitle you to include both subjects in the name of your degree, or complete your degree with modules chosen from a wide range of options.

Key features of the course

  • Specialise in art history within a broad and flexible arts and humanities degree
  • Develop a range of skills that will be valuable in the workplace and to further study
  • Have the opportunity to write an extended essay drawing on independent study
  • Select a second specialism to complement and enhance your study of art history

Course details

This degree has three stages, each comprising 120 credits.

  • You’ll start Stage 1 with a broad introduction to the arts and humanities followed by up to two modules chosen from a variety of subjects.
  • Next, at Stages 2 and 3, you’ll specialise in art history in combination with either a second specialism in arts and humanities or study modules from across the arts and humanities curriculum.

 Stage 1 (120 credits)

In Stage 1 you will encounter a variety of different times and places and engage with some fascinating people, art works, ideas and stories. This broad foundation will help you develop the skills and the confident, open approach you need to tackle more specialist modules at Stages 2 and 3.

ModulesCredits
You’ll start your degree with:
Discovering the arts and humanities (A111)60
We recommend you complete Stage 1 with either of these modules:
Cultures (A112)60
Revolutions (A113)60
Alternatively, you can choose 60 credits from this list of Stage 1 option modules.If you plan to study French, German or Spanish as part of your degree, you should choose language modules appropriate to your prior level of study.

 Stage 2 (120 credits)

At Stage 2 you’ll focus on art from historical and contemporary perspectives, asking fundamental questions such as: ‘What is art, and why do we need it?’. You’ll investigate different periods and styles of art – including the renaissance, baroque, impressionism, and modernism – and gain valuable critical insight into design history.You will complete the stage with a second module chosen from a wide range of arts and humanities modules.

ModulesCredits
Art history module:
Exploring art and visual culture (A226)60
Option module:
You’ll choose one from this list of Stage 2 option modules60

Stage 3 (120 credits)

At Stage 3 you’ll consolidate and build on your critical knowledge of art history, exploring contemporary conceptions of art, postmodernism and globalised culture. You’ll complete your degree by choosing from a wide range of arts and humanities modules.

ModulesCredits
Art history module:
Art and its global histories (A344)60
Option module:
You’ll choose one from this list of Stage 3 option modules60

Accessibility

We make all our qualifications as accessible as possible and have a comprehensive range of services to support all our students. The BA (Honours) Arts and Humanities uses a variety of study materials and has the following elements:

  • studying a mixture of printed and online material – online learning resources may include websites, audio/video media clips, and interactive activities such as online quizzes
  • finding external/third party material online
  • working in a group with other students
  • working with specialist reading material such as works of art and musical manuscripts
  • using specialist software (for example the Sibelius music writing package)
  • using and/or producing diagrams and screenshots

For more detailed information, see the Accessibility Statements on individual module descriptions.


Learning outcomes, teaching and assessment

This qualification develops your learning in four main areas:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Cognitive skills
  • Practical and professional skills
  • Key skills

The level and depth of your learning gradually increases as you work through the qualification. You’ll be supported throughout by the OU’s unique style of teaching and assessment – which includes a personal tutor to guide and comment on your work; top quality course texts; elearning resources like podcasts, interactive media and online materials; tutorial groups and community forums.


Credit transfer

If you have already studied at university level, you may be able to count it towards your Open University qualification – which could save you time and money by reducing the number of modules you need to study. At the OU we call this credit transfer.

It’s not just university study that can be considered, you can also transfer study from a wide range of professional or vocational qualifications such as HNCs and HNDs.

You should apply for credit transfer before you register, at least 4 weeks before the registration closing date. We will need to know what you studied, where and when and you will need to provide evidence of your previous study.


Classification of your degree

On successfully completing this course we’ll award you our Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Arts and Humanities.

If you choose a specialist route, your degree title will show with:

  • One specialism – Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Arts and Humanities (History)
  • Two specialisms – Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Arts and Humanities (French and Classical Studies).

The class of honours (first, upper-second, lower-second or third) will depend on your grades at Stages 2 and 3.

You’ll have the opportunity to attend a degree ceremony.

online art history courses with certificate

art certificate programs online

Plus, when more people with diverse backgrounds study art, the world of art itself gains a vaster, more inclusive perspective. This is because highly artistic and theoretical realms of study tend to be dominated by people with more privileged backgrounds. However, by de-privatizing knowledge and making education more accessible and affordable, e-learning can help break down the walls surrounding the art world. 

It is important to remember top-notch art history courses go beyond encouraging you to remember the facts, dates, and style types of art — they also teach you how an artwork interacted with different places and points in time, as well as how they challenged or reinforced pre-existing ideologies. Exceptional art history classes can also show you how art has developed from era to era and what external socio-political forces catalyzed those changes. Most importantly, epic art history courses grant you the freedom to formulate your own informed opinions about art.

The 14 best art history classes you can take online: 

  • Museums & Public Art
  • Prehistoric Art
  • Ancient Art
  • Early Modern Period
  • 19th Century Art
  • Modern & Contemporary Art
  • Architecture
  • Functional Art

Museums & Public Art

harvard

Tangible Things: Discovering History Through Artworks, Artifacts, Scientific Specimens, and the Stuff Around You

Through an examination of Harvard-owned artifacts, this course unravels the mysteries of museums, archives, and libraries. You will learn about the curator’s role in maintaining collections, the processes behind curatorial decisions, and how to discern the intention behind collections — whether it be for monetary purposes, memory preservation, or some other reason. 

You will also learn how the arrangement of objects affects how a collection is perceived and interpreted by viewers. This knowledge is particularly valuable since one of the most important powers a curator wields is the ability to frame and contextualize conversations surrounding art — a power rooted largely in the build and organization of their collections.

Enroll for free or earn a certificate for $49.

Cloud Gate in Chicago by Alex Powell

ART of the MOOC: Public Art and Pedagogy

If you’ve ever seen a sculpture in a park or strolled by a colorful mural on the side of a building, you’ve encountered public art. Public art installations may seem like a straightforward concept, but it has a history of being controversial, from Richard Serra’s “Tilted Arc” to Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This Duke course will help you learn about the dialogue and efforts surrounding public art’s implementation, reception, and purpose.

This course acknowledges public art as socially engaged art, which is important considering how public art production typically requires consideration of the collective’s needs as opposed to the individual artist’s needs. Thus, you will learn how public art can incite educational discussions and consequently fuel criticism of pre-existing understandings of art. Amid exploring the intersection of space and art, students will also have the opportunity to conduct their own experiments related to spatial politics.

Enroll for free or earn a certificate for $49.

Prehistoric Art

Prehistoric Art: Beginning Art for Artists and Designers

When it comes to art history, you will often find a slew of courses covering topics such as Renaissance and modern art. This is largely thanks to the preservation of historical records from these time periods. Since being prehistoric means existing before recorded history, courses on prehistoric art aren’t afforded the same luxury as their successors and tend to be more elusive. However, it’s the era’s lack of documentation that helps make prehistoric art so captivating. 

Topics you will study in this course include art from the Ice Age, Spain’s Cave of Altamira, Prehistoric America, and Aboriginal Australians. The cave drawings and other carvings you will learn about are crucial, as they grant insight into the thoughts, actions, and daily lives of those who roamed the earth long before us. Prehistoric art may at first appear to be an enigma, but once deciphered, it can greatly inform our understanding of the human experience’s early days and development.

Enroll and earn a certificate of completion for $11.99.

Ancient Art

Parthenon by Spencer Davis

30 Masterpieces of the Ancient World 

Amazon Prime members have access to affordable classes designed by The Great Courses via  Prime Video. 30 Masterpieces of the Ancient World course begins by contextualizing the relevance of ancient art studies and what it means to be dubbed a “masterpiece,” then moves on to examine specific works from across the globe. The lesson wraps up by placing ancient masterpieces in conversation with contemporary works of art. 

This course is remarkably entertaining because it’s like a virtual travel experience — both geographically and temporally. You’ll be transported across the world as you learn about intriguing artifacts, from The Standard of Ur, which depicts scenes of Sumerian life in Mesopotamia, to the Olmec Colossal Heads, stone sculptures found on Mexico’s Gulf Coast. You’ll learn about Ancient China’s bronzes and how they relate to the excavated tomb of female military leader, Fu Hao, as well as how abstract art can be traced back to Ancient Andean Textiles — long before the style became a global phenomenon through mid-20th century artists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.

Buy the entire season in SD for $58.99 or in HD for $88.99.

Pyramids by David McEachan

Pyramids of Giza: Ancient Egyptian Art and Archaeology

The Pyramids of Giza are one of the greatest enigmas in the world — chances are you’ve heard a conspiracy theory or two about how these enormous, enduring structures came into existence. If you’re looking to demystify the Pyramids’ history, this course is the perfect launchpad for your expedition into the curious, overlapping worlds of art history and archaeology. 

By examining the findings of archaeologists who explored the Pyramids, decoding hieroglyphics, and analyzing Egyptian art from the same time the pyramids were created, this course constructs a vivid image of Ancient Egyptian life. It considers the Pyramids not only as perennial architectural feats but also as important cultural and religious objects. There’s also a modern element to the course, since you’ll learn how advancements in tech are shaping the future of Egyptology.

Enroll for free or earn a certificate for $149.

Early Modern Period

The Louvre Museum in Paris, France by Silvia Trigo

European Paintings: From Leonardo to Rembrandt to Goya

This course encompasses the Early Modern period of European Art, focusing specifically on paintings. It examines the lives and works of Leonardo da Vinci (Italian polymath), Caravaggio (Italian painter), Velázquez (Spanish Baroque painter), Rembrandt (Dutch painter), Vermeer (Dutch Baroque painter), and Goya (Spanish Romanticism painter). 

During the Early Modern period, realistic art that demonstrated an artists’ superior technical skill was highly revered and paintings were typically created to depict a story. However, since a painting could only show a snapshot of the plot, viewers were expected to possess a certain level of background knowledge in order to understand the paintings’ stories. This course will provide you with the knowledge needed to identify and interpret Early Modern art, as well the language and philosophies to properly engage in conversations surrounding the art.

Enroll or free or earn a certificate for $99.

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