Introducing the Classical world
Introducing the Classical world

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Introducing the Classical world

2.4.2 The visual arts

These are closely related to archaeology. They, too, are things we can look at and touch after all. The difference is very much one of interpretation. Are the Parthenon statues art or archaeology; is an ancient painted pot art or archaeology? In order to avoid such questions, many people use the term ‘material culture’ to cover both. For many purposes, the difference doesn't matter. In fact, it is a good illustration of the advantages of interdisciplinary work, with different kinds of approach illustrating the same issues. Like archaeology, visual arts can tell you things that literature can't, but still it is necessary to read the visual language, interpreting the meaning of the images and reconstructing a visual narrative if appropriate.

Using the word ‘arts’ evokes ideas of aesthetic appreciation and beauty, but the visual arts, like archaeology, and all other kinds of evidence, need to be interpreted, and interpreted in different ways. Take pots, again, as an example. When examining pots archaeologists need to think about:

  • what they depict (what do we learn from the scene on that pot?)

  • how they depict it (what do we learn from the style and material of that pot?)

  • who made and commissioned them (what do we learn from the fact that this pot was produced by a particular workshop in Athens for a rich man in southern Italy?)

  • where they are used (what do we learn from the fact that this pot was used at dinner parties and another in the kitchen?)

The more questions you can bring to them, the richer the visual arts will become for you – both as art objects in their own right and as a source for the Classical world more widely.

A219_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus