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Taking your first steps into higher education
Taking your first steps into higher education

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Week 3: Art history in the arts and humanities


You’ll now focus on the discipline of art history. I will use contemporary visual art and culture to introduce you to skills and strategies that can help you gain a better understanding of the approach to learning in HE art history studies. As with poetry, I will start with initial reactions and move on to a more considered analysis.

As a first question, what do you think might be included in the term visual art?

For the art historian, visual art is a broad category of study, including traditional fine arts, such as drawing, painting and sculpture, together with communication and design arts (for example, film, television, graphics and product design), architecture and environmental arts (for example, interior and landscape design) and non-traditional art made from materials such as ceramics, wood, glass and everyday objects.

In the following film, John Butcher introduces the study of visual art:

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In introducing you to the study of visual art this week, rather than trying to squeeze a chronological overview of centuries of art history into three hours, your studies will involve the guided step-by-step analysis of works of art and build on the skills that you have already gained from studying the use of the study diamond. I will focus on the analysis of contemporary art from the 1980s onwards, from the perspective of the academic discipline of art history. You will apply the study diamond to the analysis of contemporary artworks while continuing to develop your study skills.

This week you will:

  • extend your application of the study diamond to cover the visual arts
  • develop your ability to identify the effects of artworks
  • discover a range of artistic techniques, such as the use of colour and medium
  • give you the opportunity to explore the relationship between effects and techniques in a small selection of contemporary artworks
  • explore some of the factors involved in interpreting meaning
  • explore some reactions to artworks shortlisted for the Turner Prize
  • further develop your study skills.