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Languages, Cultures and Visual Studies

Art History and Visual Culture

Art History & Visual Culture at Exeter focuses on the role and importance of visual objects in the past as much as in our lives today. We consider the visual in the broadest possible sense – from art and architecture through to moving image and social media – and our approach will appeal to students with a background or interest in the history of art, creative practice, cinema, history, philosophy, sociology, and other cultural studies.

Our students and friendly, approachable staff work together, driven by curiosity and inspired by a shared passion for all things visual. Through innovative research and teaching we aim to develop and pass on the highest standards of rigour and excellence that characterise our discipline at its best.

Our exciting programmes will introduce you to a distinctive, innovative field of study as well as providing thorough training in the main themes and approaches. You will learn about the media, techniques, and historical contexts relevant to the production of these works, the languages used to describe and evaluate them and the institutions that present them to the public. We encourage students to take risks in their thinking, while guiding them toward critical depth and rigour.

Art History & Visual Culture at the University of Exeter is an exciting area of study which explores both the history of art and more recent ideas of the visual, extending the analysis of visual forms from the historical right through to modern and contemporary practices. Studying one of our Single or Combined Honours undergraduate degrees gives students an excellent grounding in both traditional fine arts such as painting, sculpture, architecture or printmaking, and contemporary visual practices and media like video, installation, performance, or digital art. Students will gain a thorough understanding of the principles underpinning the histories of art and visual culture, and of their cultural, political and social contexts.

The Art History & Visual Culture BA builds on strong regional, national and international partnerships. As well as working actively with the key museums and galleries in the SW region, members of staff curate exhibitions and contribute to arts and literature conferences and festivals locally, nationally and internationally.

The MA Curation: Contemporary Art and Cultural Management programme is international in focus, encouraging an understanding of the social, cultural and economic issues that surround the contemporary art world. With access to renowned guest lecturers, exploring the critical context and theoretical approaches to curation, there is also a professional practice strand that focuses on production skills and cultural management. Students gain hands-on experience through internships and field trips to key art venues and events in London and the South West. 

Our MPhil/PhD in Art History & Visual Culture provides an opportunity for you to study with leading academics who are specialists in this field.  We offer PhD supervision on a range of topics; from the old masters to contemporary practitioners, from the traditional arts to new media and technologies and from elite production to popular culture. The programme draws on established, internationally recognised research activity and top-quality research-led teaching.

Our research in Art History & Visual Culture draws upon the expertise of our core art historians and also of colleagues from across disciplines with research interests in Visual Culture. Our diverse research specialisms include historic and contemporary arts practices, museology and curatorship, art and technology, photography, performance, popular culture, visual representations of ethnicity, gender and sexuality, and visual cultures from the classical era to the present.

Art History & Visual Culture at Exeter benefits from a wealth of internationally recognised buildings, artworks and collections. The university’s Special Collections constitute an incomparable resource for teaching and research, while a rolling series of exhibitions throughout the year draws upon the riches of the Fine Art collection. The Streatham campus also houses a further, unique resource, the The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum.

In the city, we work closely with the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, one of the most important regional museums in the UK. We have strong associations with Tate St Ives and with other regional arts organisations.

The Arts and Culture Strategy celebrates the University’s outstanding contributions to arts and culture in Devon and Cornwall. It promotes international cultural relationships and dialogues, through highly-ranked arts research and teaching, practice and performance. Our staff and students create partnerships and engage with the arts community through galleries, museums, theatres and literature festivals.

Find out more about the Arts and Culture strategy on the Arts and Culture website.

Research excellence - case study

Led by Professor Fabrizio Nevola, the HistoryCity project aims to examine how public spaces, from street-corners to major city squares, were shaped by the everyday activities of ordinary city-dwellers between 1450 and 1700. It is a three-year project funded by the Humanities in European Research Area (HERA), involving researchers from universities across Europe.