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  • Writer's pictureART HISTORY

Study Art History in 2024

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

Study at the University of Sydney with our world-renowned scholars and award-winning teachers in partnership with key cultural institutions on campus and across Sydney. If you are a current art history or Sydney College of the Arts student, or interested in studying Art History we have a study pathway for you. Visit the Art History Discipline Site today. Take advantage of the international programs and events of the Power Institute and study in the Schaeffer Fine Arts Library. Study objects of art in the Chau Chak Wing Museum, Sydney College of the Arts Galleries or Verge Gallery on campus, at galleries and institutions across Sydney, or in Fieldwork intensives in Berlin or Paris. The Art History Major is the perfect pathway to postgraduate studies in Art Curating and a career in the arts and cultural sector. Art is a profound and persistent human impulse. Art History explores the history of making, viewing and experiencing works of art and architecture. It asks key questions such as 'what is art for?', 'what does art mean?' and 'how does art function in broader culture?' These questions will be part of a dynamic encounter with complex and compelling works of art. Find out more about the Undergraduate Art History Major HERE.

Light and Darkness exhibition at the Chau Chak Wing Museum.


Intensive January

ARHT3681 Fieldwork: Art and the City and Dr Victoria Souliman. (selective) Professor Mark Ledbury and Dr Victoria Souliman (French Studies).

Image: Léonard Cotte


This unit takes students out of the classrooms and into major world cities to explore not only the history of architecture and public space but also the galleries, collections and artworks housed in the city. It offers a vital opportunity for students to learn with and from artworks, buildings, spaces and monuments in situ. Fieldwork may take place in Summer or Winter Intensive periods. THIS UNIT IS FULLY BOOKED BUT LOOK OUT FOR ANNOUNCEMENTS FOR 2025 IN BERLIN.


Mark Ledbury's comprehensive research focus spans eighteenth and nineteenth-century European art, including artists Francois Boucher, Jacques-Louis David and Jean-Baptiste Greuze; as well as questions of genre in visual art and methods of art history. Vick Souliman has a PhD in Art History (USyd), Vick is a Lecturer in French and Francophone Studies at the University of Sydney and Adjunct Lecturer in the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at the University of New England, Australia.


Semester 1

ARHT1001 Style & Substance: Introducing Art History (Core Unit) Dr Mark De Vitis

Taking a diverse, global view of art making from the Ancient to the Modern world, ARHT1001 will introduce students to key philosophical and methodological approaches in the field of Art History. As our experiences are increasingly mediated through a variety of visual platforms, this course will help students develop critical perspectives on visual communication. The development of professional skill sets will be a key focus. As such, the course serves as an essential introduction to Art History for those considering a career in the arts, education, or the museum and design sectors. Mark De Vitis specialises in the study of cultures of dress and dressing, both past and present, and the visual and material culture of the early modern world.


Francisco Goya, Saturn Devouring His Son, c. 1820–1823, 143.5 cm × 81.4 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid.






ARHT2671 Art, Race and Resistance 1788-Now (selective) Professor Mary Roberts

Hew Locke, The Procession, Tate Britain, 2022 This unit critically analyses the visual culture of modern imperialism and cultural histories of resistance. We engage diverse artistic practices and multiple geographies: from imperial city planning in the metropole to parodic street theatre in the colonies; from exoticized and primitivist colonial imagery to the visual culture of wars of resistance. This unit engages with post-colonial and Indigenous perspectives, critical race theory and debates about global histories of art as tools for critically analysing the visual histories of economic and territorial imperialism, as well as their contentious contemporary legacies. Mary Roberts specialises in nineteenth-century British and Ottoman art with particular expertise in Orientalism, the history of artistic exchanges between the Ottoman Empire and Europe and the culture of travel.


ARHT2616 High Renaissance Art (selective) Dr Keith Broadfoot and Ariel Kline

Matthias Grünewald’s (1470 AD – 1528 AD) depiction of “The Temptation of St. Anthony”. Detail Pestilence from the twelve panel “Isenheim Altarpiece,” This unit will explore a range of alternative approaches to some of the most famous works of the globalised Renaissance art across Europe and beyond, including works by Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Titian. Topics to be investigated include: problems of definition in High Renaissance and Mannerist art; Rome under Julius II and the creation of an imperial capital; Venetian visual poesie; art and dynastic display in Medicean Florence; civic ritual and public space; eroticism and mythology at princely courts; portraiture and gender.

Keith Broadfoot lectures on modernism and Australian art, including theories of spectatorship.

Ariel Kline is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University. Her dissertation, “Of Monsters and Mirrors: Painting and Empire in Nineteenth-Century Britain,” centers on heroism and monstrosity as fragile poles that organize and—at times—disrupt the racial, ethical, and political imaginations of British art. Her research interests include art and empire, queer theory, critical race theory, and kitsch.


ARHT3633 Australian Art: Mainstream to Marginal (selective)

SodaJerk, still fromTERROR NULLIUS_, 2018. HD video; 54 minutes.


What are the current debates and issues driving Australian art, film, and visual culture? In interrogating present-day cultural perspectives, this unit examines, analyses and reinterprets the relationship between colonial and contemporary imagery through screenings, on-site gallery visits and the study of works held in university and other local art and film collections.


Keith Broadfoot lectures on modernism and Australian art, including theories of spectatorship.


ARHT3663 Gender and Sexuality in Asian Art History (selective) Dr Yvonne Low

Caption: Phaptawan Suwannakudt, Retold Untold Stories, 2016, Installation view This unit provides a foundation to students interested in exploring gender issues in art, visual culture and art history in Asia from the 19th century to the present. Gender and sexuality in art is frequently singled out as a sub-theme in survey courses on the modern and contemporary, but rarely offered as a unit on its own, even though the issues that extend and expand from it are multiple and intersecting. Given the prevalence of dominant male-centred art historical writings, this unit offers students a productive and refreshing framework to relook and re-evaluate the production and reception of art in Asia through consideration of gender and sexual difference. Students will be introduced to broader concepts of feminist art history and the implications of phallocratic discourses on the interpretation of art.


Yvonne Low specialises in modern and contemporary Southeast Asian art, with an interest in Chinese diaspora culture and transnationalism, feminisms in Contemporary art, women’s history, and digital methods.



Semester 2

ARHT1002 Shock of the Now: Global Art since 1900 (Core unit)

Hannah Bronte, Still I Rise, 2018


Art shapes our cities, streets, galleries, phones and minds. It is now made with every conceivable material, and sometimes none at all. It shocks, challenges, soothes, entertains, engrosses and overwhelms us. This unit charts the history of Modern and Contemporary Art across the world, as it is shaped by and shapes society, politics and environment. It shows current concerns in art , with materials, landscape, self-image, politics, and the body are grounded in a century of global experiment.


This team-taught unit frames a century and a half of art-making by marking some of the key turns in artistic production and art historical thinking. This is set against the background of key moments leading to the rise of the global avantgarde commencing in the nineteenth century with the development of photography, new ways of seeing thanks to developments in colour theory and technologies leading to a turn toward the modern. We explore key moments in the turbulent twentieth century framed by war, fascism, major shifts in people across the globe, and the rise of America as the new centre of art in the post-war period. We investigate parallel modernisms, shifting the emphasis away from a Euro-American emphasis to explore the embrace of modernist principles in Asia. Next we consider the postmodern and contemporary periods of art by exploring the cultural and artistic revolutions of the 1960s-80s, Aboriginal art as central to the contemporary debate, and lastly we look at the tensions between the development of the digital in Contemporary Hollywood Film, photography and video, and the turn to relational art and identity politics. It is a jam-packed semester that promises a dynamic look at what constituted a vibrant, powerful, shocking and revolutionary period of global art making.


Keith Broadfoot lectures on modernism and Australian art, including theories of spectatorship.

Donna West Brett is Chair of Art History and specialises in modern and contemporary art, with a specific research focus on the photographic medium.

Yvonne Low specialises in modern and contemporary Southeast Asian art, with an interest in Chinese diaspora culture and transnationalism, feminisms in Contemporary art, women’s history, and digital methods.



ARHT2618 French Art: Salon to Cezanne (selective) Professor Roger Benjamin and Ariel Kline

Paul Signac, Opus 217. Against the Enamel of a Background Rhythmic with Beats and Angles, Tones, and Tints, Portrait of M. Félix Fénéon in 1890


This unit treats French Art in terms of the cultural structures that allowed academic art, Realism, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism to emerge. Mainstream art is studied alongside emerging avant-gardes. Other topics include nationalism, exoticism, and peripheral versus metropolitan modernism.


Roger Benjamin is an internationally renowned art historian. His research fields have included Matisse and the art of the Fauves; French Orientalist art and colonialism 1830-1930; contemporary Australian art, and contemporary Australian Indigenous art.


Ariel Kline is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University. Her dissertation, “Of Monsters and Mirrors: Painting and Empire in Nineteenth-Century Britain,” centers on heroism and monstrosity as fragile poles that organize and—at times—disrupt the racial, ethical, and political imaginations of British art. Her research interests include art and empire, queer theory, critical race theory, and kitsch.


ARHT2680 Why Art Matters (CORE unit) Professor Mark Ledbury

Barbara Kruger, We will no longer be seen and not heard, 1985 (detail), Chau Chak Wing Museum Collection. Why Art Matters explores the importance of art in the world, through object-based seminars, lectures and student led presentations. It asks why art is so fundamental to human experience, and how we might study it and articulate its importance. It builds key art historical skills of recognition, analysis, interpretation and expression, and introduces students to a wide variety of different material objects and artworks. The course is taught in small group streams, largely in the Chau Chak Wing museum and will help all majoring art history students build confidence and skill in researching, analysing and communicating about art.


Mark Ledbury's comprehensive research focus spans eighteenth and nineteenth-century European art, including artists Francois Boucher, Jacques-Louis David and Jean-Baptiste Greuze; as well as questions of genre in visual art and methods of art history.


ARHT3679 First Nations Art (selective)
Terra Visiting Professor Julie Nagam.

Yiribana Galleries at the Art Gallery of NSW


This unit explores the range and depth of First Nations Art globally with special attention to the Indigenous Art and visual culture of Australia and North America. It is designed to explore not only the material and formal features of First Nations' art but the social, cultural and spiritual traditions in which it is embedded and the understandings of time, space and country that inform First Nations art. It also explores the debates that have surrounded the notion and definition of "First Nations" art in recent years.


Julie Nagam is a Terra Visiting Professor in 2024. Julie is an Associate Professor in the department of Art History at the University of Winnipeg, a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts, Collaboration and Digital Media and the Director of Aabijijiwan New Media Lab


ARHT3617 Modern Art: Europe and the Islamic World (selective) Prof Mary Roberts

Osman Hamdi Bey, Young Woman Reading, 1880


This unit explores the key role art from the Islamic world played in modern European art. It traces the impact of western art on modern visual culture across the Middle East from the nineteenth century onwards. We explore the new aesthetics of this hybrid visual culture and the cultural politics of its international dissemination, which was fuelled by art dealers and exhibitions. We discuss the cosmopolitan careers of artist-travellers and post-colonial and global theories of art by which to interpret their work. This unit’s expansive geography encompasses the cross-cultural exchanges that transformed modern eastern and western European, American, Persian, Ottoman and Australian cultures.


Mary Roberts specialises in nineteenth-century British and Ottoman art with particular expertise in Orientalism, the history of artistic exchanges between the Ottoman Empire and Europe and the culture of travel.

ARHT3680 A Material World: Cultures of Design (selective) Dr Mark De Vitis

Marcel Breuer, Wassily Armchair, 1925, chrome-plated steel, canvas upholstery, 76.8 × 76.8 × 67.9 cm Design shapes how we live in the world. From dressing our bodies, to inhabiting carefully composed interiors, and encountering innovative objects, the limits of our understanding are frequently materially determined. In this unit, students will engage with past and present design histories to understand how design forms our experience of the world. Close studies will be made of key objects, designers, and materials.


Mark De Vitis specialises in the study of cultures of dress and dressing, both past and present, and the visual and material culture of the early modern world.


Honours

SACE4111 Theory and Method

Aziz Hazara, ‘Bow Echo’, 2019. Installation view for the 22nd Bienale of Sydney (2020), Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Photograph: Ken Leafore, Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia.


The study of art, film, media, performance and text often requires theories and methods that cut across several disciplines. In this unit, experts will demonstrate interdisciplinary readings of critical theory and you will build and critique your own reading list. Researchers will also discuss their own research projects with you, providing an inside look at the pragmatics of cutting-edge research. Whether you are looking for assistance writing about critical theory or methodology in your thesis, or you are searching for what connects university research to everyday life, this unit gives you skills to contextualise your research in a broader intellectual landscape.

Mary Roberts specialises in nineteenth-century British and Ottoman art with particular expertise in Orientalism, the history of artistic exchanges between the Ottoman Empire and Europe and the culture of travel.

ARHT4113 Art is the Issue: Histories and Theories

This unit concentrates on key developments in the history of art history as a discipline. The seminar centres on selected polemical texts and disputes in the discipline, to demonstrate that much of what all art historians do is contested and problematic. From the question of what we should study to the always vexed question of 'how' we should study it, the aim of this unit is to give you a sense of both the history and the problematic of the discipline in which you will be engaged whether you intend careers as scholars, researchers, curators, or art writers.


Image: Albrecht Dürer, Melencolia 1514





Roger Benjamin is an internationally renowned art historian. His research fields have included Matisse and the art of the Fauves; French Orientalist art and colonialism 1830-1930; contemporary Australian art, and contemporary Australian Indigenous art.




1514

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