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Exploring art and visual culture (A226)

Study materials

You will receive three lavishly illustrated books, DVDs and access to a fully interactive study website with a wide range of zoomable images. You will be expected to buy Exploring Art and Visual Culture: A Reader which contains important primary and secondary sources. This will be published by Tate Publishing in August 2012 and costs £18.99. Students registered for A226 will not have to purchase the course books below.

Book One

A226 Book 1 - coverArt & Visual Culture 1100–1600
Medieval to Renaissance
Edited by Kim W. Woods

Part 1: Visual Cultures of Medieval Christendom
Part 2: The Shifting Contexts of Renaissance Art

This focuses on the visual culture of the medieval period and the Renaissance. Rather than attempting a survey of art from around 1000 to roughly 1600, this long period is explored through carefully selected topics and themes. It asks fundamental questions such as: what do sacred representations signify? How might the study of architecture be approached? When did the idea of art develop and what should we make of images in an era before this category came into use? How did the consumption and uses of art change through time? Engaging with these questions, you will consider judgements about art and visual culture in a society very different from our own. The first part concentrates on the visual culture of medieval Christendom, exploring not only what we now think of as the ‘high arts’ of painting, sculpture and architecture, but also the wider visual representations that played a significant role in the cultures of the time. Material covered includes: the relation between the visual arts and religious culture; art and architecture of Great Churches, with a case study of Westminster Abbey; the work of the prominent Italian painter Simone Martini; and the distinctive visual culture that developed in the ‘Holy Land’ during the Crusades. The second part looks at art and other visual artefacts that were important in the period broadly designated ‘the Renaissance’, from approximately 1400 to 1600. The Renaissance is traditionally seen as one of the high points of European culture and important themes from this cultural moment are considered. Material investigated includes the art of aristocratic Courts; Sandro Botticelli’s memorable paintings; the role of gender in patronage; and the travels of El Greco.

Book Two

A226 Book 2 - coverArt & Visual Culture 1600–1850
Academy to Avant-Garde
Edited by Emma Barker

Part 1: City and Country
Part 2: New Worlds of Art

This investigates the art and visual culture of the period from roughly 1600 to 1850. This was the period in which a distinctly modern art world began to appear, with its own institutions and associated ideas about art and artists. The book assesses the significance and value of the labels traditionally used to define the art of this period, notably Baroque, Neo-classical and Romantic. In addition, it explores the ways in which art and visual culture were shaped by the ruling elites of different European countries, as well as considering the impact of socio-economic change and growing engagement with the world beyond Europe. The first part addresses the period from around 1600 to about 1760. Rather than attempting a broad survey of artistic developments, this part of the book highlights the way in which the relationship between the country and the city helped to shape different cultures of visual representation in different national contexts. Material covered includes: the embodiment of religious power in the restructuring of Rome by Bernini; seventeenth-century Dutch painting and the thorny problem of realism; the development of urban London; and the new culture of British landscape parks. The second part is concerned with the period from around 1760 to 1850. It explores some of the ways in which art and other visual forms responded to changing societies and contributed to the emergence of a recognisably modern world. It covers: the emergence of public exhibitions in Britain and France and the codification of genres and types of art; the representation of the body in Canova’s sculpture; the meeting of western travellers with Pacific islanders, as reflected in images; and the emergence of the Romantic ‘genius’.

Book Three

A226 Book 3 - coverArt & Visual Culture 1850–2010
Modernity to Globalisation
Edited by Steve Edwards & Paul Wood

Part 1: Art and Modernity
Part 2: From Modernism to Globalisation

This examines the history of art and visual culture from roughly 1850 to the present day. It considers the development of modern art in Europe and North America and the impact made by an increasingly globalised art world. The book provides a good guide to changing ideas and forms of art that will be unfamiliar to some. Some artists in this period responded to the commercialisation of society by trying to demarcate art from visual culture, while others immersed themselves in popular imagery. Focusing on a series of key points, the book tracks these transformations. As well as considering painting and sculpture, it contains material on photography, print culture, architecture, design, installation and video. The first part covers the period from the middle of the nineteenth century to the end of the 1930s. It investigates the relationship between the processes of social and industrial modernisation that took place in western Europe and its colonies and the emergence of a variety of self-consciously ‘modern’ art forms. Material studied includes: Manet and the Impressionists; visual culture in nineteenth-century Britain, including William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites; Cubism and Abstract art; and modern Architecture. The second part considers the period from the 1940s up to the present day, including the consolidation and dominance of modernism in the New York art world and the subsequent opening up of a globalised art market. It includes material on: figurative painting and sculpture; Abstract Expressionism and Conceptual art; installations and site specific art; and artistic responses to the recent economic and political conditions of globalisation.


Art & Visual Culture: A reader - coverExploring Art and Visual Culture: A Reader
Edited by Angeliki Lymberopoulou, Pamela Bracewell-Homer & Joel Robinson.

ISBN 978 184976 048 5
B&W illustrations

This Reader is a collection of source texts for anyone generally interested in art and visual culture between the era of the Crusades and the present day. The fundamental and persistent question ‘what is art’ has provided the rationale for the selection of texts. It assembles representative and relevant texts that span a period of roughly one thousand years and features new and stimulating texts that could help the exploration of art practice from different perspectives. Since the availability and accessibility of sources have always been vital research facilitating tools, this volume prioritises texts which were difficult to locate (such as those which feature in currently out-of-print and old publications); texts that have thus far not been available in an English translation; and texts that were not available on line. Alongside these documents the Reader reproduces certain texts that have shaped the discipline of art history and critical theory over the centuries such as Vasari, Winckelmann and Greenberg – to mention but a few. Well researched and frequently cited sources can offer fresh perspectives of interpretation, especially when placed within a broader context of less well-known documents. It is important to place artistic practices within a multi-layered context, such as the one provided by this Reader, where the differences between approaches could be used to explore the common grounds shared by the different periods of art history.