{Free Art History Teaching Resources}


We realise this is an exceptional time and many of you will be struggling to suddenly take classes online or to help support students working from home. This will be on top of your own personal and professional hurdles in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.

Just a reminder that we have over 50 free films on the Open Arts Objects platform, many of which are directly related to A-level Art History. Some of these films are filmed inside museums that are currently closed and offer virtual handling sessions.

You might not also be aware that we have a list of our free open access courses on OpenLearn, which could be rather useful: from Renaissance Venice to Dutch painting to the Enlightenment to graffiti. Most of these are aimed at university level, but they are written in an accessible way: you might find an activity or two here that you could direct students to.

Open Arts Objects in schools

We’ve had the opportunity to come into classrooms and meet students. As part of our school visits we’ve had students make their own films on objects. You can make your own film from home. We think this might be a fun and engaging way students can keep occupied while they are stuck at home. All info here.

My Travelling Object

What stories do the objects in your home tell? Take a picture, send us a video, create a still life, or draw your object and tell us your object stories! Find the instructions on how to do so here,  watch our video outlining the project on youtube (and below) and follow us on social media to see your object stories featured!

Critical Terms for Art History

We also have a series of films on critical terms for Art History: MobilityEssentialismIconographyCommemorationGlobalisationClassicism, Hybridity and 3 on Modernism.

Finally, if there’s anything else we can do to make this time any easier for those of you who teach, for students at home, or for people who just need to keep occupied as they self-isolate, please do get in touch with suggestions!

Stay safe and well!

Leah Clark (Project Lead, Open Arts Objects)

Teaching Global Art History: Resources

We all would like to expand the scope of our teaching to incorporate a global art history, and many of us would also like to think about ways of decolonising the curriculum. But where to start?

Below are some links to free articles and resources that might help:

Other resources:

Teaching Resources

Critical Terms films: 

  • Hybridity: Leah Clark and Kathleen Christian discussing the term hybridity. Includes Mass of Saint Gregory, 1539, feather on wood, Musée des Jacobins and Apothecary jar, c. 1700, Puebla, Mexico, Tin-glazed earthenware, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 11.87.9.
  • Essentialism: Renate Dohmen and Kathleen Christian discussing the complexities of the term essentialism, exploring the ideas of art and culture it produced in the nineteenth century and what its legacies are today. Includes James Stephanoff, An Assemblage of Works of Art in Sculpture and in Painting, 1845; Johann Zoffany, Major William Palmer with his second wife, the Mughal princess Bibi Faiz Bakhsh; Rembrandt, Man in Oriental Costume.
  • Mobility:  Leah Clark and Kathleen Christian discussing the term mobility, and how it has changed the way we approach Renaissance works of art. Includes Holbein’s Ambassadors; Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and its circulation in print; a devotional diptych with a portrait of Joos van der Burch.
  • Commemoration:  Susie West and Leah Clark discussing commemoration and how it can be applied to works of art and architecture. Includes war memorials; tomb sculpture; Paul Cummins and Tom Piper, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, Tower of London.
  • a new film on Globalisation coming soon!

Open Arts Objects films: 

OpenLearn interactive on Travelling Objects, allows users to trace the travels of objects across the globe.

While not free, the Open University’s textbooks on Art and its Global Histories are worth checking out.

Teaching Global Art History: Challenges & Debates

On Tuesday 15th October 2019, the Art History department at the Open University will be hosting an afternoon event in London for teachers and museum educators on the challenges and opportunities of teaching Art History from a global perspective. We will draw upon our experience of co-producing BBC’s Civilisations and of creating our new third level module and its textbooks, Art and its Global Histories.

2019 marks fifty years since the foundation of the Open University. The department of Art History at the OU has followed its mission of widening participation, most recently with our Open Arts Objects project. The new A-Level Art History specification has widened the discipline by incorporating a global curriculum. It seems a crucial time to address how these changes in the discipline can attract and encourage new interests in, and new audiences for, Art History.

Bringing together a variety of educators who approach the history of art from many different perspectives, the event will enable conversations, brainstorming, networking, and reflection. The event is aimed at sharing best practice, providing an opportunity to reflect on where the discipline is and where it is going, and addressing some of the challenges of teaching Art History in a global age.

You can sign up for the free event here.


Open Arts Objects shortlisted for the Times Higher Education Awards!

The department of Art History and project lead, Dr Leah Clark, are delighted to announce that Open Arts Objects (OAO) has been shortlisted for the prestigious Times Higher Education Awards 2019, in the category ofKnowledge Exchange/Transfer Initiative of the Year! (winners to be announced in November.)

Open Arts Objects (OAO) is an open access resource for the general public, which supports teachers and influences many different levels of learning with a national and international scope. It has led to a change in museums’ educational programmes and professional practice including introducing new audiences and has increased public awareness about a global approach to Art History. Underpinned by the research of members of the Art History and Design departments, OAO promotes the understanding of art informed by the innovative methodologies of mobility and global approaches. OAO ensures the sustainability of Art History at all teaching levels, advocating for the democratisation of the subject, and promotes educational opportunity.

Revisiting Modern Art and Modernism

On 29 March 2019, organisers Amy Charlesworth and Veronica Davies were thrilled to welcome over 150 delegates to the conference Revisiting Modern Art and Modernism.  Our stellar line-up included keynote lectures by Professors T.J. Clark and Briony Fer, as well as contributions from many other eminent speakers: this was really special because every single speaker has been associated with our modern art courses in some way over the last 40 years.  What was so stimulating about the day as a whole was that it offered both a celebration and a critical evaluation of what we have achieved in that time, as well as what we are doing now and plan to do in future.  Each session is presented as a separate recording, so you can dip into what interests you at any time.  Enjoy the recordings – and don’t forget the Open Arts Objects Facebook page if you have any comments!

The full programme of recordings can be found at the links below:


‘In conversation’ session on how OU methods and teaching materials spread to the wider world of art history education with Steve Edwards, Gail Day, Joanne Crawford & Barry Venning.


Chair: Amy Charlesworth

Gavin Butt: It’s Not Made by Great Men: Post-Punk and Art History

Wendy Frith: Summer School


Chair: Veronica Davies

Anne Wagner & Nick Levinson: ‘The Complexities of Representing Sculpture (Case study: Rodin)’

Warren Carter: ‘Utilising 21st century media (Case study: Mexican muralists)’


‘In conversation’ session discussing the ways OU scholarship has contributed to developments in this subject area in recent decades with  Emma Barker, Paul Wood and Warren Carter



Many thanks to the audio-visual team at the OU for recording and editing the whole event.

-Veronica Davies

Revisiting Modern Art and Modernism

2019 marks 50 years since the founding of the OU and the Art History department will be offering a number of events to celebrate.

In March 2019, we’ll be hosting a conference, ‘Revisiting Modern Art & Modernism at the OU.’

Drawing on the OU’s pioneering and world-class research in this field, the courses have helped position the OU as a leader in the development of an innovative and influential curriculum for the understanding of modern art, and has led to the production of publications such as the indispensable anthology Art in Theory. The conference will explore the impact of OU art history courses and broadcast media, critically assessing how they inspired successive generations of OU undergraduate students by involving them directly in current – often closely fought – debates about modern art. This was supported by a tried and tested but evolving model of distance learning, combined with week-long summer schools in major museums and galleries.

Keynote lectures, panels and roundtable discussions with eminent scholars in the field will cover a range of connected topics:

  • the challenge posed to the Modernist paradigm: the relationship of successive courses to what became known as ‘the social history of art’ or ‘the new art history’
  • how students from a broad demographic were encouraged to challenge their own assumptions about art and art history
  • the introduction of new bodies of scholarship into an overall pedagogical model, encompassing, among others, feminist art history, postmodernism, post-colonial studies, semiotics and identity theories
  • the application of key theories to the study of modern modes of art making, such as abstraction, conceptual art, installation art and time-based media
  • the impact of OU teaching materials in the wider field of the discipline

The conference will acknowledge the importance of looking forward as well as back. It will therefore also consider the state of the discipline now, particularly within the changing landscape of Higher Education provision and the urgent need, more than ever, to engage a wider demographic with understanding modern and contemporary art.

To book, please follow the link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/revisiting-modern-art-and-modernism-tickets-52054308839

Why Art History Matters: showcase on Open Arts Journal

The Open Arts Journal addresses the demand for a rigorously compiled, peer-reviewed platform for arts scholarship that is open to diverse participants.

If you don’t know already, one of the open access resources coming out of the department of Art History at the Open University is the Open Arts Journal.

Published by The Open University, the Open Arts Journalwww.openartsjournal.org – addresses the demand for a rigorously compiled, peer-reviewed platform for arts scholarship that is open to diverse participants. Its dissemination is global, spanning multiple communities including practitioners of art, architecture and design, curators and arts policy-makers, and researchers in the arts and heritage sectors.

With a broad base of interests the Open Arts Journal emphasises innovation, in both content and medium and by virtue of a bespoke digital design. Its contributors encompass a wide range of scholars, from academics to critics and practitioners, with original visual essays and polemics; reflections on art from curators and artists; and the fruits of theoretical, historical or longitudinal research.

Each edition tackles a key theme, issue or critical debate.

Past themed issues include:

Issue 1 Cosmopolitanism as Creative and Critical Practice

Issue 2 Pavilions

Issue 3 Disturbing Pasts: Memories, Controversies and Creativity*

Issue 4 Touch Me, Touch Me Not: Senses, Faith and Performativity in Early Modernity

Issue 5 Sustainable Art Communities: Creativity and Policy in the Transnational Caribbean*

Issue 6 Baroque Naples: Place and Displacement

Issue 7 Between Sensuous and Making-Sense-Of (forthcoming winter 2018)

*Extended and re-published as two major book anthologies from Manchester University Press: http://www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/9781526115454/


Each issue is downloadable free and without subscription or registration.

Submissions undergo thorough peer review in consultation with an esteemed international editorial board. We warmly welcome responses and proposals for future such issues at: FASS-Open-Arts-Journal@open.ac.uk

To join the Open Arts Journal distribution list, visit www.jiscmail.ac.uk/OPENARTSJOURNAL

Editor in Chief: Leon Wainwright

Managing Editor: Alice E. Sanger

Deputy Editor: Tilo Reifenstein

Mask of Madness, c. 1550–80. Sacro Bosco, Bomarzo. (Photo by Thalia Allington-Wood)

 The Art History department has always been dedicated to providing open access Art History materials. For an overview of what we do, check out our previous blog on widening participation and open access.

Material Mondays extra: Pollock & Tureen

I wanted to share some work by Louise Lawler who I find a fascinating artist who exceeds categories, even though she can be in part located within traditions of institutional critique and feminism. She made her name with a famous series of photographs taken in the house of the art collectors Mr and Mrs Tremaine, and here is one of her famous shots of this series:

Pollock and Tureen, Arranged by Mr. and Mrs. Burton Tremaine, 1984 from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

It shows Jackson Pollock’s famous painting Frieze (1953-55) the way only collectors can afford to see it, in a domestic setting, hence the association of her work with institutional critique. For me the juxtaposition with this eighteenth-century tureen is particularly interesting, as it connects the art work as commodity in the present with the trade in porcelain and so-called export art, that is Chinese vases, dished and other domestic objects that were produced especially for the European market and sought to adapt its shapes to the European taste. This work, much like Lawler’s, thrived on appropriation and translation, resulting in often curious mixtures and creative interpretations of patterns, designs and shapes. The extreme cropping of Pollock’s work, which in a sense becomes the backdrop for the tureen, shows the painting much like the tureen as a decorative object in a private space, that is as a commodity. Yet what makes the image so famous is the presence of Pollock’s painting, a clear sign of status. Historically speaking, porcelain dishes, however, used to occupy just such a place of privilege, not on the basis of artistic genius, however, but of the ‘exotic’ status of porcelain, that is the materiality of the dish, and its association with the ‘East’. Pollock, of course, also drew on ‘other’ visual practices, in particular native American Indian art, which this image also alludes to, if maybe somewhat obliquely, which is why I picked it.

This perspective reflects my work for A344 ‘Art and its Global Histories’, the new third level course for art history which launched in October 2017, which explores the movement of visual objects between cultures in respective cultural and political contexts and shows how central Europe’s global contacts and transcultural exchanges were for the forging of its art. I have edited and co-authored one of its course unit ‘Empire and Art: British India’. For me Lawler’s image also makes indirect allusions to the practice of appropriating the work of artists for decorative schemes on ceramics. I have explored this with regard to nineteenth-century prints representing Indian scenes on a Staffordshire meat dish on our OpenLearn Unit Travelling Objects.

If you are interested in exploring the global contexts of Chinese porcelain further, you will find a discussion of Chinoiserie and of the global commodity trade in Art, commerce and colonialism 1600–1800 as well as the earlier reception and collection of porcelain in the Renaissance in European Art and the Wider World, 1350-1550.

-Renate Dohmen, Lecturer in Art History at the Open University

Why does Art History Matter To You?

Along with the films we’ve done of curators in museums and academics from the Art History department at the Open University, we also put a call out to the general public on #whyarthistorymatters.

We’ve had films from interior designers, artists, as well as these A-level students:

You can see more of these films over on our YouTube channel.

Why not record your own & tag us on social media?:

#whyarthistorymatters #openartsobjects #ouarthistory #OUrArtHistory #wahm

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