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Art History

An image to illustrate studying art history with The Open University

The Art History Department specialises in high-quality research and teaching relating to several areas of art and architectural history, including Byzantine art; the Renaissance (both in Italy and in Northern Europe); art and art theory from the 17th through to the 20th century; recent and contemporary art practice; a cross-period interest in gender studies; architecture and material culture; and heritage studies. Our fully illustrated teaching books have attracted international recognition and many are best sellers. We run a popular MA in Art History and supervise PhD students.

The department’s research groups include:

  • Art Histories in Focus (includes Early Modern Art, Eighteenth-Century Art and Modern Art Theory and Practice)
  • Cross-Cultural and Artistic networks
  • History of Architecture and Design.

The department also plays a key role in two inter-departmental research groups. The interfaculty Heritage Studies Research Group promotes a critical approach to understanding the role of heritage in society, looking at the historic environment, interpretation and sustainability issues as well as collections history. The Material Cultures Research Group uses a critical consideration of the role of tangible expressions of culture in society. Topics range from the uses of Byzantine icons to the impact of social housing on gender relations.

Key facts

  • The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 results showed 86 per cent of our research is world leading or internationally excellent.
  • The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 ranked our research 6th in the UK for its proportion of 4* and 3* research.
  • We offer regular opportunities to participate in our collaborative study days held at Tate Modern, the Barbican, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Milton Keynes Gallery, the Walker Art Gallery and the Baltic.
  • We offer unique access to an archive of gallery-based events, lectures and seminars through The Open Arts Archive.
  • Our staff have been successful in obtaining substantial funding for high-profile research projects from The Leverhulme Trust and other funding bodies. 

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

+44 (0)1908 652479

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under 'Your Questions' on the right of the page.


Research publications by Open University staff are available through Open Research Online (ORO), the university's repository of research publications and other research outputs. ORO can be searched or browsed by staff name or subject.

The following list, generated from ORO, provides a flavour of the most recently published work in Art History