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Art History

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Art History

A picture is no longer to be understood in terms of its theme, but as a contribution to the development of art

Hans Belting
Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image before the Era of Art, Chicago, 1994, p. 459

From paintings and sculpture, to ceramics, textiles and buildings, art history is the exploration of visual, material and spatial creativity in historical context. We can learn so much about historical change in the past and present by examining images, objects and spaces – whether art, design and architecture, photography, dress and performance, or museums and sites of heritage.

The Open University has an international reputation for its innovative art history research projects and we have been teaching art history to tens of thousands of students since 1975. Our modules offer a diverse and stimulating avenue into visual literacy, inviting students to discover a creative, inspiring and challenging way of looking at and engaging with objects, images and the built environment.

Our academics

As a faculty, we are best known for the breadth of our research activity, from the Byzantine, Medieval and Renaissance periods, through to the 18th century, modern and contemporary art and visual culture. As well as undertaking regular individual and collaborative research projects, all our members also play key roles in three university-wide interdisciplinary research groups.

Our research

In the recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, OU research in Art and Design achieved 100% 4* (world leading) or 3* (internationally excellent) ratings for its Impact and for the Research Environment, whilst over 76% of our research publications were assessed as 4* or 3*. Our publications demonstrated the quality and range of our research in the history and theory of art, reflected in the module materials we are developing for our new Degree Pathway.

How we work with others

Our academics often give talks at high-profile museums and art galleries. We also advise on OU/BBC productions, including Civilisations (a series exploring the visual culture of societies around the globe) and Secrets of the Museum (a series venturing behind the scenes at the Victoria and Albert museum of art, design and performance).

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