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Introduction to Art History (10 credit points)

Course Times & Enrolment

Mondays from 15th January 2024 (Code AA242-202) Mondays from
15th January 2024 2:10pm - 4:00pm • (10 classes)
M14 Paterson's Land, Holyrood Campus • Tutor: Emily Learmont BA, MA, MSc
This course is now closed for enrolments

Course Summary

This course provides an introduction to art history as an academic discipline. By looking, thinking, discussing and writing, students will learn the essential skills required to analyse a range of works of art. A survey of Western art from 650 BCE to the present is included.

Please note, this course includes a field trip to a local gallery.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment


Content of Course

The first half of this course introduces students to the key methodologies of art-historical practice: formal, comparative and material analysis, historical and social context, and recent theories. The second half applies these methods to a survey of Western art.

1. Formal Analysis 
Colour, tone, line, space and mass.

2. Comparative Analysis 
Identifying similarities and differences.

3. Material Analysis 
Pigment and paint, marble and bronze, print and multimedia.

4. Contextual Analysis 
Historical, cultural and social influences.

5. Theory and Methodology 
Introducing Marxism, Feminism, Post-Colonialism and Post-Structuralism.

6. Classicism and the Late Antique 

7. The Middle Ages and Renaissance 

8. The Baroque and Neoclassicism 

9. Romanticism, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism 

10. Modernism and Post-Modernism

Teaching method(s)

Each session includes an illustrated talk and discussion. Students may be required to participate in assignments such as appraising primary and secondary source material and giving short, informal presentations. Practical advice on critical reading and essay-writing skills will be given, with hand-outs provided.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an ability to analyse the form and content of works of art produced in western Europe between 650 BCE and the present;

  • Demonstrate an understanding of and ability to analyse and interpret secondary material;

  • Demonstrate an ability to present arguments and visual analysis in a coherent and balanced way.


Core Readings

  • Berger, J. 2008. Ways of Seeing.  London: Penguin

  • D'Alleva, A. and Cothren, M., 2021. Fundamentals of Art History. London: Lawrence King.

  • Fleming, J. and Honour, H., 2009. A World History of Art. London: Laurence King. 

  • Gombrich, E. H. 2000. The Story of Art. 4th ed. London: Phaidon.

Web Sources

Artstor, University of Edinburgh Library Databases

National Galleries of Scotland

Oxford Art Online, University of Edinburgh Library Databases

Tate Glossary of Art Terms


10 credit courses have one assessment. Normally, the assessment is a 2000 word essay, worth 100% of the total mark, submitted by week 12. To pass, students must achieve a minimum of 40%. There are a small number of exceptions to this model which are identified in the Studying for Credit Guide.

Studying for Credit

If you choose to study for credit you will need to allocate significant time outwith classes for coursework and assessment preparation. Credit points gained from this course can count towards the Certificate of Higher Education.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.