- Department: History of Art
- Module co-ordinator: Prof. Jeanne Nuechterlein
- Credit value: 20 credits
- Credit level: C
- Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
- See module specification for other years: 2023-24
This module focuses specifically on the disciplinary skills of close observation and description of works of art, and situates them in the wider field of professional practice in the analysis of complex information.
|Semester 1 2024-25
One of the most important features of the discipline of History of Art is the attentive observation, description and interpretation of works of art. When we encounter works of art in museums, sales rooms, books and catalogues, they are frequently accompanied by sophisticated written accounts of their visual qualities. Despite the axiom that art speaks for itself, the skill in guiding a viewer’s visual understanding of a complex object, such as painting or sculpture, is not to be underestimated and is highly transferable to a number of other professional contexts.
The focus of this module is not only to heighten students’ skills in close looking but also to make the important step to their articulation of their observations in verbal and written form. It introduces students to a variety of techniques and theories of observation and description used in art history and its adjacent professional fields, such as curating and museum education, in order to demonstrate the stakes involved in description, such as issues of inclusion and diversity, allowing students to reflect on their own qualities as observers, including their tolerance for ambiguity and their implicit biases.
In recent years, the close observation of works of art has been used in the development of evidential reasoning in a number of different contexts, from primary education to training in clinical diagnosis and forensic analysis. The module will include reflection on the applicability of this fundamental art historical skill to other contexts.
By the end of the module, students should have acquired:
an ability to provide close and compelling descriptions of works of art.
an awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses as observers.
an understanding of the relationship between seeing and describing.
an understanding of relevance of art historical skills in observation and description to professional fields in the heritage sector and far beyond it.
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