Art History and Visual Studies
Art History and Visual Studies is concerned with how people have expressed themselves by giving shape to these expressions through images and forms since they first developed the means to do so, through to today’s prolific flood of images and contemporary art. In the past, the label ‘Art History’ has been used to describe this area of study but our new description, ‘Art History and Visual Studies,’ signals a shift whereby the discipline now includes the meaning of visual shapes and their significance in representing the people and communities of the past, whilst remaining of interest to the broad field of visual culture. The theories and methods we address concern written art, images, architecture, and design history. We also investigate how visual design and communication can be described, interpreted and understood.
Visual representations are studied in different cultural contexts and from different perspectives, such as those of aesthetics, communications, sociology, intercultural communication, functionalism, gender theory and postcolonial studies. A broad range of art and visual forms are studied, including classical painting and sculpture, ancient temples, gothic cathedrals, modernist architecture, arts and crafts, folk art, furniture, work tool design, realistic painting, portraits, commercials, expressionist graphics, street art, conceptual art, comic books and public art.
Programmes and Subject courses
Art History and Visual Studies forms part of the main field of study Cultural Studies, and can be studied as an independent subject or chosen as a specialisation in the Culture, Policy and Management Programme. The courses can be included in a Bachelor's degree with Culture Studies as the main field, or in any other Bachelor's degree. The subjects are presented as 7.5 credit modules, which can be taken independently or as a package of 30 credits per semester.
· Introduction to Art History and Visual Studies, 7.5 credits
· Art History and Visual Studies: Early Image and Building Cultures, 7.5 credits
· Art History and Visual Studies: From the Renaissance to Romanticism and Realism, 7.5 credits
· Art History and Visual Studies: Modernism, Postmodernism and Contemporary Art, 7.5 credits
These modules are all included in the course Art History and Visual Studies I, 30 credits.
· Art History and Visual Studies I, 1–30 credits
· Art History and Visual Studies II, 31–60 credits
Art History and Visual Studies II, 31–60 credits, includes the following modules, which can also be taken independently following successful completion of the first four modules in Art History and Visual Studies I, 30 credits:
- Art History and Visual Studies II: Global and Regional Art and Image Worlds
- Art History and Visual Studies II: Art Life, Art museums, Art Education and Public Art
- Art History and Visual Studies II: Theory and Method
- Art History and Visual Studies II: Independent project
Why study art history and visual studies?
Studying art and visual images is like opening the cover of a treasure chest and gaining access to the visual riches of history and contemporary life. In addition to knowledge about cultural objects, environments and human communication, you learn about key terms and concepts. In short, a language to speak about images, art, architecture and design.
Thanks to recent developments in information and communications technology, we live in a world surrounded by a rich flow of images, but we often find it difficult to name, or understand, the visual phenomena and culture in which we take part. In 1995, W. J. T. Mitchell claimed in his book Picture Theory that Western society has undergone a “pictorial turn,” that is, a moment of change signalling a shift from verbal to pictorial dominance. In this “turn,” the visual has gained new meaning within theories of culture, knowledge and representation in line with dramatic technical developments in the field of pictures and digital images, but he also pointed to a paradox in this context: There is a desire to understand the relationship of the visual to verbal language, its power and ability to influence people and events, but at the same time there is an ignorance and sometimes a fear of the power of images. It is therefore important to acquire appropriate knowledge and the ability to speak about and understand visual phenomena and visual communication.
This applies both within and between cultures. In a world characterised by globalisation, climate change, major migration flows and political polarisation, there is a need to discuss visual communication, not least from a rhetorical perspective. Contemporary art can also be a medium for burning contemporary issues.
Knowledge of Art History and Visual Studies also opens up opportunities in the labour market, including the ability to work professionally with art in galleries, museums, municipalities, county councils, art projects and in pedagogical contexts. These fields all require knowledge and understanding of both historical and contemporary art. The module on Art, Art Museums, Art Education and Public Art also includes specific skills needed in professional activities.
Art History and Visual Studies as part of the Culture, Policy and Management Programme provides knowledge needed to work with art in cultural life. Other subject combinations may also be useful, for example with Film Studies, Gender Studies, History, History of Ideas, Intercultural Studies, Art and Visual Studies, Literature, Media and Communications and Pedagogy.
Completion of a Bachelor’s Degree in Cultural Studies fulfils the admission requirements for a 60-credit Master’s Programme in Cultural Studies, the master-level course Gender Studies IV or other 90- or 120-credit Master’s Programmes in the Social Sciences. Students are also eligible to apply for the SAMAS Programme with specialisation in History that focuses on questions of cultural inheritance, history, identity and intercultural studies.
SAMAS Master’s degrees fulfils the requirements of the doctoral programmes offered by the Centre for Regional Studies (CRS) at Karlstad University.
The completion of other Master-level degrees that include Art History and Visual Studies fulfil the requirements of the doctoral programme in Culture and Society offered at Linköping University.
Students who wish to study more specific Art History and Visual Studies at doctoral level can do so at another university. The courses Art History and Visual Studies I and II fulfil the requirements for a Bachelor's degree in the subject, and then it is a matter of applying to an appropriate Master’s or doctoral degree.
For more concrete study and career guidance, please contact the coordinator of the Culture, Policy and Management Programme.
Master's Program in social science: Specialising in History
Master's Program in Social Science: Specialising in Human Geography
The Centre for Research on Sustainable Societal Transformation (CRS)