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British art making has been at the heart of a wide range of worldwide networks and dialogues, from the material culture of Anglo-Saxon Britain through the painting and sculpture of eighteenth-century and Victorian Britain, to British Modernism and Britart.

Investigate notions of national, imperial, cosmopolitan and global visual and material cultures; engage with debates about British and European cultural identity and study a variety of works from painting, sculpture and architecture, through to graphic art, design and craft. You can explore photography, installation, performance and contemporary works engaging with new media, digital and other innovative technologies. You’ll be able to study a module that is jointly taught in collaboration with our partners (eg the Tate or the V&A).

We are one of the largest History of Art departments in the UK. We have developed successful partnerships with museums, galleries and country houses which will enrich your studies and may offer you placement opportunities and privileged access to collections.

Course content

You play an active role in building your degree, furthering your specialist interests, and designing research projects. You can study works of art from different periods or focus on a specific period or issue.

You will also develop a heightened methodological awareness, helping you to forge a more sophisticated understanding of how artworks create meaning and why some artworks have been deemed culturally more significant than others.

The course enables you to develop advanced skills in verbal and written communication, and effective project management. You will acquire a high level of expertise in visual analysis and art historical research through object-focused study and an intensively researched MA dissertation.

You also have the option to develop your interdisciplinary interests by taking modules in related academic disciplines such as history, literature, archaeology, philosophy, sociology and others.


You'll study one core module and four option modules. 

Core module

Option modules (20 credits each)

The list of options offered each year will vary according to staff availability, but will include modules to which curatorial or research staff from our partners will contribute. For example:

Term 1

  • Art and Imagery in York Minster 
  • The Art of the Pre-Raphaelites 
  • Critical Architecture: More Than Mere Containment
  • Ceramic Arts of the Islamic World 
  • Fashion: Theories, Materials and Images (1540-1940) 
  • Installation/Participation 
  • J M W Turner 
  • Sir Christopher Wren 

Term 2

  • Art & Raj: Visual Culture & British Imperialism in India c.1780-c.1900 
  • Art, Nature and the Environment in Italy 
  • Churches & High Crosses: The Art of Stone in Anglo-Saxon England 
  • Mapping the World, 1100-1300 
  • Monument, Object, Fetish, Artefact: Contesting ‘Modern’ Sculpture 
  • ‘Painting on Light’: Stained Glass in the Medieval Tradition 
  • The Uses of Photography 

You can choose up to two option modules from those offered by other humanities departments and interdisciplinary centres.

  • Centre for Medieval Studies (CMS)
  • Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies (CREMS)
  • Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies (CECS)
  • Centre for Modern Studies (CModS)


You'll submit a dissertation of 15,000 words in September. The dissertation will account for 50% of your final degree mark and will be supervised by a member of staff.

Teaching and assessment

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace.

Teaching format

Each option module is taught by weekly two-hour seminars, and the core module is taught on a fortnightly basis. You'll have the opportunity to go on field-trips organised by the Department to view art and architecture, these will be an integral part of your learning.

You'll be taught with lectures, seminars and one-to-one meetings with your lecturer or supervisor. You'll have between seven and nine hours on average per week of classes.


You'll be part of the vibrant interdisciplinary Humanities Research Centre and as a History of Art student you'll also have access to extensive resources. You'll be able to attend related lectures, conferences or site visits offered by our British Art Research School.

Teaching location

You will be based in the Department of History of Art on Campus West.

Most of your contact hours will be in Vanbrugh College, with some additional teaching on Campus West and King's Manor in the city.

About our campus

Our beautiful green campus offers a student-friendly setting in which to live and study, within easy reach of the action in the city centre. It's easy to get around campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.

Assessment and feedback

You'll submit a 4,000 word essay per option module. For the Research Skills module you'll produce a dissertation synopsis as your assessment.

Careers and skills

We offer amazing partnerships and placements with numerous museums and galleries that will help you in your future career. You'll have the opportunity to engage first hand with some of the most exciting collections of British art in the country. We work with the National GalleryTate, the V&A, and York Museums Trust. We have excellent relationships with regional museums, galleries and country houses— including the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern ArtCastle Howard, the Hepworth WakefieldYorkshire Sculpture Park, and the Henry Moore Institute

Career opportunities

  • Museums, galleries and auction houses
  • Cultural management
  • Heritage and conservation
  • Journalism and media
  • Teaching
  • Academia
  • Education
  • Art administration

 Transferable skills

  • The ability to analyse and interpret information from different sources
  • Intellectual independence and autonomy
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Applying and adapting methodologies appropriate to your own research
  • You'll be familiar with principal archival, bibliographic and art-historical resources
  • Delivering projects to meet time constraints​

Visit the History of Art (British Art) - MA page on the University of York website for more details!






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