University of Sydney Handbooks - 2012 Archive

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Art History

Art History is part of the School of Letters, Art and Media (SLAM).

In a new century when visual images increasingly challenge texts as a means of communication, the history of art and film provides a foundation of visual literacy. With strengths in European, American, Asian and Australian art and film, units of study offered by the department provide an understanding of different cultures and times. Studying not only the 'high art' of the museums and private collections, the department engages with the vitality of popular culture: design, photography, and the medium of film that so defines contemporary experience.

A major in Art History has a wide range of real world applications. Beyond the rigorous training in argument and writing the degree provides, it gives a pathway into several art industries. Many commercial galleries, public art spaces, public galleries and museums are staffed by our graduates. Many art critics, film critics and programmers working in the print media, radio and television have trained in art history and film studies.

The department's excellence in theoretical as well as historical studies have encouraged young researchers who have gone on to find work at the university level around Australia and overseas.

Students intending to major in Art History must complete both ARHT1001 and ARHT1002. Film Studies is a complementary area to Art History and students intending to major in Film Studies need to complete ARHT1002 Modern Times: Art and Film. (Please refer to separate Film Studies entry for further details.)

After completing ARHT1001 and ARHT1002 a student can select from the full range of senior units of study available across the department. Please note that every unit of study may not be offered each year. However over the two-year period which a full-time student completes senior units, almost all will be offered.

At least 36 credit points at senior level (six units) are required for a major, although students may take up to 78 (18 junior and 60 senior) credit points of Art History units.

Students have the option of either selecting from a wide range of units of study to create a more generalised degree or selecting from a specific area to create a more specialised major.

Each year different units of study are offered in the following areas:

  • European Art History from the Early Renaissance to the late 19th Century. The discipline was founded and developed on European models of representation through many parts of the world, including Australia.
  • Modern and Contemporary Art. This area covers most aspects of visual culture from the late 19th century up until the present day. It includes the study of photography, popular culture, art, design and architecture.
  • Australian Art. This area covers indigenous, colonial and post-colonial art and visual culture to the present.
  • Asian Art. This area covers modern and contemporary art and popular culture in Northern and Southeast Asia.
  • Film Studies. This area covers the histories and theories of film and electronic media. Please note that you can count the department's film units as part of your Art History major.

Students in the Department of Art History and Film Studies are able to enrol in practical units of study offered at the Art Workshop (Tin Sheds) in the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning. Units of study are normally offered in the following media: Ceramics, Drawing, Painting, Photography, Screenprinting, Sculpture, Video and Web design.

Students enrolled in either ARHT1001 or ARHT1002 are able to enrol in one introductory level workshop. Students enrolled in senior units of study can also take one advanced level workshop, each worth six credit points. A listing of these units of study can be found in the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning Handbook. These units of study will not be included as part of a major in Art History, but the credit points gained will count towards a student's degree total.

For more details please consult the Tin Sheds at
Phone: +61 2 9351 3115

The prerequisites for Art History honours is a credit average in 48 senior credit points of Art History. The honours year comprises two semester-long units of study and a thesis of 18,000-20,000 words in length. Students are also able to undertake Film Studies honours.

More details on prerequisites and the nature of the honours year for Art History and Film Studies is described in the honours section of this handbook.

Foreign Language
Knowledge of another language is not compulsory, however students wishing to proceed to postgraduate research in Art History are strongly advised to acquire a good reading knowledge of a language other than English. A student may be precluded from doing postgraduate research in a particular area if s/he does not have reading knowledge of the appropriate language/s. Language skills are also often highly valued by future employers, particularly in museums and art galleries.

Summer and Winter School
The department will be offering the following undergraduate units of study as part of the 2012 University of Sydney Summer School:

ARHT1001 Art and Experience

For further details see the Summer School webpage:

Contact/further information
For comprehensive information please see the department website:

Undergraduate Student Advisor:
Semester 1: Dr Keith Broadfoot
Phone: +61 2 9351 6906

Semester 2: Dr Louise Marshall
Phone: +61 2 9351 3073