University of Sydney Handbooks - 2013 Archive

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Art History

The Department of Art History and Film Studies is part of the School of Letters, Art and Media.

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 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.

Requirements for a major
For a major in Art History students must complete the following:

  • 12 credit points of compulsory junior units in Art History.
  • At least 6 units of study (36 credit points) of senior elective units of study selected from the units offered.

Refer to Table A in this Handbook for units of study available in the current year.

Up to 18 credit points of units from approved cross-listed units of study may be counted towards the major.

Refer to Table A in this Handbook for cross-listed units of study available in the current year.


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.

Refer to the degree resolutions in this Handbook and to the Faculty Admissions Policy for Honours:

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 2013 University of Sydney Summer School:

ARHT1002 Modern Times: Art and Film
ARHT2657 Contemporary Hollywood

For further details see the Summer School webpage:

Contact/Further Information

Department website:

Undergraduate Student Advisor: Dr Louise Marshall
Phone: +61 2 9351 3073

Honours Coordinator: Dr Richard Smith
Phone: +61 2 9351 4208