History of Art

Why does the world look the way it does?

That is the very simple question that lies at the heart of the discipline of history of art. It explores this question primarily through works of visual art but increasingly history of art has turned its attention to film, television and other popular media, as well as the built environment.

Study history of art at Edinburgh and you can expect to examine all of these visual media, as well as, of course, the traditional art forms of painting, sculpture and printmaking. You can also expect to think about art as a global phenomenon. Even if you’re studying European art, you will find it taught in a global context.

History of art is one of the classic humanities disciplines. Open-minded, curious, and critical, it provides a great cultural education. Its breadth is underwritten by well-established and rigorous methods. It teaches you how to interpret images and objects of almost every conceivable kind; it teaches you how to write critically, and well, about them; it teaches you how to use photographs and other images to help interpret artworks; and it shows you how to do large-scale independent research, a skill which can be developed to masters and PhD levels and beyond.

Edinburgh has one of the UK’s longest-established and largest groups of art historians. All are researching and publishing at the highest levels. They take public engagement extremely seriously, and many have major public profiles. The city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the home of some of Europe’s most valuable art collections as well as one of the UK's liveliest contemporart art scenes. You will find Edinburgh has great strengths in digital media too, especially gaming. You can find our graduates in leadership roles in the arts worldwide: all over the world they curate exhibitions, write about art, and shape culture. Edinburgh is where those careers start.

History of Art news

Emma Searle, the Founding Editor of “Canvas”, explains how the publication came to fruition

Natassa Philimonos, who graduated in 2015, will begin the development programme in 2016.

Patricia Farrelly won the Saltire Society’s International Travel Bursary in Visual Arts and Crafts

“Collecting Contemporary” programme launched for 2015/16

Dr Frances Fowle and Dr Heather Pulliam contributed to the display on Celtic art and identity

Announcing the details of the eight History of Art Research Seminars scheduled for the first semester of 2015 - 2016.

Professor Richard Thomson's role on 'Splendour and Misery'

Ruth Burgon and Stella Mygdali reflect on their experience of hosting an afternoon of urban exploration in Edinburgh.

How an interest in medieval 'recycling' in art led to an AHRC-funded PhD

The artist, performer and producer bringing Good Punch to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Upcoming History of Art events

03 Dec 2015
History of Art Research Seminar: Xavier Guillaume
Lecture Theatre
Hunter Building
07 Apr 2016 to 09 Apr 2016
Association of Art Historians Conference 2016
12:00 to 19:00
Appleton Tower, University of Edinburgh
11 Crichton St
08 Apr 2016
The Idea of North: Myth-making and identities
Edinburgh College of Art
26 Apr 2016
ECA Chancellor's Fellows' Talks: Patricia Allmer
Evolution House (Boardroom, 5th floor)
78 West Port
24 May 2016
ECA Chancellor's Fellows' Talks: Christian Weikop
Evolution House (Boardroom, 5th floor)
78 West Port