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

Please complete our short survey and let us know what you think about the proposed programme.

Choose from three types of research programme in History of Art.

Edinburgh is a very special place to be an Art Historian. We enjoy world-class museum and gallery collections and vibrant contemporary arts scene on our doorstep.

The Fine Art MA is a five-year degree during which you study both History of Art and Art practice.

Study the Renaissance in all its facets – histories, literatures, arts and science.

An in-depth exploration of modern and contemporary art, with access to world-leading collections and expertise and a flagship internship programme.

You will be supported and guided by teaching staff who are all publishing research, curating exhibitions, and organising conferences.

Take advantage of the University of Edinburgh’s long tradition of studying the history of art within a global context.

Upcoming History of Art events

04 Dec 2015 to 05 Mar 2016
Visual Dissection – The Art of Anatomy
Main Library, Exhibition Gallery
George Square
11 Feb 2016
History of Art Research Seminar: Jenny Terry
Lecture Theatre
Hunter Building
25 Feb 2016
History of Art Research Seminar: Freya Gowrley
Lecture Theatre
Hunter Building
03 Mar 2016
History of Art Research Seminar: Sussan Babaie
Lecture Theatre
Hunter Building
10 Mar 2016
History of Art Research Seminar: Lex Bosman
Lecture Theatre
Hunter Building