Theory and Practice of Art History

Subject AHIS30019 (2015)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2015.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 3 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2015:

Semester 2, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 27-Jul-2015 to 25-Oct-2015
Assessment Period End 20-Nov-2015
Last date to Self-Enrol 07-Aug-2015
Census Date 31-Aug-2015
Last date to Withdraw without fail 25-Sep-2015

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: A 1.5-hour lecture and a 1-hour tutorial per week.
Total Time Commitment:

Total expected time commitment is 170 hours across the semester, including class time.


Completion of 37.5 pts of level two subjects in Art History and enrolment in the Bachelor of Arts or Graduate Diploma in Arts (Art History). Bachelor of Arts students should endeavour to take the capstone subject in their final semester of study after completion of 25 pts of 3rd year.



Recommended Background Knowledge:


Non Allowed Subjects:


Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry. The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:


Dr Anthony White, Dr Susan Lowish


Dr Anthony White

Dr Susan Lowish

Subject Overview:

This capstone subject examines the theory and practice of art history. It introduces students to the methodological issues involved in developing new and innovative research projects in art history and to the practical problems that arise in translating those projects into real world contexts. The subject will provide students with a fundamental grounding in the methodologies of the discipline of history and the broader critical and analytical skills necessary for the study of art at higher levels. Students will also be introduced to some of the issues, questions and problems that arise in the process of developing their own research projects both within the academic environment and in concrete professional contexts such as the museum sector. The subject draws attention to a number of questions relating to art historical research and its realisation in the world outside the academy, including, but not limited to, the appropriate methodological framework to adopt in any given context; questions or protocol and ethics around research into art and the display or artworks; and the social impact of art at a more general level, whether through the museum industry or other contexts The subject tis team-taught by the art history staff and alumni, drawing upon their experience in art historical research, writing, publishing and curating, surveying the skills necessary for those who practice art history as a profession. The subject will involve students in the research and interpretation of worlds of art encountered in Melbourne’s collections, institutions museums and civic spaces, and through encounters with specialists whose job it is to conserve, collect and display these objects.

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of the subject students should have:

• encountered art in Melbourne collections, institutions, museums and civic spaces, and encounter specialists whose job it is to conserve, collect and display these objects;

• developed a broad understanding of the historical and aesthetic characteristics of artworks produced during selected artistic periods (for example High Renaissance, baroque, rococo, neoclassical, contemporary art);

• an understanding of the varying contexts informing works of art, including the relationship between art and its methods of production and preservation, its engagement with society and installation in museum settings, and the different ways in which viewers respond to art and interpret the meanings and messages which it conveys;

• achieved a fundamental grounding in the methodologies of the discipline of history, and in the broader critical and analytical skills necessary for the study of art at higher levels;

• the ability to research through the competent use of the library and other information sources, and be able to define areas of inquiry and methods of research in the preparation of essays;

• the ability to conceptualise theoretical problems, form judgements and arguments and communicate critically, creatively and theoretically through essay writing, tutorial discussion and presentations;

• the ability to communicate knowledge intelligibly and economically through essay writing and tutorial discussion;

• the ability to manage and organise workloads for recommended reading, the completion of essays and assignments and examination revision;

• the ability to participate in team work through involvement in syndicate groups and group discussions.


A 2000 word exercise 50% (due during the semester) and a 2000 word take-home examination 50% (due during the examination period). This subject has a minimum hurdle requirement of 80% attendance and regular participation in tutorials. Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:

A subject reader will be available

Recommended Texts:
  • Cramer, Lorinda and Sullivan, Lisa. Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, 2005.
  • Dwyer, Tessa (ed.). Good thinking: words and pictures on contemporary Melbourne art, Fitzroy, Vic.: 1st Floor Artists and Writers Space, 2000.
  • Elkins, James, Master narratives and their discontents, London: Routledge, 2005.
  • Elkins, James, What happened to art criticism? Chicago, Ill.: Prickly Paradigm Press . Bristol: University Presses Marketing, 2003.
  • Freeland, Cynthia A, But is it art?: an introduction to art theory, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Galbally, Ann, The collections of the National Gallery of Victoria Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1987.
  • Goad Phillip et al. Heide: the architecture of Heide Museum of Modern Art, Balmain, NSW: Pesaro Publishing, 2002.
  • Goad, Philip. Melbourne architecture, Balmain, N.S.W. Trinity College, The University of Melbourne, 2001.
  • Presland, Gary. Aboriginal Melbourne: the lost land of the Kulin people, Ringwood, Vic.: Penguin Books, 1998.
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

This capstone subject is compulsory and only available to students undertaking a major in Art History or the Graduate Diploma in Art (Art History).

Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Art History
Art History
Art History Major

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