University of Sydney Handbooks - 2016 Archive

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Art History

The department of Art History is part of the School of Letters, Art and Media.

About the major

Art is a profound and persistent human impulse. Art History explores the history of making, viewing and experiencing works of art and architecture. It asks key questions such as what is art for, what does it mean, and how does it function in broader culture? These questions will be part of a dynamic encounter with complex and compelling works of art. You will gain the historical knowledge and analytical skills to make sense of such works across time and space, to relate them to each other and to the specific historical and cultural contexts for which they were created.

You will be trained in the skills of visual and spatial analysis that are fundamental to our discipline - the ability to critically interpret the visual appearance of a given object. As well as the canonical forms of painting, sculpture and architecture, you will encounter a wide spectrum of media and art practice, from body art to video installation, from fresco to pop, from processional ritual to performance art, from early prints to land art. Studying the history of art fosters insight and skills in understanding and interpreting visual communication, expression and innovation that are highly relevant in today’s image-saturated world. Many of our graduates go on to careers in the visual arts industry, as curators, critics, art advisers, collection managers, registrars or educators. They work in art museums, commercial galleries, auction houses, state and local government or community arts programs, as well as in art journalism and criticism.

Pathways through the major

A major in Art History requires 36 senior credit points from the table of units of study for Art History, including at least 12 credit points of core units at 3000 level. Your major may include a maximum of six credit points from elective units of study.

The units of study for the major can be found in the Table A unit of study table for Art History. The table shows units of study on offer in the current handbook year.

Junior units of study (1000 level)

You complete 12 junior credit points in Art History before enrolling in senior units. ARHT1001 Style + Substance: Introducing Art History introduces the key issues and foundational skills of our discipline, focusing on the history of Western art from classical antiquity to the early modern period. ARHT1002 Modern Times: Art and Film explores modern and contemporary art, including the relationships between ‘still art’ and the moving image.

Senior units of study (2000 and 3000 level)

Senior-intermediate (2000 level) units of study introduce more complex concepts, and more specific fields within art history, and address the diversity and complexity of art and its contexts within a variety of geographies and temporalities. They also make more complex analytical demands of students.

Senior-advanced (3000 level) units deepen your engagement with the complex philosophical and methodological issues facing any scholar or student of Art History, and demand both greater depth of analysis and more focused and longer written tasks.

Art Workshops/Studio Electives

Students enrolled in Art History units may also enrol in a practice-based workshop/studio unit offered through the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning. These units are offered on campus at the Tin Sheds and have a unit of study code beginning with AWSS. Students can take AWSS1001 Architectural Sketching and Drawing in their junior year (offered in Semester 1 only) and one workshop/studio unit in their senior years.

Note that these units do not count towards a major in Art History, but the credit points gained can be counted towards your degree.

More information on Tin Sheds units of study can be found here:


An honours year in Art History allows students to specialise further in their area of interest. Entry requirements include an average of 70 percent or better 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.

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

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