Art History: Technical Art History, Making & Meaning MLitt

Art History - Technical Art History, Making & Meaning

Through object-based, interdisciplinary research, this Masters programme focuses on the act of making and everything that entails. We study studio practices from a variety of disciplines, their materials and techniques, but also intentions and concept. We examine art technological sources to register the artist’s voice, and other testimonies on artistic practice, make reconstructions of historical recipes and modern techniques to understand practices, ageing and its consequences as well as other changes artworks go through. Researching this all-inclusive story of an artefact is known as technical art history. It is an exciting and rapidly growing field involving (technical) art historians, scientists, conservators while also reaching out to other disciplines such as economic and social history, history of science, anthropology and aesthetics.

Key facts

Why this programme

  • You will be able to work with objects and benefit from staff contacts: including those with the City Collections, the University’s Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery, the National Museums and the National Galleries of Scotland, National Trust Scotland, a
  • You will take a study trip to Amsterdam or Munich, visiting major museums and their conservation studios and research labs as well as research institutions working in the field of technical art history.
  • You have the opportunity to take part in a project-based work placement engaging in interdisciplinary research, where you can explore a possible future career while meeting professional practitioners and developing your skills and experience.
  • You will benefit from guest speakers from the technical art history field, broadening your horizon and offering you network occasions and research contacts.
  • You will participate in two reconstruction workshops of historical painting techniques, as well as workshops on the reconstructions of pigment recipes and scientific examination techniques.

Programme structure

Drawing upon the expertise of an interdisciplinary team, the programme will include taught and research components as well as practical workshops and work placements.

This MLitt develops your skills in object-based research, as well as examining the authenticity, attribution and dating of art works – and their change and survival. You do not need any background in science or conservation. We will provide you with the right tools to understand what science can deliver, what conservators can do, and what role you can play in this truly interdisciplinary field.

You will take five core courses and one optional course. This is followed by a period of self-study towards a dissertation15,000 words in length (including footnotes but excluding bibliography) and will be on a topic chosen in consultation with the tutors and the programme convenor.

Core courses

  • Research methods in practice
  • Art in the making: historical techniques
  • Art in the making: modern and Avant-Garde techniques
  • The authentic art work
  • Testimonies on painters' practice: documentary and visual sources

 Optional courses

You may choose from the following options

  • Work placement
  • Independent study

Core and optional courses

Core Courses

Research Methods in Practice

This course will consist of teaching and learning sessions run by different staff and some guest speakers on a wide range of topics, both practical and theoretical. Bringing all taught postgraduate students in the subject together, it is intended to enable students effectively to engage with broad questions of research methods and their application in History of Art. It is designed and structured to meet the need for a critical, theoretical and methodological underpinning to postgraduate study and to equip students with vital practical research skills.

The Authentic Art Work: Interpretation, Conservation, Presentation

What is an authentic art work? Is what we see precisely as the artist intended it? How do we deal with authenticity in conceptual art? Should all art be preserved for ever or do we need to compromise, and what are we exactly preserving? How important is context for the authenticity of an artefact? Many more questions can be asked, all based on what we understand to be an authentic art work. This is a fascinating and widely discussed area, which everyone working with art works/collections should explore.

In this course you will look at authenticity in art from a variety of viewpoints: philosophical (aesthetics/ethics), technical (historical techniques, conservation practice, and history of conservation), historical (the traces of the ‘history’ of the art work), presentation (its use/position/location in the past compared with its present display etc.), and foremost the artist’s original intent (modern art dilemmas, patina, fakes and forgeries etc.).

Students will work on various small projects in order to come to a good understanding of the concept of ‘authenticity’. In this context they will study one art work each (from any discipline/period including buildings and interiors, conceptual and contextual authenticity) in particular. This research, may take into account art historical, technical (materials, production process, conservation history, ageing), and economical/social/cultural history aspects concerning the art work, and if applicable philosophical issues, all centred on its authenticity.

Art in the Making: Historical Techniques

The aim of this course is to present students with an in-depth and sophisticated understanding of the interrelation of materials, concepts and processes across a historical range of artworks. The course will cover traditional techniques from tempera to 17th-18th century oil painting to the radical changes that take place in the 19th century with Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. There will also be an introduction to printmaking techniques. The course will study key examples ‘from the inside out’: through lectures which will establish theoretical and historical context; through detailed case studies; and, crucially, through hands-on experience of materials. This includes the reconstruction of the preparation of historical materials and processes. Students will make a (partial) reconstruction of the various stages of the painting process in a chosen historical technique using an interdisciplinary approach (technical, art historical, scientific). The combination between theory and practice will enable us to enhance the student learning experience and provide an opportunity to see how theoretical issues addressing stylistic and (art) historical developments addressed on the course relate to changes in techniques.

Course lectures will present course material through close analysis of major artistic examples. Seminars will encourage students to develop their own responses to these themes, and also to engage with theoretical and critical perspectives in the form of seminar readings (to be issued as a reader at the start of the course). In addition, a key part of the teaching strategy is the use of a course Moodle, which will provide students with a forum for debate and facilitate group learning.

Art in the Making: Modern & Avant-Garde Techniques

The aim of this course is to present students with an in-depth and sophisticated understanding of the interrelation of materials, concepts and processes across a historical range of artworks, covering key avant-garde approaches particular to the 20th and 21st centuries. The course will address examples from twentieth-century avant-gardes through post-war art movements such as Abstract Expressionism, Post-Painterly Abstraction, Pop, Conceptual Art, appropriation, through to contemporary art. The course will study key examples ‘from the inside out’: through lectures which will establish theoretical and historical context; through detailed case studies; and, crucially, through hands-on experience of materials – where possible including the reconstruction, remaking or re-enacting of artworks. Such re-making, it should be emphasised, is not conceived in any way as an artistic activity but rather as an educational one. In some instances equivalents rather than replicas would be appropriate, or demonstrations or partial reconstructions rather than completed objects/works.

We will draw on the expertise of Glasgow-based artists through for example the Glasgow School of Art and the Glasgow Sculpture Studios. Such collaborations will enable us to enhance the student learning experience and provide an opportunity to see how theoretical issues addressed on the course are dealt with in practice.

Course lectures will present course material through close analysis of major artistic examples. Seminars will encourage students to develop their own responses to these themes, and also to engage with theoretical and critical perspectives in the form of seminar readings (to be issued as a reader at the start of the course). In addition, a key part of the teaching strategy is the use of a course Moodle, which will provide students with a forum for debate and facilitate group learning.

Testimonies of Painters' Practice: Documentary and Visual Sources

This course presents students with historical documentary and visual testimonies on painters' practice from Early Italian Painting to contemporary practice. A historiographic review of the key primary art technological texts on painting techniques will be the main focus of the course. The developments of the methodology of technological source research, which dates back to the 18th century, and recent new approaches, using reconstructions and scientific analyses, will be discussed.

The course will cover documentary material ranging from treatises, manuals, books of secrets, industrial archives, ledgers, artists’ correspondence, artists’ biographies, artists’ texts, to visual documentation on the artist’s studio and the artist at work found in prints, paintings, drawings, photography, film, as well as realia (studio tools, camera obscura, lenses etc.).

The interpretation of art technological sources, investigating the vocabulary for painting techniques and materials, the historical/cultural context of the time in which they were written, their author(s), and their function, will be addressed using representative examples. A comparison will be made with the more art theoretical texts of the time in order to support interpretation and contextualisation and arrive at a thorough understanding of the painter’s practice, studio arrangement(s) and status. Testimonies on modern materials (post 1900), visual, oral and textual, will be set against the context and concepts of the period.

Dissertation

The dissertation, or other substantial piece of work, encourages independent work through deeper study of a particular art historical, or related, problem and encourages the application of acquired research skills. It is expected that MLitt dissertations should make a contribution to some aspect of the subject. Many of our students focus on an in depth object-based research, often in collaboration with a museum or gallery and/or the Technical Art History Team. The dissertation is 15-20,000 words in length (including footnotes and bibliography) and will be on a topic chosen in consultation with the tutors and the programme director during Semester 1.

Background

This one-year Masters programme is unique within academic art history departments in the UK and internationally. The University of Glasgow is the first to offer this novel and fascinating course with its strong focus on object-based, interdisciplinary research. Object-based research can be used to establish the story line and aided by art historical and art technological source research, as well as scientific analysis and other research strands specifically required for the object, this biography can be written with a strong focus on the ‘act of making’. Attribution, authentication, and understanding present day appearances of the artwork may also be part of the research.

Making gesso sottile   

Making gesso sottile

Researching the all-inclusive story of an artefact is very much the objective of what is now generally called technical art history, a recently emerging interdisciplinary research area linking together art historians, conservators and conservation scientists, but also reaching out to other disciplines such as social and economic history, history of science and aesthetics. Technical art history embraces every aspect of artistic production, from the pigment trade and manufacturing to idiosyncratic preparation methods by a single artist or workshop, from medieval monasteries to Barbizon en plein air, from autograph to workshop collaboration: ‘It acknowledges – celebrates – the artist at work and the act of making’ (David Bomford, in Looking through Paintings, ed. E. Hermens, London/Baarn, 1998: 12).

Making and Meaning students in the conservation studio at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam 

Dr Ella Hendriks, Head Conservator at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, discusses the conservation of the famous painting of his bedroom, with MLitt students

Technical art history embraces a holistic research approach, taking in all aspects of the art work: material, conceptual, contextual. This programme will give you a thorough introduction to this new research field and the different aspects of it. You do not need any background in science or conservation as the course is intended to provide you with the right tools to understand what science can deliver, what conservators can do, and what role you can play in this truly interdisciplinary field. This will equip you very well for working with collections, in a museum or gallery environment, or in a commercial atmosphere such as auction houses. It will also prepare you very well for a postgraduate education in painting conservation, or further postgraduate research.

The programme is led by staff from the Technical Art History Group, which is part of the Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History, housed in newly refurbished laboratories in the University’s Robertson Building.

Artist Toby Paterson being interviewed 

Student Rebecca Gordon conducting an interview with artist Toby Paterson

Links

 

Academic staff

The programme is team-taught by University staff and external specialists.

Dr Mark Richter Convenor of Programme; Lecturer in Art Analytical Research
17th- and 18th-century Central European sculpture polychromy, 15th- and 16th-century Northern European painting in Germany.

 

Dr Erma Hermens  Lord Kelvin-Adam Smith Lecturer in Technical Art History

Dutch and Flemish 17th-century painting and Technical Art History

 

Entry requirements

for entry in 2015

Entry requirements for postgraduate taught programmes are a 2.1 Honours degree or equivalent qualification (for example, GPA 3.0 or above) in a relevant subject unless otherwise specified.

Note: A minimum 2.1 in History of Art or a related subject is required. You should also submit a writing sample of 2-3,000 words, a CV and a personal statement.

English language requirements

For applicants whose first language is not English, the University sets a minimum English Language proficiency level.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic module (not General Training):

  • overall score 7.0
  • 2 subtests not lower than 7.0 and no other sub-test lower than 6.5
  • or equivalent scores in another recognised qualification (see below)

Common equivalent English language qualifications

All stated English tests are acceptable for admission for both home/EU and international students for this programme:

  • ibTOEFL: 92; no sub-test less than 24
  • CAE (Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English): 185 overall; two sub-tests no less than 185; no other sub-test less than 176
  • CPE (Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English): 185 overall; two sub-tests no less than 185; no other sub-test less than 176
  • PTE Academic (Person Test of English, Academic test): 68no sub-test less than 60

For international students, the Home Office has confirmed that the University can choose to use these tests to make its own assessment of English language ability for visa applications to degree level programmes. The University is also able to accept an IELTS test (Academic module) from any of the 1000 IELTS test centres from around the world and we do not require a specific UKVI IELTS test for degree level programmes. We therefore still accept any of the English tests listed for admission to this programme.

Pre-sessional courses
The University of Glasgow accepts evidence of the required language level from the Language Centre Pre-sessional courses. We also consider other BALEAP accredited pre-sessional courses:

FAQs

What do I do if...

my language qualifications are below the requirements?

The University's Language Centre offers a range of Pre-Sessional Courses to bring you up to entry level. The course is accredited by BALEAP, the UK professional association for academic English teaching; see Links.

my language qualifications are not listed here?

Please contact the Recruitment and International Office: pgadmissions@glasgow.ac.uk

 

For further information about English language requirements, please contact the Recruitment and International Office: pgadmissions@glasgow.ac.uk

Fees and funding

Tuition fees for 2015-16 (subject to change and for guidance only)

MLitt

Home and EU
Full time fee£6800
Part time 20 credits£756
International
Full time fee£14500

Funding opportunities

Career prospects

Career opportunities include curatorial positions in museums and galleries, working with collections within cultural heritage organisations, or in the commercial environment of auction houses performing object-based research including technical investigation. The programme will also prepare you for a further postgraduate education in conservation or academic research.

How to apply

We ask that you apply online for a postgraduate taught degree. Our system allows you to fill out the standard application form online and submit this to the University within 42 days of starting your application.

You need to read the guide to applying online before starting your application. It will ensure you are ready to proceed, as well as answer many common questions about the process.

Guide to applying online

Do I have to apply online for a postgraduate taught degree?

Yes. To apply for a postgraduate taught degree you must apply online. We are unable to accept your application by any other means than online.

Do I need to complete and submit the application in a single session?

No. You have 42 days to submit your application once you begin the process. You may save and return to your application as many times as you wish to update information, complete sections or upload additional documents such as your final transcript or your language test.

What documents do I need to provide to make an application?

As well as completing your online application fully, it is essential that you submit the following documents:

  • A copy (or copies) of your official degree certificate(s) (if you have already completed your degree)
  • A copy (or copies) of your official academic transcript(s), showing full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained
  • Official English translations of the certificate(s) and transcript(s)
  • Two supporting reference letters on headed paper
  • Evidence of your English Language ability (if your first language is not English)
  • Any additional documents required for this programme (see Entry requirements for this programme)
  • A copy of the photo page of your passport (Non-EU students only)

If you do not have all of these documents at the time of submitting your application then it is still possible to make an application and provide any further documents at a later date, as long as you include a full current transcript (and an English translation if required) with your application. See the ‘Your References, Transcripts and English Qualification’ sections of our Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Do my supporting documents need to be submitted online?

Yes, where possible, please upload the supporting documents with your application.

How do I provide my references?

You must either upload the required references to your online application or ask your referees to send the references to the University as we do not contact referees directly. There is two main ways that you can provide references: you can either upload references on headed paper when you are making an application using the Online Application (or through Applicant Self-Service after you have submitted your application) or you can ask your referee to email the reference directly to pgadmissions@glasgow.ac.uk. See the 'Your References, Transcripts and English Qualifications' section of the Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

What if I am unable to submit all of my supporting documents online?

If you cannot upload an electronic copy of a document and need to send it in by post, please attach a cover sheet to it that includes your name, the programme you are applying for, and your application reference number.

You may send them to:

Recruitment & International Office
71 Southpark Avenue
Glasgow
G12 8QQ
Fax: +44 141 330 4045

Can I email my supporting documents?

No. We cannot accept email submissions of your supporting documents.

What entry requirements should I have met before applying? Where can I find them?

You should check that you have met (or are likely to have met prior to the start of the programme) the individual entry requirements for the degree programme you are applying for. This information can be found on the ‘entry requirements’ tab on each individual programme page, such as the one you are viewing now.

What English Language requirements should I have met before applying? Where can I find them?

If you are an international student, you should also check that you have met the English Language requirements specific to the programme you are applying for. These can also be found on the ‘entry requirements’ tab for each specific programme.

Further Information

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions for more information on applying to a postgraduate taught programme.

Guidance notes for using the online application

These notes are intended to help you complete the online application form accurately, they are also available within the help section of the online application form. If you experience any difficulties accessing the online application then you should visit the Application Troubleshooting/FAQs page.

  • Name and Date of birth: must appear exactly as they do on your passport. Please take time to check the spelling and lay-out.
  • Contact Details: Correspondence address. All contact relevant to your application will be sent to this address including the offer letter(s). If your address changes, please contact us as soon as possible.
  • Choice of course: Please select carefully the course you want to study. As your application will be sent to the admissions committee for each course you select it is important to consider at this stage why you are interested in the course and that it is reflected in your application.
  • Proposed date of entry: Please state your preferred start date including the month and the year. Taught masters degrees tend to begin in September. Research degrees may start in any month.
  • Education and Qualifications: Please complete this section as fully as possible indicating any relevant Higher Education qualifications starting with the most recent. Complete the name of the Institution (s) as it appears on the degree certificate or transcript.
  • English Language Proficiency: Please state the date of any English language test taken (or to be taken) and the award date (or expected award date if known).
  • Employment and Experience: Please complete this section as fully as possible with all employments relevant to your course. Additional details may be attached in your personal statement/proposal where appropriate.
  • References: Please provide the names and contact details of two academic references. Where applicable one of these references may be from your current employer. References should be completed on letter headed paper and uploaded on to your application.

Standard application deadlines

  • International applications (non-EU) 24 July 2015
  • UK and EU applications 28 August 2015
    (with the exception of those programmes offering SFC funded places)

Classes start September 2015 for most programmes and you may be expected to attend induction sessions the week before.

Apply now