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The MA in Art History, Curatorship and Renaissance Culture is offered by the Warburg Institute in collaboration with the National Gallery, London. The programme combines the study of artworks and their cultural contexts with high-level linguistic, archive and research skills for a new generation of academic art historians and museum curators. The art historical and scholarly traditions of the Warburg Institute are linked to the practical experience and skills of the National Gallery to provide an academic programme which will equip students either as academic art historians with serious insight into the behind-the-scenes working of a great museum or as curators with the research skills necessary for high-level museum work.

The programme is taught through classes and supervision by members of the academic staff of the Warburg Institute and by National Gallery curatorial and archival experts. The teaching staff of the Warburg Institute are leading academics in their field who have published widely and are involved with research related to the topics they teach. 

This twelve-month, full-time programme provides an introduction to: 

  • Museum knowledge, which covers aspects of curatorship including the technical examination of paintings, connoisseurship, materials and conservation, attribution, provenance and issues relating to display and exhibitions.
  • Art history and Renaissance culture to increase students’ understanding of methods of analysing the subjects of works of art and their knowledge of Renaissance art works and the conditions in which they were commissioned, produced and enjoyed.
  • Current scholarship and professional practice in these areas as well as new and emerging areas of research and scholarship.
     

Contact the institute

If you have specific questions about the MA or MRes degree, please contact warburg@sas.ac.uk or the admissions office.

Degree Overview

In taking this MA with the Warburg Institute and the National Gallery, students will have unrivalled access to the best resources and expertise for academic study in London. Alongside our official programme we organise visits and training sessions at neighbouring institutions, such as the British Museum, Government Art Collection, Welcome Trust and British Library, and further afield the V&A, Dulwich Picture Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the Courtauld Gallery. Students have the opportunity to speak with artists, curators and academics, many of whom are Warburg alumni, to enrich their learning experience and develop research projects.

In addition to the MA programme, there is a varied and exciting range of public lectures, conferences, events and talks available to students at the Warburg Institute and National Gallery. They have the opportunity to consult and exchange ideas with the community of academic art historians who use the Warburg Institute as their base and provide access to networks which will support them in their future profession. 

The MA programme aims to:

  • Foster and develop student knowledge of and research into art, art history and curatorship. 
  • Provide linguistic, archive and research skills to enable graduates of the programme to research, catalogue and curate works of art held in collections of national and international standing.
  • Build understanding of and ability to comment on primary source materials, both visual and textual. 
  • Enable students to read academic papers and publications in European languages, and to undertake scholarly research at a high level and write up the results in an accurate and rigorous way.
  • Help students to acquire a familiarity with the principal sources of information in a variety of historical disciplines.

Modules and structure

The course begins in early October with a Foundation Week, in which students will be introduced to the main topics and themes to be covered over the year. 

The course is structured around five related activities:

  1. Art history and Renaissance culture
  2. Museum knowledge
  3. Language, palaeographical and archive skills
  4. A dissertation of 15,000 words
  5. Participation in the broader intellectual activities of the Warburg Institute and National Gallery

All students take three core modules and two elective modules. In addition there is a regular series of classes throughout the three terms on Techniques of Scholarship, which include description of manuscripts, palaeography, printing in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, editing a text, preparation of dissertations and photographic images. Students are also required to attend the weekly research seminar and encouraged to attend any of the other regular seminars held in either Institute that may be of interest to them. The third term and summer will be spent in researching and writing a dissertation, under the guidance of a supervisor from the academic staff of the Warburg Institute or a member of staff from the National Gallery.

Core modules include language and palaeography classes and are spread over two terms. Language training is provided at all levels from beginners to advanced. The optional subjects vary from year to year and students must select at least one in an art historical field. The courses listed below are indicative of the selection available to students in 2017–18. 

Core modules: terms 1 and 2

Core modules engage the student in study at the National Gallery and the Warburg Institute. Students explore issues in curating and in the meaning and impact of images. Students gain an understanding of palaeography and the use of the archive, as well as training designed to introduce and solidify language skills. An introduction to central debates on the writing of history involves students with methods of engaging with primary source material and the historical record. 
 

Optional modules: term 2 (two to be chosen)

  • Artistic Intentions 1400 to 1700 
  • Curating Renaissance Art and Exhibitions (NG and WI)
  • The History of the Book in the Renaissance
  • Islamic Authorities and Arabic Elements in the Renaissance 
  • Music and the Arts in the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance 
  • Italian Mural Painting and the Making of Visual Cultures 
  • Mapping Worlds: Medieval to Modern
  • Renaissance Material Culture
  • Sin and Sanctity in the Reformation

See the Warburg website for more details on modules and the selection process. The availability of optional modules will depend on student numbers (a minimum of three students required per option).All courses are taught by Warburg Institute staff except where indicated above – NG = National Gallery and WI = Warburg Institute.

Dissertation: term 3

  • Independent research project
  • Supervision by National Gallery or Warburg Institute
  • Submission by the end of September

Lecturing and teaching

The usual format for classes is a weekly seminar. All students are required to submit three essays of 4,000 words, one at the beginning of the second term and the remaining two at the beginning of the third term.*

*Curating Renaissance Art and Exhibitions will have different modes of assessment

Assessment

The National Gallery module is assessed by a 4000-word catalogue entry on a painting in the collection, which is submitted at the end of term one. A dissertation of 15,000 words, on a topic agreed by the student and supervisor, has to be submitted by the end of September. The course is examined on these five pieces of written work and examinations in language, palaeographical and archive skills modules.

Students are allocated a course tutor but are encouraged to discuss their work with other members of the staff at the Warburg Institute and the National Gallery. 

Mode of Study

This course is studied on-campus in London for 12 months full time.  

Find out more about the modules and structure of the course in the course handbook.

 

About the institute

The Warburg Institute is renowned across the world for the interdisciplinary study of cultural and intellectual history, particularly the role of images in culture. It is dedicated to research on the history of ideas, the dissemination and transformations of texts, ideas and images in society, and the relationship between images, art and their texts and subtexts. Its work is historical, philological and anthropological.

The Institute houses a research Library of international importance, a photographic collection organised according to a unique iconographic classification system, and the archive of Aby Warburg, which also holds the papers of other major thinkers of the 20th century who were connected to the Institute. Situated in the heart of Bloomsbury, the Institute is a stone’s throw from the British Library, the British Museum, the Wellcome Institute and the National Gallery, providing students with access to a wealth of academic and cultural resources. 

The National Gallery houses the UK’s national collection of over 2,300 Western European paintings from the 13th to the 19th centuries. Its collection contains famous works, such as The Wilton Diptych, Leonardo’s Madonna of the Rocks, van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus and Turner’s Fighting Temeraire. The gallery’s aim is to care for the collection, to enhance and to study it, while encouraging access to the pictures for the education and enjoyment of the widest possible public now and in the future.

Entry requirements

The normal minimum entrance requirement would be a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree from a recognised university in the UK, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard (for example a grade-point-average of 3.0 or higher).

Applications from candidates who do not meet the formal academic requirements but who offer alternative qualifications and/or relevant experience, could be considered.

In addition to a good knowledge of Art History, especially related to the Renaissance, a reading knowledge of one and preferably two European modern languages, apart from English, is required. All students whose first language is not English must provide recent evidence that their written and spoken English is adequate for postgraduate study.

How to apply

You can apply online via our online applications system.

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For more information on how to apply, click here.

Fees, funding and scholarships

Find out more about tuition fees here.

The School of Advanced Study has a range of funding opportunities for home, EU and international applicants. Find out more about funding opportunities here. If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline.

The Warburg Institute accepts applications from taught master’s degree students for bursaries that offset some or all of the cost of student fees and, occasionally, maintenance costs. There is no fixed award and applications are considered by the Bursaries Committee of the Institute on the basis of individual student financial need. The bursaries are funded by the generosity of the American Friends of the Warburg Institute, the Saxl Fund, and the Warburg Charitable Trust. More information on the Warburg bursaries.

The American Friends of the Warburg Institute Scholarship is available for citizens of any country in north America and is judged on academic merit at undergraduate level, with an outstanding mark achieved in the final-year project/dissertation. Find out more about the American Friends scholarship.

The Peltz Scholarships are open to students who have applied to study on either of the Warburg Institute’s MA Programmes and who are self-funded and domiciled in the UK or European Union (EU), judged on exceptional quality and academic merit.  More information on the Peltz Scholarships.

 

What our students say

The course was always inspiring and assiduously well taught, whether we were learning about picture framing and restoration, studying Michelangelo’s letters in his own handwriting, or handling rare books from the world-class library.
David Daly, 2016

A remarkable experience. It has deepened my research and curatorial skills and broadened my horizons.

- Gemma Cornetti, 2015 

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