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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 Warburg Institute is a leading centre for the study of the interaction of ideas, images, and society, and provides students with access to world-leading research, teaching and expertise. The National Gallery houses one of the world’s greatest collections of old master paintings and is staffed by museum professionals at the very forefront of their field.  

Combining the art historical and scholarly traditions of the Warburg Institute and the practical experience and professional expertise of the National Gallery, this MA offers outstanding training in art history and curatorial practice. Students will acquire analytical skills enabling them to follow a variety of career paths, including progressing to a PhD and undertaking high-level work in museums and galleries. Graduates from the programme have gone on successfully to pursue doctoral study at the Institute and other renowned universities across the globe, leading to careers in academia. Others have entered the professional art world, taking up curatorial and research roles in the museum and gallery sector at institutions such as the British Museum, Fitzwilliam Museum, and Sotheby’s Auction House.

For students who wish to undertake further study but cannot commit to a full-time master's degree, the Warburg Institute also offers a Postgraduate Certificate in Art History and Renaissance Culture.

For students wishing to pursue study in art historical or visual history without the curatorial element, the Warburg Institute offers an MA in Cultural, Intellectual and Visual History.

Contact the Institute

Key Information

Degree overview

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.

This programme provides a rigorous training in:

  • Museum knowledge, and the intellectual and practical aspects of curatorship, including the technical examination of paintings, connoisseurship, materials and conservation, attribution, provenance, and issues relating to display.
  • The intellectual discipline of Art History and Renaissance culture, focusing primarily on the period 1300-1700. The programme will increase your understanding of methods for analysing works of art, their knowledge of Renaissance culture, and the conditions in which artworks were commissioned, produced and enjoyed.
  • Current scholarship and professional practice in these areas as well as new and emerging areas of research and scholarship.
  • Primary source materials in original languages and translation for high-level research.

To find out more about the course, download our programme specification

Mode of study

12 months full-time 

Teaching, learning and assessment

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. The staff at the National Gallery are at leaders in their field. The expertise of staff at both institutions goes straight into the teaching provided, allowing you to develop the critical skills for academic research and museum work and the opportunity to blend their academic study with behind-the-scenes training on a range of curatorial practices. 

How will this course benefit me?

• You'll get access to the best resources for the study of Renaissance art and culture in London. Our open-stack Library, Photographic Collection and Archive is of international importance in the humanities. One of 20 libraries that changed the world, and with over 300,000 specialist volumes, it serves as an engine for interdisciplinary research and study.

• Behind-the-scenes access to one of the leading collections of European paintings and to the work that goes into the care of these artworks, from conservation to framing and display. 

• Unparalleled staff contact hours with internationally renowned academics and curators. With approximately 20 - 40 graduate students admitted each year, you'll join a tight-knit community of peers that benefits from close discussion with expert tutors and museum professionals, and small-group teaching.

• You'll have the opportunity to join students come from a wide range of backgrounds and areas of study, from art history to literature, philosophy, history, anthropology, classics, and more, making for a dynamic and interdisciplinary learning environment.

• A unique opportunity at MA level to develop the skills needed for high-level primary research, be it as an academic or a curator working with historic collections.

• Extensive opportunities for networking with an international community of scholars, which significantly enriches the learning experience and can provide ideal connections for the future careers.

• Located in Bloomsbury, you will be placed at the centre of London’s academic and cultural hub. You'll benefit from visits and training sessions at neighbouring institutions including the British Museum, the Government Art Collection, the Wellcome Trust and the British Library, and further afield the V&A, the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the Courtauld Gallery.  

• This programme at the Warburg Institute offers both an intellectually stimulating and rigorous programme of study and because we are a relatively small institute we are able to provide a welcoming and supportive academic community. Learning and research is a pleasure, and we are dedicated to ensuring that you are at home and are able to advance in, and enjoy, your area of study.

Modules and structure

You'll take three core modules, one compulsory module, and two option modules.

The programme is also supported by the compulsory unassessed Methods and Techniques of Scholarship module that will introduce you to the nuts and bolts of the historiography and methods of scholarly work in early modern cultural history, and prepare you, through a term of workshops, to choose, develop, and research the topic that forms the subject of your dissertation. 

The core module on Language and Palaeographical Studies includes training at various levels in French, Italian or Latin, as well as palaeography training in one chosen language. Finally, you'll have the opportunity to conduct an independent research project through the dissertation, which is completed in the summer term under the guidance of a supervisor from either the Warburg Institute.

Core modules: terms 1 and 2

  • Art History and Renaissance Culture: Image to Action
  • Curating at the National Gallery
  • Language, Paleographical, Archival, and Curatorial Research 
  • Methods and Techniques of Scholarship (unassessed)

Optional modules: term 2 (two to be chosen)

  • Classical Disorders: Architecture, Painting and the Afterlives of the Renaissance
  • Cosmological Images: Representing the Universe
  • Curating Renaissance Art and Exhibitions
  • Mapping Worlds: Medieval to Modern
  • Religion and Society in Renaissance Italy
  • Renaissance Political Thought from Erasmus to Campanella
  • Renaissance Sculpture in the Expanded Field
  • The World of the Book in the European Renaissance

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).

Dissertation: term 3

The opportunity to conduct an independent research project utilising the world-renowned resources at both the Institute and the National Gallery, under the guidance of an academic from the Warburg.

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 you 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 in any discipline in the humanities that is related to the course. 

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

English is the language of instruction and applicants are required to demonstrate an appropriate level of proficiency.

Find out more about entry requirements here

How to apply

For more information on how to apply, including deadlines and the documentation you will need to provide on the application form, visit our How to Apply page. 

Careers and further study

In addition to key skills relating to scholarship and curatorial practice, you'll also acquire key transferable skills that will be useful in any workplace. These include:

  • Writing in different ways for different readerships
  • Researching effectively
  • Presentation skills
  • Problem solving and analytical skills
  • Critical reading and thinking
  • Time management
  • Project management and planning

Many Warburg alumni have gone on to pursue PhD study at the Warburg Institute or other leading Universities and cultural institutions across the globe, including the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, the Bayerische Akademie, the National Library, Argentina, and Universities of Cambridge, Copenhagen, Notre Dame (US), Padua, UCL, La Sapienza (Rome), Warwick, York and Yeshiva (New York).

Other students successfully pursue careers in the professional art world, joining curatorial, exhibition, education and research departments in the museum and gallery sector.

The School of Advanced Study is a unique environment in which to study the humanities.  The School strives to reflect the latest developments in thinking across the humanities disciplines it supports and to ensure that its programmes reflect this.   We are also aware that the needs of our students are constantly changing.  With that in mind, the School continually reviews the its programmes and, as part of that process, reserves the right to alter or discontinue them. 

We assure you that we carry out these exercises at no detriment to any enrolled students. Students enrolled on any programme that we discontinue will be able to complete that programme within a reasonable timeframe and with all the necessary resources at their disposal. The School will communicate any anticipated changes with students as early as possible.