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Develop a critical and visual eye through this comprehensive exploration of the history and development of art in the western world from ancient Greek beginnings to contemporary art.

This Semester program, formerly called Foundations of Western Art, is an intensive introduction to art history. In addition to providing both academic and vocational training for those aspiring to work in the art world, the program is designed to deepen one's understanding of art, its production, and consumption. Students will learn about key stylistic developments, materials, and techniques in the western world – from ancient Greece to contemporary art – while also acquiring a range of practical skills through diverse assignments.

In addition to the study of art history, the program includes a series of sessions entitled "Talk to the Professionals," during which students will have the opportunity to meet museum curators, auction house specialists, fine art dealers, art restorers, art educators, as well as press and PR managers, and learn about their experience and path to success in the art world.

The program prepares students for a wide range of careers in the art world or for further study on one of our postgraduate programs. Students learn practical skills connected to analyzing and dating a broad range of artwork, including work encountered for the first time in galleries, museums, and site visits. Students learn how to communicate about art orally and in journalistic and academic writing styles, and are introduced to the practical and theoretical issues of curating through an Exhibition Project. The program also deals with the broader social, political and cultural contexts which defined the shape of artistic achievement across a very long period. For students without an art history background who are considering applying for a postgraduate program at Sotheby’s Institute, this Semester program provides a strong foundation in Western art history to prepare them for postgraduate study.

The Details
  • Dates


    January 25 – May 7, 2021
    Download the Semester Booklet
  • Curriculum


    STRUCTURE: The program is divided into two units taught consecutively across the semester.
    The first unit explores developments from Ancient Greece to Baroque. The second unit moves from Rococo to Contemporary. Topics covered may include: Roman Republican portraiture, Gothic architecture, early Renaissance painting in Florence, Romantic painting in Britain, Pop art, Performance art, and more.
    Students are able to take one of the units only, if preferred, or to take both units across different semesters.
    TEACHING: The teaching approach emphasizes object-based learning, enabling students to gain confidence in analyzing and identifying a wide range of art objects, both in a classroom setting and through numerous study visits to London’s world-class collections. The unique opportunity to study objects close-up enhances students’ critical and visual skills. The teaching is intensive and supportive, with an emphasis on individual and small-group learning.
    ASSESSMENT: Assignments are not limited to essay writing but are also designed to assess a diverse range of skills that reflect a variety of art world professions. For example, assignments include an exhibition review and a group project in which students curate an imagined exhibition.
  • Field Study Trips

    Field Study Trips

    First-hand encounters with art works and buildings are an integral part of the learning experience that enable students to gain a direct understanding of the artistic styles and movements dealt with in the program. As London is a major center for art, the program includes a wide variety of faculty-led visits to museums and galleries, such as:
    - Sotheby’s Auction House
    - British Museum
    - National Gallery
    - Tate Britain
    - Tate Modern
    - Victoria and Albert Museum
    - Wallace Collection
    - Westminster Abbey
    - Courtauld Institute Gallery
    - Royal Academy
    Field study trips abroad are planned for Spring 2021. Destinations are yet to be determined.
    We continue to monitor and respond to the public health situation regarding COVID-19. We will take every precaution to ensure the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff and will adhere to all government travel recommendations.
  • Faculty


    Antonio Cartolano (Course Leader) Cartolano's research and teaching interests are interdisciplinary and comparative and fall broadly into the fields of Renaissance History, Art History and Cultural Studies. His specialism is Northern Italian courtly culture in all its manifestations, and focuses in particular on the Estense court at Ferrara. He has studied and taught in the US, Italy, Germany and the UK, where he has lived for over 10 years. In London, Antonio has taught at Roehampton University, King’s College London, University College London and Goldsmiths, where he has been Lecturer in History since 2009.
    View all faculty
  • Student Stories

    Student Stories

    "It not only provided me with an extensive and profound foundation in Western art but fostered my aim to apply for a postgraduate course in art history."
    —Natascha Reihl (Student)
    Hear from previous students about their experience.
  • Credit & Validation

    Credit & Validation

    The program is validated by The University of Manchester, one of the UK’s leading universities. Students who complete the program successfully will gain 60 University of Manchester undergraduate credits.
    This generally translates to 16 undergraduate credits or 12 graduate credits in the US system and 30 credits in the European (ECTS) system. Students currently enrolled at other colleges or universities should be aware that transfer of credit is always made at the discretion of the accepting institution. Therefore, applicants should confirm the feasibility of credit transfer with faculty advisors at their home school in advance of registration.
    Students completing this program also receive a certificate from Sotheby’s Institute of Art.
  • Tuition


    SPRING 2021:
    - Full-time: £8,800
    - Part-time: £4,500
    - Trip abroad: £1,040*
    *Travel fees are indicative only and subject to change.
    Our programs require travel that may include visits to galleries, special collections, art fairs, and art-related events including destinations abroad on Semester programs. Local travel costs, i.e. (public) transport within London, are borne by the student and vary from program to program. Semester programs charge a pre-set travel fee, which is due at the same time as tuition ahead of the start of the program. This travel fee covers the cost of all study trips abroad including travel, accommodation, and entry tickets for exhibitions and other art-related events. Travel costs relating to scheduled trips to collections or museums outside of London but within the UK are borne by Sotheby’s Institute of Art.
  • Admissions


    Semester students come from a range of educational and professional backgrounds, from current students visiting from other institutions to career professionals looking to develop new areas of knowledge. As such, each application is assessed on an individual basis, and takes into account a variety of factors.
    For non-native English speakers, a minimum IELTS score of 6.0 or TOEFL score of 78 IBT is required.
    No prior art history or subject-matter knowledge is required.
    View Terms and Conditions
    For further information, please contact: or +44 (0)20 7462 3229

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