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This Semester program, formerly called Foundations of Western Art is an intensive introduction to art history, providing both academic and vocational training for those aspiring to work in the art world. 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 course assignments.

Firsthand encounters with artwork and buildings are an integral part of the learning experience; the course includes a wide variety of faculty-led visits to museums and galleries in London, Cambridge, and Rome.  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 will learn practical skills and gain knowledge in:   

  • Analysis: students will gain the ability to analyze and date a broad range of artwork, including work encountered for the first time in galleries and at Art Fairs
  • Context: students will learn to contextualize works of art within their broader social, political, and cultural contexts
  • Communication: students will learn how to communicate about art orally and in journalistic and academic writing styles
  • Curation: students will get an introduction to the practical and theoretical issues of curating through an Exhibition Project
  • Western art history: for students without an art history background, this course will provide a strong understanding of Western art history to prepare them for a postgraduate program at Sotheby’s Institute of Art

The program requires no prior knowledge of the field. Download the Semester Prospectus.

The Details
  • Course Dates

    Course Dates

    Spring 2020: January 20, 2020 – May 1, 2020
    Fall 2020: September 7, 2020 – December 16, 2020
    For more information please contact or call T +44 (0)20 7462 3221.

    "The course 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 with the course.
  • Structure, Teaching Methods And Assignments

    Structure, Teaching Methods And Assignments

    The program is divided into two units taught consecutively across the semester. The first unit explores developments from Ancient Greece to Baroque and the second unit moves from Rococo to Contemporary. Students are able to take one of the units only, if preferred, or to take both units across different semesters.
    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.
    The course 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.
    Click here to download a printable version.
  • Sample Topics

    Sample Topics

    • Greek Sculpture

    • Hellenistic Art

    • Roman Republican Portraiture

    • Byzantine Art: Christian Spirituality in Icons and Images

    • Gothic Architecture

    • Early Renaissance Painting in Florence

    • The Business of Art in the Renaissance

    • Splendour and Cross-Cultural Connections in the Renaissance: Italy and the East

    • Baroque Painting in Italy and Spain

    • Romantic Painting in Britain: Turner and Constable

    • Pre-Raphaelites and Victorian Painting

    • Landmarks in 19th Century Decorative Arts

    • Women Artists: A case study of Impressionism

    • Abstract Expressionism

    • Pop Art

    • Performance ArtClick here to read ‘Talk To The Professionals

  • Field Trips And Study Visits

    Field Trips And Study Visits

    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 on the course.
    A four-day field trip to Rome features visits to a large range of major monuments and artworks. Recent trips to Rome have included a visit to the Sistine Chapel outside of public opening hours and an exclusive visit to the Vatican Museum’s ancient marble and paintings restoration laboratories.
    London is a major center for the western art; therefore the course includes a wide variety of faculty-led visits to museums and galleries, such as:

    • British Museum

    • National Gallery

    • Tate Britain

    • Tate Modern

    • Victoria and Albert Museum

    • Wallace Collection

    • Westminster Abbey

    • Courtauld Institute Gallery

    There is also a day trip to Cambridge which includes a handling session at the Fitzwilliam Museum. 

    Click here to see the photos from some of our study visits.
  • Credits And Validation

    Credits And 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.
  • Faculty


    Antonio Cartolano – Course Leader
    Rachel Barnes
    Jane Gardiner
    Dr Jonathan Woolfson
    Contributing faculty from Sotheby’s Institute of Art include:
    Dr David Bellingham – Program Director, MA Art Business
    Dr Chantal Brotherton-Ratcliffe – Consultant Lecturer
    Dr Lis Darby – MA Fine & Decorative Art and Design
    Dr Juliet Hacking – Program Director, MA Contemporary Art
    Anna Moszynska – Consultant Lecturer, MA Contemporary Art
    Visiting speakers in previous semesters have included:
    Dr Victoria Avery
    – Keeper, Applied Art, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
    Dr Stefano Casu – Italian Old Masters Expert, University of California, Florence Study Centre
    Richard Charlton-Jones – Old Masters Specialist
    Flavio Gianassi – Fine Art Advisor
    Dr Sabina Jaskot-Gill – Associate Curator, Photographs, National Portrait Gallery
    Ed Leeson – Consultant Lecturer, London
    Dr Catherine McCormack – Course Leader, “Women and Art”, Sotheby’s Institute
    Professor Michael Scott – Professor of Classics and Ancient History at University of Warwick

  • Admission To The Program

    Admission To The Program

    There are no formal admission requirements except a good level of English language competence (a minimum IELTS score of 6.0. or TOEFL score of 78 IBT). Although no prior knowledge is required, the Institute offers places to motivated students with a passion for art and the art world. Applicants are interviewed in person or by phone. Our students are of all ages and come from a wide variety of educational and professional backgrounds. The international make-up of the student body at Sotheby’s Institute of Art generates a rich and dynamic learning environment.

    Click here
    to read student stories.
  • Program Fees

    Program Fees

    Spring 2020: 
    Full-time: £8,500
    Part-time: £4,400
    Trip Abroad: £990

    Fall 2020:
    Full-time: £8,800
    Part-time: £4,500
    Trip Abroad: £1,040

    Click here to read Terms and Conditions.
    Click here to apply.
  • Contact And Request Information

    Contact And Request Information

    For further information, please contact: or Request Information
    T +44 (0)20 7462 3221

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