This intensive program is designed for those looking to gain knowledge of the decorative arts, applied design, and interiors by combining an overview of the historical, contextual, and stylistic development of European decorative arts, design, and interiors with an introduction to the professional world of working with objects. The program attracts those interested in interior design, and those considering a career in the commercial or museum applied arts world. In addition to lectures and seminars, expert-led site visits and object-handling sessions are key features of the curriculum.
The first half of the program focuses on the decorative arts of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which are studied in relation to architecture and interiors, as well as in their wider historical cultural contexts. Topics include the art of Louis XIV’s court, the development of porcelain at Meissen and Sèvres, the influence of trade with the East, the growth of eighteenth century consumer desire and maker expertise, of new materials and techniques, the dissemination of taste, and the renewed interest in antiquity by the end of the eighteenth century. The second half of the program considers the major themes of Historicism and Design Reform, highlighting important figures such as Augustus Pugin, William Morris, Owen Jones, and Christopher Dresser, who define the focus of study for the nineteenth century. These themes are further considered relative to the impact of Japanese art and design in Europe and America, and the resultant birth of aestheticism and Fin de Siècle "new art." Lastly, the twentieth century—a dynamic and complex period of both decorative and design innovation—is given particular, intensive attention. Stylistic and theoretical approaches are studied, from early twentieth century Vienna and America, to French Art Deco, European Modernism, and to post-World War II modernity. The program concludes with an exploration of the plurality of approaches up to the 1980s, including Pop and Postmodernism.
The program prepares students for a wide range of careers in the art world or for further study in a postgraduate program. Students learn practical skills and gain knowledge in object handling through visits to museums and collections, archives, auction houses, workshops, and/or studios. The program also serves as a bridging opportunity for students with an undergraduate degree in a subject other than art history who are considering applying for a postgraduate program at Sotheby’s Institute. In particular, it is an appropriate foundation for the MA in Fine and Decorative Art and Design or the MA in Art Business.