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Explore the development of European and American decorative art, design, and interiors from 1650 to 1980 within the professional art world and market context.

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.

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, The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, explores Baroque and Rococo styles, Neo-Palladianism, and Neo-Classicism. Additional topics covered in this unit include: upholstery, wallpaper, textiles, and silver hallmarking.
    - The second unit, The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, investigates Historicism, the Gothic Revival and Design Reform, Aestheticism, Art Nouveau, Modernism, Art Deco and Post-War to early Post-Modernism. Additional topics covered in this unit include: wallpaper and textiles, and a focus on British, Italian, Scandinavian, and American post-war design.
    Students are able to take one of the units only if preferred, or to take both units across the semester.
    TEACHING: The teaching approach emphasizes object-based learning, enabling students to gain confidence in analyzing and identifying and interpreting a wide range of art objects, both in a classroom setting and in numerous study visits to London’s world-class collections. There are also visits to country houses, dealers, and previews of relevant auction sales including Sotheby’s, as well as a field trip to a European city destination. Students meet museum curators, auction house specialists, and decorative art and design dealers. The unique opportunity to study objects close-up enhances students’ critical and visual skills.
    ASSESSMENT: The teaching is intensive and supportive, with an emphasis on individual and small-group learning. Students are assessed through a combination of descriptive and analytical exercises, visual analysis examinations, and essays; they also gain valuable practical experience in delivering visual and oral presentations to a professional art world standard.
  • Field Study Trips

    Field Study Trips

    London is a major center for decorative arts and design. A wide variety of faculty-led visits to museums and galleries forms an integral part of the learning experience and enables students to gain a direct understanding of the design movements dealt with in the program. Site visits in London may include:
    - British Museum
    - Emery Walker’s House
    - Geffrye Museum
    - Goldsmiths’ Hall
    - Ham House/Marble Hill
    - Chiswick House/Syon House
    - Salters Company
    - Sotheby’s Auction House
    - Sotheby’s Warehouse
    - Standen House
    - Victoria and Albert Museum
    - Wallace Collection
    - William Morris Gallery/Red House
    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


    Elisabeth Bogdan (Course Leader) has been a lecturer in decorative art and design history at the Institute since 2003. She has taught in the visual arts and on art world education since 1992 at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, previously at Southampton Solent University, Oxford Brookes University and the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff. Her specialist teaching includes eighteenth to twentieth century European and American design, decorative art, and architectural history. She has published in the decorative arts, particularly for the Decorative Arts Society, the Design History Society, and Phaidon Press. She is a contributor to courses at the V&A, is a former Trustee of the Design History Society, and is a decorative art and design consultant for a Canadian valuation firm.
    View all faculty
  • Student Stories

    Student Stories

    "I now have a great foundation of knowledge and understanding of the decorative arts, interiors and architecture from 1680 up to the present."
    —Marnie Dawson (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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