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This intensive Semester Course combines an exploration of the historical and stylistic development of Western European decorative arts, design, and interiors, with an introduction to the professional world of working with objects. The program is tailored to students who wish to gain knowledge of the decorative arts and 20th century design, those interested in interior design, and those considering a career in interior design and the art world.

In the first half of the course, the decorative arts of the 17th and 18th centuries are studied in relation to architecture and interiors as well as in their wider historical cultural contexts. Topics include: the growth of consumer desire and maker expertise in objects from 17th century Europe, new materials and techniques, dissemination of taste, the court applied art of Louis XIV, the development of ‘true’ porcelain at Meissen and Sèvres, the influence of trade with the East, and the renewed interest in antiquity by the end of the 18th century. The second half of the course focuses on the 19th and 20th centuries, and considers the major themes of Historicism and Design Reform. 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’. The 20th century is given particular attention with the study of the stylistic and theoretical approaches from early 20th century Vienna and America, to French Art Deco, European Modernism, and post-World War II modernity. The course concludes with an exploration of design plurality 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 on one of our postgraduate programs.  Students will learn practical skills and gain knowledge in:

  •  Object handling through visits to museums and collections, archives, auction houses, workshops and/or studios
  •  Important figures in Decorative Art and Design such as Augustus Pugin, William Morris, Owen Jones, and Christopher Dresser
  • A foundational background for students without an art history background to prepare them for a postgraduate program at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, particularly the MA in Fine and Decorative Art and Design (MAFDAD) or the MA in Art Business (MAAB).

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

The Details
  • Course Dates

    Course Dates

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

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

    Structure, Teaching Methods And Assignments

    The course 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. The second unit, The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, investigates Historicism, Design Reform, Modernism and Post-War to early Post-Modernism. A block part-time option of study is available.
    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 to previews of relevant auction sales including Sotheby’s, as well as a field trip to Vienna. 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.
    The teaching is intensive and supportive, with an emphasis on individual and small-group learning. Students also gain valuable practical experience in delivering visual presentations.
    Students are assessed through a combination of descriptive and analytical exercises, visual analysis examinations, oral presentations and essays.
    Click here to download a printable version.
  • Sample Topics

    Sample Topics


    • Decorative Arts after Mannerism

    • The Court of Louis XIV

    • Venetian Glass

    • Eighteenth Century Glass Innovation

    • European and English Eighteenth Century Porcelain

    • Upholstery and Textiles

    • Establishing the Rococo Interior

    • Neo-Palladian Design

    • Silver Techniques and Hallmarking

    • Chippendale and the English Rococo

    • Continental Neoclassicism

    • Robert Adam and English Neo-classicism


    • Empire and Biedermeier

    • The Historical Revivals

    • The Gothic Revival

    • Design Reform

    • William Morris

    • The Influence of Japan

    • Art Nouveau

    • Jugendstil and Vienna

    • European Modernism and The Bauhaus

    • French Art Deco and French Modernism

    • Scandinavian Design

    • Post-War Architecture and Design

    • The Rise of Department Stores

    • An Introduction to Post-Modernism

  • Field Trips And Study Visits

    Field Trips And Study Visits

    A four-day field trip to Vienna features visits to venues such as Viennese dealers and auction houses, the Belvedere, the Secession Building, the Hofmobiliendepot, the Kunsthistorisches Museum and MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts and to important early twentieth century architectural sites designed by Adolf Loos.
    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.
    Sample venues:

    • British Museum

    • Geffrye Museum

    • Goldsmiths’ Hall

    • Ham House/Marble Hill

    • Chiswick House/Syon House

    • Salters Company

    • Sotheby’s Auction House

    • Sotheby’s Warehouse

    • Victoria and Albert Museum

    • Wallace Collection

    • William Morris Gallery/Red House

    • MoDA Wallpaper Archive

    • BADA Fair

    • Battersea Decorative Art Fair

  • Credits And Validation

    Credits And Validation

    The course is validated by The University of Manchester, one of the UK’s leading universities. Students who complete the course successfully will gain 60 University of Manchester undergraduate credits.
    This generally translates to 16 undergraduate credits or 12 graduate 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


    Elisabeth Bogdan – Course Leader
    Dr Lis Darby
    Anne Ceresole
    Jane Gardiner
    Helena Pickup
    Visiting lecturers in previous semesters have included:
    Christine Lalumia – A Director of Contemporary Applied Arts and former Deputy Director of the Geffrye Museum
    Lesley Hoskins – Writer, lecturer and exhibition curator, expert on wallpapers and domestic interiors
    Daniel Packer – Former Sotheby’s specialist and expert on silver
    Graham Panico – Decorative art and design lecturer, University of Teeside, and active dealer
    Mary Schoesser – Design and textile historian
    Chiara Scotto Foscarini – DAD alumni and Antique Silver Specialist at Koopman Rare Art
    Annabel Westman – Textile historian and director of studies for the Attingham Trust
  • 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 motived students with appropriate experience and/or ambitions, and with a passion for art and the art world. Applicants are interviewed informally 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.
  • Program Fees

    Program Fees

    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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