MA in Art History, Curatorship and Renaissance Culture

The MA in Art History, Curatorship and Renaissance Culture is offered by the Warburg Institute in collaboration with the National Gallery, London. The programme combines the study of artworks and their cultural contexts with high-level linguistic, archive and research skills for a new generation of academic art historians and museum curators. The art historical and scholarly traditions of the Warburg Institute are linked to the practical experience and skills of the National Gallery to provide an academic programme which will equip students either as academic art historians with serious insight into the behind the scenes working of a great museum or as curators with the research skills necessary for high-level museum work.

This twelve-month, full-time Programme provides an introduction to:

· Museum Knowledge, which covers all aspects of curatorship including the technical examination of paintings, connoisseurship, materials and conservation, attribution, provenance and issues relating to display.

· Art History and Renaissance Culture to increase students’ understanding of methods of analysing the subjects of works of art and their knowledge of Renaissance art works and the conditions in which they were commissioned, produced and enjoyed.

· Current scholarship and professional practice in these areas as well as new and emerging areas of research and scholarship.


Aims of the programme

· Bring together the art historical and scholarly traditions of the Warburg Institute with the practical experience and skills of the National Gallery to provide training which will equip students to become academic art historians with serious insight into the work of a great museum, or curators with the research skills necessary for high level museum work.

· Provide linguistic, archive and research skills to enable graduates of the programme to research, catalogue and curate works of art held in collections of national and international standing. 

· Enable students to understand the general issues involved in curating, conserving and presenting paintings in a museum or gallery context.

· Build understanding of and ability to comment on primary source materials, both visual and textual.

· Enable students to read critically scholarly publications in at least two European languages, and to undertake scholarly research at a high level and write up the results in an accurate and rigorous way.

· Help students to acquire a familiarity with the principal sources of information in a variety of historical disciplines.


Core modules 

Curating at the National Gallery | Curatorial, conservation and scientific staff of the National Gallery, including Dr Susan Foister, Dr Caroline Campbell, Dr Susanna Avery-Quash, Mr Larry Keith, Dr Ashok Roy and Ms Rachel Billinge

Art History – Image to Action | Dr Joanne Anderson

Language, Palaeographical and Archive Skills | Various tutors for language/palaeography, Dr Claudia Wedepohl (The Warburg Institute) and Mr Alan Crookham (National Gallery) for archive skills


Optional modules (two to be chosen)


The History of the Book in the Renaissance | Dr Raphaële Mouren

Imagination, Fantasy and Delusion: Renaissance Philosophy and the Challenges of Representation | Dr Guido Giglioni

Italian Mural Painting and the Making of Visual Cultures, 1400-1500 | Dr Joanne Anderson

Maps and Mapping | Dr Alessandro Scafi

Renaissance Material Culture | Dr Rembrandt Duits

Sin and Sanctity in the Reformation | Professor Alastair Hamilton

Why Choose this degree?

The Warburg Institute is the premier institute in the world for the study of cultural history and the role of images in culture. It is cross-disciplinary and global. It is concerned with the histories of art and science, and their relationship with superstition, magic, and popular beliefs. Its researches are historical, philological and anthropological. It is dedicated to the study of the survival and transmission of cultural forms – whether in literature, art, music or science – across borders and from the earliest times to the present. The Warburg Institute is based at the School of Advanced Study, University of London and houses a world-famous library, archive and photographic collection.

The National Gallery houses the UK’s national collection of over 2,300 Western European paintings from the 13th to the 19th centuries. Its collection contains famous works, such as The Wilton Diptych, Leonardo’s Madonna of the Rocks, van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus and Turner’s Fighting Temeraire. The gallery’s aim is to care for the collection, to enhance and to study it, while encouraging access to the pictures for the education and enjoyment of the widest possible public now and in the future.

In taking this MA with the Warburg Institute and the National Gallery, students will have unrivalled access to the best resources and expertise for academic study in London. Alongside our official programme we organise visits and training sessions at neighbouring institutions, such as the British Museum, Government Art Collection, Welcome Trust and British Library, and further afield the V&A, Dulwich Picture Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the Courtauld Gallery. Students have the opportunity to speak with artists, curators and academics, many of whom are Warburg alumni to enrich their learning experience and develop research projects.

In addition to the MA programme, there is a varied and exciting range of public lectures, conferences, events and talks available to students at the Warburg Institute and National Gallery. They have the opportunity to consult and exchange ideas with the community of academic art historians who use the Warburg Institute as their base and provide access to networks which will support them in their future profession. See the website for more details on our annual programme:

"I came to the Warburg Institute from a Fine Art background, as a painter with interests primarily in the aesthetic qualities of Early Italian Renaissance painting. ...Importantly, studying at the National Gallery is an apt reminder to not be consumed by the minutiae of art literature, with an emphasis on the examination of the pictures visually, making use of the Gallery’s unrivalled technical department. For me, this year culminated in the study of Crivelli’s paintings at the National Gallery, where I was lucky enough to write my dissertation under the close supervision of the curator of 15th century paintings at the gallery. ... I would not have been able to do without this course at the Warburg Institute".

 William Gharraie, UK, MA student in 2013/14

"The MA in Art History, Curatorship and Renaissance Culture in collaboration with the National Gallery has been a wonderful experience... The module at the National Gallery has been an invaluable experience, which not only allowed us to get a “behind the scenes” look into one of the most prestigious institutions in the museum world but also to learn more about the curatorial practice... The staff, both at the Institute and at the Gallery, have been extremely supportive and always available making this experience a truly unique one".

Lorenza Gay, Italy, MA student 2013/14