School of Society and Culture

PhD Art History

Explore 21st century art history and learn about this ever-expanding discipline, marked by interdisciplinary cross-overs, varied and competing methodologies, and a huge range of objects of study that can break through the boundaries of the traditional notion of ‘art’. Our research specialisms stretch from the medieval to the modern eras and encompass expertise in the major art historical periods, from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to Realism and Modernism.

Course details

  • Year 1

  • This full time or part time doctoral programme is suitable for people who have a particular research question or topic in mind, and wish to explore this through independent study in order to produce an original contribution to the subject. If you aspire to a research career this is the most appropriate research degree to undertake.If you do not already have a masters degree, you may be interested in one of our masters level research degrees, or else an MPhil degree. Further details about the University’s research degree awards.
    You will be guided by a small supervisory team of academic experts under the direction of a Director of Studies. You will be expected to fully engage with skills development and training and to present your research in a range of scholarly contexts.
    Your PhD will be assessed via submission of either a written thesis (approximately 80,000 words), or one that combines critical writing with artistic, creative and/or professional practice, and a viva voce (an oral examination).
    For full details of what doing a PhD entails at the University of Plymouth, please visit our Postgraduate research degrees pages.

    Core modules

    • Research Skills in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (DRTS800)

      This module provides research students the opportunity to explore the creation and interpretation of new knowledge within their field; develop the students’ ability to conceptualise, design and present their theses to merit publication; advance the students’ academic enquiry skills and techniques; and to generate and share the new knowledge within their academic discipline and professional practice.

    • Research Art History (GSRARHI1)

  • Year 2

  • Core modules

    • Research Art History (GSRARHI2)

  • Year 3

  • Core modules

    • Research Art History (GSRARHI3)

  • Year 4

  • Core modules

    • Research Art History (GSRARHI4)

  • Year 5

  • Core modules

    • Research Art History (GSRARHI5)

  • Final year

  • Core modules

    • Research Art History (GSRARHI6)

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

Entry requirements

Masters degree or equivalent from a UK higher education institution in a relevant subject.Applicants normally have to supply a research proposal, personal statement, and occasionally evidence that they are prepared to undertake the proposed project. This may include a portfolio, or a sample of critical writing, depending on their area of study.
You will need to be able to show evidence that you are ready to pursue your proposed project. If you wish to discuss the feasibility of your research project, please contact @ Dr Péter Bokody (our postgraduate coordinator).
Other UK or overseas qualifications may also be accepted – with academic reference.
For more general guidelines and application requirements, please visit the research degrees applicants page.

Fees, costs and funding

Please visit tuition fees for postgraduate research for information about fees. This course is in Band 2 for fees purposes.
If you are a full time student, you will pay full time fees for three years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional one year writing up period.
If you are a part time student, you will pay part time fees for four years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional 'writing up' period of up to two years.
You are responsible for meeting all of the costs related to your own research project, beyond the resources available in the department.
Please visit our postgraduate research money matters page to find out more about issues related to fees, funding, loans and paying for your programme of study.

How to apply

In addition to completing the online application form (which includes space for a personal statement), you must also upload a research project proposal of no more than 1000 words in total. Your research proposal should outline your general topic, your key aims and the research question/problem you are addressing, your proposed methodology, key definitions/thinkers/discourses/practitioners you are drawing upon and an explanation of why this topic is significant or important.
Your personal statement should briefly explain why you have chosen to apply to our programme and what you feel you can offer our research community.
You will also need to submit a sample of your critical writing (3000 words maximum) and, if relevant, evidence of your ability to undertake the practice-led research you are proposing (e.g. a DVD, portfolio, links to website, reviews, catalogue, etc.). It should take no longer than 30 minutes to view all the visual material that you provide.
Submitting your application
Complete your application and upload supporting documents to the Doctoral College by completing our online application form.
Questions on the application process?
We're here to help. Please contact the Doctoral College team and we'll be happy to assist you.
You can view or download our postgraduate research admissions policy.
If you have a disability and would like further information on the support available, please visit our Disability Services website.
Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office
Find more information about how to apply for a research degree.
If you would like to discuss your application, at any stage, please contact Dr Péter Bokody.
Additionally, the Doctoral College is able to answer any questions you may have about applying for or undertaking a postgraduate research degree at the University of Plymouth: or +44 1752 587640
Principal current areas of research include:
  • The history of collecting and curating.
  • Postcolonialism and art history.
  • Meta-painting in Western visual culture.
  • Political iconography and representations of sexual violence in Medieval and Renaissance Italy.
  • The reception of the Renaissance and Renaissance artists from 1750 to the present.
  • The history and practice of art historical writing in Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Art history
My PhD research: Ben Wiedel-Kaufmann
"My PhD research focuses on the interrelations between Left-wing politics and a body of fifteen exterior murals made in London between 1975 and 1986. These murals were part of a broader moment in which the exterior mural form flourished across London, the United Kingdom and far beyond, yet remain absent from most art historical accounts of the period. Grounded in the methodologies of the social history of art, my study combines visual, stylistic and iconographic analysis, archival research and oral history interviews, to examine the murals within the social, political, cultural and geographic contestations of the period."
 Art History researcher Ben Wiedel-Kaufmann
Jayne Buchanan - PhD
My PhD research: Jayne Buchanan
Imagining and remembering the soldier at the Imperial War Museum (1980 - 2000).
"My PhD research examines representations of the soldier within the art collection at the Imperial War museum. I consider the ability of art to memorialise conflict through the image of the soldier and reflect on the commissioning, creation, exhibition, media reception and reinterpretation of art. Focusing on the period 1980-2000 in which the Falkland’s War, the Gulf War in Afghanistan and the Bosnian War occurred, it will also place this period in context with the foundation of the museum during the First World War. In both periods artists were commissioned by the Imperial War Museum to respond artistically to conflict. Using primary archival research combined with visual analysis of the art created my research will consider changes in the representation of the soldier and whether the act of patronage has shaped or defined what is remembered." 
My PhD research: Joel Merriner
“My PhD research explores visual alterity within late Soviet era Central and Eastern European Illustrated translations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Banned by the authorities for many years, Tolkien’s trilogy offered Soviet readers an escape route out of socialist realist literature into a rich and colourful alternative world. Through the iconographical analysis of the work of Tolkien illustrators originating from two former Soviet Republics (Russia and Georgia) and three former Soviet satellite states (Bulgaria, Hungary, and Poland), my research reveals fresh incidences of cross-cultural contact and motif appropriation occurring within global visual culture during the final years of Communist rule. By adopting a ground-up contextualising approach which connects each illustrator’s individual narrative to country-specific and wider Soviet, and post-Soviet narratives, I emphasise the distinct regional specificity of content and context present within the illustrations, whilst also acknowledging and elucidating the interface of eastern/western visual motifs.”
Journal article:
Intertextuality and Iconography in Sergei Iukhimov’s Illustrations for The Lord of the Rings: Five Case Studies
Coastal Processes Research Group Perranporth beach