Postgraduate research study in Art History

Full or part-time independent study opportunities

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.

Duration Course type Location
4 years Full-time, Part-time route available Plymouth

Principal current areas of research include:

  • Exhibition cultures in Austria in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • The intersection of modernism with medicine; art history and the medical humanities.
  • 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.
  • The visual arts and cultural politics during the interwar period, with a focus on state patronage and the New Deal art programmes of the 1930s.
  • International mural painting and public art of the 20th century.

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.

Funded by a studentship from the School of Humanities and Performing Arts my research has been supervised by Professor Jody Patterson and Professor Gemma Blackshaw. Their world-leading research, guidance, support and inspiration have been essential to the refinement and development of my project. Such commitment and expertise are matched across the wider department, where diverse areas of knowledge and generous encouragement create a rich, open and nourishing research community."


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.

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.

Other UK or overseas qualifications may also be accepted – with academic reference

Fees, costs and funding

Please visit tuition fees for postgraduate research for information about fees. This course is in Band 1 for fees purposes.

You are responsible for meeting all of the costs related to your own research project, beyond the resources available in the department.

This programme may be eligible for a PhD loan.

How to apply

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 take a look at the Doctoral College web pages where you'll find a wealth of information.

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.

International Student Advice provides support for our international students.

Art History research

Our research specialisms stretch from the late medieval to modern periods and encompass expertise in the major art historical periods, from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to Realism and Modernism.

We contribute to a research environment rated 100% world-leading and internationally excellent in the national assessment of UK research (REF2014).

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