Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies

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The fact that I studied at Leeds was noted with particular approval at every interview I have given.

Anna ConlonMA History of Art, 2002 Exhibitions Assistant, The Royal Academy, now studying at Columbia University, New York


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The School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies is an internationally recognised leader in research and research-led teaching in the History of Art, Museum Studies, Cultural Studies and Fine Art. We offer a unique combination of programmes centred on the encounter between historical, cultural and theoretical analysis, museum and heritage studies and fine art practice.

The research focus of the School allows us to offer expertise in a wide range of interdisciplinary fields. They include Western and non-Western art history, museum and curatorial studies, critical analysis and theoretical cultural and media studies, as well as fine art practice in all media. We offer undergraduate programmes in History of Art, History of Art with Museum Studies, Cultural and Media Studies, and Fine Art.

We offer postgraduate programmes in Arts Management and Heritage Studies, History of Art, Art Gallery and Museum Studies, Critical and Cultural Theory, and Fine Art  Postgraduate research students also have the opportunity to work on the leading international journal of Cultural Studies parallax.

In addition to the many resources of the School and University, we maintain teaching and research partnerships with local, national and international museums, galleries and heritage institutions, as well as other institutions of higher learning. Students also benefit from an extensive range of salons, seminars and visiting artists and speakers, as well as study trips.

The School achieved one of the highest international quality profiles awarded in the last Research Assessment Exercise. The School houses five active research centres: CentreCATH, Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage, Centre for Jewish Studies, Centre for Cultural Studies, Artists’ Writings & Publications Research Centre (AWP) and the Centre for the Study of the Art and Antiques Market.

Current research themes focus on:

  • Feminism and Gender
  • Postcolonialities
  • Materialities
  • Cultural Politics
  • Heritage and Museums
  • Social Histories of Art

History of the School

The Department of Fine Art was founded in 1950 by art historian and critic, Maurice de Sausmarez (1915-1969) in order to teach art history. The move was inspired by then recent arguments for the place of art in the university advanced by Herbert Read. By the mid 1950s, when Quentin Bell was Professor of Fine Art, the Department launched its own degree course in the practice of fine art, a topic in which practical courses had been taught in the University of Leeds since the 1880s, but in the Textiles Department. Painter and art historian Lawrence Gowing succeeded Bell, combining in his own practice the productive exchange between making and analysing art. With T.J. Clark’s appointment a dedicated degree in History of Art was established in 1978 while the Fine Art degree retained its strong focus on equal engagement with practice and history.

The expanded and renamed School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies (renamed in 2001) continues to stage and reflect upon the encounter between the practices of Fine Art and the practices of historical and critical analyses of art fostered by its remarkable succession of Professors of Fine Art: Quentin Bell, Lawrence Gowing, T.J.Clark, and Adrian Rifkin. Art History and Cultural Studies were added to its professorial establishment in the 1990s (Susan Siegfried, Fred Orton, Catherine Karkov, Martin McQuillan). The School also houses the Harewood Professor of Fine Art (David Hill), the Professor of Russian and Scandinavian Art Histories (David Jackson) and the Professor of Social and Critical Histories of Art (Griselda Pollock).

In 1985 The Centre for Cultural Studies was founded and led from within the School. The international journal parallax, for work in cultural studies, critical theory and philosophy, was founded within the Department in 1995, and has been edited and run by advanced graduate students in the School ever since, under the supervision of Cultural Studies staff.

A Centre of Jewish Studies combining art history and cultural studies was established in 1995, directed by Dr Eva Frojmovic. The Montague Burton Fellowship in Jewish Studies in attached to the Centre. The longstanding collaboration with the museums and collections of the city of Leeds and its environs initially supported specialist degrees in the fine and decorative arts which developed under the leadership of Dr Kerry Bristol and Dr Abigail Harrison Moore into a BA programme in Art History with Museum Studies and graduate studies in Museums and Art Galleries. This programme has expanded rapidly and in 2009 the Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage was founded. The School is also an active part of the University-wide Centre for Practice-led Research.

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