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The Materials of Art & Architecture - HOA00005C

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  • Department: History of Art
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Jeanne Nuechterlein
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

The aim of this module is to explore the material nature of artworks and architecture.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

We commonly see art and buildings reproduced in photographs, but most artworks are three-dimensional physical objects constructed out of specific materials. Through a series of lectures and seminars, you will learn how to describe, analyse and interpret the visual and material qualities of a wide range of media, from stained glass, sculpture and architecture, to painting, prints, photography, ceramics, and textiles. We will examine the impact made by the choice of particular materials and techniques on the appearance and meaning of the work of art or architecture. We explore the history of looking and the reception of these material objects across a wide range of types and historical periods. The module also addresses ideas of materiality and how they inform our understanding and interpretation of works of art and architecture.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should have acquired:

  • The ability to engage in close, critical visual observation and to analyse and interpret visual material.

  • Knowledge of a range of materials and techniques employed by artists and architects in different periods and places, and an awareness of the impact made by materials and techniques on the work of art.

  • Awareness of the history of reception and the ways in which works have been designed for viewers, audiences, and consumers.

  • Understanding of ideas concerning materiality.


Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam -less than 24hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Open exam : Online (Open) Exam
3 hours 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam -less than 24hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Open exam : Online (Open) Exam
3 hours 100

Module feedback

You will receive feedback on assessed work within the timeframes set out by the University - please check the Guide to Assessment, Standards, Marking and Feedback for more information.

The purpose of feedback is to help you to improve your future work. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further, you are warmly encouraged to meet your Supervisor during their Office Hours.

Indicative reading

  • Adamson, Glenn, and Julia Bryan-Wilson. Art in the Making: Artists and Their Materials from the Studio to Crowdsourcing. London: Thames & Hudson, 2016.

  • Adamson, Glenn, ed. The Craft Reader. Oxford: Berg, 2010.

  • Benjamin, Walter. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Translated by J. A. Underwood. London: Penguin, 2008.

  • Cennini, Cennino. The Craftsman's Handbook: the Italian Il libro dell arte [c.1400]. Translated by Daniel V. Thompson. New York: Dover Publications, 1954.

  • Clerbois, Sébastien, and Martina Droth, eds. Revival and Invention: Sculpture through Its Material Histories. Oxford: Peter Lang, 2010.

  • Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Stone: an Ecology of the Inhuman. London: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.

  • Gamboni, Dario, Gerhard Wolf, and Jessica Richardson. The Aesthetics of Marble: from Late Antiquity to the Present. Munich: Hirmer Publishers, 2021.

  • Pollio, Vitruvius. On Architecture. Translation by Frank Granger. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014.

  • Kurmann-Schwarz, Brigitte, and Elizabeth Pastan. Investigations in Medieval Stained Glass. Reading Medieval Sources. Leiden, 2019.

  • Milwright, Marcus. Islamic Arts and Crafts: An Anthology. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017.

  • Penny, Nicholas. The Materials of Sculpture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993.

  • Rosler, Martha, Caroline Walker Bynum, Natasha Eaton, Michael Ann Holly, Amelia Jones, Michael Kelly, Robin Kelsey, Alisa LaGamma, Monika Wagner, Oliver Watson and Tristan Weddigen. "Notes from the Field: Materiality." The Art Bulletin 95, no. 1 (2013): 10–37.

  • Welters, Linda, and Abby Lillethun, eds. The Fashion Reader. 2nd ed. Oxford: Berg, 2011.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.