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Level 6

6AACAR04 Classicisms: The Reception of Classical Art

Credit value: 30
Module convenor/tutor: Dr Michael Squire
Teaching pattern: 20 x 2-hour seminars
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 2500-3000 word essay (30%) and 1 x examination (70%)

Assessment pattern for Graduate Diploma

Assessment: 3 x 3,000-word essays (100%, essays worth 1/3 each)

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand, there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

Why have Greek and Roman images so captivated subsequent viewers? In what ways does the story of the so-called ‘Classical tradition’ relate to broader histories of western art? And what relevance do Classical materials still have among contemporary artists in the twenty-first century?

This module is offered for undergraduate students interested in the afterlife of antiquity. But it is also intended for those concerned with art history in the broadest sense – with how to look at images, the stories we tell about them, and ways of relating ‘art’ (whatever that means) to larger narratives of western history. While introducing students to the history of western sculpture and painting through the story of its Classical receptions, we will also discuss a range of critical readings and methodological approaches. Above all, we will explore the ‘Classical’ as a shifting and dynamic category, always loaded with different cultural values, anxieties and ideologies.

In practical terms, the course will proceed chronologically from antiquity itself, through Byzantine and mediaeval visual culture, to the Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical, modern and post-modern art (all the way up to the twenty-first century). Particular emphasis will be given to on-site museum visits, above all to collections in London (e.g. British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, National Gallery, Tate Britain). Additional visits outside of London may also be organized (with the possibility, in certain years, of integrating fully subsidized Rumble Fund fieldtrips for King’s College London undergraduates: cf.

For more information about the module and its scope, please get in touch with the module leader.

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.
  • R. Brilliant (2000) My Laocoön: Alternative Claims in the Interpretation of Artworks. Berkeley.
  • E.H. Gombrich (1995) The Story of Art. Sixteenth edition. London.
  • M. Greenhalgh (1978) The Classical Tradition in Western Art. Cambridge.
  • C. W. Kallendorf (ed.) (2007) A Companion to the Classical Tradition. Malden, MA.
  • E. Prettejohn (2012) The Modernity of Ancient Sculpture: Greek Sculpture and Modern Art from Winckelmann to Picasso. London.
  • R. Rowland (1963) The Classical Tradition in Western Art. Cambridge, MA. 
  • M. Silk, I. Gildenhart and R. Barrow (2014) The Classical Tradition: Art, Literature, Thought. Malden, MA.

  • M. Squire (2011) The Art of the Body: Antiquity and its Legacy. London.
  • M. Squire (2015) ‘Theories of reception’, in C. Marconi (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Art and Architecture, pp. 637-61. Oxford. 
  • C.C.C. Vermeule (1964) European Art and the Classical Past. Cambridge, MA.
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