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Modern and Contemporary Visual Art after 1800


Admission requirements

Similar to the admission requirements for the BA Arts, Media and Society.


Visual art of the Modern and Contemporary period is widely diverse. In order to make sense of this diversity, we will structure our exploration along themes, which run through both the art itself and the art historical research. Concepts such as romanticism, avant garde, expressionism, the sublime, realism, abstraction and modernism are prominent in art from 1800 to the present. In our lectures, newer themes such as postmodernism, digital photography, video art and the global art world are gradually added to this timeline. Depending on the theme, the focus will be on the form, medium, content or function of the artworks.

We will take a close look at what it means for art to be Modern and will structure a wide range of movements that arose in the Modern period along thematic, rather than strictly chronological, lines. While the main focus is on the art produced in Europe and the US, in which the transition to Modernism is seen to take place first, other parts of the world will play a prominent role in our discussion. We will take a look at the interaction between art from different parts of the globe and will read texts introducing various perspectives on Modern Art throughout the world.

Course objectives

  • Students get to know the most important artworks from the recent past and gain insight into the most studied questions in the field of modern and contemporary art.

  • Students learn to recognize and date objects from art history of the modern period, and to place these within stylistic, cultural and historical contexts.

  • Students develop a critical attitude towards art historical literature.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures.

Assessment method

  • Midterm exam (50%): written exam with closed and open questions

  • Final exam (50%): written exam with closed and open questions


The average of both exams has to be a 6.0 or higher (rounded off to one decimal point) in order to pass the course. Grades below 5.0 for either of the exams are not permitted. A grade between 5.0 and 5.5 for one of the exams can be compensated by the other grade; if you wish you can retake the exam in this case, but you do not have to. A grade below 5.0 always requires a resit.


For both exams a resit is possible; if you fail one exam you can retake just that one and if you fail both you can retake them both.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

  • Fred S. Kleiner, Gardner’s Art through the Ages. A Global History 16th edition International Edition). Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2016. [ISBN-13: 9781285754994 / ISBN-10:1285754999]

  • Additional texts will be made available through Brightspace.


Enrolment through My Studymap Login | Universiteit Leiden is mandatory.

NB: First year students will be enrolled by the coordinator of studies. All other students need to contact the coordinator of studies to be enrolled for this course.