Year 12 Art History Summer University 2015

Student Ambassador, Isabella Dabby, reflects on this year’s Year 12 Art History Summer University. Isabella recently completed a Graduate Diploma at The Courtauld, and will be starting her MA in October 2015.

On the first day of this year’s Summer University, nearly thirty A-level students from across London climbed The Courtauld’s spiral staircase and took their seats within the lecture theatre. Just three days later, these students delivered confident and thought-provoking presentations before their peers, parents and teachers.

13 - presentationsThanks to the efforts of Dr Katie Faulkner and the Public Programmes team, a busy timetable was devised to ensure the students gained a real insight into what studying Art History at The Courtauld is like. Inspiring lectures from Dr Alixe Bovey and Professor Joanna Woodall introduced them to the excitement of art historical research, whilst an energetic morning studying and handling Iranian art objects with Dr Sussan Babaie got the students thinking about art beyond the West.

3 - sussan babbaie 4 - object handlingAlongside this, seminars from Dr Caroline Levitt and Dr Natalia Murray provoked discussion amongst the group on topics as varied as the impact of the industrial revolution on Cubism, to the influence of fashion and poetry on art.

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At the start of the course, the students were asked to bring along and discuss an image of their choice with their peers, organising themselves into groups according to their identification of common themes. Using The Courtauld collection as a source of further inspiration, they were then tasked with developing a virtual exhibition proposal. To help them with this they saw a range of exhibitions, with a tour from Dr Karen Serres, curator at The Courtauld Gallery, a tour at the Ben Uri Gallery, and a visit to Tate Britain. Finally, the students were given the chance to discuss their ideas with this year’s MA Curating students. They were asked to think critically about their experiences in these galleries as they developed their projects and undertook further group research within the The Courtauld’s specialist art library.

1 - gallery 2 - group workLeaving no stone unturned and proving that art history isn’t just about lectures, libraries and quiet museums, a trip to the conservation studio proved a highlight for many of the students, who were asked to look beyond the theory and consider works of art as physical objects. For those students undertaking a mixture of science and arts A-levels, the experience showed them just how varied careers relating to Art History can be.

6 - conservationAs a student ambassador helping out on this year’s course, it was a pleasure to witness the students embrace the challenges thrown at them and watch their understanding of Art History, curation and conservation grow so rapidly over just four days. Even the awkwardly-timed tube strike did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the group, who ended up having to walk the two miles journey to Tate Britain, in order to explore and critique the Barbara Hepworth exhibition.

8 - tateOne student said to me that before coming to the Summer University, she hadn’t just been confused about which course to study, but whether she even wanted to go to university at all. By the end of the week she reckoned that getting a degree would be worth the time and money, so long as she studied a subject she really loved. To me that summed up what the Summer University is all about, and is what makes me so proud to have been a part of it. It is a unique opportunity for inquisitive students to gain an understanding of what going to university is all about: meeting like-minded people, exploring new ideas and challenging yourself within a fun and supportive environment.

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For more information about Summer University see here or contact Meghan Goodeve/ Helen Higgins, Oak Foundation Young People’s Programme Coordinator (job-share), on or 0207 848 1058. 

Working with Welling

The Courtauld Institute of Art and Welling School are happy to present to you our zines. These are the result of a collaboration that has taken place over the 2014-15 academic year, where 150 pupils in year 7 at Welling School visited The Courtauld Gallery and have taken part in art and art history workshops. From Medieval saints to Paul Gauguin’s radical nudes, the students have explored the collection working with artists, academics, and designers. Ten students were selected from their peers to make these zines, investigating the theme of gender in The Courtauld Gallery. Ultimately, this project is a celebration of the ways in which art history and art practice can complement and enrich each other.


This project was in response to Welling School’s exciting curriculum model of the ‘canon’. Lessons offer a way to teach history through the lens of history of art for year 7 students. To extend and enrich this curriculum, students were taken on trips to The Courtauld Gallery focusing on different elements of the collection and working with a new academic, educator, or artist each time. For example, the first visit in November 2014 looked at Jasper Johns and symbolism.


These trips to the gallery were complemented by afterschool seminars and workshops, where students were handpicked to attend due to an interest in art history. Themes of these included: 19th century art, modern British sculpture, and wood cut prints.


Following the success of this model in the Autumn and Spring terms, we decided to stretch a small group of students and challenge them to create a zine (or fanzine) stemming from the theme of The Courtauld’s exhibition Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album. To create these, they thought critically about gender in response to The Courtauld’s collection, learning how to research in a gallery and art library. Moreover, they reflected on the development of feminist art history reading original texts by seminal feminist art historians such as Griselda Pollock and Linda Nochlin. Finally, they learnt about the activist history of zine-making, experimented with this form of communication, and to quote one of the students, ‘learnt that zines really help to get your message out to the world’.


Over one visit to the gallery, two afterschool workshops, two full-day workshops, and just one day to print at The Common House, the students produced a series of five professional zines that relate to notion of Gender and The Courtauld. Taking just two pieces of artwork from The Courtauld’s collection they constructed critical arguments on themes such as Trapped and Free, Blue Sky Dark Purpose, Working Girls, Judging Feminism: Motherhood, and Women as Objects. And here they are!

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poster 5 text 5

And to close, I would like to leave you with this comment from one of the Welling School teachers involved: ‘The project became an opportunity for the students to intervene in their own learning through probing the very subject they study, and steering their own path as critical thinkers. Through working together with academics from The Courtauld Institute they have made a real engagement in theory and principles of art history.’


(An exhibition at Welling School, which included work from this project)

To find out more, or if you are interested in running an extended project in your school, contact Meghan Goodeve on or 0207 848 1058.

Two weeks left to apply to our year 12 Art History Summer University!

We only have 2 weeks left for you to apply to our year 12 Art History Summer University! Last year, one of our brilliant student ambassadors made this video to give you an insight into what the course was like and how it was useful to her and her friends.

Hannah interviews three students who have attended our Art History Summer University in 2012 to see how it has helped them 18 months on…

Art History Summer University Video

Naomi, Student Ambassador for Summer University 2014, reveals her insights into the course!

I really enjoyed my week working as a Student Ambassador at the Art History Summer University. It was a fantastic opportunity to talk to young people about what art history at university is like, as many had not studied the subject before! Over the course of the week I saw the group really build, especially when they were shown in various workshops and introductory lectures how their research and writing skills from other art and design, humanities and even science subjects transferred well into art history.

One of my favourite lectures was Illustrated Books and How to Read Them? given by Dr Caroline Levitt. She spoke engagingly about the role of value in art (something that has definitely cropped up in my studies numerous times so far) and how the value of mass produced items like books can change when an artist draws directly onto them. Her lecture was also good in highlighting the broadness of art history and how ‘art’ goes beyond just a painting, a sculpture, a building, and can be extended to so many other forms and philosophical concepts.


Throughout the week the students were asked to prepare an exhibition pitch in groups. Following several curatorial workshops and a visit to the MA Curation exhibition, currently at The Courtauld Gallery, each group selected a theme and suggested a way in which objects in The Courtauld Gallery’s collection and beyond could be curated around this. Each group had fantastic research skills and a knack for understanding the interrelations between different artworks. Their presentations at the end of the week were truly impressive with clear communication and great visuals.


I really hope that the students enjoyed the week as much as we did and as a result will consider the many possibilities that art history at university level can offer.


Liz Libor, NCN History of Art Course Leader reflects on a day of Art History in Nottingham!

The intention:  To raise awareness of art history as a discipline and encourage students to consider applying for the subject at degree level

The locations: New College Nottingham (NCN): An FE college in the centre of the historic Lace Market area and Creative Quarter of Nottingham that offers History of Art A Level and has a widening participation partnership with the Courtauld Institute. Nottingham Contemporary: A new and cutting edge gallery with generous and flexible exhibition space, currently hosting the Arts Council touring exhibition: “Somewhat Abstract”.

The organisers and deliverers: The Courtauld Insitute of Art’s Oak Foundation Young People’s Co-ordinator Meghan Goodeve & Alice Odin and Gallery Educator Helen Higgins, and Dr Lucy Bradnock from the University of Nottingham.

The Schools: NCN, Redhill Academy, and South Wold Academy


We were excited and apprehensive in equal measure: would the students materialise in sufficient numbers to make the event a success for The Courtauld and University of Nottingham staff who had kindly given their time and effort to make this event happen?  If students did come, would they enjoy the experience and enhance their understanding and interest in art history? Would lunch appear on time? In the end it all went swimmingly – which all goes to prove that it’s better to be a Tigger than an Eyore, as all things tend to turn out well in the end.  Around 50 students and 4 staff attended plus the 3 Courtauld staff members and Dr Lucy Bradnock from the University of Nottingham.

A variety of short talks and student activities kept a lively pace throughout the day and time just flew past.  All the students were eager to participate and contributed freely to both open discussions and group activities. Their responses were excellent with mature, thought provoking and original ideas being generated. Perhaps a highlight of the morning session based in the lecture hall of the historic Adams Building at NCN was the curatorial group activity of planning and creating a gallery space to display a self-selected theme from a choice of images from The Courtauld Gallery’s collection. The results were diverse and imaginative, ranging from a focus on sophisticated themes through to actual 3D models of the envisaged gallery space and another focused on thoughts as to the use of lighting and positioning of works that promised an installation work in its own right!




Suddenly it was lunchtime and NCN provided a generous spread of sandwiches and fresh fruit, so generous that there was still plenty left over at the end – even with a room full of hungry teenagers!  After lunch  the whole group walked the short distance down the road to Nottingham Contemporary, moving from the imposing brick and stone grandeur of Adams to the geometric, cantilevered, utilitarian exterior of the gallery that has been nicknamed by some locals  ‘the chicken shed’. Appearances, as we all know can be deceptive and once inside the gallery space students were excited by the size and diverse contents of the current exhibition that ranges through 4 large interconnected spaces.  The day continued with activities centred on experiencing works of art face-to-face and evaluating curatorial decisions.  The current exhibition Somewhat Abstract displays a wide diversity of art works across all mediums and drawn from a chronological range from early 20th century to contemporary; some easily recognisable: a Francis Bacon Screaming Pope “Head VI”, a Barbara Hepworth abstract sculpture, several Bridget Riley, Frank Auerbachs & Walter Sickerts, a Rachael Whiteread; others less familiar and equally intriguing – something for everyone and everyone found something that excited them. So much so that students were reluctant to leave when the final summary and feedback session were delivered in the cavernous and atmospheric setting of Nottingham Contemporary’s The Space.


By the end of the day all participants appeared tired but also content. Feedback from students revealed that they felt it had all been worthwhile and that they had gained a valuable insight into the challenges, attractions, skill sets and employability offered by art history, while the teachers of the participating schools were very enthusiastic and declared that they would be eager to take part in any future activities. The Courtauld team and Lucy looked exhausted, but they were very positive and felt that their efforts had been well rewarded by the enthusiasm and quality of responses from the students – so well done all and a special thanks to Meghan, Alice, Helen and Lucy for making such a herculean effort to organise and deliver the event –  bravo and y’all come back real soon!

(Photos: AP Smith Pictures

Animating Art History is back for 2014!

Animating Art History 2014 kicked off last Thursday with a session on surfaces. Check out the brilliant photos from The Gallery and around Somerset House by the young people involved!

Animating Art History is a widening participation partnership between The Courtauld Institute of Art and University of the Arts London.

For more information see our webpage