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Introduction to Modern Art History Online Short Course

Course description

The first half of the 20th Century was a time of radical artistic innovation and turbulent upheaval of ideas, the effects of which we still feel today. Whilst fascinating, the vastness of the era and the complexity of its art are understandably intimidating to those just starting in the field. This course aims to give you a working foundation from which you can really begin to get to grips with the intricate history of modern art.

Through movements such as Cubism, Futurism, Dada, Surrealism and many more, you will learn to identify the key characteristics of significant modern movements alongside the analysis of their historical significance. Across four weeks you will learn about the downfall of academic art, the rise of abstraction, and the contradictory, anti-modern impulses of opposing movements. A critical understanding of modernity and modernism is emphasised throughout the course and taught alongside all our examples.

You will develop skills in art historical analysis through weekly assignments which receive individual feedback at the end of the course. Resources for extended research are provided via the online Workflow interface, where the discussion continues outside of weekly lectures.

Course Outcomes:

By the end of the course you will have an understanding of;

  • Influential modern art movements
  • How modern art movements contribute to contemporary art today
  • How to analyse and discuss an artwork
  • The foundations of Modernism

Some core questions include:

  • How can we understand an abstract painting?
  • What do modernism and modernity mean in a visual art context?
  • How can an artwork be anti-art?
  • What relationship did modern artists have to colonialism and non-Western culture?
  • What role did technology, politics, and society play in the development of modern styles?
  • And many more along the way

Recommended continued study after this course can be found on Understanding Contemporary Art (Online Short Course).

Who is Introduction to Modern Art History Online Short Course for?

If you are interested in art and enjoy visiting galleries and would like to deepen your knowledge of modern art then this course is for you. You will develop and shape your understanding and opinions, which could give you a greater appreciation for art that you can apply to your own artwork or to a degree application.

All our Online Short Courses include:

  • Live online lessons with the same tutors
  • The same course content and learning outcomes
  • Lesson recordings, for review
  • Access to VLE with course content
  • Forums for support
  • 2 weeks online access
  • Certificate upon completion

Please note that all courses are taught in UK time.

Available dates

It can take a few moments for our course dates to load - if there are no available dates, please contact our customer service team who will help you find a course or email you when new dates become available.
Make an enquiry or call us on 0207 514 7015.



  • The key movements of modern art from Impressionism through to Abstract Expressionism
  • The historical and social conditions of modernity
  • How to identify, analyse, and discuss modern artworks
  • Manifestos of modern movements
  • The concepts of modernism and anti-modernism
  • The role of the arts academy
  • Differences between traditional fine art and modern art


Online Short Course Materials

To take part in the Online sessions you will need:

  • An up-to-date web browser (we recommend Firefox or Chrome)
  • Microphone and headphones (a headset with a microphone function is recommended)
  • Webcam
  • Strong Internet connection via WiFi or ethernet; 2G, 3G or 4G will not be sufficient

Course Specific Materials

  • Paper and pen to take notes during live sessions
An extensive reading list will be sent to each student at the beginning of the source recommending works by John Berger, Arthur Danto, Julian Stallabrass and literature by Modernist authors
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This online short course will teach you how to understand and analyse modern art. Learn the history of modern art movements, from Impressionism to Postmodernism and how these movements continue to influence contemporary art today.

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