Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Rethinking Impressionism
Academic Year
Semester 2
Exclusive (Any Acad Year)

Course Delivery



Due to Covid-19 students should refer to the module Blackboard pages for assessment details

Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay Plan  1500 Words  30%
Semester Assessment Essay  3500 Words  70%
Supplementary Assessment Essay Plan  1500 Words  30%
Supplementary Assessment Essay  3500 Words  70%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Explain the concept of 'historiography' and apply it to interpret art historical scholarship.

Locate and critically evaluate primary and secondary sources.

Assess specialised debates in secondary literature.

Construct and justify a written argument about Impressionism, evaluating and applying different methods of approaching the discipline, and using the appropriate scholarly apparatus.

Brief description

What does 'Impressionism' mean to you? Perhaps it conjures an impression of prismatic landscapes, dynamic cityscapes, intimate family portraits, scenes of boating and ballet? Maybe you think of blockbuster exhibitions and record-breaking auction results, or water lilies printed on iPhone cases and handbags? For those who attended the first Impressionist exhibition in Paris in 1874, 'Impressionism' had rather different meanings: it was a manifesto of a new art founded on subjective, visual experience; it was an anarchist plot to destroy French culture; it was a balancing of art and science to achieve objective, visual truth. None of these interpretations are 'right' or 'wrong'; each reflects aspects of its author's period and perspective.

This module examines how the meanings of Impressionism have shifted and evolved since its public debut, culminating in the cutting-edge research being undertaken right now. It aims to, first, introduce you to the concept of 'historiography' and, second, help you develop the critical and analytical skills necessary to engage with art historical scholarship in a nuanced, historiographically informed way. Art history has its own history; the way that art historians explain the art of the past reflects the historian's own time. Understanding the consequences of this idea will forever change the way you read art history.


Taking a 'flipped learning' approach, students will read essential texts and watch pre-recorded lectures (1 hour per week) as guided independent study. Classroom time will be divided between four 2-hour seminars (in which students discuss and practice historiographically informed readings of past scholarship) and four 1-hour seminars centred on student-led Q&A and discussion of the lectures.

In lectures, I will introduce the main strands of research currently being undertaken into Impressionism, including my own. The topics covered will evolve over time in response to the latest developments in the field. As an indication we will examine how the Impressionists' materials adulterated art with industry; how the Impressionists' spontaneous technique manifested uniquely modern experiences of time and memory; how Impressionism participated in globalisation and how the meanings of Impressionism shifted as it travelled around the globe; how contemporary perspectives on race are revealing previously-overlooked aspects of the Impressionists' world; and what Impressionist images reveal about the somatic, affective experiences of their creators and viewers.

In seminars we will explore the concept of 'historiography' and the three most influential ways of understanding Impressionism in the twentieth-century: formalism, the social history of art, and feminism.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Communication Articulating ideas orally by participating in classroom discussions; communicating in writing in assessments.
Improving own Learning and Performance Formative feedback in classroom discussion week-by-week and summative feedback to assessments (in writing and orally in tutorial) will offer guidance for improving own learning and performance.
Information Technology Engaging with flipped content (Panopto, Blackboard, Aspire); conducting research through library catalogues, online scholarly databases, and museum websites; organizing research materials and notes; engaging with digital platforms like Panopto, Blackboard, and Turnitin.
Personal Development and Career planning Practicing key disciplinary skill with direct relevance to future study: historiography.
Problem solving Applying knowledge and skills to interpret unfamiliar texts and responding to art historical problems.
Research skills Engaging with the reading list and locating sources for class preparation and assessments.
Subject Specific Skills Explaining the concept of 'historiography' and applying it to interpret art historical scholarship; locating and critically evaluate primary and secondary sources; assessing specialised debates in secondary literature; constructing and justifying a written argument about Impressionism, evaluating and applying different methods of approaching the discipline, and using the appropriate scholarly apparatus.


This module is at CQFW Level 6