History of Art and Visual Studies


What is History of Art and Visual Studies?

History of Art and Visual Studies makes an important contribution towards developing insight into the visual arts as emerging from and reflecting different historical and geographic contexts. It gives students a deeper understanding of the complex, shifting relationships between cultural expression and socio-political dynamics. History of Art and Visual Studies aims to develop faculties such as critical thinking, research skills, openness to alternative standpoints and well-founded judgement competencies concerning the world of visual art and culture. Students benefit from the study of visual images and cultural heritage across a broad spectrum because this stimulates and enriches the creative imagination. History of Art and Visual Studies is further aimed at developing visual and academic literacy. These skills will enable students to read and analyse visual images critically and in a self-reflective manner, to understand them in broader socio-political contexts, and to express these insights in an academically sound manner.

The History of Art and Visual Studies qualification does not currently include an undergraduate degree programme, but the subject can be taken as a major, elective or extra module as part of the BA Humanities offerings. Students who study in the following fields will benefit from History of Art and Visual Studies  as a major or an elective module: languages, history, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, creative writing, political studies, communication and related fields. This module is offered in Potchefstroom. There are no prerequisites for taking History of Art and Visual Studies as a first-year subject, and no previous knowledge of art or visual culture is necessary.

Career Possibilities

An art historian or visual studies scholar can work at a university, at a gallery, at an artist’s studio or a similar place of creative production, as a curator and/or consultant for a corporation’s art collection, or in various other positions and places. Art historians and visual studies experts often travel a great deal – it has been said that seeing the world’s art and material culture is the best excuse for leaving home. With training as an art historian, you are flexible, adaptable, and able to work in many different contexts. Examples of careers emanating from the study of the history of art and visual studies include becoming an art critic, art journalist, gallery owner, curator, art consultant, art dealer, manager of artists’ careers, educator, tourism specialist, researcher, art blogger, arts festival officer, publisher, web-content generator, art collector, studio manager and gallerist.

Post-Graduate Programme for History of Art and Visual Studies

Undergraduate courses in History of Art and Visual Studies are part of the foundational study towards postgraduate degrees in this field. Our postgraduate research programmes are part of the research niche Visual Narratives and Creative Outputs through Interdisciplinary and Practice-Led Research (ViNCO). The research niche ViNCO contributes to the current discourse on South African and African visual narratives and the histories and visions that shape them.

Honours degree in History of Art and Visual Studies (PC only)

Master of Arts in History of Art and Visual Studies (offered remotely)

Doctor of Philosophy in Visual and Performing Arts with History of Art and Visual Studies (offered remotely)

Admission requirements

Please contact the History of Art and Visual Studies team for any questions relating to the undergraduate and honours-degree programmes. For postgraduate matters, please do not hesitate to send an email to vinco@nwu.ac.za or visit the research niche ViNCO.