BMALX110B – History and Theory in Visual Art and Design

Module code
Module title
History and Theory in Visual Art and Design
This module explores key issues in the history and theory of visual art and design. Students will develop an understanding of key theoretical concepts through responses to the selected literature and discourse on visual art and design. Students will critically evaluate the significance of these concepts for contemporary practice, particularly in the New Zealand context. The module is directed by social, technological and theoretical developments in the west, taking in humanist philosophy, theories of perception and expression, the utopian ideals of early twentieth-century modernism, Bauhaus functionalism, the relocation of the avant-garde to the USA during World War II and challenges to modernist theories from the 1960s to the present. It also considers non-western philosophies and practices, as well as the relationship between modernist and indigenous art and design in Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • BM1801
  • BM1802
  • BM1901
  • BM1902
  • BM9601
NZQA Level
Level 5
NZQA Credits
Delivery method
  • Not Web enabled
Learning hours
Directed hours
Self directed hours
Total learning hours
Resources required
Learning Outcomes
2.1 Develop a process for systematically addressing discourse in visual art and design
- discuss, identify and interpret issues presented in lectures
- discuss, identify and interpret issues extracted from relevant texts
- complete directed research and reflect upon working processes
- develop a systematic and self-critical working process for developing and refining ideas

2.2 Interpret and describe key events and discourses in the history of visual art and design
- analyse the historical discourses in art and design
- analyse implications of art and design discourse for our interpretations of historical practices
- describe and analyse relevant examples of art and design
- analyse the distinctive nature of art and design within broader visual culture

2.3 Develop an understanding of the role of theoretical discourse in contemporary art and design practice
- analyse contemporary developments in visual art and design
- examine relationships between selected practice and theory
- examine the evolution of particular ideologies of art and design practice
analyse course material and relate it to current individual practice

2.4 Understand relationships between art and design discourses and broader social analysis
- isolate and discuss connections between art and design methodologies and a broader cultural context
- examine the impact of economic, governmental and social discourses on art and design
examine the cultural specificity of art and design analysis

2.5 Understand assessment methodology within the context of an educational institution
- develop a vocabulary for describing work
- interpret and apply assessment criteria described in schedules to own work
- participate in group and class discussions
- consider and reflect upon self and peer course work
- participate in formative assessment
3.1 Issues and themes
Responses to nature, urbanisation, mass-production and environmental issues
Expression and content
Changing perceptions and constructions of reality
Relationships between art/design and society/politics
Ideologies of progress and innovation
Functionalism and truth to materials
Cross-cultural influence and appropriation
Intention and reception
Value and quality

3.2 History of art and design
Arts and Crafts Movement
Boston School of Chromolithography
Realism and Impressionism
Art Nouveau
The Glasgow School
American architecture c1890-1960
Japanese prints, architecture, interior design - Edo and Meiji periods
Cubism and Futurism
Dada and Surrealism
Russian Constructivism
Chinese New Literature and Design Movement, 1920s-30s
De Stijl
Art Deco
International Typographic Style / Swiss Style
New York School, post-World War II
Maori rock drawing, carving, weaving, painting and architecture
NZ and Mori modernism
Op, Pop and the beginnings of post-modernism
Contemporary art and design

3.3 Contexts
Industrial Revolution
International Style (modernism)
Fine art
Popular culture
Biculturalism and multiculturalism

Assessment Criteria
Through submission of research essay, presentation and written exercises.

Research essay and presentation
60 Percent

Homework written exercises
40 Percent

To pass this course, students must complete all assignments and accumulate
an overall course mark of no less than 50 percent.