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Unit Overview


In the early fifteenth century, art produced in the Burgundian Netherlands (an area consisting of present-day Netherlands, Belgium and Northern France) was celebrated and exported as far afield as Italy and Spain. The introduction of oil paint had given rise to a revolutionary style of painting, allowing artists like Jan van Eyck to create seemingly hyper-realistic representations that reflected new interests in the depiction of nature and human emotion. This unit charts principal developments of the so-called Northern Renaissance, from its origins in court art of the Burgundian Netherlands around 1400, its dominance over the European market for much of the fifteenth century up until the increasing engagement of sixteenth-century artists like Albrecht Dürer with developments in contemporary Italian art. Students are introduced to the visual language of the period and the ways in which figures like Hieronymus Bosch subverted traditional iconographies. Key themes include the use of art in religious ceremony, the rise of new artistic genres, changes in art patronage and the art market, and the emerging awareness of national styles and their historiographies. While special emphasis is placed on painted works, the unit also considers other art forms such as manuscript illumination, carved wooden altarpieces, tapestries and stained glass.

6 points
Not available in 2024UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 3 option in the History of Art major sequence
  • Level 3 elective

Students are able to (1) synthesise visual analysis and the contextualisation of art works in broader historical and theoretical frameworks; (2) demonstrate critical awareness of how historiography has shaped our image of the Northern Renaissance; (3) employ skills in research, expression and critical thought including the use of library resources, essay writing and the critical use of primary and secondary materials; (4) actively participate in discussion and provoke debate; and (5) understand the history of the Northern Renaissance in its relationship to other areas of art history.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) research proposal; (2) oral assessment; and (3) research essay. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Susanne Meurer
Unit rules
at least one Level 2 unit from the History of Art major sequence
VISA2297 Special Unit: Studies in the Renaissance, VISA3371 The Northern Renaissance
Contact hours
lectures: 2 hours per week
tutorials: 1 hour per week
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.