MA Buddhist Art: History and Conservation

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MA Buddhist Art: History and Conservation

This unique one-year MA is offered by The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Centre for Buddhist Art and Conservation at The Courtauld. It combines teaching in the key tenets of Buddhism, the history of Buddhist art, and the making and conservation of Buddhist art. Taught by a wide range of specialists, it includes a field trip to conservation and management projects in Asia. Drawing on The Courtauld’s research and conservation work in Bhutan, China and India, this MA is specifically designed to equip students with:

  • Knowledge of the central concepts and tenets of Buddhism, and their historical diffusion;
  • Knowledge of the history of Buddhist art in its various religious, social, cultural and political contexts;
  • Knowledge of the making of various types of Buddhist art;
  • Knowledge of the approaches to the conservation of Buddhist art, and an understanding of the ethical, technical and administrative contexts;
  • On-site exposure to conservation and management projects on Buddhist art in Asia.

In this full-time, twelve-month course, teaching is mainly concentrated in three 11-week terms, but supervision of the dissertation continues during the summer months (June – September). Students undertake a dissertation which will consider an aspect of the original techniques, conservation, management, curating, history or use of Buddhist art.

The MA provides a comprehensive grounding in the history of Buddhism, Buddhist art and its conservation both for those intending to pursue further specialist conservation education, and for others who wish to proceed into related fields such as art-historical research, curating, or site-management.

Key facts

Status Full time
8 students
Duration 1 year
Language Skills English
Fees 2016/17 TBC Fees 2015/6 (for reference):
Home/EU fee: £8,220
Overseas fee: £19,450

MA Buddhist Art: History and Conservation

The online versions of our prospectuses contain all of the information from our printed prospectuses. You can download a pdf version below or order a print prospectus.

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The MA Programme is a full-time, 12-month course.

Teaching is concentrated in three 11-week terms but work elements of the course may continue at other times, and the dissertation is written during the summer months (June – September). The Programme is structured as a series of interwoven strands. Led by Professor David Park, Dr Giovanni Verri and Professor Kate Crosby, it includes specialist teaching by a wide range of guest lecturers.

Term 1

Strand 1: Key Tenets of Buddhism through its Arts

Tamzhing Monastery (Bhutan): monk lighting butter lamps beneath the early wall paintings. © The Courtauld Institute of Art
Tamzhing Monastery (Bhutan): monk lighting butter lamps beneath the early wall paintings. © The Courtauld Institute of Art

A series of weekly lectures and seminars considering the significance of Buddhist art, and conceptualising this art in relation to religious belief, practice and societal functions. As part of Strand 1, a visit to the Bodleian Library will provide an understanding of the range of materials used in Buddhist manuscripts.

Aims

  • To understand the basic doctrines, beliefs and practices of Buddhism through its artistic expression;
  • To engage with the central principles that inform the use of Buddhist art in its traditional context, taking a broad interpretation of art;
  • To develop a critical evaluation of the political, cultural and economic aspects of the creation and use of Buddhist arts and architecture;
  • To consider regional variation in the use and understanding of Buddhist art including its adaptation in the modern period and in the West;
  • To understand the factors affecting the form, appearance and understanding of the range of materials used in Buddhist manuscripts.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Recognise various types of Buddhist art, including images, mandalas, stupas, manuscripts, monastic architecture and paraphernalia, paintings and temporary art and interpret how these might be understood and used in a traditional setting;
  • Recognise regional variation in Buddhist practice, belief and art and evaluate alternative approaches to their study;
  • Analyse how Buddhist beliefs have informed some broader artistic expression from among such areas as numismatics, film, dance, cuisine and advertising;
  • Undertake the analysis of incomplete artefacts/artefacts outside of their original context, judge the appropriateness of their current housing, propose alternatives and assess their likely effectiveness;
  • Synthesise data about the religious, political, social and historical contexts that inform Buddhist art, its transmission and display.

Strand 2: History of Buddhist Art

Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang (China), Cave 254: central pillar
Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang (China), Cave 254: central pillar

A series of weekly lectures, seminars and visits, providing an overview of the development of Buddhist art from its origins to the present, with regard to regional variations and the multiplicity of different media. In its emphasis, it therefore complements the more thematic approach of the Key Tenets of Buddhism through its Arts course (taught concurrently), which conceptualises Buddhist art in relation to religious belief, practice and societal functions. The strand is also designed to provide an understanding of the interaction of different Buddhist cultures and regions in Asia, and with different religions in Asia (e.g. Daoism). Where appropriate – e.g. in the cases of Gandharan and Qing art, it also explores the interaction of Buddhist art with the West.

Aims

  • To provide students with a knowledge of Buddhist art, from its origins to the present;
  • To provide students with an understanding of the development and regional variations of Buddhist art;
  • To provide students with a knowledge of Buddhist art in different media;
  • To provide students with a knowledge of the most important periods of interaction between Buddhist art and the West:
  • To provide students with direct exposure to Buddhist art both in museums in London and Paris, and on-site in Asia;
  • To provide students with exposure to a range of leading specialists in the field, through formal teaching and site visits.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Develop methodological skills and powers of visual analysis, especially in relation to the study of Buddhist art.
  • Examine critically the ways in which Buddhist art has been studied.
  • Present effectively issues relating to Buddhist art, both orally and in writing.
  • Contextualise Buddhist art in a wider Asian and western context

Strand 3: The Making and Conservation of Buddhist Art

Dr Giovanni Verri studies the composition of Buddhist paintings with an infrared camera in Cave 263, Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang, China.
Dr Giovanni Verri studies the composition of Buddhist paintings with an infrared camera in Cave 263, Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang, China.

A series of weekly lectures, seminars and visits, providing an introduction to the making of Buddhist art through the use of primary sources and technical studies; an understanding of the deterioration of Buddhist art; and the principles, ethics and management issues involved in its conservation and display. The making of Buddhist art will be discussed by material type; materials and processes of deterioration will be presented for a variety of object types, including ceramics, wood, metal, textiles, paper, stone and wall paintings. The values and significance associated with Buddhist art will be presented and discussed, alongside the identification of the stakeholders involved in the decision-making process of conservation of Buddhist art.

Aims

  • To provide students with knowledge of the values associated to the conservation of Buddhist art and of the stakeholders involved in decision-making processes;
  • To provide students with a general overview of the making of the major forms of Buddhist art, including ceramics, metal, textiles, paper, and wall paintings;
  • To provide students with a general overview of the principles of conservation and the agents of deterioration associated with the materials and techniques used to make Buddhist art;
  • To provide on-site exposure to conservation and management projects on Buddhist art in London and in Asia.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Critically identify values and stakeholders involved in decision-making;
  • Undertake detailed examination of individual works of Buddhist art in different contexts; i.e. museums, galleries, sites, temples; and
  • Identify and understand causes and mechanisms of deterioration of Buddhist art in different contexts.
Term 2

Strand 2: History of Buddhist Art

Tango Monastery (Bhutan), detail of 18th-century wall paintings. © The Courtauld Institute of Art
Tango Monastery (Bhutan), detail of 18th-century wall paintings. © The Courtauld Institute of Art

This strand continues from Term 1 and consists of a series of weekly lectures and seminars considering the significance of Buddhist art, and conceptualising this art in relation to religious belief, practice and societal functions.

In Term 2, the programme will fund travel and accommodation to visit the Musée Guimet and the Musée Cernuschi in Paris.


Strand 3: The Making and Conservation of Buddhist Art

Investigating a Japanese painting on silk at the British Museum.
Investigating a Japanese painting on silk at the British Museum.

This strand continues from Term 1 and consists of a series of weekly lectures, seminars and visits, providing an introduction to the making of Buddhist art through the use of primary sources and technical studies, an understanding of the deterioration of Buddhist art, and the principles, ethics and management issues involved in its conservation and display.


Strand 4: Regional Buddhism

MA students examine Buddhist documents with Professor Kate Crosby, King's College London.
MA students examine Buddhist documents with Professor Kate Crosby, King’s College London.

The Regional Buddhism course provides a comprehensive introduction to the historical, doctrinal and sociological dimensions of Buddhism in one region.

Aims

  • To understand the history of Buddhism within a specific region;
  • To engage with the ways in which Buddhism and the history, politics and culture of the area have worked together to shape the institutions of Buddhism;
  • To analyse the relationship between Buddhism, politics and other competitions for power;
  • To consider regional variation in the adaptation of Buddhism to new contexts;
  • To examine and the extent to which Buddhism forms a part of cultural and political identities.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • To identify the main practices and institutions of the Buddhism of that region;
  • To recognise the main and contrasting ways in which Buddhism has adapted to indigenous beliefs and regional practices;
  • To assess the how the Buddhism of the region relates to its source culture, for example, which schools of Indian Buddhist philosophy and monastic lineages have been supported in the region;
  • To analyse how the Buddhism of the region has responded to modern developments such as political change, globalisation, modernity, environmental challenge, etc. ;
  • To identify and select appropriate methodological approaches used in the study of the region, critically evaluate their effectiveness;
  • To identify themes pursued within those different approaches, offer critical responses to such approaches and existing theories and suggest new concepts or alternative approaches.
Term 3

Dissertation

A colleague from the Dunhuang Academy in China inspects the condition of the wall paintings in Cave 260, Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang, China
A colleague from the Dunhuang Academy in China inspects the condition of the wall paintings in Cave 260, Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang, China

The dissertation should consider an aspect of the original techniques, conservation, management, curating, history or use of Buddhist art/material culture and may be supervised by Courtauld or King’s College staff, depending on the topic. The topic should be agreed in consultation between the student and the course tutors (David Park, Giovanni Verri and Kate Crosby).

Field Trip to Asia

Studying Buddhist sculpture with Professor Roderick Whitfield in the Forbidden City, Beijing, China.
Studying Buddhist sculpture with Professor Roderick Whitfield in the Forbidden City, Beijing, China.

The MA students, together with course tutors, undertake a field trip to Asia each year for about ten days. The field trip develops an appreciation of Buddhist art in its original contexts; includes examination of original techniques, previous conservation treatments, and present condition of a wide range of different types of art; it also provides first-hand experience of conservation and management approaches.

The return flights from London as well as internal flights and accommodation are covered by the Ho Centre.

In the 2015-2016 academic year, MA students will be visiting Beijing and the Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang, where they will be given access to caves normally closed to public and where they will study the paintings, sculptures and the site in detail.

2015 Study Trips

Assessing surface deposits on a stone sculpture in the Forbidden City, Beijing, China.
Assessing surface deposits on a stone sculpture in the Forbidden City, Beijing, China.
Assessing biological deterioration causing mechanical damage in the Forbidden City, Beijing, China.
Assessing biological deterioration causing mechanical damage in the Forbidden City, Beijing, China.
Large Stupa at Ta’er Temple, Suoyang City, Gansu Province, China.
Large Stupa at Ta’er Temple, Suoyang City, Gansu Province, China.
Dr Pierre Cambon, conservateur en chef at the Musée Guimet, Paris, discussing Gandharan art.
Dr Pierre Cambon, conservateur en chef at the Musée Guimet, Paris, discussing Gandharan art.
Term 4

Dissertation

Continuing from Term 3, the students will spend the last term working on their dissertation, which is submitted in September.

 

The MA in Buddhist Art: History and Conservation is assessed both formally and informally.

Formal assessment is based on:

  • Strand 2: assessed essay (4,000 words; term 2; 20%);
  • Strand 3: examination (3500 words; term 2; 20%);
  • Strand 4: essay (40%), 2-hour exam (60%) (3,000 words; term 2; 20%);
  • Strand 6: dissertation (10,000 words; term 3-4; 40%)

Informal assessment is based on

  • Essays, presentations, and a learning journal (term 1)
  • An oral examination on the extended field trip and other visits (term 3)
Teaching and learning

Teaching and learning: Students will benefit from the numerous opportunities offered by The Courtauld and King’s College. The foundation of the student experience is small-group teaching, which encourages active participation and engagement. It also enables teaching to respond to the students as individuals, to address specific interests and abilities. Active learning and team-working are important aspects of this Programme.

Small-group teaching involves a variety of different approaches, but shared learning is encouraged at all stages. For example, classes in which a topic formally introduced by the Course Tutor is the basis of informed discussion by the group as a whole; seminars in which student presentations are the basis of discussion; text-based classes in which the group’s close reading of texts and images forms the basis of a class; in all these cases extensive analysis of a range of visual material is likely to be a feature of the session; visits in which discussion is centred on first-hand encounters with works of art; and tutorials in which the Tutor sees each student to offer comments on their work and discuss their progress individually; extended periods of supervised work experience.

Research is at the heart of our activities and exposure to new work characterises all our teaching. Small-group teaching facilitates this by enabling academic and curatorial staff to bring current research and debates into classroom discussion.

Lectures are incorporated into the course for the dissemination of information and ideas.  All postgraduates are encouraged to attend the range of internal and public lectures and seminars and symposia arranged by The Courtauld and King’s College to broaden their intellectual horizons and gain exposure to stimulating material and intellectual currents in the discipline as a whole. In addition, they are encouraged to use the range of resources available to them in London such as public lectures, seminars, symposia and other academic events available in museums, colleges and learned societies that enhance their learning opportunities.

On conservation and management sites in Asia students will engage with different types of Buddhist art, and with the conservators and other staff who care for them. They will be exposed to a variety of methods of conservation and interpretation. They will be expected to extend their knowledge of Buddhist art as widely as possible.

Dissertation

A major component of the MA is a 10,000-word dissertation.

Students select a research topic from a wide range of areas and each project considers in detail a particular aspect of the technology, conservation, management, curating, history or use of Buddhist art. You will incorporate knowledge and skills developed throughout the formal teaching, while developing additional expertise in research, planning, implementation, information management and networking.

The resulting research leads to acquisition of highly transferrable skills relevant to specific career paths, as well as providing a significant contribution to research in the field.

We accept overseas qualifications equivalent to a 2.1 in a UK first degree (e.g. US applicants should have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or above).

If you hold a qualification from outside of the UK, please feel free to contact the Academic Registry; however, please be aware that our staff are unable to confirm whether you will be invited to interview, as candidates are judged on the strength of their applications as a whole. pgadmissions@courtauld.ac.uk

 

ENGLISH LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS

All applicants are expected to have an effective knowledge of English, both spoken and written. For applicants whose first language is not English, we require proof of English proficiency – for details, please see the English Language Requirements page.

Fees 2016/7 TBC

Fees 2015/16 (for reference):

Home/ EU fee £8,220

Overseas fee £19,450

Fees are subject to change each academic year. Fee info, including what qualifies as home, EU, and overseas fees, can be found here.

Financial support for your studies

Find information about loans, grants, and bursaries to support you during your  studies at The Courtauld here.

Apply for this course

Apply for this course or download a prospectus for more information.

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