Vernon Square Kings Cross, London, WC1X 9EP (during The Courtauld Connects project)
3 years, full-time
University of London
4 students per year
We are currently not accepting applications for this course.
The Courtauld is one of the leading centres in the world for education and research in wall painting conservation. Over the last 30 years, the Conservation of Wall Painting Department has had a major impact on the evolution of the discipline and the care of wall paintings globally. A considerable part of this impact derives from the Master’s programme that aims to ensure the improved care of wall paintings through providing appropriate education in their conservation.
Governed by the philosophy of minimal intervention and an interdisciplinary approach, the education seeks to impart a methodology that emphasises investigation and analysis of component materials and techniques, and diagnosis and control of the causes of deterioration. This aids design of a preventive, passive or remedial conservation strategy that is in line with accepted professional practice, and respects the integrity and significance of the object and its context.
The programme seeks to provide the student with a strong foundation in all aspects of wall painting conservation. On completion students will be able to:
- contribute to the assessment of the significance of the painting and its context;
- examine and assess the original and later materials of both the painting and its support and the implications these have for deterioration and intervention;
- identify relevant factors of deterioration and evaluate the likely effects on the painting of measures proposed for their control;
- contribute to the design and implementation of a programme of conservation which may include: preventative measures; passive measures; emergency and protective interventions; remedial treatments; and design and implement monitoring and maintenance programmes;
- produce full written, graphic and photographic documentation;
- participate in the development of the profession, for instance through the presentation and publication of papers.
Download the prospectusPostgraduate Prospectus 2021/22
UK qualifications: Students will normally have achieved a good 2.1 in a humanities or sciences Bachelor’s degree, considered to be an overall average 65% or above.
Overseas qualification: Equivalent to a good 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 contact the Admissions Team at email@example.com
Interviews: The interview process consists of a personal interview before a board; tests of manual dexterity and colour vision; and a brief written test requiring comment on a variety of wall paintings.
English language requirements: If your first language is not English, we require proof of English language proficiency –please see the English Language Requirements page.
Previous conservation experience is not required, though some understanding of the nature of wall painting conservation is desirable. Students must have normal colour vision.
The three-year MA programme is structured to provide a broad foundation in wall painting conservation through formal courses, closely supervised fieldwork, and research. The balance shifts over the three years with the third year devoted entirely to fieldwork and research.
The objective is to provide the necessary grounding with teaching in chemistry and physics for conservation, the materials and technology of wall paintings and their supporting structures, and of conservation materials; to develop an appreciation through historical study of paintings and their conservation; to introduce issues of change and deterioration, and principal conservation interventions; and to foster the development of practical, research and critical skills, and practice in documentation. Site visits and a period of fieldwork are also components of the first year.
The objective is to complete formal training with courses in diagnosis and control of environmental deterioration, scientific examination of wall paintings, and the theory, materials and practice of advanced remedial interventions; to provide for extended periods of fieldwork to allow the synthesis and application of knowledge gained through formal instruction, and the development of practical skills and judgement; and to prepare for the final-year research project by means of a literature survey and project proposal.
In preparation for the final-year research project, the students select a topic, undertake a literature survey and submit a proposal for consideration by the International Advisory Board at their July meeting.
With major fieldwork programmes and an individual research dissertation, the third year objectives are to develop diagnostic, analytical, practical, and communication skills related both to conservation and research through extended fieldwork programmes and individual research projects.
The objectives are to identify and structure a research topic, and to demonstrate the acquisition of the requisite methodological and communication skills to carry out the project. The research may be on any aspect of the materials and techniques of wall paintings or of the methods or materials used in their conservation, examination, or recording. Many incorporate skills developed throughout the formal teaching while expanding additional expertise in research, planning, implementation, information management and networking. The resulting research leads to the acquisition of highly transferrable skills which can lead directly to specific career paths, as well as providing a significant contribution to research in the field.
Students are allocated approximately three months during term in the third year for work on their research project. Supervision is provided on a structured basis, and for specialist areas may also involve an external supervisor in additional to the departmental supervisor. A dissertation of 18,000 words (excluding appendices) is examined by the Board of Examiners and also forms part of the oral examination at the end of the year. Examples of MA research carried out in the department.
The objectives are to continue developing practical and diagnostic skills by participating in an expanding range of conservation programmes. The balance of the year is taken up with field projects.
Most of the department’s fieldwork projects involve conservation, research and teaching. A high supervisor-to-student ratio ensures that students benefit from an excellent level of supervision. The MA is exceptional in that all the travel and accommodation costs for fieldwork are paid for by the department.
Current and recent projects include:
- Longthorpe Tower, Peterborough (UK) A rare cycle of 14th-century domestic wall paintings
- Nagaur Fort, Rajasthan (India) The 18th-century wall paintings decorating the Maharajah’s palaces
- Garh Palace, Bundi (India) Conservation investigations of the various schemes of paintings, dating to the 16th and 19th centuries
- Tango Monastery, Thimpu (Bhutan) The nationally significant 17th-century painting schemes
- Tamzhing Monastery, Bumthang (Bhutan) With schemes from the 16th to 20th centuries, those from the early 16th-century are thought to be the earliest surviving in the Kingdom
- Church of the Dormition of the Virgin, Vardzia (Georgia) The late 12th-century wall paintings in the rock-cut monastery
- Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang (China) A site with over 500 painted cave temples dating from the 5th to 14th centuries
- Monastery of Agios Ioannis Lampadistis, Kalopanayiotis (Cyprus) Paintings dating from the 13th to the 19th centuries
- Agios Sozomenos church, Galata (Cyprus) The 16th-century post-Byzantine wall paintings
- Our Lady of Victory church, Valletta (Malta) 18th-century wall paintings in the vault by Alessio Erardi
- Crypt of the Grand Masters, St John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta (Malta) 18th-century wall paintings by Niccolò Nasoni
- Grand Master’s Chapel paintings, Magisterial Palace, Valletta (Malta) 16th-century scheme of the Baptism of St John by Filippo Paladini
Further information on the department’s fieldwork activity can be found here, on our research pages.
The Conservation of Wall Painting Department is equipped with its own laboratories and specialist library. The Department is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities for multispectral imaging as well as portable microscopy, and FTIR, XRF and Raman spectroscopy. It houses major collections of wall painting fragments and samples from around the world, the archive of the Survey of Historic Wall Paintings in the British Isles and a specialist library including many rare items.
Students benefit from access to a wide range of research facilities at both the Institute and other parts of the University of London, as well as other major libraries nearby. Close collaboration with scientists and conservators in the national museums and heritage organisations offers further opportunities for training and research.
The Department is also closely linked with The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Centre for Buddhist Art and Conservation at the Courtauld, with its own specialist library on Asian art. Both the Wall Painting Department and the Ho Centre periodically hold conferences and public lectures in association with the Research Forum and museums and other institutions from outside The Courtauld, and benefit from contributions by Visiting Conservators. The Wall Painting Department also acts as a centre for conservation and art-historical advice to outside conservators, scholars and the public.
Teaching and assessment
Teaching: Continuity in instruction and supervision is provided by permanent staff, but considerable advantage is also taken of supervision and teaching by established practitioners and leading international specialists. The various teaching methods and types of work required of the students are related to the objectives of each component of the programme and include lectures, seminars, student seminars, essays, and reports. Practical work takes place in the department and on site. There are also regular meetings with your personal tutor to discuss progress and general issues, and to receive feedback after presentations.
Assessment: Both formal and informal mechanisms of assessment are used. Formal assessment comprises written examinations and practical oral examinations administered by a Board of Examiners. Informal, continuous assessment is carried out by the staff, and is based on didactic exercises—essays, seminars, revision questions, etc.—and supervision of practical work. Students must demonstrate competence in each of the subject areas in order to be advanced in the programme.
At the end of the first and second years, students sit written examinations and viva voce examinations on all aspects of their performance.
Final assessment at the end of the third year is based on the examination of the dissertation and the oral examination on all aspects of the student’s performance. For the final assessment of the MA, students receive a distinction, pass, or fail.
Careers and employabilty
On graduation, students join a long list of Courtauld alumni who have gone on to have a major impact in the conservation of wall paintings and other aspects of cultural heritage through roles at leading institutions of global prominence including International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) China; the Getty Conservation Institute; and English Heritage.
Fees and funding
Fees are subject to change each academic year. Fee information, including what qualifies as home, EU, and overseas fees, can be found here.
Financial support for your studies:
Postgraduate Master’s Loan: Please visit the Student Finance England website for further information and to apply online .
Courtauld Institute of Art Scholarships: Scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit combined with financial need. The average postgraduate scholarship awarded in 2019/20 was £6,000. Applications are welcomed from Home, EU and Overseas students applying to or currently studying in 2020/21.
Alumni Loyalty Scheme: This scheme is open to any graduate of The Courtauld Institute of Art admitted to a taught postgraduate programme of study. Recipients will receive a 10% loyalty discount off their tuition fee for the duration of the course.
Further information about loans, grants, and bursaries to support you during your studies at The Courtauld can be found on our Funding pages.
The MA in Wall Painting Conservation is exceptional in that all the travel and accommodation costs for fieldwork are paid by the Department.
To support you through the degree, we offer:
Wellbeing: We have a dedicated Wellbeing team, with counsellors and advisors.
Academic and practical skills: You will be offered consistent access to your personal tutor and the the academic teaching staff. The small number of students allow us to create an exceptionally supportive environment.