This course accepts students every two years. The next intake will be in 2024/25, and applications will open in autumn 2023.
From 2022, the Conservation studios will be located in Somerset House. Teaching in Conservation will be at Somerset House and at our Vernon Square campus.
3 years, full-time
University of London
6 students every two years
The Courtauld is a leading centre in the world for education and research in wall painting conservation. The 3-year practical MA in Wall Painting Conservation will prepare you for a professional career. Wall painting conservation is an inclusive, interdisciplinary and global profession. Applicants usually have a BA or equivalent degree in the humanities or the natural sciences. The student body is international, with a yearly intake limited to 4, which makes the teacher-student ratio exceptionally high. The course leads to an exceptionally high degree of employment upon graduation.
You will learn to evaluate the synergistic relationship between wall paintings, built heritage and the environment. Teaching at the Courtauld focuses on wall painting conservation through a rigorous ethical and scientific framework for the assessment of risk, and the impact of passive, preventive and remedial conservation. You will be able to scientifically analyse wall paintings, asses their condition, and test performance of interventions with reference to material science.
The MA degree will prove you with extensive practical experience in various aspects of wall paintings conservation, and on completion of the MA degree you will be able to design, evaluate and carry out conservation treatments on wall paintings. Upon completion of the course you will have gained the digital and organisational skills to manage ambitious projects, both independently and in collaboration. The course will provide you with critical, and communication skills for diverse careers in conservation and beyond.
By the end of the course of study you will be able to:
- Design and implement a holistic programme of conservation of wall paintings with full awareness of ethical considerations, the professional context and values
- Recommend preventive and passive measures that address the activation mechanisms of deterioration identified through environmental monitoring and scientific analysis
- Examine and assess the original and added materials on wall paintings and their support and evaluate intervention implications
- Carry out monitoring and maintenance programmes related to the assessment of wall paintings
- Produce full written, graphic, scientific and photographic documentation
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).
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.
Year 1: This year focuses on the acquisition of foundation knowledge and the development and application of scientific methods in the theory, ethics and practice of conservation, technology, and history of wall paintings, and on documentation. Materials science is integrated throughout theoretical and practical courses. The teaching provides a foundation for understanding and identifying problems of deterioration. Practical work, including a substantial period of field work, introduces scientific methodologies for conservation interventions and develops manual skills. 8 weeks of the first year are devoted to field work.
Year 2: Formal instruction is concentrated on diagnosis and preventive conservation, on advanced technical examination of wall paintings and their supporting structures, and on the theory and materials of cleaning and consolidation of wall paintings. Materials science is integrated throughout theoretical and practical courses. Half of the second year is devoted to practical work in the field.
Year 3: Most of the third year is devoted to major field work programmes. Another aspect of the third year is devoted to a substantial 10,000 word research project on an original aspect of the conservation of wall paintings. Research may be on any aspect of the materials and techniques of wall paintings or of the methods or materials used in their conservation. Examples of MA research carried out in the department.
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.
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 Department is equipped with extensive scientific laboratories. and state-of-the-art facilities the analysis of paintings and wall paintings. Both portable and bench-top equipment at the Department are available for teaching and research. The department houses major collections of easel painting samples, X-radiographs, wall painting fragments and wall painting samples from around the world, the archive of the Survey of Historic Wall Paintings in the British Isles.
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, and the specialist collection of literature on on Asian art. Both the Conservation 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 department also acts as a centre for conservation and art-historical advice to outside conservators, scholars and the public.
Fees and funding
Financial support for your studies:
Courtauld Institute of Art Scholarships: Scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit combined with financial need. The average postgraduate scholarship is £6,000. Applications are welcomed from Home, EU and Overseas students. Find out more about our scholarships..
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.
Please note students on this programme are not eligible for Master’s Loan by the UK government.
The MA in Wall Painting Conservation is exceptional in that all the travel and accommodation costs for fieldwork are paid by the Department.
Careers and employability
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.
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.