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How The World Makes Art


Admission requirements

Same as admission requirements for the BA Art History/BA Arts, Media and Society.


Art and architecture are forms of universal human expression. Across the world, through the ages, human cultures have produced buildings, paintings, sculptures, drawings and all kinds of artefacts to give visible form to their beliefs, dreams, fears or desires. They have also used art to affect its viewers: to inspire fear, love or admiration; or to express social, political or religious values and identities. In this introductory course to the study of art across the world we look at three major themes and functions of art: the power of art works to affect their viewers; art, religion and the cult of the dead; art and identity. In a series of lectures we will show how these themes and functions occur across the world and through the ages. The lecture course will thus offer a panorama of the vast range of art and cultural practices worldwide and through time. There are two levels of operation: on the one hand, the students will be introduced to the diversity of art and cultural practice around the world and through time, and on the other, on the basis of Elkin’s book Stories of Art (2002) and the lectures, how histories, or rather, stories of art can be written or told.

Mission statement

This course aims to create awareness that art is an integral part of human life. In all cultures across time and space, the visual arts and the built environment appear interwoven with crucial dimensions of being human – how we think of ourselves, what we believe, what we value, what we hope. Visual art both expresses and communicates such views, as this course sets out to demonstrate by means of in-depth case studies presenting examples drawn from a variety of cultures worldwide and through time.

In this introductory course to the study of art across the world we look at three major themes and functions of art:

  • Art, Religion and the Cult of the Dead

  • Art’s Agency

  • Art and Identity.

In a series of 12 lectures we will show how these themes and functions occur across the world and through the ages, from prehistory to the present day. Instructors from Art History as well as two guest speakers from the field of Archeology and the National Museum of Antiquity in Leiden will shed light on various topics against the background of archeological research and museum collections. The course will thus also offer insight into approaches to the study of art practiced in Leiden, and the rich worldwide collection of the Leiden based Museum of Antiquity.

Course objectives

  • Students acquire insight in and learn to value the richness, varieties and development of art across the world.

  • Students become familiar with major forms and technical and physical aspects of the visual and applied arts and architecture from prehistory to the present.

  • Students get acquainted with and learn to make use of the main sources and handbooks on world art studies.

  • Students acquire insight into some scholarly approaches to world art studies.

  • Students practice various 21st -century skills such as creative thinking and expressing themselves in other than solely verbal ways.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture series

Assessment method

  • An assignment consisting of a visual representation (drawing, photoshop) accompanied by an explanatory text of 500 words (explained in Lecture 1) (40%).

  • Written exam (60%).


The weighted average of the (constituent) examinations must be at least 6.0 (= a pass). BOTH parts of the examinations need to be a pass.


A resit/ rewrite can be done for constituent examinations which are failed. As far as applicable, all resits/ rewrites take place at the same time, after the final (constituent) examination.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

The booktitles and / or syllabi to be used in the course, where it can be purchased and how this literature should be studied beforehand.

  • James Elkins, Stories of Art. New York/London: Routledge 2002 ISBN 0-415-93943-7


Via uSis. First year Art History / Arts Media and Society students will be registered by the student administration.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Registration Studeren à la Carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Mw Prof.dr. C.J.M. Zijlmans