Teaching the Global History of 18th Century Art at the Open University

Emma Barker, The Open University, London

There is much pedagogic value in comparative perspectives across time and space.

In 2017, Emma Barker and her colleagues at the Open University, a distance-learning institution in the United Kingdom, launched "Art and its Global Histories." The undergraduate survey course explores the history of art through Europe's interaction with the world from the fourteenth century through today. As part of the module, Barker edited Art, Commerce and Colonialism 1600-1800, which was published by Manchester University Press along with other textbooks and a reader. While emphasis is placed on the European tradition, the textbook opens onto a broad expanse of visual and material culture. Among the topics explored are Spain's American colonies, the impact of commerce and colonialism on seventeenth-century Dutch art, Chinoiserie in eighteenth-century Britain, and colonial architecture in North America and the Caribbean. Barker and her colleagues also developed various online resources for their students, including Traveling Objects, which is publicly accessible. This website allows visitors to explore spatiotemporal trajectories through different artefacts before testing their knowledge with a multiple-choice quiz, or watching a short film on Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin's A Lady Taking Tea (1735) developed by Barker for "Open Arts Objects." Barker was also involved in the development of the Association for Art History’s Resource Portal on Anti-Racism and Decolonial Approaches to Art History and Visual Culture as a member of their Higher Education Committee.

Emma Barker is Senior Lecturer in Art History at the Open University, London. A scholar of French eighteenth-century art, her current research explores art and blindness in France between the Ancien Régime and the modern era.

Image credit: Jean-Étienne Liotard, Still Life: Tea Set, c. 1781-1783, oil on canvas mounted on board. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.